1830s English and the Book of Mormon
18 September 2007 22:25
While serving a mission for my church, some Elders in our district went to a Know Your Religion seminar in which the person presenting suggested that there was a lot you could learn about the Book of Mormon by consulting a dictionary that was published in the same time period as the Book of Mormon. Accordingly he was selling reprints of a dictionary that had been published around 1830, the year the Book of Mormon was first published.
I have found in my personal study of the scriptures that my experience with the scriptures is greatly enhanced by closely studying some of the words of the scriptures that are less-common in our modern language. By increasing my grasp of what such words mean, I get a better picture overall of the message of the scriptures, and can more readily apply those passages to my own life.
Recently the thought came to me that I should search Google Books for an 1830ish dictionary to help in my study. As usual, Google delivered, and I now have in my Google Books Library a copy of A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson, John Walker, and Robert S. Jameson published in 1828. Given that the book is well out of copyright, Google has the entire contents of the book available for browsing, or for downloading as a PDF.
As an example of what can be gleaned from such a tool, consider 1 Nephi 16:28, where Nephi tells us that the pointers in the Liahona (the compass-like object the Lord provided to Nephi's family to lead them in the wilderness) worked "according to the faith and diligence and heed which [they] did give unto them". If we compare the Liahona to the guidance of the Spirit, or the scriptures, or the words or the prophets, we see that such things can help to guide us through our own "wilderness" according to the "faith and diligence and heed" which we give them.
Looking up the word "heed" in the afore-mentioned dictionary, we find as possible meanings for the word "heed" to include "Care; attention; caution; fearful attention; suspicious watch; notice; observation; seriousness; staidness; regard; respectful notice." Each of these meanings can provide interesting insight into what it means to give "heed" to these sources of guidance.
Google Book Search really is an amazing tool, given the quantity of volumes available for search. The number of digitized copies of historical documents is growning on many fronts, not only at Google, but also in places like the Family History department of the LDS Church (head on over to FamilySearch Indexing to help out in that effort) where millions of microfilms are being digitized and indexed. I recently re-stumbled upon Footnote.com who have entered into an agreement with NARA to digitize materials from the National Archives. My father-in-law is the director for a Genealogical Library in Connecticut which will be partnering with the LDS Church to digitize portions of their collection. And the list will continue to grow. It's an exciting time to be alive.
On 18 December 2007 20:11 Dave Stafford