Last year I lost my scriptures. Rather, I left them on the roof of my car and they ended up scattered all over the road. Initially, I was pretty upset. They had been my scriptures for nearly 20 years – since before my mission. But as I ran up and down the road trying to gather the bruised and battered pages, I had a clarifying moment where I realised what I think I already knew – that over some time I had become casual in my approach to the scriptures. Not so much in my actual reading of them, but more in the way I think about them. I think there is always a danger that we use the scriptures to prove what we think we already know, rather than allowing the scriptures to challenge our existing ideas. It struck me quite forcefully as I was running up and down the road chasing loose pages in the wind that God wants me to blow up everything I think I know and build it anew from the raw materials.
In his Letters to a Young Mormon, Adam Miller says:
Joseph always expected more revelations, and “translation” was one vital name for the hard work of receiving them. For Joseph, translation was less a chore to be done than a way, day by day, of holding life open for God’s word. Translating scripture is a way of renewing life.
Joseph produced, as God required, the first public translations of the scriptures we now share. But that work, open-ended all along, is unfinished. Now the task is ours. When you read the scriptures, don’t just lay your eyes like stones on the pages. Roll up your sleeves and translate them again…Word by word, line by line, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, God wants the whole thing translated once more, and this time he wants it translated into your native tongue, inflected by your native concerns, and written in your native flesh. To be a Mormon is to do once more, on your own small scale, the same kind of work that Joseph did.
This blog is my attempt to take seriously again the Book of Mormon and to translate it into my own native tongue. My goal is to work through the Book pretty slowly – only a couple of pages a week – and post my ‘translation’ thoughts each week. Essentially, it is a form of personal study. But I hope for something else as well.
Personal scripture study and individual copies of scripture are modern phenomena. For the ancients, scripture was a public, communal affair. And so my ambitious hope is that this blog might also facilitate some shared study among friends. So feel free to follow along, do your own translation work, and share your ideas below the line.