Monday, March 3, 2008

Authorial Influence: Introduction

When my family moved to the US from Egypt and we finally got access to cable TV, my Dad and I became serious sports junkies. We'd be into our third bowl of popcorn watching the German Hammer Throw Championship on ESPN 5 and someone would actually call our house. On the phone. This meant it was probably ringing during a funny beer commercial. Dad started shouting "Go away!" before getting up to answer it. Then we started unplugging it. Since then, I've been known to use the phrase myself a few times. Worse, my kids have picked up on it as well.

The beauty of language is that phrases, words, and concepts are often unique to individuals, demonstrating their creative influence on a particular work. For example, Alma the Younger is the only author in the Book of Mormon to use the word ‘abyss’ (Mosiah 27:29, Alma 26:3). Nephi is the only one to use the construction “plain and precious” — he uses it to refer to the plain and precious things he makes sure to add to his spiritual record (1 Ne 19:3) after seeing in vision the plain and precious things taken out or held back from another spiritual record (1 Ne 13:28, 29 [twice], 34, 35, 40). Also, Moroni is the only author to use the phrases ‘strict to observe’ (Moroni 6:7) and ‘as oft as’ (Moroni 6:8).

Because phrases and concepts can be unique to individuals, you sometimes see how the influence of these individuals and their writings affect others who are close to them. This is true of the Book of Mormon authors and editors as well. On many occasions, the words, phrases, or ideas that are peculiar to an individual are then later used by a son or brother of that individual, reflecting the spiritual and literary influence the authors had on each other. This adds a depth of realism and literary complexity to the Book of Mormon that makes it special, mirroring our own lives where we learn and grow from the words, ideas, and concepts of those who are close to us. ("Go away!")

In future posts, I'll be highlighting a few of the examples I’ve found in the Book of Mormon of this concept—sons, fathers, and brothers all learning from each other. There are probably many more instances to be found, and this is definitely a work in progress. Any comments are welcome.

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