Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg

"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." (Joshua 1: 8)

When God gave this commandment, he knew he was commissioning a hundred billion works of art, because the shape of every human mouth is different in some way--and so it is that, while all righteous people can speak with the same spirit, no two can give the exact same shape to the words.

I wrote a story a year ago that, in many passages, reveals how the words of God take shape coming out of my mind and mouth. If my thoughts here have resonated with you, I'd encourage you to take some time with, and invest some of your energy in, "Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg."


  1. This is a true principle, but a false midrash, because the verse says
    "This book of the law shall NOT depart out of thy mouth"
    (Sorry for the way it looks, but I needed to emphasize the word "not" and I can't bold it.) The Lord is telling Joshua that he will not receive a revelation comparable to the books of Moses, but that he will nevertheless be a prophet of the Lord. Joshua is a nabi, but not a rasul.

    There are scriptures that talk about the different ways each of us speaks the word of the Lord, but this is not one of them.

  2. Hmmm....
    I was thinking the scripture meant that he (Joshua) would need to constantly talk about the law and in that sense the (already written) book of the law would not depart out of his mouth.
    I think I still favor that original reading over your reading above because of the word "this." If the verse said, "a book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth" I might read it like you do, as differentiating Moses and Joshua. But "this" seems to clearly refer to the Book already revealed through Moses.
    I think Joshua already knew without extra clarification that he was a nabi and not a rasul. His concern was: how do you keep a tradition like Moses' alive? And God said: talk constantly about his law! Think about it day and night! Enact its precepts!
    There are numerous LDS scriptures about the ways in which we receive and speak revelations, but I am not trying to talk about revelation here. I am talking about speaking the revelations that make up our tradition in our own vernaculars, metaphors, and understanding. When Joshua speaks Moses words, they become inflected by Joshua's mouth--and yet Joshua must still speak them! I want to repeat the scriptures in my own metaphors and inflections not to compete with the originals, but as tributes to them and to keep them burning bright in my own mind.
    Art can act in this way as enlivening repetition.

  3. I actually went back to your first midrash on this passage after I wrote this comment, read it again, and realized that this interpretation, of keeping the words always running through our minds, is what you were getting at.

    So thank you for demonstrating to me that my interpretation of this passage missed many important things about it, even if it took a second repetition (and then a third) repetition for me to realize you were telling me something new.

    I guess I got so tied to my old interpretation because it seemed a good way to explain how, even though prophets after Joseph Smith in this dispensation have not delivered new books of scripture to us, they are still prophets for us, and they still receive revelation. But re(and re- and re-)reading the passage, I come to see that your interpretation does seem to be the more direct meaning of the text, especially as it goes on to create a formula for spiritual victory: keep the words in your mouth, so as to keep them in your mind, so as to keep them in your actions, so as to have success through righteousness.



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