Ensign Marginalia

March 25, 2005 | 56 comments
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I can’t read without a pencil in my hand, and my greatest vice is pencilling in the margins of library books. In my defense, I can argue that at least I’m not breaking the golden rule: I love reading other people’s marginalia, too. When I was in graduate school, I came to recognize the distinctive notations of my advisor in the margins of the books we both borrowed from the library, and I learned almost as much from his notes as from the texts themselves. Every once in a while I’d take home a book to find my own marginalia from months or even years before. In that spirit, then, I offer (for what little it’s worth) my “marginalia” on the first half of the April Ensign.

Front cover: A sweet image of the resurrected Christ among the Nephites, very appropriate for Easter. Wait, Easter was (will be) in March, not April. Maybe the editors knew the April issue would arrive in mailboxes closer to Easter than the March issue? Then why does the March issue have the two articles that seem (tangentially) relevant to Easter? And why doesn’t the word “Easter” appear in the tables of contents of either issue? It’s about time to come up with a Mormon liturgical calendar, I say, and with it to give Easter greater prominence. (I’m teaching in RS on Sunday, a “Teachings for Our Times” lesson–on priesthood keys! But I’ll find a way to work in Bach’s Easter Oratorio, never fear…)

Table of Contents: I always check out the authors’ gender balance; this time it appears to be 4:12, although women contribute heavily (almost exclusively) to the “Latter-day Saint Voices” and “Random Sampler” sections. A woman, Larene Porter Gaunt, has contributed a long journalistic piece on international dance celebrations, rather than the short personal narratives usually appearing by women, and I’m pleased with that.

The Symbol of Our Faith, President Gordon B. Hinckley: Okay, shame on me for being too critical too quickly; President Hinckley’s message relates substantially to the atonement and resurrection, just in time for Easter. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this discourse before; good choice to resurrect it this month, as it’s inspiring and relevant.

The Light of Christ, Elder Boyd K. Packer: Wow, this is a topic I covered in my recent talk at the SMPT conference! Too bad I didn’t see this first… It’s a very long piece, and seems to wander a bit in places (wait, I see now that it was delivered to prospective mission presidents, so now the structure makes a little more sense). I’m relieved that Elder Packer does with the Light of Christ precisely what I argued in my paper Mormons do with this doctrine: he assimilates it to conscience, and in so doing replicates a fundamental epistemological tension between conscience as an “inner light” and the Light of Christ as a “universally diffused essence” that emanates from the presence of God. Phew, looks like my argument was right!

Being Thankworthy, Geri Christensen: I like this personal narrative. It’s honest about the author’s difficulties in receiving answers to prayer, her self-deceptions and rationalizations. It also attempts to interpret scripture and distill doctrine, if only informally, which I always like to see in women’s pieces. And above all, it’s absolutely typological as a Mormon narrative in its redemptive ending; I’m convinced once again that the conversion narrative is the only fundamentally (though not uniquely) Mormon narrative form we have.

Multiply and Replenish the Earth: All the gloomy editorials about plummeting global fertility rates that my dad forwards to me must have been forwarded to the Church Office Building, too! What an interesting and tricky topic to address, and the collage of quotes they’ve come up with is, masterfully, both authoritative and vague. Nowhere is a minimum desirable family size specified, or large families particularly encouraged–and wait, let me see, nowhere in the entire magazine is a family with more than two children portrayed! I commend the editors in their sensitivity in dealing with this explosive issue, but I wonder whether there’s a message left to be communicated once we factor in all the sensitive qualifications: when we substitute “nonmarital childbearing” for “illegitimacy,” have we irreversibly compromised the intended social stigma that is the desired effect of language like this? I do like the quote by Elder Faust on marriage as less the fulfillment of “emotional needs” and more an institution for producing and socializing children… While not especially romantic, this vision of marriage seems more sustainable and historically grounded.

Three Principles of Marriage, Matthew O. Richardson: Oh dear, another flagrant misreading of the Genesis story, this time showing Adam and Eve as the original nuclear (read post-industrial, modern) family. Listen, I don’t mind you giving advice about marriage–your advice might even be quite sensible–just don’t tell me that you’re getting it from the scriptures ! But I know, I know: we’re to liken the scriptures to ourselves, and more and more I’m realizing that this is inevitably an act of (preferably inspired) misreading. Maybe I’ll eventually get used to it.

