Sundry Moldy Solecisms # 3 Mahonri Stewart, A Roof Overhead

Title: A Roof Overhead and Other Plays
Author: Mahonri Stewart
Publisher: Zarahemla Books
Genre: Plays
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 390
Binding: Paper
ISBN13: 978-0-9883233-7-7
Price: $17.95

The summer after my junior year in high school, or maybe the year after, I saw an audition notice for a BYU graduate student production, The Persecution and Crucifiction of Jesus: Four Plays from the Wakefield Mystery Cycle.

Our director, Rodger, explained how mystery plays were performed by medieval guilds, so we would be playing both medieval guildsmen and the characters they were playing. And since the plays were travelling shows, Rodger built a pageant wagon for the set and planned to perform at the University Mall.

He decided later that the sacred character of the plays didn’t lend itself to audiences wandering in and out as they would at a mall, so we set up the pageant wagon and the audience seating on the Pardoe Theater stage, close enough to see the audience jump when the Roman soldiers were pounding the nails into Jesus’s hands. (There was a washer in his palm that the end of the wooden nail fit into, so there was no damage, but what the audience could imagine.)

Then they raised up the cross and dropped it into a hole at the back of the pageant wagon. (Audience gasps.) My character was the one who took Jesus down, draping a long cloth around his waist and up over the arms of the cross to hold him in place so the others could undo the ropes holding his arms and legs to the cross. Then we would lower him down into the arms of Mary and the burial party. Of course, Rodger cautioned us to be very careful not to drop him, as the actor would have no way to break his fall, but would surely break his legs.

Continue reading “Sundry Moldy Solecisms # 3 Mahonri Stewart, A Roof Overhead”

Steven Peck reading from The Scholar of Moab today at BYU library

Steven Peck will be reading from his novel The Scholar of Moab. today, Friday Feb 3, at noon in the basement auditorium of the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. He brought me by a review copy the other day and we had a good chat. He moved to Moab when he was in high school, after the uranium boom and before the tourist boom. Should be a good reading.

I told him I’m intrigued by the petroglyph on the cover, which makes the design is similar to the cover of Patricia Karamesines’ The Pictograph Murders. They’re both mysteries of sorts, so I’ll be interested to compare approaches. I should have more after the event, and maybe some pictures.

Sundry Moldy Solecisms # 2 Thinking to Thank the Jews and Thank the Jews For

Title: The New Covenant, Commonly Called The New Testament: Volume I The Gospels and Apocalypse
Translator: Willis Barnstone
Publisher: New York: Riverhead Books
Genre: Scripture
Year Published: 2002
Number of Pages: 577
Binding: Hardbound in signatures
ISBN10: 1-57322-182-1
Price:

Title: The Jewish Annotated New Testament: New Revised Standard Version
Editors: Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Genre: Scripture
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 637
Binding: Hardbound in signatures
ISBN13: 978-0-19-529770-6
Price: $35

In II Nephi 29 Nephi pauses in the midst of an apostrophe to future readers who will reject his words to remind them of their debt to the Jews.
Continue reading “Sundry Moldy Solecisms # 2 Thinking to Thank the Jews and Thank the Jews For”

Sundry Moldy Solecisms

(Note: In 2009 I was happily blogging about textual changes in The Book of Mormon–something I hope to resume soon–when my brother-in-law had a stroke. We all headed to northern Idaho (just down the Clearwater river from BoGritzland). We enjoyed seeing my wife’s family, and when we got back the new computer my son had ordered was waiting for us, and as he set it up he displaced the one I had been blogging from. Before I could get everything set up down in my study I fetched a temp assignment processing Cash for Clunkers payments — 14 days without a break, which taught me the value of a Sabbath. While I was still trying to get my blogging rhythm back I got busy. While I’m considering textual criticism, I also want to post some reviews I’ve been writing.

The title for my review segments is from one of my favorite quotes: “I have committed sundry moldy solecisms; yet I was not born to desecrate literature.” It’s the first sentence from Edward Dahlberg’s preface to his collection Bottom Dogs, From Flushing to Calvary, Those Who Perish: And hitherto unpublished and uncollected works. I tried reading the preface several times, but it was slow going till I realized it wasn’t an essay moving logically from one proposition to another, but a collection of epigrams. One of these days I hope to finish the rest of the book. I realized recently that while Dahlberg’s emphasis is clearly on the word desecrate, when I say it out loud I emphasize the word literature, as if I’m searching for what I was born to desecrate, or maybe what I was born to consecrate, or celebrate.

