Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Abandonment of Mormon Faith Not Inevitable

At this time when some make it seem inevitable that young Mormons will eventually abandon their faith, as did this young couple, it's a good idea to either read or reread Davis Bitton's classic essay, "I Don't Have a Testimony of the History of the Church," in which he explains, among other things,

The critics would have you believe that they are disinterested pursuers of the truth. There they were, minding their own business, going about their conscientious study of church history and—shock and dismay!—they came across this (whatever this is) that blew them away. As hurtful as it is for them, they can no longer believe in the church and, out of love for you, they now want to help you see the light of day.

Let's get one thing clear. There is nothing in church history that leads inevitably to the conclusion that the church is false. There is nothing that requires the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fraud. How can I say this with such confidence? For the simple reason that the Latter-day Saint historians who know the most about our church history have been and are faithful, committed members of the church. More precisely, there are faithful Latter-day Saint historians who know as much about this subject as any anti-Mormon or anyone who writes on the subject from an outside perspective. In fact, with few exceptions, they know much, much more. They have not been blown away. They have not gnashed their teeth and abandoned their faith. To repeat, they have found nothing that forces the extreme conclusion our enemies like to promote.

If those who know the most about Church, or Mormon, history have not abandoned their faith upon discovering all the (supposedly) shocking things found therein, then I think that should give us nonspecialists pause before we abandon ship at the slightest adverse wind.

(Or, if you need a shorter read, check out the last three paragraphs in this post by Daniel C. Peterson.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

George Pratt, Samoan Language Champion

In my opinion the patron saint of the written Samoan language is the Reverend George Pratt, who lived in Samoa for 40 years as a missionary for the London Missionary Society.

Though other missionaries preceded him to the Samoan archipelago, including the venerable John Williams, it was Pratt who first documented the Samoan language.

His most enduring contributions to the language are his grammar and dictionary, which went through four editions, and the translation of the Holy Bible into Samoan.

In his day the Rev. Pratt stood "pre-eminent as a student and master of the Samoan language." (1) He

spoke it like one of the natives of a generation now passed away, before the language had suffered from modern corruptions. He was so familiar with the classic traditions of the people, and could illustrate and give points to his speech by such telling references and allusions, that it was always a treat to the natives to hear Palati speak. He had no uninterested hearers. (2)

Concerning his work on the Bible, one of his colleagues, the Rev. Samuel James Whitmee, eulogized Pratt with the following:

To him, more than to any other person, although several rendered efficient aid, the excellence of the Samoan version of the Scriptures is due. I think I may say he did more than all the rest put together. The translation, and then the revision of the Samoan Bible, was the great work of his life. To this he devoted almost daily attention for many years, with the result that the Samoans have a Bible which, as a classic, is, and will be to them, very much what the Authorized Version has been in England. (2)

I think it's safe to say that anyone who learns Samoan as a second language is indebted in some way to the Rev. George Pratt. That all Samoan-speaking Christians are indebted to him for the Samoan Bible goes without saying. His work will stand as an eternal memorial to his dedication to a noble cause.

1. George Cousins, The Story of the South Seas, London Missionary Society, 1894.

2. Richard Lovett, The History of the London Missionary Society, 1795 - 1895, H. Frowde, 1899.

Samoa Depicted Authentically at the PCC

I've been asked whether the depiction of Samoan culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, is authentic. I always say, yes, it is authentic.

I've also heard complaints at its inauthenticity, in that it glosses over many important features of life in Samoa or life as a Samoan. And I always acknowledge the truth of these complaints: not that it's inauthentic but that many important features of life in Samoa and life as a Samoan are not included in the center's depiction of Samoa and its people (the same goes for the other six cultures showcased).

Is this a contradiction? I don't think so.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is designed to present in a short time (admission is good for three days) only a small portion of what it's like to live in a few of the many Polynesian nations.

Do you think Polynesian Cultural Center would have attracted 32 million visitors since it opened in 1963 if its entertainers walked around wearing dark, drab costumes and long, sad faces complaining about how bad it is to live in Polynesia (and perhaps work at such a place)?

I don't think so.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy a classic show about (a portion) of the FaŹ»asamoa, the Samoan way of life, as presented by the Polynesian Cultural Center.