RSC Blog Posts
POSTED BY: Devan Jensen
Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture, BYU
Several years ago, I developed an Honors Program course that I titled “The Book of Mormon as Sacred Literature.” I valued and enjoyed teaching students in that course for many reasons, but certainly one of them was the reward I felt in helping them to discover the importance of seeing the literary qualities of that book in particular, and of the scriptures in general.
Many students came to the Book of Mormon without considering that it had any literary qualities at all, let alone enough to spend an entire semester discussing. Others, however, might admit that there was a literary quality to the book but that such a thing was far down the list of what was important. They could see stories in the book, naturally, and some even found poetry, but the literary aspects of the Book of Mormon were of little concern. If there were any literary components to the book to speak of, they were at best the icing on the cake.
Because I’m the one who created the course, it’s no surprise that I viewed the role of the literary elements of the book quite differently. I would explain to my students that, while there may be moments when the literary parts of speech could be viewed as mere icing, there were many more in which they proved to be intricately tied to the meaning and purpose of the text. I didn’t claim that every page of the book was literary in nature, but there were enough of those pages to make seeing the literary aspects of the book a most worthwhile exercise. In fact, such literary forces in the book could not be removed from the book without doing serious damage to its meaning and its ability to convey that meaning.
One class day each semester I would invite my students to have a particular experience with the text in order to understand the importance of literature in the Book of Mormon. We’d read this verse in class:
Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them. (Alma 5:7)
After we read it together, I then assigned them to rewrite that verse, being careful to convey the same meaning while also stripping of it any literary language. I’d give them several minutes to write their version on a piece of paper, and then I’d collect them and read several of them to the class. The class would quickly discover three important facts.
First, almost no one succeeded in not using any literary language. Often the student writer would not recognize that a phrase was indeed metaphorical (e.g., “changed their hearts”). Sometimes the student would replace what he or she saw as a literary word with a different word—but one that was equally literary in nature. They found it extremely difficult to write without using literary devices.
Second, the students realized that what they wrote was not nearly as beautiful or powerful or memorable as the original. I could have given them a week to rewrite that one verse, but they could never have matched it if they had to avoid allowing any literariness to seep in. (Of course, there was the other realization: writing scripture without the mantle of a prophet resulted in little worth cherishing compared to actual scripture.)
Third, and arguably most important for my purposes on that class day, the students came to understand that the literary quality of that verse helped to convey meaning that could not be conveyed without such language. The various metaphors and symbols were helping the students understand doctrine and spiritual truths that could not be accessed through non-literary language. In other words, sometimes the literary devices were an essential ingredient of the cake.
I am the first to admit that the scriptures stand apart from all other writing in their power and importance. They are sacred, holy words unlike any other texts. However, they are not completely unlike other writings of great literature. Understanding their literary nature can help us readers more fully recognize and appreciate the power the scriptures possess as inspired writings.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
The term Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming” or “appearance.” Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent helps Christians not only to celebrate the First Coming of Jesus Christ but also to look forward to his glorious Second Coming. Although Advent customs may be foreign to many, like so many other seasonal traditions they are a wonderful way to turn our attention more fully to the true meaning of Christmas.
Many Advent traditions come from Germany, where Martin Luther encouraged its continued observance as a way of teaching children and families more about the significance of the coming of Jesus Christ. It came to be celebrated by both Roman Catholics and Lutherans there and has become a common celebration in many Christian faith communities throughout the world.
One of the best known Advent customs is the lighting of the candles in an Advent wreath, a simple or decorated evergreen wreath with four candles placed in the circle and a single white candle in the center. The wreath itself represents the never-ending circle of God’s love, that he is forever the same in his love toward his people. The green of the wreath, as in the Christmas tree, represents the hope of eternal life that comes through Christ and serves a reminder of the freshness of God’s love and promises. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World, that his birth represented the coming of the light into darkness, and that we are called to reflect that light in our lives.
The outer candles are purple, the color of royalty, although customarily the third one is rose or pink. Traditions differ regarding the symbolism of the candles. One is that they represent the hope, love, joy, and peace that come through Jesus Christ. Each Sunday before Christmas an additional candle is lit, creating a beautiful stepped effect as the previous weeks’ candles burn down further. Scriptures can be read and carols sung as part of the lighting, which we do before family prayer. The four candles can also represent the different Old Testament covenants that God made with his servants, beginning with Noah and continuing through Abraham, Moses, and David. The central white candle is known as the Christ candle. It is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and represents the new covenant made possible through Christ.
