Cultural History 4B: Bodies of Word

I am grateful for readers who press on hoping to come to better understanding of their own traditions and scripture. It is often a difficult and lonely work, but you should know you are not alone, and that not only those among the living are interested in your endeavors.

The next book in our ongoing study of the cultural history of the Book of Mormon concerns how words shape our imagination and speculation of things intangible, e.g., spirits, gods, souls, atonement, sin, intelligences, and so on. We use words to speak of such things, and as a result, our thinking about them is shaped by words, grammars, syntax, history and culture.

This is for some the most difficult of the books, and for others, the most satisfying and stimulating.  We can agree it is the longest of the books, if measured by words.

Here is the first installment:




9 thoughts on “Cultural History 4B: Bodies of Word

  1. Kevin says:

    If one were to begin the ‘Cultural History’ series with this book about the basic power and meta alchemy of words, might it provide a useful foundation for the companion volumes? Might it help the lay student approach the subject from an understanding more like that of the linguistic anthropologist? Thanks again and again for freely sharing your insights, Daymon.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’m excited to finally dive into your series, beginning with this volume, Daymon. I’ve collected all of the PDF files of the books to this point and have studied the reviews and synopses enough to know that I want the dramatically broadened and nuanced view of our experience with the Book of Mormon and the religion that claims it, that your series offers.

  3. Chase says:

    I read the first volume of cultural history and really enjoyed it. However, I decided to wait a bit to continue the series, having other things on my shelf that needed reading. I spontaneously began reading this volume last night, and I am blown away. This is honestly one of the most interesting things I have read in a long, long time. At first I was confused about the relevance of reflexive and performative ideas, but as you described our concept of time as influenced by language (and vice versa), I think I got a sense of how we “say” the word “time” and it becomes to us something quantitative, because that’s how our minds frame it. I also really enjoyed the discussion on time as perceived by SAE and by the Hopi. I was almost disgusted that we have so quantified such abstract ideas as time and space, relegating them to little packets. It made me think of the concept of justice and how we, as Mormons, quantify that as well. It is placed in a packet that is conveniently the size of our transgressions. That is also how we view Atonement, as satisfying an amount of transgression or sin. I can also see how that can change how we view Intelligence or Intelligences (to use an example from your dissertation). Anyway, just thought I’d share my gratitude.

  4. Chase says:

    Wow! I wrote the above ^^^ comment on justice and atonement before even reading Chapter 5. Maybe I should’ve read the whole thing before I commented and made myself look like an ass. You must’ve primed me well, Sir Daymon! I guess I should mention that what the Book of Mormon seems to communicate to me is that the “taking upon himself of the pains and sicknesses of his people” and “death that he might loose the bands of death,” was somehow (here I go speculating) a way for Christ to understand the suffering of his people so that he could “succor” them. In a way I think this verse describes how Christ knows the whys and wherefores of our stupidities and missteps in order to understand why he should be merciful to someone who has been so unjust…unless they want to continue to be unjust (unrepentant?). Makes a lot more sense to me than a set of cosmic balances.

    It seems interesting that the Old and New Testaments retain (in some spots) a reliance on economic allegory (parable of the talents anyone? parables concerning creditors and debtors?). I guess we underestimate the extent to which we are indicted by Christ’s explanation of his parables. “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” We talk about parables veiling truth from the wicked, yet we take them at face value (economically) and fashion them into our ideas about the metaphysics of atonement (even extending those arguments so far as to justify our real estate and corporate investments as preparing for Christ to “receive his own with usury”). Perhaps those of us who have thought for so long that we see and hear just fine are just now learning that we have been blind to the actual messages Christ tried to teach.

      1. Chase says:

        Have you ever looked into the Jewish conception of Atonement much? Or the concept of redemption and / or atonement in the Hebrew language?

      2. day2mon says:

        not really, I think they were called out by Jehovah even in their own scriptures, so I’m reluctant to put much effort into learning their traditions.

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