The Wedding Reception, Martha P. Taysom: Hey, a poem! Whatever its quality, I’m glad to see it here, and I’ll happily forgive lines like “feverish brow” and “her smile beams.”

A Balanced Life, Brent L. Top: In which reasonable advice is given (mostly to women, it seems) on not driving ourselves fairly batty by multiplying our callings and hyper-scheduling our offspring. Good advice. I have to say, though, that the times of greatest creativity, emotion, vividness, and growth in my life have occurred when my life was profoundly out of balance: creativity demands excess, I think.

The Effective Elders Quorum, Dale E. Miller: Okay, all you elders, help me understand how the following quote from President Kimball relates to home teaching:

“The spirit of the times is worldliness. … But the Lord has offered an old program in a new dress, and it gives promise to return the world to sane living, to true family life, to family interdependence. It is to return the father to his rightful place at the head of the family, to bring mother home from social life and employment, the children from near-total fun and frolic. The Home Teaching Program with its crowning activity, the Family Home Evening , will neutralize the ill effects if people will only apply the remedy.”

I like my home teachers and all, but I can safely say that their visits bear absolutely no resemblance to this quote. Am I missing something?

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56 Responses to Ensign Marginalia

  1. Kaimi on March 25, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    A poem for Rosalynde:

    As she picks up the Ensign, pencil in hand, her smile beams
    She furls her feverish brow as she furiously scribbles marginalia . . .

  2. Kaimi on March 25, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    And by the way, “my greatest vice is pencilling in the margins of library books”?

    My goodness. I ought to throw rocks at you. I doubt that writing in books even makes my top 40. Not that I don’t write in books myself, it’s just that some of us have actual vices we’re working on.

    And to top it all off, now I have another new vice — “urge to strangle people whose greatest vice is writing in library books.”

  3. Rosalynde Welch on March 25, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    LOL, Kaimi! Classify the lone pencil vice right next to the fact that I never make spelling errors.

  4. A. Greenwood on March 25, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    “Table of Contents: I always check out the authors? gender balance; this time it appears to be 4:12, although women contribute heavily (almost exclusively) to the ?Latter-day Saint Voices? and ?Random Sampler? sections. A woman, Larene Porter Gaunt, has contributed a long journalistic piece on international dance celebrations, rather than the short personal narratives usually appearing by women, and I?m pleased with that. ”

    Mostly you’re better than you should be, Rosalynde Welch, but, well, sometimes you’re not.

  5. Nicole on March 25, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    “another flagrant misreading of the Genesis story”

    Can you elaborate on why you say this? After looking at the article and the verse it’s based on, I wasn’t sure what you meant.

  6. Greg on March 25, 2005 at 5:42 pm

    Unfortunately, to me the most memorable bit of this month’s Ensign was the assertion in the “Multiply and Replenish” piece that children born out of wedlock are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome. It is appalling to me that we would rely on such cheap rhetoric and obviously bad thinking.

  7. Rosalynde Welch on March 25, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    With that, Adam, I can fully (and unfortunately) agree. [Edit: Upon deliberation I have realized that I can only agree with the last half of your assertion.] May I ask how I’ve disappointed you here?

    Nicole, the author uses the phrase from Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife” to teach that young couples should not live in their parents’ basements, but should set up a separate home. I’m not exactly sure how to construe this phrase (any Hebraists?), but I feel quite confident in saying that this was not the intended meaning, since extended family group living has been the norm across history (and, quite possibly, across the history of the church, too).

    Greg, that really made me wonder, too. The footnote links to some studies on the internet, and I’d love to have a social scientist eye them. Frank, can I put your methodological skepticism to work here?

  8. Steve on March 25, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    I guess I’m one of the few people who absolutely hated reading the marginalia other people scrawled in library books. I think that was perhaps the greatest frustration in my Ph.D. program, trying to avoid reading what other people had to say about the books–especially if they appeared to be smarter than me. Or is it smarter than I? Anyway, the notes on the Ensign are just great!

  9. sFW on March 25, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    Checking the ratio and opining that certain advice is directed mostly to women — Call me an insensitive male thug — but I think you’re being a bit hypersensitive.

    Are you missing something from your hometeachers? — I would have to say yes — and so are nearly all of the rest of us.

  10. Rosalynde Welch on March 25, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    sFW, I would never call you an insensitive male thug! Such words are not in my vocabulary!

