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17 Marquardt, Egyptian Papers, 4. JOSEPH (SMITH) IN EGYPT 31 I. THE CURSE OF BABEL The enemy Smith battled with his hieroglyphic translations was Babel. According to antebellum understandings of the biblical narrative (Gen. ”18 Though many saw Babel primarily as a morality tale about pride or the explanation for present linguistic diversity, others sought more specific insights about language and society from the Genesis account. Some saw Babel as the root cause of the limitations of human communication.

Few believed pure language could be recovered; the differences generally rested in their approaches to circumventing its failings, whether poetry and Nature (Emerson), common-sense translation (Campbell), or ecstatic experience (Youngs). For some observers, the problem of fallen language not only muddied theology and divinity, it also supported the divisions of sectarianism, impeding both knowledge and human community. 57 Smith and his followers, ever attuned to interdenominational discord as a sign of God’s disfavor, agreed.

27 Faulring, American Prophet’s Record, 133 (17 February 1836, reprinted in Roberts, History of the Church, 2:396). 28 Brigham Young, “Recorder’s Office,” Times and Seasons 3:9 (1 March 1842): 715, and Brigham Young and Willard Richards, “Proclamation to the Saints in Nauvoo,” The Wasp 1:37 (14 January 1843): 3. 30 This focus attracted proselytes and amused learned observers. ”31 Early Latter-day Saints enjoyed a natural fraternity with the prophets of their Book of Mormon in their concerns over fallen language.

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