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A Word Too Far

September 6, 2017

…they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine

“Doctrine and Covenants” Section 89:13

The above quotation is from a Mormon book of scripture. No, it’s not the Book of Mormon, which is a history of ancient peoples here in America. It’s from a book of “modern” scripture giving instruction for Mormons to live by. It was written February 27, 1833 by Mormon founder Joseph Smith. This particular piece of text is giving direction on eating meat. The text says it is not pleasing (to God) that they (animals) should be eaten. Or it says that it’s not pleasing to God that they not be eaten. The entire verse hinges on one little comma.

Within the LDS church, this particular scripture doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s part of a larger revelation called the Word of Wisdom. This is the prohibitions to Mormons on drinking coffee and tea, and alcohol, and using tobacco. Those other topics get most of the attention, the meat one most people just sort of skip over. Because, honestly, it’s a little confusing. Strictly speaking, as written the instruction is not to eat animals except during winter or famine. But, if you take out that comma, the instruction is that you shouldn’t just save the meat for winter and famine, eat it more often.

When you consider that many of the punctuation marks were added to these writings by the printer, you can see where some might argue that God was advocating the Atkins diet. (Lots of meat.) This post isn’t about the proper interpretation of an obscure verse in Mormon cannon. It’s about the difference a single mark or word can make.

I was in court today. I spend a lot of time in court. Typically, it has to do with kids (mostly my kids) making poor choices. One of the lawyers was making a point to the court,

Your honor, my client doesn’t have those types of lapses in judgement. . .

If he’d stopped there, he is making an important point. He didn’t stop there.

. . .except every three or four months.

It occured to me that the later half of his sentence completely invalidated the beginning part. The first half said, “He doesn’t do that.” The second half said, “He does that.” Later I heard a conversation between a couple people involved in the case.

No, I don’t blame you. . .

And then the finisher.

. . .anymore

The last work completely changed the meaning.

Arthur C. Clarke was a science fiction writer. He wrote 2001: A Space Oddessy, and dozens of other books. But, I most enjoyed his short stories. Clarke was able to change the entire meaning of a store with the very last line. He did it brilliantly. So, if you read the first 20 pages of a story, you would have one impression of the characters. The 21st page, in fact the last line of the last paragraph on the 21st page would flip the story 180 degrees.

I love that about his stories.

I hate it in life.

“Never” is a very powerful word. So is “always.” In the movie For Love Of The Game, Kevin Costner plays a baseball pitcher who shows up late to warmups for the game. His manager is not pleased.

I’m not even gonna mention the fact that you’re an hour late, and I have been standing here trying to figure out who my starting pitcher would be if you didn’t show up.

Have I ever not showed? In the 19 years, have I ever not showed?

Well, that’s true of everyone until the first time they don’t show.”

Fortunately my little court visits have not involved any domestic violence. But, I think about the people who hurt those they love. It’s common to hear,

I will never hit you. . .

And if that were the case, life is good. But, if they go a word too far, it destroys the entire sentence.

. . .again.

Never is a powerful word. We should each work to include some “nevers” in our home and work lives.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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