Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anime Ammon -- D&C 1: 24

"Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."

What is the manner of our language and how does it change over time? Is there an inherent value to connecting with God, at times, in the manner of our own language, whatever it may be?

I talked to an agent for Deseret Book several months ago about the possibility of publishing an additional illustrated version of the Book of Mormon, in which the characters were anthropomorphized people-animals (a la, for example, Brian Jacques novels) rather than people. I suggested this partly just because my brother used to draw Book of Mormon characters that way, and partly because I thought obviously imaginary renderings like that would free up children to visualize characters on their own and solve the problem of children taking problematic existing depictions literally.

The group I was with was excited about the proposal, but the agent was not. He said that customers are pretty sensitive about what they get in terms of religious depictions and was pessimisstic about the ability of such a work to sell.

If I were to re-pitch a similar concept today, though--and I probably should--I would frame it as a "kids illustrate Book of Mormon stories" project and incorporate a variety of styles coming from actual young artists around the world. D&C 1: 24, I think, provides an appropriate justification: giving children a chance to receive these stories in the manner of their own language might help them come more quickly and organically to meaningful understanding.

To give you a flavor of such a work, I present the following three drawings by Braden and Franklin, two of my own primary students.

Braden loves Ammon, and it shows.

One Sunday the boys had a heated discussion on the topic: "Who would you have joined: Coriantumr or Shiz?" Franklin has been fascinated with that story every since. (Tangential note: Gabe insisted he would've hidden in a rock to avoid the war. The other boys told him that Coriantumr and Shiz were sweeping the land to force everyone to fight, and that Gabe, lacking a prophet's protection, would have been found and forced to fight. Gabe responded that he would have hidden in Ether's rock, taking quite literally the sentiment that we should follow the prophet.)

This last one is Braden's. It's Jesus, I think during his visit to the Nephites (I also think Braden meant to draw feet, but ran out of time). I prefer this Jesus's wrinkled face and intense gaze to the glowing Jesus of of the Simon Dewey and Greg Olson paintings that seem to dominate the LDS market at the moment. The manner of Braden's language has more power for me.


  1. As the aforementioned younger brother, I really like the idea of a collection of kid's Book of Mormon illustrations.

    I also have another idea for a collection, which I'd been meaning to share with you--

    Renaissance artists painted Biblical scenes as happening in their time and culture. St. Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin also has signs of the cross in which the mockers and soldiers are dressed in twentieth century clothing.

    Why not have a Book of Mormon illustrated in a similar way? And since our time and setting would get repetitive if applied to the entire book, why not have many times and places represented?

    Some of the earliest Book of Mormon illustratinos, on display in Palmyra, depict the Nephites with the long beards and kepah of Orthodox Jews.

    The story of the brother of Jared could be presented in the style of Babylonian wall carvings. Captain Moroni could be shown in the feathered armor of the Aztecs. The missions of Ammon and his brothers could take the form of an illuminated manuscript.

    Showing the Book of Mormon illustrated in the manner of many languages and peoples would be a fitting tribute to the effort to translate the text into the tongue of all the peoples of the earth.

  2. I think this is my favorite of all your comments. Well put! I'd be happy to scan and periodically post an illustrations you or others happen to do as a start.

  3. I love these ideas. Both the children's illustrations and having different stories in different historical styles, appeal to me. I keep thinking that we read the Book of Mormon to gain direction and perspective on our lives, today. It's not a historical novel. It seems that anything we do to better put in the context of our personal lives has to be positive.
    Illuminated manuscript! That would be awesome. Man, this is totally inspiring me.

  4. It turns out the illuminated manuscript has already happened: Someone made an illuminated text of Jacob 5. You can read about it, and see some pictures, at

    Of course, with a starting price tag of $960 dollars, it's not something I'd get just to read to my kids.



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