I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Alterations to Elder Packer's Address on Same-Sex Attraction

Much was made of President Boyd K. Packer's October 2010 Conference Address. Much is still being made of it. I don't want to beat a dead horse but I want to point out a few things:

1. Editing the written transcript of a talk is very common.

Elder Packer made his own changes and those changes are now online

For some time now I have read and listened to archived Conference talks at the same time to increase comprehension. Editing and substantive changes occur all the time. They catch my attention but that is all. They clarify meaning and intent. No one should read anything significant into it. This is even pointed out in the gay press.
But officials say the alterations are commonplace. 

“The Monday following every general conference, each speaker has the opportunity to make any edits necessary to clarify differences between what was written and what was delivered or to clarify the speaker's intent,” Scott Trotter, spokesman for the LDS, said. “President Packer has simply clarified his intent.”
2. The changes he made may have more to do with translation and interpretation than anything.

Refer to my prior post for a discussion of translation and interpretation.

I'm reminded of when I lived in Hawaii and went to school for a short time. I interacted with people from numerous cultures, countries, languages and traditions.

I found out the hard way that sarcasm does not exist in some cultures. I had to stop using it because I was giving offense to people. And even if sarcasm does exist, it is voice inflection, tone and intonation. With a language barrier most people aren't going to understand it anyway.

The sentence that Packer removed, "Why would Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" is a rhetorical question. I'm wondering if there are cultures, countries, languages and traditions that do not utilize rhetorical questions and would simply not understand this or worse, misconstrue it. The talk is going to be translated into dozens of other languages after all.

If any misinterpretation and confusion is occurring it is with the news coverage and commentary associated with it. The Church's position hasn't changed and is abundantly clear.

Added Trotter: "As we have said repeatedly, the church's position on marriage and family is clear and consistent. It is based on respect and love for all of God's children."
I find all these protests, marches and demonstrations that resulted from Elder Packer's talk much more destructive and pointless than anything the Church has said. Read my prior post on this topic if you haven't already done so.


  1. You're correct that the translation process must always attempt to give consideration to cultural factors. But suggesting that rhetorical questions are untranslatable doesn't work. In the first place, speaking generally about languages, rhetorical questions are common in all languages that mark interrogative mood. This includes all languages in which conference talks, Ensign/Liahona, and other general Church materials are made available. Focusing more specifically on the particularities of Mormonism, the Book of Mormon is filled with rhetorical questions (any long-time Church member could probably list a few off the top of their head from Alma 5 alone), which pose no problem for translators and are not omitted from Book of Mormon foreign language translations.

    Additionally, conference addresses are submitted in advance in written form to Church translators as well as to the media. The spoken version of the talk was printed and translated, and the written translations reflect the revised version while the oral translations still reflect the spoken original. Those translations included the rhetorical question, as well as the changes in terminology ("tendency" vs. "temptation", each of which, of course, translates into very different terms in other languages, precisely because they mean very different things).

    Finally, any effort to ascribe the revisions present in the official version of the talk (i.e. the version available in written form at the Church's website and which will be printed in the Conference Ensign/Liahona) to issues of linguistic or cultural difference or translatability should probably center on finding languages into which the terms "scriptural", "definition," and "revelation" cannot be translated.

  2. Interesting and insightful post. Thank you.