long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Foreign language versions

Because so much traffic to this and my other blogs comes from non-English speaking countries, I've added google translate buttons.

Now, no matter what language you speak, you can have the full content easily translated into your native language.

Google does a great job with automatic translation, but there are a few errors from time to time. To introduce foreign-language readers to the North American setting, I've had a couple of posts translated to be posted on language-specific blogs. I'm doing some testing now but next week I'll post those links for anyone who would like to share them with people who speak Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and other languages as we add them.

It has also occurred to me that Letter VII and other important Church history documents have never been translated outside of English.

The Joseph Smith Papers, for example, are available only in English. You can try to translate them online, but it's very difficult and involves a lot of cutting and pasting. Basically, you have to know English to navigate the pages and do searches. You can cut and paste specific text to translate it, but if you don't speak or read/write English, you can't really use the website.

If you want to try it, Letter VII is here. You plug the url into google translate and it will translate only the headings, not the text itself.

As I've mentioned, Letter VII appears nowhere on lds.org (except a single citation in a footnote on a point not related to Cumorah). There's an entire article on Cumorah that doesn't mention Letter VII, here.

There's another page in the media section that implies the Mormon 6:6 Cumorah is not the one in New York. Check it out here and see how carefully worded it is. Notice the distinction between the Book of Mormon "Cumorah" and the statement, "In our era, the Hill Cumorah is a drumlin-hill between the towns of Palmyra and Manchester, New York, where the gold plates... was unearthed."

[While I'm on this topic, Cumorah isn't even mentioned in the Institute Course titled Religion 275, Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon. The cover of the manual gives us a nice view of Mesoamerican palm trees, though. The manual tries to avoid geography altogether. For example, on p. 100 there's a quotation by Ezra Taft Benson about "Christ's coming to America." Everywhere else, the manual refers to Christ's visit "to the Americas," plural. Well, except for the copyright page that states the manual was "Printed in the United States of America."

Seminary: The Seminary manual includes the term once, in this fascinating paragraph on p. 475:

"When and where was it written?

"Mormon likely wrote chapters 1–7 of this book between A.D. 345 and A.D. 401 (see Mormon 2:15–17; 8:5–6). He finished his writings after the final battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites at Cumorah in A.D. 385 (see Mormon 6:10–15; 7:1). Moroni probably wrote the material in chapters 8–9 between the years A.D. 401 and A.D. 421, as he wandered “for the safety of [his] life” (see Mormon 8:4–6; Moroni 1:1–3)."

Notice that Mormon "finished" his writings after the final battle at Cumorah. Of course, this doesn't answer the question of where Cumorah was. The manual doesn't mention that Oliver Cowdery wrote that Moroni told Joseph the account was "written and deposited" not far from his house. That means it was written not far from the Smith home near Palmyra. (This makes sense, since the repository of Nephite records in the hill Shim until Mormon moved the records to the hill Cumorah, so he would have had to do the abridgment somewhere near Joseph's home.)

Overall, the seminary manual does a good job covering some of the scriptures about Cumorah, but it still doesn't mention Letter VII (or Letter VIII), which tell us a lot about Cumorah.

Sunday School. The Sunday School manual has the Arnold Friberg-inspired Mayan temple on the cover (the same motif that we've seen incorporated in the logos of the Meosamerican advocacy groups). Lesson 43 covers Cumorah, but of course says nothing about where Cumorah is and does not mention Letter VII.

Fortunately, the manual suggests teachers use Friberg's painting "Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation," which depicts both Mormon and Moroni on the Hill Cumorah in New York, next to a huge oak tree in the autumn. That's the solid, awesome painting that was removed from the missionary and foreign language editions of the Book of Mormon in 1981, replaced by the painting of Moroni, by himself, burying the plates at Cumorah in New York. The scholars approved that one because it is consistent with the two-Cumorahs theory, while the Friberg Cumorah painting repudiates the two-Cumorahs theory. If we're going to keep republishing the Friberg paintings set in the New World, why can't we republish his Cumorah painting, which is consistent with the text, instead of his jungle/pyramid paintings, which defy the text?

The point of all of this is that you can be a diligent LDS student in seminary, institute, and Sunday School your entire life and never once learn that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith wrote and endorsed Letter VII, which contains the fundamental teaching that Cumorah was in New York. That "oversight" in the manuals leaves people vulnerable to the two-Cumorahs theory.

You can find Letter VII in various online sources, but again, you have to know English first.

And, of course, you can read it in context in my little book.


This is a long way of saying that even if you live in Utah and speak English, you have to exert some effort to learn about Letter VII. It was ubiquitous in Joseph's day; it is unknown in ours.

We can fix that. 

Just tell everyone you know to read Letter VII when your Sunday School class gets to Lesson 43.

Meanwhile, though, if it's that difficult to overcome the suppression of Letter VII by the scholars when you speak English, think of how difficult it would be to learn about it if you don't speak English.

Consequently, one of my first posts in the foreign language blogs translates the key portions of Letter VII.

From everything I can tell, the foreign language versions of this blog are the first time Letter VII has been formally translated into these other languages. 

So next week, when I publish the links to those blogs, share them with everyone you know who speaks those languages.


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