Get ready for the 2014 AML Awards

The Association for Mormon Letters has been honoring excellence in the arts annually since 1977, making it the oldest Mormon arts awards in existence. You can see the full list of past winners here. The awards are announced each year in the following spring. Too often they have gone by without enough attention. This year I have been asked to head the awards board, and I hope that through more openness about the process and better communication we can help make the public better aware of the best of the Mormon literary world.

The categories differ each year. This year, we intend to give awards in the following categories: Continue reading

Posted in Announcements | 3 Comments

A Conference Matching Game

Another General Conference has ended and I’m in the mode of poring over the paper copy of addresses. I’m reading the inspiring messages and oohing and ahhing over the photo shots. It’s been a long time since my mother made batches of “Million Dollar Fudge” to bribe me to watch as much of conference as I could sit still for. Now I find it ends too soon. I laughed when I read my nephew’s Facebook status right after conference was adjourned: “No!!! I say we make a sustaining vote to not end conference!!”

Continue reading

Posted in Storytelling and Community | Tagged | 4 Comments

In Tents #46 He is Risen and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do Part VII

The 32nd chapter of Alma has an intriguing story where Alma is preaching on the hill Onidah and a group of poor people comes up behind him and asks where they can go to worship, since they aren’t permitted in the synagogues. Alma turns around and starts teaching them. The story is one of my favorite examples of someone acting out a figure of speech: Alma turns his back on his uninterested listeners and starts teaching the ones who want to listen. (Alma 32:6-7)

Alma teaches the poor people that they can exercise faith anywhere, even if they don’t have a building to meet in and quotes Zenos to that effect, a moving discourse meant to comfort outcasts. So why does he scold them immediately after quoting Zenos? “Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures?” (Alma 33:14). Granted, it’s a mild scolding, but why scold at all? Shouldn’t he be encouraging them to read the words of Zenos rather than scolding them for not reading their scriptures at all? The subtle rhetorical shift in the passage puzzled me for a long time.

At my last big-0 birthday I was working my way through Deseret Book’s 1980 facsimile of the First Edition, and Statebird Book was offering Royal Skousen’s typographical facsimile of The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and parts 1 & 2 of his Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon for half price, or about $80 for all three. With some birthday money I bought them. So, when I got to the bottom of page 317, lines 42-43 in my first edition facsimile I checked it against the original manuscript–yes, extant for this passage–and it reads “these scriptures.” So Alma is not scolding them, he’s asking them if they are aware of the scriptures that can comfort them.

So what happened? Well, here’s 317:42,

Now, behold, my brethren, I would ask, if ye have read the

The end of the line happened, Continue reading

Posted in Literary Views of Scripture | 2 Comments

in verse #46 : Filthiness, flood wood and rubbish

Alright, so I’ve talked about the text of Joseph Smith’s letter from Liberty Jail for two posts now, and I’m still not done. But, I hear you saying, haven’t you made your point? Well, obviously not, or I wouldn’t be talking about it still, would I? What are you accusing me of, dragging my feet before leaping feetfirst into Walt Whitman? He is the next logical practitioner of the long line, the next successor to Blake. And he is an editor, as well as a writer, is he not?

My point in lingering longer to look at the segments of the letter that were edited into Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants is twofold: the editing was done skillfully, and shaped to humanize a narrative that would emphasize the abstractions of verses 34-46, give them flesh and breath, and soften the anger driving them. That wasn’t necessary for what became Section 122, nor possible for what became section 123. I discussed in my last post the lines leading into the second excerpt, verses 7-25. Look again at these lines:

and when the heart is sufficiently contrite
then the voice of inspiration steals along
and whispers 7my son peace be unto thy soul —
thine adversity and thy afflictions shall be but a small moment
8and then if thou endure it well God shall exalt thee on high —
thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.[i]

Notice that verse 7 begins in the middle of a sentence, but in Doctrine and Covenants there is no indication of that. Continue reading

Posted in In Verse, Literary Views of Scripture, Mormon LitCrit, The Past through Literature, Thoughts on Language | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The case of the disappearing comments

I’ve reset the spam filters, so the legitimate comments don’t have to be fished out (except if you post more than 3 links).

If you don’t see your previous comment now, it means I missed it in combing through the spam, and I apologize profusely.

Carry on, then.

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King Josiah


[NOTE: Nothing about this post is intended to impress your seminary teacher. I'm playing loose with the facts which facts are themselves at best loose. Don't argue the past. The past is not the point. The point is the past.]

[NOTE 2: This post was written under the influence of powerful prescription medication. Glancing through it a day later, hooboy but is that obvious.]


So King Josiah becomes king and finds the scriptures and he’s like what? Scriptures? That’s cool. And he gets the people to start worshiping the Lord God and doing away with some of the other gods which is mostly good unless you were into Heavenly Mother then you might find his methods a little too thorough but whatever. His scribes start piecing together what words of God are still around and we end up with some weird things like people being created twice but lots of other things would have been lost forever if he hadn’t acted so it’s probably a net gain. Plus we got Deuteronomy now, so that’s pretty great. Even Jesus quotes Deuteronomy. Continue reading

Posted in Community Voices | Tagged , | 14 Comments