    Sorry if the observation sounded critical, as it wasn’t meant in that way: 1:3 is really quite good, I think, and as I mentioned several times, I’m as pleased with a variety in *kinds* of writing as with the strict ratios. As for the article that seemed to me directed toward women–well, he uses his wife as the primary example throughout, and lots of the dilemmas really seem geared toward women’s lives. Again, I’m not saying this is a bad thing; there article on quorums, for example, is transparently directed toward men.

  11. Steve on March 25, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    I forgot to add to my previous post that I was confused by the same passage about home teachers that Rosalynde cites. I am still trying to figure how family home evening is the “crowning activity” of Home Teaching. How does that relationship work? When I read the article for the first time, my attempt to track the author’s argument ground to a halt as I struggled with what appeared to me to be a non-sequitur.

  12. Pete on March 25, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    Rosalynde:

    I notice you use the term “misreading” frequently. What does it mean to you and what would you like it to mean to your readers? How can we know a “misreading” when we see one?

  13. NFlanders on March 25, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    No offense, but I believe there is a special place in the Spirit Prison for people who write in library books. Your punishment will be to read every piece of inane, obvious and completely wrong marginalia ever written in a shared book. I do not envy you.

  14. Wilfried on March 25, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    Can you make this a monthly feature, Rosalynde? I think it will greatly improve the number of actual Ensign-readers.

  15. Rosalynde Welch on March 25, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    Pete: I probably use “misreading” mostly as my default term for something wrong; as a reader of literature, “misreading” is the gravest of all possible sins! (“Ahistorical” probably comes in a close second.) But sometimes I use it in a more technical sense, as well, that refers to the “original intent” of, alternatively, the author or the text: since I approach reading from a poststructuralist position, I recognize that anytime I read anything, I’m bound to interpret it through my own mental apparatus and thus to take from the text something at least slightly different from its “intended meaning”–in this way, *all* readings are “misreadings” since they diverge from the origin. But because I am also a historicist, I believe that some readings–those that are informed by historical, cultural, formal, intertextual and other kinds of knowledge–can get closer, perhaps even very, very close, to an “original intent,” and that these informed readings do some kinds of cultural work (like literary history, straight history) better than uninformed readings. To whom this “original intent belongs” is another debate entirely: should we look to the author? should we look to the ideological systems that speak through the author, sometimes even despite her resistance? And the important cultural work that “misreadings” perform is, also, another debate entirely.

    In this piece, I say that the author “misreads” the Genesis account, because he assigns to it a meaning that, in my judgment, was not its original intent.

  16. Julie in Austin on March 25, 2005 at 6:51 pm

    Oh, Ros, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to find out someone else reads the Ensign the same way I do: checking for gender balance in topics and the number of children in the pictures.

  17. A. Greenwood on March 25, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    Yech. I’d be so relieved if I found someone out there who read the Ensign for the articles.

  18. William Morris on March 25, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    Adam:

    The articles are obviously important. But so are the headlines, pull quotes, bylines and photos — why else do you think that they are there? They are there to indicate something — they are very much a part of the editorial process (and sometimes receive even more attention and even resources than the actual text of the article itself) and so “reading’ and analyzing them is just as valid as reading and analyzing an article.

    You’ve been involved in the world of legal texts for too long. Magazines are never *just* about the text of the articles.

    ——-
    I too hate running into marginalia. A former professor of mine claimed that her notes increased the value of the books in the college library. Rather, I would say that marginalia is an act of arrogance that tries to mediate between the text and the reader — it’s intrusive literary criticism. Of course, the reader could ignore the notes, but that is often difficult to do. The worst is underlining + notes.

    This, of course, only applies to library books. What you do with your own texts in your own home is no concern of mine. ;-)

  19. john fowles on March 25, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Adam, I am unnuanced enough to do that.

  20. danithew on March 25, 2005 at 8:12 pm

    I think Rosalynde W. is great but I am not a fan of the marginalia I find in library books.

  21. Eric Soderlund on March 25, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    I was struck by the April Ensign’s near-total lack of diversity in skin color. Not a dark face in the entire mag. A couple of Asians and the rest are ALL white, Scandinavian-descent types. I am a Swedo-American myself, but if over half the church members reside outside of North America, is there any reason why the Ensign can’t be more representative of the ever-increasing ethnic diversity comprising the church population?

