Sunday, October 20, 2013

Confounded Language

Ether 1: 34-35 "And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded."

"That 'we' may not understand 'our' words".  Ever noticed this?  How curious that he refers to a loss of understanding of their own words.  I believe this petition was small scale, limited to a family or small group. 

It's possible for any number of people to speak English with each other and yet at the same time have a confounded language.  While growing up in the Church and attending primary I used to think the Tower of Babel story was a story of people who went to bed one night, and woke up the next morning with one person speaking Chinese, and their next door neighbor woke up speaking Arabic, and their littler brother and sister speaking Spanish. (It was every foreign language speaking missionaries dream come true)  In primary I saw it as an overnight thing that resulted in mass chaos. 

Upon further thought, many many more possibilities and ways to view these scriptures occur to me.  I can't say for sure if people really did just spontaneously obtain fluency in a foreign language.  But what I did want to write about was something that may in fact may be occurring in our day before our eyes.  Language becomes confounded simply by the nature of entropy and our fallen world. 

Interestingly today in church the closing prayer was long and deliberate yet I could not make heads or tails of what the person was saying.  I recognized the English words, yet when strung together they had little meaning.  Think about every day contexts...how many of us speak English withe each other, yet do not share the same meaning of the words with the person we are speaking with?  Might as well be speaking Spanish to a Russian native.  If you both use the word "Gospel" and one of you is thinking of the chapel you attend on Sunday, and the leaders of some specific religious organization, and the other person is thinking of exclusively the bible and exclusively only certain parts of just the bible, then the conversation is going to hit some early roadblocks.   

Word meanings deteriorate over time.  Just like fallen man himself.  Fallen man's words becomes confounded without the light of truth.  The definitions deteriorate, stray, and dwindle.     

If you can alter the meaning of a scriptural word, and create associations in the minds of the people that trigger the wrong idea and wrong picture you can pretty effectively confound someone.  Take repentance for example.  How much baggage is attached to that word?  What about obedience?  How many people have a totally incorrect image in their head when it comes to obedience?  If we do not understand the word repentance to mean what the scriptural authors intended, then how can we possibly repent?  Can you repent in the way we need to if our understanding of repentanc eis all skewed?  Using the repentance example, you could spend your entire life "stopping" certain things, and at the end fail to ever repent.  Repentance involves "starting" something and "adding" things to your life as well as stopping things.     

Ask yourself if our language is confounded.  I asked myself that, and the answer is yes.  Not only can two people speak English to each other and yet not understand each other, but we are in jeopardy of reading the scriptures and completely missing the meaning, and therefore remain unable to live and apply the teachings.  We then are ripening as a confounded people.
        
I like the petition Jared asks of his brother for himself and friends.  I think it's as applicable today, as it was then:  "Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words." 

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