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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Racial Innocence and The Book of Mormon?

One of the best aspects of writing and teaching is that you never know where people will take your work. Ideas travel in ways that individual human beings never can. And sometimes ideas go places that their originators never could have imagined. Recently, the children's literature scholar Perry Nodelman blogged about how my idea of scriptive things has enabled him to think in new ways about salt and pepper shakers. When I wrote my book, I hadn't thought at all about salt and pepper shakers (but I've thought about them a lot since reading Perry Nodelman's blog!), but I had thought about related material items of domestic life--tableware and food, for example. So I was delighted but not entirely surprised when Perry Nodelman made the connection between scriptive things and shakers.

Sometimes, though, other scholars take your ideas someplace completely unexpected, someplace that you never could have imagined. That happened this week when Allan Davis of Brigham Young University (and an alum of my alma mater, the University of Maryland) used my ideas to explicate a chapter of The Book of Mormon, specifically Alma 43-52.

I haven't read The Book of Mormon, so I don't have any thoughts about Allan Davis's interpretation. But I'm honored that he found my ideas useful in his own intellectual and spiritual practices. And I'm grateful to be reminded, yet again, of just how far our ideas can travel. When we publish, when we send our ideas out into the world, we never know where they will have an impact--and that fact is as exciting as it is humbling.

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