  22. Steve on March 25, 2005 at 8:28 pm

    Ahh, Adam,
    The old “I just read it for the articles” chestnut. I never thought I’d hear it applied to the Ensign. :)

  23. Kevin Barney on March 25, 2005 at 9:17 pm

    Did someone call for a Hebraist? The verb rendered “cleave” in Gen. 2:24 is *dabaq*, which means to stick (to), and so to unite or join with. Engl. “cleave” is an interesting word, because it can have diametrically opposed meanings. This is because this one word actually originated as two separate words: cleofan, to split, and clifan, to stick. The traditional translation is “to cleave” in the sense to stick (cf. Engl. “cleavage,” which of course also uses the sense “to stick”), whereas a meat cleaver derives from the sense “to split.”

    The preceding verb “to leave” (HEB *azab*) means “to abandon, forsake, desert.” Is the commandment really to abandon our parents? As Rosalynde points out, this is not a realistic reading in the context of ancient Israelite extended family structure. It is rather simply hyperbole, an intentional exaggeration for rhetorical effect.

    I was glad to see your vote for a Mormon liturgical calendar, Rosalynde. I’m right there with you. I gave a youth fireside in another ward in our stake last Sunday night. They had asked me to speak on the last week of the Savior’s life, and the fireside was (timely) on Palm Sunday. So I decided to use the liturgical calendar as an organizing principle to my remarks. I got a running start with Ash Wednesday (and Mardi Gras!) and Lent, and then we focused on the key events of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter itself. The presentation was well received. I get really annoyed with Mormon Easter Sundays that are not focused on Easter but on some mundane aspect of the faith (two years ago our Easter Sunday talks were all about tithing!) I freely admit some “sacred envy” of liturgical traditions come Easter time. I think we couild learn a lot from them.

    I enjoyed your comments. Does anyone else agree with me that the Ensign has been going steadily down hill for a long time now? It seems as though in the late 70s and early 80s there was much more substance than there is today.

  24. Anita on March 25, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    Wait, what if Jesus’ appearance to the Nephites was after the 40 day ministry in Jerusalem? Then wouldn’t that painting be better on the May cover? What if it really was at the ending of the thirty and fourth year as Mormon suggests?
    Rosalynde, aren’t you missing the whole point? Some real issues to note in the margins: are you more thankworthy having analyzed that article? Is your marriage strengthened? Is your life more balanced? Mormon 9:31, Ether 12:25-26.

    On the Hebrew note, my favorite translation of the Pentateuch is The Schocken Bible by Everett Fox, and he has Genesis 2:23-24 read: “The human said: This-time, she-is-it! Bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh! She shall be called Woman/Isha, for from Man/Ish she was taken! Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Not too diferent from the KJV.) This seems to be a rather universal statement since Adam and Eve didn’t have human parents to leave.

    That hometeaching quote makes no sense to me either–but we haven’t had any come for three years so maybe that’s why :-)

  25. Elisabeth on March 25, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    ” “when we substitute nonmarital childbearing” for “illegitimacy,” have we irreversibly compromised the intended social stigma that is the desired effect of language like this?”

    I have to agree with Greg’s comment that there was no need to discuss out-of-wedlock births in this manner in the Ensign. Unfortunately, the social stigma of out-of-wedlock birth usually attaches to the child more strongly than to the parents, and the child, who did nothing at all to deserve such opprobrium, should not be required to share in the guilt of her parents’ “illegitimate” relationship.

    I’m not sure this was the intent of Rosalynde’s post (quoted above), but if the words “out-of-wedlock” or “non-marital” are too weak, perhaps we could replace “illegitimate” with the “b” word to further stigmatize the child, although I’m sure that would do nothing to stop the parents’ bad behavior, either. I have taught children in my Primary class whose fathers are either unknown or not involved in the child’s life, and I know these children struggle with these issues when we talk about the typical structure of families being a man and a woman married in the temple. It’s heartbreaking. I think the Church should be even more sensitive to these children, not less. Especially because in many cultures (i.e., Haiti’s), marriage is informal and typically not memorialized. Are these children any more legitimate or illegitimate than those children born under the covenant? I believe Heavenly Father loves them just the same. And we should, too.

