The Beginning of a Mormon literature in Spanish? Part 2, Mexico, Uruguay, and elsewhere

By Gabriel González Núñez

Part I of this article can be accessed here. In it, some introductory thoughts were presented, and Argentine authors were surveyed.

Besides Argentina, another country where Mormon authors are beginning to publish is Mexico. There are two Mormon authors that I know of in this country. The first goes by the pen name Elisabet Zapiæn, but she also publishes under her real name Elizabeth González Torres. She debuted with a novel in 2012 titled San Rafael (Ulterior Editorial). The novel is about a love triangle against the backdrop of a murder mystery in a town called San Rafael. It has no distinctive Mormon features. Zapiæn has also published three short stories in literary journals, none of which have any Mormon elements.

Another Mexican author is R. de la Lanza. In 2015 he self-published a short story titled “El jerarca” [which can be translated as The Leader], which is a detective story about the murder of a Church employee. In 2016 he published his debut novel Eleusis (published by a group of publishers-in-training under the name Intendencia de las Letras). It tells the story of several generations of Mexican Latter-day Saints, from Mexican-Revolution-era pioneers to modern young single adults in Mexico City. The work is unquestionably of a fine literary quality, and it is definitely a work of Mormon literature. The novel’s portrayal of modern Mexican Mormons as largely a group of hypocrites is likely to be off-putting to some among the more faithful Latter-day Saint readers. De la Lanza has so far written about Mormon topics because, in his own words: “It’s the world I know […] I don’t know anything about drug lords, about other worlds, like the world of labor unions, of large corporations, etc. What I am most familiar with is the world of my brothers and sisters in the Church.” Continue Reading →

The Beginning of a Mormon Literature in Spanish?, Part 1: Introduction and Argentine authors

By Gabriel González Núñez

Gabriel González Núñez was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and has lived in several countries, including Ecuador, Belgium, and the United States. His literary blog–which includes short stories, flash chronicles, and translations–can be accessed here. He lives in Brownsville, Texas, where he trains translators and interpreters at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He is happily married and has, as of right now, two children.

Word has it that if you can speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese you can speak to the most members of the LDS Church. This reflects a demographic reality: the overwhelming majority of members of the Church live in the Americas. The most widely spoken language in the so-called New World is Spanish. Naturally, as membership grows in the Americas, the number of Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints continues to grow. To me, this has meant for some time that there have to be Mormons in the Spanish-speaking world who write. And I’ve been trying to figure out who they are. Who we are, I should say, as Spanish is my native language and, I should add, the language of my heart (the two are not always the same).

As I searched, I discovered that indeed, Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints are writing, some as a way to make a living and others because they have something positive to say. For this post, however, I will focus on writers who have published books that are literary in nature. I will survey a number of authors who are LDS and who have published either poetry, plays, short stories, or novels. I also will focus on contemporary writers, as my search did not really extend into past generations. Notice that the emphasis is on Mormon writers and not necessarily Mormon literature. That’s because, as readers will see, we can’t really speak of a Mormon literature in Spanish. Not yet at least. So literature by Mormons will have to do at this point. Even so, when I discuss these writers, I will make sure to point out any Mormon themes in their writing. Continue Reading →

Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—9

My Poems, Part 1

I had planned at this point to post a series of three installments presenting some thoughts of Orson F. Whitney, Merrill Bradshaw, and Clinton F. Larson; but with Dennis Clark’s reviews of my three books—Six Poems by Joseph Smith; First Light, First Water; and Glyphs (all published by Waking Lion Press)—in the recent past, and the release of my third collection of poems, Division by Zero (also by Waking Lion Press) in the near future, I beg to be indulged in posting a series of three installments on my own poems and how I came to write them.

In the summer of 1959, just after my freshman year of high school, I was an avoidant, introverted, intuitive, feeling fifteen-year-old with a rapidly developing thinking function living literally in a shack in the woods outside Anacortes, Washington, with my parents and three younger sisters, in relative penury, with two shirts and two pairs of pants to wear to school in town. Continue Reading →

日本人のモルモン文学 Literature by Japanese Mormons

Here are some notes about Japanese Mormon-authored works. Please see my earlier post, モルモン文学の歴史と現在, about a the general history of Mormon literature, and Mormon-authored works translated into Japanese.

