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.
I am a big fan of the Book of Mormon. It’s one of the reasons that I stuck with Community of Christ when transitioning out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the book is problematic, and I doubt its historicity, but I’m still an advocate for making some religious meaning out of it.
There are diverse opinions about the Book of Mormon in Community of Christ, and while there’s plenty of room to believe lots of different things, the default institutional view tends to be either indifferent or suspicious of the text.
This week and last, I’ve been reading up on Mormons’ commitment to both the language of the King James Version (Philip Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible is a fantastic read) and what is seen as the authoritative text of the Book of Mormon. In Paul Gutjahr’s The Book of Mormon: A Biography, he quotes the official Latter-day Saint Scripture Translation Manual as including the following guidelines for translators of the Book of Mormon:
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).
A few weeks ago, I posted about Book of Mormon dependence on the King James Version and the way that that sometimes raises interesting questions about how the text should be understood. As I continue my project of what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon might look like, I’ve run into another example.
1 Corinthians 15:55 is referenced three times in the Book of Mormon, including in Mosiah 8 (Mosiah 16 LDS), where I’m currently working my way through the text.
It’s a bit of a truism to say that the Book of Mormon is dependent on Biblical language, but one thing that’s been on my mind for the past few years (especially since reading Thomas Wayment’s excellent The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints) is how specifically dependent it is on the particular language of the King James Version of the Bible.
Over the past year or so, as a personal project, I’ve been toying around with what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon would look like.