  26. Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) on March 25, 2005 at 9:51 pm

    Rosalynde, the “old program” in the home teaching quote refers to D&C 20:46-47, 53-55. The “new dress” is organized Home Teaching, being with the members and strengthening them, seeing that the members are doing their duty, etc. And what has Family Home Evening to do with it? This is the modern programmatic incarnation of the above verses’ reference to attending to all family duties. So when verse 47 says “And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties,” the modern reading is “Visit the families your quorum assigns to you, and make sure they’re doing their Family Home Evenings.”

  27. Elisabeth on March 25, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    So I just read over my post and I’m feeling a bit sheepish that I came across as so rude (not to mention self righteous). Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude, but that article about non-marital childbearing really chapped my hide. Lesson learned – don’t post comment until read it through first.

  28. Anita on March 25, 2005 at 10:13 pm

    Eric, your comment (#21) seems to indicate that you missed seeing pages 2, 11, 13, 31, 32, 40-43 (featuring saints in Ghana and other international locales), 62, 65, and 70-71. I think, given the church’s Euro-American heritage and English language audience (how does the Liahona compare? any ideas?), the Ensign makes a remarkable effort to be inclusive and reflect our international family.

  29. Rosalynde Welch on March 25, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    Hi Anita! (Is that you?) You’re right, of course, that my marginalia doesn’t record the spiritual work effected by the articles, which is clearly the intended result of reading! Then again, marginalia have rarely performed that function; this has been traditionally been carried out in the “commonplace book” or, more recently, the journal. Marginalia have always been, precisely, “beside” the point. Great observation, though, and thanks for articulating it here. (And it’s great to see you around!)

  30. Katie on March 25, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    I’d like to second Wilfried’s recommendation that Rosalynde do this every month; her marginalia is interesting and thought provoking.

    I’d also like to give an amen to Kevin Barney’s grousing about the talks on Easter Sunday not being about Jesus Christ. Last Easter Sunday they were about pride. I have never attended a Sacrament meeting on Easter that had an entirely Christ centered theme. I have found it odd that Mormons make a big ta-doo about Christmas, with a Christmas Devotionalfrom the First Presidency and a sacrament meeting with Christmas scriptures and hymns. And then Easter comes, Easter, the actually meaningful holiday celebrating the resurrection of our Savior, and it is greeted with a yawn. Coming from a Catholic background, I truly miss the liturgical calendar. Having all these events building up to Easter truly turns your thoughts to Christ and keeps your focus there. Lent, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday….these all help the worshipper feel how real the Atonement was. Additionally, doing origami projects with the palms helps church services go by all the quicker.

  31. Jason Johnson on March 26, 2005 at 1:34 am

    I also wish my local ward and stake leaders would pay more attention to the traditional Christian calendar. Maybe someday.

    On marginalia: I shudder to think of the stupid, inane comments I littered the books in the Ricks College library with back when I was a pimple-faced, Nation-subscribing campus leftie. Ugh.

  32. Frank McIntyre on March 26, 2005 at 8:22 am

    Rosalynde and Greg,

    I’m fully in support of Rosalynde that it is going to be quite difficult to seperate out the effect of illegitimacy on infant mortality from the fact that parents of illegitimate children tend on average to be more dysfunctional in all sorts of other ways. Thus the higher infant mortality may simply be a result of their “issues” and marrying in wedlock will not solve those.

    I also wouold have to agree with Adam that the “open-the-magazine-and-check-the-gender-quota” is a poor way to go through life. I never write in library books. I don’t read books. They are too long and hard to understand. I prefer pretty pictures, preferably graphs.

    As for misreading the nuclear family. Kevin’s comment was very interesting. The fact that Adam and Eve did not have any parents in the classical sense means that we are pretty much forced to apply the text outside of their situation. Which is great. The purpose of the modern prophet, and the Holy Ghost in our personal lives, is to move texts from their original context into one that fits us. Nephi figured that one out 2600 years ago, and I’m willing to bet he was’t the first. Does that make Nephi a pre-modernist post-modernist? Or maybe it just means that there is nothing new under the sun and all ideas are old ideas.

  33. Rosalynde Welch on March 26, 2005 at 8:58 am

    Hi Frank–So glad you commented! I don’t like getting trucculent with A. Greenwood or John F., but with you I feel comfortable (nay, honorably compelled!) to defend myself, preferably with high dudgeon. :) As the entire post demonstrated, I in fact do more than check the gender ratio when I open the Ensign; furthermore, as the post also demonstrated, I don’t judge the magazine’s gender messages by mere ratios alone, which would be a woefully inadequate measure. I think you fellows would prefer it if I simply wasn’t conscious of gender issues: believe me, I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work. So instead I try to temper my consciousness with reason and charity–I often fail in this attempt, I’m sure, but I do try.