While formally observing Advent is not part of the Latter-day Saint tradition, individuals and families can often adapt and employ such traditions for their own use. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has spoken positively of the Advent traditions that he grew up with in Germany in a recent First Presidency Christmas devotional, as have other converts to the Church. As my wife and I were developing our own family traditions early in our marriage, observing Advent was one that we found enriched our Christmas season, and in recent years we have found that it is a wonderful way to teach our children, share spiritual experiences with them, and keep them focused on the true meaning of Christmas.
For LDS families, Advent can be adapted by reading not only from the Old Testament and New Testament but also from the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price (see our selection at my Advent site). While not all families may wish to observe such Advent customs, spending time with the scriptures and enjoying beautiful music on the Sundays of Advent can be uplifting and provide meaningful reflection on the season.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
Guest blog by Clyde Williams, professor of ancient scripture at BYU.
My recollections of general conference as a young boy take me back to the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse and long lines outside the Tabernacle on Temple Square for the priesthood session. I remember in April 1965 as the aging President David O. McKay attended one of his last priesthood sessions. After he gave a brief greeting and expressed appreciation for the priesthood brethren, all stood in the fieldhouse and the Tabernacle and sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” For me the feeling was electric. There came a powerful witness to my heart that he was the Lord’s prophet on earth.
Since those early days, the personal significance and importance of general conference has continued to grow for me. I remember when announcements were made of significant policies, procedures, or administrative changes such as the inclusion of what is now D&C 137 and 138, the new LDS edition of the Bible, the formation of the quorums of the Seventy, the subtitle for the Book of Mormon, the proclamation on the family, President Hinckley’s statements on body piercing and tattoos, and the stand against same-sex marriage.
How do we respond when reminders of principles and practices are given or new policies are announced? Our initial response can be telling or informative. When we are spiritually in tune, we can, like King Benjamin’s people, be blessed with “the manifestations of his Spirit” and thus “have great views of that which is to come” (Mosiah 5:3). We will sense a need for something to be said on an issue, and when it is said we find ourselves in harmony.
A passage struck me as being profound when applied to general conference:
Son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against [meaning near] thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord.
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. (Ezekiel 33:30–32)
Clearly, Ezekiel here describes a people who think highly of a living prophet but do not heed his words. It is like people speaking highly of President Thomas S. Monson and how good his talks are and yet, when it comes down to it, not following his counsel.
Another trap one can fall into is thinking general conference is like a buffet table. Commenting on this potential pitfall, Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained: “Our relationship to living prophets is not one in which their sayings are a smorgasbord from which we may take only that which pleases us. We are to partake of all that is placed before us, including the spinach, and to leave a clean plate!” (Things As They Really Are [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978], 74).
In October conference in 1975, President Kimball was concluding the conference and spoke of the many uplifting and inspired talks that had been given. I was a bit stunned and sobered by what he said next: “While sitting here, I have made up my mind that when I go home from this conference this night there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through with conference” (in Conference Report, October 1975, 164). Who among the Saints did not feel there were many things we needed to work on? I was moved to tears as I thought about this humble prophet who had given so much of his life and would yet give so much more as he sought to do the Lord’s will.
The seriousness with which President Kimball approached general conference was apparent. He also made it clear as he closed the conference that October afternoon how everyone else should view the conference proceedings:
Well, now, brothers and sisters, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to all who are listening in, we have not been fooling. What we have said to you in these three days is truth, downright truth, and it has a definite bearing upon the salvation and exaltation of every soul that could listen and hear. (click to hear President Kimball’s statement)
As you listened to his voice, you can feel the earnest and affirming power by which these word were said. I believe they hold true for every general conference. I am truly grateful for the profound impact that general conference has had and continues to have in my life.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
Guest blog by Richard E. Bennett, professor of Church history and doctrine.
The success of the Protestant Reformation owes everything to the translation and printing of a book. Surely the efforts of such early martyrs as John Wycliffe and of later reformers such as William Tyndale and Martin Luther to print and disseminate the Holy Bible were indispensable to the ultimate success of the Reformation, also made possible by the previous invention of movable type and the printing press by Johann Gutenberg. No amount of book burnings those many years ago, which tried to destroy the power of the written word, could hold back the oncoming printed tide of religious change.
So, too, the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in large measure depended on the power and printing of another book. On this, the 165th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, it is appropriate to pause and remember its causes. Historians continue to offer a variety of immediate explanations: the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, Missourians anxious at extradition, Thomas C. Sharp and the issue of separation of Church and state, the intrigue of John C. Bennett and a cadre of other disgruntled former Latter-day Saints, plural marriage?the list goes on.
