E pluribus unum.

January 17, 2005 | one comment

Remarkably, everyone made it home this Christmas, including my sister and brother-in-law who live in Brazil. As you might imagine, we all took it hard when Christmas was over and we had to go our separate ways. But I’ve already said what I need to about family partings. That’s not todays theme.

We kept my sister and brother-in-law pretty lively answering questions about life in Brazil. Their church life was particularly interesting. Their city doesn’t have an American branch, though it could support a large and active one. Instead, all of the Americans go to one Brazilian ward where services are conducted in Portugese. Bilinguals like my brother-in-law translate for those who need it, and some of the Sunday School classes and primary classes are split by language so people can have discussions without any constraints of the tongue.

My sister has learned a little Portugese as a matter of getting by. But it’s the church that has really opened her to the language. After months of listening to the translators she listens directly to the talks now. And she meets people and converses with them in ways that her life would not otherwise permit (the life of the expatriate is often a fairly lordly one, one must admit).

A while back I was reading up on Brigham Young’s speeches about the United Order and other such endeavors. It struck me that he sometimes emphasized that he was not opposed to private ownership of property. Far from it. The United Order, he said, meant to extend the blessings of private ownership of property to as many people as possible with as much property as possible. Every member of the Order owned all of its property. The only way that more than one person could treat the same thing as individual property, of course, was if they both willed the same use for it, and of course this didn’t happen. Collective individual ownership of the sort Brigham Young was talking about, just isn’t going to work in this life. Even plain ol’ collective ownership did not work out.

I sometimes wonder how being one in the Lord is be reconciled with national languages and cultures. I wonder if something like Brigham Young’s property solution might be the answer. Someday, perhaps, we will know Portugese like we know English like we know Celto-Iberian. That day can’t be know, of course. It’s work enough for most of us to know our own people and our own tongue and our own history. Until then, I am glad that the Church tries to give primacy to local cultures and languages, so that Americans in Brazil can have some foretaste of what its like to be Brazilian and that foreigners here can also learn something of us and our works.

One Response to E pluribus unum.

  1. lyle on January 17, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    hm. in contrast, the ward i visited in Amsterdam had an actual translation booth for the translator, who translated from Dutch to English. However, the translation wasn’t for the benefit of Amer-Canadian ex-pats, but for the many African immigrants who only spoke their native language & English.


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