    About applying the scriptures in new contexts: right, as I said above, we’ve got to do it, and often that requires a certain violence to the text. I’m fine with prophets doing this, particularly when they’re forthright about the ways in which they’ve wrought inspired changes in meaning; it’s more annoying–even harmful, since error is so likely–when some random person does it, without any acknowledgment of the changes they’ve read into the text.

  34. Derucci on March 26, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    I had a professor who said that writing in library books was the academic equivalent of sneezing on a salad bar. I think the Ensign can be read a number of ways by the same person(just like any text or object). Among these different approaches are devotional reading and critical reading. Both of them have wonderful benefits and besides, it’s like getting two magazines for the price of one!

  35. Derek on March 26, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    Great post Rosalynde! But I must give a warning to all you library book defacers out there—do not write in new library books in the BYU library! After innocently penciling in some margin notes a few years ago, I found myself in an interrogation room in the BYU campus police basement with only a single lightbulb shedding its accusing glow (OK, I exaggerate about the light bulb, but everything else is true). I was hoping for a good-cop/bad-cop grilling, but got only loser cop. He laid it on really thick about how I had ruined these books (uh, doesn’t pencil erase?), how it was a serious misdemeanor offense, and how I would have a “BYU criminal record.” The only scary threat was the $200 fine (pretty steep for someone subsisting on ramen). After a 45 minute interview and 20 minutes to think about my grave crimes, he felt I had shown enough remorse to drop the charges if I would agree to erase all the offending pencil marks. Off the hook! To this day I am thankful that I don’t have that BYU criminal record following me everywhere I go.

    Some quick questions about the “Strengthening the Family” story in the Ensign—I don’t mean to open a can of worms, but in the 3 paragraphs about abortion, I saw only 2 listed reasons against it: encouraging selfishness/promiscuous behavior and making adoption more difficult for couples wanting to adopt. Are those really the main reasons why abortion is wrong? Why no mention of what is happening to the unborn child/fetus? Is the Church just trying to stay out of the heated debate surrounding these issues? I am probably reading way too much into this. It just seemed odd to me.

  36. a random John on March 26, 2005 at 8:40 pm

    Does anyone have a syllabus from a John Hawkins BYU anthro class handy? He usually includes a lengthy paragraph on the evils of writing in library books. I have to say that I agree with him. He cites being able to study centuries old books in Europe because the people who have used them used them respectfully for all this time. If you want to write in a book, please buy the book.

  37. pd mallamo on March 26, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    Random John, I would agree wholeheartedly. Margin writing is a sin of no small proportions, like taking a borrowed book into the bathtub, accidentally dipping half of it in hot water, then returning it like nothing happened. I suppose it’s a minor issue in the context of reproduction and gender issues, not to mention Elders Packer & Faust, but there it is, an issue nonetheless, and more important to people who love books than those who don’t would imagine. Still, Rosalynde is a most delightful (& voluble) agent provocateur, on the page or slightly off, and I wouldn’t mind running into her scribblings anywhere. No doubt she’s started riots in many places.

  38. Ben Huff on March 26, 2005 at 11:42 pm

    I’m not saying this is a bad thing; there article on quorums, for example

    Rosalynde, what’s happening to you? That must be your second misspelling in a week!

    Nice marginalia. I have to agree with some others, though that writing in library books is extremely rude. Of course, I rarely read library books: why take the time to read it if I can’t mark it up?

  39. Julie in Austin on March 26, 2005 at 11:45 pm

    Ben writes, “why take the time to read it if I can’t mark it up?”

    I’m gonna one-up you on that. I cannot summon the level of intimacy required to read a book for something that I’m just going to cast off in a few weeks. For me, library books are something akin to adultery.

  40. Anna on March 26, 2005 at 11:57 pm

    Two not-terribly-relevant comments:

    1. The worst case of library book marginalia I ever encountered was written in ink about one-third of the way through an Agatha Christie book, proclaiming “I think character X did it…I was right! I looked at the last page!” I was outraged and whited it out. Curiously, the vandal was not right, but had, shall we say, misread the last page of the book.

