17 November 2008

Style in Doctrine and Covenants

Doctrine and Covenants is one of three sacred texts unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The other two are the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price.

One of the first things that strikes me about Doctrine and Covenants is that each entry is dated and located. If Joseph Smith were alive today, he would have posted those revelations in his blog. This sort of dynamic medium would have been in keeping with a Church that believes in ongoing revelation and an open canon.

Of course, an open canon can be pointed back at the believers, and indeed it is, as we read revelations that admonish Joseph Smith and his companions. Muslims can understand what this must have felt like, since the Qur'an contains passages that admonish the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions. In both cases the parties concerned had to deal with uncomfortable revelations that came upon them in real time.

The other thing that jumps out at me from D&C is that the language is the same as that of the Book of Mormon. That is to say, the same style of English rendering is used for revelations both ancient and modern. But then the translator of the BOM and the transcriber of D&C are the same person, Joseph Smith, Junior. Perhaps he received both the translation and the revelations as pure thought, and rendered them into the English that seemed most fitting to him. Apparently this is something like the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible, rather than the American vernacular of his day.

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