A friend of mine recently asked whether I had a list of books “that have been particularly impactful or interesting,” especially in the realm of spirituality and religion—and suggested that if I didn’t already have such a list, I could put one together for one of my next blog posts. It took me a while to actually put the list together, but it’s ended up being a really interesting exercise. Of the forty books that I’ve picked, some have been more influential than others.
What a weird, profound, and beautiful book. This is a very Mormon novel, and in all the best ways. It takes Mormonism seriously—even literally—but not uncritically. I’d wager that Peck has read Grant Hardy, and my favorite bit in an amazing book is a throwaway joke about farewell expressions in French in a way that only someone who knows and loves the Book of Mormon would do. More than all of that, it is a profound and optimistic (but never naïve) story about redemption knowing no bounds.
I’ve written a fair amount already on my rereading the Book of Mormon project, where I’m entertaining the idea of what a modern language edition of the book (or at least the Book of Mosiah) might look like. In my work thus far, I’ve been proceeding under the assumption that this is an inherently liberal project: In both the LDS and RLDS traditions, there has been considerable resistance to large-scale changes to the English language text of the Book of Mormon, largely because the English text is held to be translated through divine power and therefore unassailable.
Dallin Oaks, the second highest-ranking apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a speech at Brigham Young University yesterday where he touched on the “two great commandments” identified by Jesus in the Book of Mark. Unsurprisingly for anyone who’s been following recent signals of retrenchment at BYU (or anyone familiar with the apostle for that matter), Oaks put the two commandments in a particular order. Here’s how the Salt Lake Tribune quotes him:
One recurring question that I’ve had while working on my “rereading the Book of Mormon” project is asking what should be understood by the common phrase “the Lord” in the text of this book of scripture. In Bible translations, this is a bit more straightforward: “the Lord” is often used as a euphemism for the divine name YHWH and could be read in that way. Before going any further with this discussion, I want to acknowledge that my writing out and speculating on the divine name here may (or will likely) be seen as disrespectful or offensive by many Jews (and even some Christians—I admire Wil Gafney’s approach to the divine name).