However, it may be instructive to remember that in Doctrine and Covenants 135, John Taylor, who was an eyewitness to the event, attributed it not to any one of these things but rather to the power of the pen?or press?specifically to the publication of two new books of scripture. As John Taylor stated, it was the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants that “cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world” (D&C 135:6).
The published herald and evidence of the truthfulness of the Restoration was ever the Book of Mormon. More than any other factor, it was the Book of Mormon which distinguished the rise of the early Church of Jesus Christ and converted a foundation of loyal and devoted membership upon which the Church was built?and later thrived. Said Parley P. Pratt:
I read it carefully and diligently, a great share of it, without knowing that the priesthood had been restored?without ever having heard of anything called “Mormonism,” or having any idea of such Church and people.
There were the witnesses and their testimony to the Book, to its translation, and to the ministration of angels; and there was the testimony of the translator; but I had not seen them, I had not heard of them, and hence I had no idea of their organization or of their Priesthood. All I knew about the matter was what, as a stranger, I could gather from the book: but as I read, I was convinced that it was true; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon me while I read and enlightened my mind, convinced my judgment and riveted the truth upon my understanding, so that I knew that the book was true, just as well as a man knows the daylight from the dark night, or any other things that can be implanted in his understanding. (In Journal of Discourses [Liverpool: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1858], 193–94)
And even before Pratt met with Joseph Smith, he visited with his brother, Hyrum, who unfolded to him “the particulars of the discovery of the Book; its translation; the rise of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and the commission of his brother, Joseph, and others, by revelation and the ministering of angels, by which the apostleship and authority had been again restored to the earth” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985], 22).
“Parley Pratt’s experience with the Book of Mormon was not unique,” President Gordon B. Hinckley commented in much more recent times. “As the volumes of the first edition were circulated and read, strong men and women by the hundreds were so deeply touched that they gave up everything they owned, and in the years that followed not a few even gave their lives for the witness they carried in their hearts of the truth of this remarkable volume” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign, August 2005, 3).
And if the work of these two brothers?loyal to each other as they were to the message of Cumorah?began with the Book of Mormon, it ended with it. The final scripture the two men read together before they were shot to death in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, was not from the Bible but from the Book of Mormon.
The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go?shall it be said, to the slaughter??he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:
And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou has seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I . . . bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. (D&C 135:5)
“He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!” (135:3).
POSTED BY: holzapfel
Mormonism began with a book—the Book of Mormon (published in March 1830). During the next decade, many books were written and published by members and nonmembers to explain, understand, or attack the new faith.
One of Mormonism’s early converts was Parley Parker Pratt (1807–57). He read the Book of Mormon and after a few days sought baptism. This began a long journey with the Saints that ended tragically in Arkansas when Pratt was murdered. Between the time of his baptism and his death, he traveled widely as a missionary in the United States, Canada, and the British Isles. Pratt not only preached the gospel but also took pen and paper to hand and wrote important missionary tracts and booklets. One of his books, A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People, Containing a Declaration of the Faith and Doctrine of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Commonly Called Mormons (New York: W. Sandford, 1837), is believed by many historians to be the most important Mormon book, outside the scriptures, in the nineteenth century.
Although A Voice of Warning was not the very first book to explain what the Saints believed, it was the first to compare and contrast Mormon beliefs with conventional Christianity. Some thirty editions in English were released during the next fifty years. Additionally, during this period, the book was also published in numerous language translations, including Danish, Dutch, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish. For many investigators and early converts, A Voice of Warning was the first book they read.
In 2004 the New York book company Barnes & Noble established a new paperback series, the Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading. Their webpage states that the series had been established “to provide access to books of literary, academic, and historic value—works of both well-known writers and those who have been long forgotten. Selected and introduced by scholars and specialist with an intimate knowledge of the works they discuss, these volumes present unabridged texts in a readable modern typeface, welcoming a new generation to important and influential books of the past.” Now numbering more than 250 titles, the series includes Trial and Death of Socrates, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, St. Augustine’s City of God, and de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
In late 2008, Barnes & Noble released a new edition of Pratt’s A Voice of Warning. My BYU colleague Kent P. Jackson prepared a thoughtful introductory essay for this new volume based on 1854 edition of the book (Pratt’s last before he was murdered). Reading the 137 pages in this well-designed volume reminds us of the passion and excitement that existed during the early day of the Restoration. Pratt can write well. He is clear and straightforward. The prose sings, and his arguments thunder loud and clear. The book is worth a read, especially for anyone interested in the listening into a conversation from this critical period of Church history. Congratulations to Kent Jackson and to Barnes & Noble!