    2. Any discussion of the relative quality of the Ensign over time ought to take into account the August 1971 article “Lingerie: Feminine and Modest.” Whether the absence of such articles in today’s Ensign represents progress or regress is probably in the eye of the beholder.

  41. Jonathan Green on March 27, 2005 at 12:09 am

    Rosalynde, I support your annotating of library books. As long as the paper is holding together, and you have something to say that is at least as interesting as the printed text, and you are responding to a more or less contemporary edition–annotate away! Handwritten marginalia transform the interchangeable products of industrial book production into unique artifacts of intellectual history, force an ideal abstracted text into a historical time and place–and notes in library books are much better situated to survive the centuries than just about anywhere else. I spent a year looking at old books in European libraries precisely to gather the notes that earlier centuries had left in the margins.

  42. Aaron Brown on March 27, 2005 at 12:18 am

    For a good time with marginalia, go to the BYU Library and pick up any number of anti-Mormon (or at least moderately Church-critical) works and read the irate comments in the margins. Some defenders of the faith can’t seem to help but write long-winded essays responding to every trivial jab they run across in a book.

    And thank goodness, too, because without their scribbles, I surely would have lost my testimony by now. :)

    Aaron B

  43. Julie in Austin on March 27, 2005 at 10:22 am

    Anna–

    The piece doesn’t really live up to the title: it’s just sewing advice for slips, etc.

  44. a random John on March 27, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Jonathan Green,

    Please tell me that you made notes of your own in these books in European libraries commenting on the content and quality of the pre-existing notes. How old does a book need to be in your estimation before it is out of bounds? How does one determine when they are qualified to write in the margins of a particular book?

    My advice, ask the library if they wouldn’t mind you writing in the books. Given that it is the property of the library, and they are giving you access to it, it only seems right to ask their opinion on the matter. If they tell you to scribble away, then please do so.

  45. Jonathan Green on March 27, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    A. Random John, of course I didn’t write unsightly notes in 15th-century printed books. The librarians of the 19th century got there first.

    I think a workable ethic of writing in library books might be something like this:

    A library serves a particular community. If you don’t belong to that community, don’t write marginalia. That would limit me, for example, to the college where I work. But I wouldn’t feel bad leaving notes for later colleagues or students to read. If obtrusive, the note should be meaningful for the next reader, and not an arbitrary sign (like underlining) whose precise meaning is difficult to interpret. Do not use highlighter. If the book is not a recent edition of the work in question, it should be the most recent one. My advice: don’t get caught by the librarians.

    I don’t mind notes in the books I read, as long as they do not damage the printed text, and I’ve gotten a lot of use (including material for a lesson on OD-2) out of some marginalia I’ve come across in libraries.

  46. Nathan Grow on March 27, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    “It’s about time to come up with a Mormon liturgical calendar, I say, and with it to give Easter greater prominence.”

    As I sat listening to our sacrament program on missionary work today, I too started pondering why we don’t make a bigger deal of Easter in our church. One of the missionaries who spoke today suggested that we don’t need to make a big deal out of Easter because we celebrate Christ’s atonement every week through the sacrament.

    I think our lack of celebration for Easter reflects our 19th century American roots. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe nobody except the Catholics made a big deal out of Easter in America before the 20th century.

    I have a faint memory of reading an article from a historical journal in college for a class with Grant Underwood about how the fashion industry gave life to Easter in America. Some time in the early part of the 20th century American clothing companies began commercializing Easter as the perfect time to buy the latest Spring fashions. Only then did Easter become a more celebrated national holiday. Mormons just didn’t get the memo.

  47. Jim F. on March 28, 2005 at 12:44 am

    Nathan Grow: That is a very plausible explanation. But why did we get the Mothers Day memo (and the Halloween one, etc.)? And is there anything we can do to send some of those other memos back?

  48. Amanda on March 28, 2005 at 2:57 am

    Sorry to hear about other’s essentially Christless Easter meetings. I have suffered through a few of those myself. Our sacrament meeting today was ALL Christ and beautifully done. Joy and relief.

    I have (as of this year) adopted my own liturgical calendar, based on a sweet little book from Deseret Book called something like A Christ-Centered Easter. It revolutionized Easter for our family this year. It will never be the same again. Easter bunnies and colored eggs no longer seem even remotely relevant. We did do the egg hunt and coloring – but AFTER all of the spiritual things had been done first.