This first book I’m reviewing is one that I wish librarians throughout Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, California (southern, at least) and a lot of their patrons would buy, both to preserve and make widely available a unique part of western American culture, and for a reason mentioned at the end of the review. Continue reading “Sundry Moldy Solecisms”

Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon

Introduction to Textual Criticism
Part VI

Somewhere in some book I perused about existentialism is the comment that any philosophical movement that can contain both a devout Christian like Søren Kierkegaard and a devout anti-Christian like Friedrich Nietszche must be very broad indeed. I mentioned that once to Jim Faulconer, from whom I took several philosophy classes, and he said, “Nietszche wasn’t an anti-Christ. I don’t believe in the same God Nietszche didn’t believe in.”

As Jim said several times in class, the god of philosophers and theologians is wholly other than we are, so radically different that it makes no sense to suppose that we might someday become like God, and yet eternal life depends on knowing this radically unknowable being. If the radically unknowable version of God is the only version you know it may make sense to call yourself an atheist. For one thing is God is so radically different from you how do you have any way of knowing that your worship is authentic or acceptable?

Jim suggested that if Nietszche had had a different definition of God available to him, he might have had defined his relationship to that God differently–perhaps if he had known Kierkegaard. Continue reading “Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon”

Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon

Introduction to Textual Criticism
Part V

As the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion,  so the original manuscript was the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, or at least it was in the cornerstone from 1841-1882, when Lewis Bidamon, Emma’s second husband, removed it. It was badly damaged by water and mold and only about 28 percent survives. Joseph’s scribes made a copy for the printer which survives intact except for a few lines.

That is a great deal more than we have of the original manuscript for any other scripture from antiquity. We don’t have any manuscript within hundreds of years of the original for any book of the Bible, or other ancient books. (And, of course, we don’t have the original records for the Book of Mormon, only the manuscripts of a translation.) We even lack original manuscripts for many books much less ancient, Shaxberd for example.

But we do have many copies of books from antiquity ranging from hamburger-sized fragments and smaller to nearly complete. Textual criticism is a discipline developed to figure out how to handle the differences between the many copies of a work. Sometimes the differences are copyist’s errors, or errors where a scribe didn’t read the original correctly. But there are many cases where a scribe or editor simply didn’t value what the author had written and made some changes. And this still happens today.

Continue reading “Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon”

Gadianton The Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon

Introduction to Textual Variants Part IV
When my father taught as a Fulbright professor at the University of Oulu, Finland in 1970-71 we took along an anthology of humor, maybe A Sub-treasury of American Humor, ed. by E. B. White, which had this piece by Robert Benchley with the very strange title “Filling that Hiatus,” about what to do when the people on either side of you at a dinner party are talking to someone else. I couldn’t figure out what a hi-uh-toose was, and for some reason didn’t think to look it up. Now that I’ve been on a taxing highertoose for about a month I figure it’s thyme to parsley write down what I’ve been thinking about.

In Part III I mentioned Joseph Smith’s discourse of Sunday October 15, 1843 which starts with a comment on his love for the Constitution and its guarantees of religious freedom, then moves on to a comment about textual corruption in the Bible, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” (Documentary History of the Church VI:56-57)

The quote, though not the rest of the discourse, is well-known to seminary students and missionaries, and a young missionary might mention it to a woman who asks why we need additional revelation, hardly expecting her to say, “Do you really believe Jehovah God Almighty would allow errors to get into His scriptures?”

Continue reading “Gadianton The Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon”

Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in The Book of Mormon

Introduction to Textual Variants
Part III

In Part II I discussed John Gilbert’s omission of two letters to justify a line. In this part I want to look at two other instances that may involve missing letters.

Joseph Smith began his discourse of Sunday October 15, 1843 with a comment on his love for the Constitution and its guarantees of religious freedom, but said there was one defect, that there was no way of ensuring that the people who were administering our freedoms would actually protect them, so that the US president wouldn’t say “Your clause is fully justified but I can do nothing for you to get those last two letters into the line.”

Joseph’s transition from speaking about Constitutional protections to speaking about textual errors is almost that abrupt. There’s a one-paragraph transition, and I think the transition is Joseph’s way of telling why his religion is unpopular:
Continue reading “Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in The Book of Mormon”