POSTED BY: holzapfel
Joseph Smith received a revelation during the organizational meetings of the Church of Christ in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830, as depicted in William Whitaker’s painting The Prophet Joseph Smith Receives a Revelation. In this revelation, the Lord told Joseph Smith, “Behold, there shall be a record kept” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:1). The Prophet would spend the rest of his life attempting to fulfill the command, including providing historical narratives that recorded events associated with the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ in the last days.
Doctrine and Covenants section 20 offers one of the earliest attempts to record these events. Although much of the material in this inspired document was gathered over a twelve-month period, “the current version found in Doctrine and Covenants 20 was written April 10, 1830″ (Robert J. Woodford, “Discoveries from the Joseph Smith Papers,” in The Doctrine and Covenants: Revelations in Context [Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2008], 29).
Section 20 briefly mentions the First Vision in the spring of 1820: “It was truly manifested unto this first elder [Joseph Smith, see verse 2] that he had received a remission of his sins” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:5). Most are familiar with the 1838 account of the First Vision, one of ten accounts recorded during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, which emphasizes Joseph Smith’s search for the true Church. However, an earlier version is found in Joseph Smith’s 1832 autobiographical narrative, which highlights the young boy’s search for mercy and forgiveness. He recorded in his own hand, “I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in <the> attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my age> a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the <Lord> opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee” (The Papers of Joseph Smith, Vol. 1, Autobiographical and Historical Writings, ed. Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 6.
Next, section 20 mentions the period between 1820 and 1823: “He was entangled again in the vanities of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:5). Joseph Smith’s published history provides more details: “I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. . . . I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been” (Joseph Smith—History 1:28).
The record then moves on to Joseph’s prayer for forgiveness in September 1823: “But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lighting, and whose garments were pure and white above all whiteness; and gave unto him commandments which inspired him” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:6). The angel was Moroni, who opened a new chapter in Joseph’s life.
The next historical allusion is to September 22, 1827, when Moroni delivered to Joseph the plates and the Nephite interpreters “and gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared to translate the Book of Mormon” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:8).
Next is the June 1829 experience when the Three Witnesses (Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery) were shown the plates by a heavenly messenger and commanded to prepare a testimony which is now printed in the Book of Mormon, “which was given by inspiration and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:10).
The most recent event mentioned in section 20 had occurred on April 6, 1830, with “the rise of the Church of Christ in these last days” (v. 1). Thus, section 20 offered those early members and missionaries a basic outline of major events leading up to the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
During December, our thoughts may turn to a wintry day in a small farmhouse in Vermont where Joseph Smith Jr. drew his first breath in 1805. Or we may ponder a hot, muggy Thursday afternoon in June 1844 when the Prophet drew his final breath.
During his lifetime, Joseph Smith was many things—a dutiful son, a loving father, a kind neighbor, a visionary community leader. In addition, he was a prophet of God.
From the beginning, prophets have had specific duties. Noah built an ark. Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage. Joshua let the Israelites into the promised land. Lehi and Jeremiah warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem about an impending exile. Peter and Paul took the gospel to the nations of the earth. No matter what specific assignments they have, all prophets stand as witnesses of the Lord.
Joseph Smith was no different. He received numerous assignments from the Lord. Nevertheless, his greatest and most important role as a prophet was to be a modern witness for Jesus Christ. In 1820, Joseph Smith recorded, “It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17).
In 1832, Joseph and Sidney Rigdon testified, “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:23).
In 1836, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery testified, “We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:2-3).
Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry can easily be divided into two separate but related duties.
First, the Prophet was called to testify of Jesus as Savior and Redeemer. He did this primarily through bringing forth the Book of Mormon and establishing the Church of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon and the Church focus on the Atonement of Christ, repentance, salvation, and eternal life. This first assignment saw its culmination in the restoration of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, which allow us to enter the celestial kingdom. This is called the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Second, the Prophet was called to testify of Jesus as the “maker and finisher of our faith.” He did this primarily through the revelations he received, beginning in 1832, regarding exaltation and eternal lives (see Doctrine and Covenants 76, 84, 88, and 93). This last assignment saw its culmination in the temple, in which Latter-day Saints receive the ordinances of the Church of the Firstborn that allow them to come unto the presence of Elohim.
All the blessings and promises we announce to the inhabitants of the earth come through and by Jesus Christ—God’s own son. Certainly, it is all “good news.” Without Jesus Christ, we have nothing. Joseph Smith said on May 12, 1844, just a few weeks before he was murdered, “The Savior has the words of eternal life—nothing else can profit us” (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Words of Joseph Smith [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980], 365).
