Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy Independence Day and Alma 46

One thing I have always loved is grammar.

Hard and fast rules that only 2.3 percent of the population knows, only 1.1 percent of the population cares about, only .9 percent of the population employs, and that can be manipulated to suit your creative needs? Yes please. So when I read any work of literature, I always pay particular attention to grammar, and I ask myself, Why was it written this way? Why this punctuation, why this construction instead of something else?

This week I have been looking at the Title of Liberty. Have you ever really looked at it, at the way it is constructed? Now, I know there have been some small changes to grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. since the first edition of The Book of Mormon, but let's assume all changes have been inspired. Yes, let's. Perhaps Captain Moroni did not intend to divide it the way it now appears, but as all we have to go on is the translation we have before us, well, that's all we have to go on.

In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.

To me, it seems that the Title is divided into two related ideas. "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom" being the first. "And our peace, our wives, and our children," being the second. It's that (bolded) And before peace that gets me. It divides the statement. Why? Why is it necessary? You have to look at the relationship between the meanings of these words and contemplate it for yourself.

God. Religion. Freedom.
Peace. Wives. Children.

The next thing I notice is the absence of our before freedom. All the other nouns get the possessive pronoun, or determiner, our. Why not freedom? Even despite the comma there, I think it shares religion's determiner, which, to me, ties together the concepts of religion and freedom. What do religion and freedom have in common? What is their combined relationship to the concept of God? And most interestingly, what do they have in common with each other that wives and children do not?

Not to totally bore you--but I'm kind of thinking the pic at the top should have been a warning to you--but the next thing I notice is the use of the word coat (in that same verse, Alma 46:12).

And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it.

It sticks out like (*winces at the cliche*) a sore thumb. Not that I believe this, but many people believe the Book of Mormon lands are in the tropics, and even if you don't, have you ever thought of the Nephites or Lamanites wearing coats?

Now you're thinking about it, aren't you? Well, I have this memory of my dad explaining the meaning of the word coat to me from the original word used in the Bible in reference to Joseph's coat of many colours. And then I read farther into Chapter 46 of Alma, and lo and behold, Moroni actually says to the people:

Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces.

And this validates where my mind has gone in thinking about that word, coat. A quick Google search produced this definition in Deeper Into the Word...by Keri Wyatt Kent.

During Old Testament times, men and women typically wore a kethoneth, a simple garment similar to what we would call a shirt, although, kethoneth is typically translated "coat" or "robe." This was held to the body by a girdle and covered by a longer outer coat or robe, meiyl.

He goes on to say

The word kethoneth is also used to describe Joseph's "coat of many colors" as well as the robes of the priests in Exodus...

So I'm thinking about what kind of garment this flag or standard or title is actually made out of and by what authority Moroni incites the people to action and the people (who rent similar garments) make this oath to maintain their rights and their religion. And I'm thinking that what actually took place was more than a guy using a flag to build an army.

Have a grand Independence Day everyone. Maybe we can make it about more than fireworks this year. (Because as you may or may not know, even despite the fire danger this year, I totally hate fireworks).


1 comment:

Gayle said...

I love your thoughts and insights about this -- you have made me look at things that I've never taken the time to stop and consider before. Thank you!