  49. Jeremy on March 28, 2005 at 10:57 am

    Nathan Grow: sounds plausible, given the role of Coca-Cola in the commercial standardization of Santa Claus.

    (I know, I know, this is an old web canard and a bit of a generalization. Spare the Snopes links.

  50. Frank McIntyre on March 28, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Rosalynde: “…I don’t judge the magazine’s gender messages by mere ratios alone, which would be a woefully inadequate measure…”

    No, reading this post I never had any doubt but that you did more on the gender front than mere ratios alone. No doubt at all. As for your discussed failure to be less gender hypersensitive, well that is probably a discussion left for another day.

    On the Genesis quote, as I read it, the guy basically uses two quotes from SWK as his support for not living in basements. The original Adamic verse is used primarily as an organizational tool for all the author’s comments (leave, cleave, one flesh). Given his careful SWK sourcing, it seems a pretty reasonable attempt to apply the scriptures to our day explicitly considering the words of modern prophets.

    Of course, had you not gotten all huffy/dudgeony I wouldn’t have bothered reading the article. Thanks!

  51. sFW on March 28, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Katie #30 and Amanda #48: Our Easter Sunday was a fast Sunday with testimonies centered on Christ. I really enjoyed this Easter Sunday: Bishop cancelled our early morning leadership meetings so we could be home with family, that was the best Easter program we could have in my opinion. I wonder if there is no Easter broadcast for a similar reason — let the family spend the time together (See Feb. 11 letter which is much cited authority in our ward).
    As for the whole eggs thing: we did that during the week and the extended family had a hunt on saturday — so Sunday, there was nothing about the bunny or eggs, only the Savior and the Resurrection. (The only disturbing part was from my wife who teaches sunbeams when she said she had decided not to include any eggs as part of her lesson because she didn’t want to dilute the true message. I applauded her decision without mentioning how alarmed I was that she had even considered the eggs).

    Anna #40: Were there any pictures with that August 71 article?

  52. cinepro on March 28, 2005 at 4:01 pm

    “Lingerie: Feminine and Modest”? I thought you were joking, yet here it is!

    http://tinyurl.com/5o69b

    “Ideas for making lovely lingerie are endless. This will open up a new and fascinating area of sewing at a fraction of the cost of ready-made articles, and no longer will you need to search for just the right gown that is feminine and modest.”

    No photos or illustrations though :(

  53. greenfrog on March 28, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    Checking the ratio and opining that certain advice is directed mostly to women – Call me an insensitive male thug – but I think you’re being a bit hypersensitive.

    From one obsessed with words of all kinds: thug – from Hindi, a worshipper of Kali, the Hindu goddess caricatured in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

  54. A. Greenwood on March 28, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks for saving the truculence for Frank M., Rosalynde W. I can think of no worthier recipient. And thanks for tooting the horn for celebrating Easter. I think that a simple and obvious complement to making JESUS CHRIST bigger in the church logo, etc., would be to feature the death and resurrection on Easter. I don’t know if SLC ought to require this world-wide–I would hate to see the sort of ghastly, overdone meetings that might result if people thought they had to put on an Easter program–but don’t bishops have the authority to set the agenda they way they think best? Come on, bishops, make us proud.

    Also, with respect to ‘leaving your father and mother, etc.': The problem with Rosalynde W’s contextual reading is that it doesn’t leave any meaning. Even if married couples continued to live with their parents and under their authority, there must be some sense, emotional, spiritual, devotional, in which they were supposed to ‘leave’ their parents, right? If so, I don’t see why not living in your parents’ basement might not be the modern equivalent, given our different cultures and circumstances.

  55. Costanza on March 28, 2005 at 6:41 pm

    What is the difference between annotating library books and doing the same with books at a bookstore? In both cases the books in question are owned by someone other than the person doing the writing. I suppose that bookstores are a business and the merchandise is being damaged and therefore will not be sold, while libraries are generally not businesses in the ordinary sense of the term. Still, it seems like a bit of a problem to be defacing the property of others, regardless of how insightful you may find it.

  56. sFW on March 29, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    Greenfrog,

    I am aware of the source. But another meaning is also “a brutal ruffian.” In which case my use of “insensitive” as a modifier seems redundant. “Lout” (meaning an awkward or stupid person) was actually my original thought, but then I decided that “thug” with its more violent image might actually better convey the idea.
    Perhaps if I had contemplated the origin of the word, I might have further delighted in the irony.