As we listen to Joseph’s witness of Jesus Christ, we hear the voice of Jesus because “Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer” (William W. Phelps, “Praise to the Man,” Hymns [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 27).
POSTED BY: holzapfel
In a remarkable revelation given through Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord said, “The voice of warning shall be unto all people” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:4). This command may have seemed overwhelming for the fledgling Church of Jesus Christ. Two years later, in 1833, the Lord expanded the Church’s mission, saying, “Every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11).
Today, it is estimated that there are nearly 7,000 spoken languages in the world, of which some 2,600 have a writing system. However, linguists project that within a century more than 3,000 spoken languages will disappear. The world is indeed getting small, and some languages are expanding their reach, such as English and Chinese.
The Church’s effort to fulfill the Lord’s command to preach the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth has been remarkable and continues to be so. Our family simply mirrors what is happening across the planet with so many Latter-day Saints. My son Bailey serves in the Switzerland Zürich Mission, and my daughter Marin enters the Missionary Training Center in Provo on December 4, 2008, to begin her preparations to serve in the Hungary Budapest Mission. They follow in the footsteps of two older brothers—Nathan, who served in the Chile Osorno Mission, and Zac, who served in the Costa Rica San José Mission. I completed my own missionary service in the Italy Milan Mission. My son and daughter will join their cousins, Elders Josh Meacham and Ephraim Taylor, who are serving in the Poland Warsaw and Taiwan Taichung missions.
Equally impressive is the effort to provide translations of the Book of Mormon to the world. Today, the complete Book of Mormon has been translated into seventy-nine languages, and selections are available in another twenty-three languages. This represents 99 percent of the languages spoken by Latter-day Saints. Efforts continue to translate this book into more languages to fulfill the Lord’s command.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was on his first historic visit to Jackson County, Missouri, in August 1831 when he heard the voice of the Lord, “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27). In this light, the Religious Studies Center has launched a new Web page to reach a wider audience. Finally, in response to the Lord’s command that each person hear the gospel in his own language, we have translated some of the best articles and books from the RSC’s printed library into Spanish and Portuguese, the two most common languages in the Church outside of English. Additionally, we have just added German and will be publishing a landmark book by Dr. Roger Minert, In Harm’s Way: German Latter-day Saints in World War II. We will expand our outreach by translating other books, providing Church members another way to “seek . . . out of the best books words of wisdom” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). We invite others to join us in this adventure and spread the word that the RSC Web site is providing valuable articles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines a classic as “having lasting significance or worth; enduring” or “a work recognized as definitive in its field.” Until the second half of the twentieth century, anyone interested in building a library of classic books from the past would expect to find them in expensive bookstores. Such books were usually bought by academics, book collectors, or wealthy individuals who could afford not only leather-bound books but also a library to house them.
In 1946, the owner of Penguin Books, Allen Lane, decided to release the first book in a new series, “Penguin Classics.” Translated by E. V. Rieu, the book was truly a classic, Homer’s Odyssey. The series produced modern translations of the classics in paperback editions, making them affordable and readable for a new generation of people. Over the years more than 1,300 titles have become part of the now world-famous series.
The most recent addition to the Penguin Classics series is The Book of Mormon (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), with an introduction by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, a well-known academic observer of Mormonism and associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Penguin Books chose to republish the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon because it “was the last of three revision undertaken by Joseph Smith Jr. . . . before his death in 1844” (vii). This reader-friendly edition replicates the 1840 edition, which had no verses, few chapter divisions, and none of the student helps in modern editions, such as footnotes and chapter summaries. As I began reading it today, I felt like one of the early Saints who read the book in full-page narrative style, which provided a different kind of experience.
Since 1830, the story of the book’s origins, the historical and cultural context of the narrative itself, and the book’s message have become part of a large and rather sophisticated discussion at all levels. Scholars–both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of other faith traditions–have read it, studied, and written about it.
The BYU Religious Studies Center, established in 1975 by Jeffrey R. Holland, has been involved in that discussion, sponsoring conferences and publishing articles and books on the Book of Mormon that have helped many appreciate in new ways this “marvelous work and a wonder.” I hope you will join us in a journey of discovery as we continue to fulfill Elder Holland’s vision, which he recalled in 1986, “When the Religious Studies Center was established at Brigham Young University in 1975, it was intended to facilitate not only the University’s commitment to religious studies but was also to serve those same interests among the general membership of the Church.”