早稲田大学生高木冨五郎 (1894-1973)は1915年にバプテスマを受けた。その夏にアイビンス伝道部長の指導の下に第二次の讃美歌を翻訳した。ロイド・O・アイビー長老と共に70曲を選んだ。その讃美歌の言葉をアイビー長老が意訳して、山根藤七氏が楽譜に合わせた。それで、その讃美歌集は合計220曲が載せられていた。会員はその讃美歌書を1960年までに使った。

Takagi Tomigoro (1894-1973) was baptized in 1915, following the example of his older brother. The year he was baptized, he spent a summer translating English LDS hymns into Japanese, which became the second edition of the LDS hymnal in Japanese. Takagi attended the prestigious Waseda University, and was one of the few Japanese members who remained faithful through the period from 1924 when the mission was closed until it was reopened in 1948. His daughter, Yanagita Toshiko (1919-), was baptized in August 1949.  She would serve as the Mission Relief Society President for much of the 1960s, the first Japanese woman to hold that position.  She (together with her father) was the translator of the next hymnal the church used from 1960 to 1989, a revision and enlargement of her father’s 1915 edition.  Toshiko and her husband also later served as temple missionaries in Taiwan. Sister Yanagita is still alive, but suffering from dementia.


YanagitaYanagita has written two self-published books for Mormons, Ashiato (1988), her life-story (updated in 2007 as 旅路), and Yuzora: Song of Life (2001), a collection of poems. Also, the author Kishino Misao and the illustrator Takara Akiko took some of stories from her life and the life of her father to produce a picture book, Waga Musume Toshiko: Chichi kara no messeeji (2013, My Daughter Toshiko: Messages from Heavenly Father), published by Crossroad. Continue Reading →

モルモン文学の歴史と現在 Mormon literature and Japanese translations

Here are excerpts from a presentation I gave at a meeting of the LDS Bible Study Group (LDS聖書研究同好会) in Tokyo on June 20, 2015. I spoke on:

  1. The history of Mormon literature
  2. English language Mormon literature translated into Japanese
  3. Japanese-authored Mormon literature (次回、I will put this in an upcoming post)

The LDS Bible Study Group is a private group of (mostly) Japanese Mormons interested in scriptural studies, Church history, and other Mormon subjects. Here is an outline of the presentation. I am posting it mostly for Japanese readers to reference, but non-Japanese readers might be interested in seeing what Mormon-authored books are available in Japanese.

モルモン文学の歴史  A History of Mormon Literature

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Children’s Lit Corner

We’ve recently had the delightful experience of sharing our home with a young foreign exchange student from Poland. Not only are we eating lots of Polish meals (pirogi, bigos, ciasto z sliwkami, to name a few) but also have the opportunity to talk about culture and differences and similarities between nations. Most of all, we have learned to love our new son and brother and recognize that the things that make us similar are a lot more important than the things that might be different or strange or unfamiliar. Continue Reading →

AML Presidential Address 2012

From my early childhood, I remember people with dark skin and black hair in my home.  I understood that they were working with my father on projects in different languages.  Most were Mayan Indians, from various places in Guatemala.  The summer I was eight, our family went to Yucatan, where Dad was working on his dissertation.  I would see him with his Mayan assistants, and would interrupt frequently with a question.  “How do you say…?”  “What does it mean if they say?”  Finally, Dad had to tell me to just try to figure it out on my own. He couldn’t be my full-time interpreter. Continue Reading →

Race, Culture, White Guilt, and Mormon Letters

Several of my mom’s siblings were in town this weekend, including two brothers from England, so we had our Goldberg family seder at my grandma’s house with two dozen members of the Gill clan in attendance. Because we had lots of kids and lots of first time seder participants, I stuck to my four-page ultra-abridged version of the Haggadah with only one of the added activities, so we were through in about half an hour. Even in that short time, though, I felt like we’d gotten the spirit of the observance: children had been interested and had thought about the Passover story as a part of our own shared story; adults had thought and talked about bondage and deliverance, about how in every generation we need to realize we’re in Egypt, and then pray for help to get out.

A little after the seder, my daughter asked uncle Stephen (from Yorkshire) what time it was. He said it depends on where in the world we’re talking about, and told her the current times in Utah, England, and Saudi Arabia. He then pointed out that the weekend was about to begin in Utah, had begun in England, and was over in Saudi Arabia (due to the time difference and weekend difference in Muslim countries). This got my grandma talking about her grocery shopping routines in Bangalore (remember: you can’t just pick something up at Ahmed’s on a Friday) Continue Reading →

Nickel Basins and the Mormon Experience

One of my majors as an undergraduate (yes, it was one that I actually completed and got a diploma in) was Spanish Translation. I thought it would be a great way to find a practical use for the second language I picked up on mission, but it turns out that I enjoyed the theoretical aspects of language much more than the skills I would need to actually make money as a translator and I went to grad school instead of doing anything useful with my degree. I still remember a paradigm-shifting moment in one class when my professor gave an example to illustrate the difference between denotation and connotation. He pointed out that if you were to have an American draw a picture of ‘bread’ on the chalkboard, he would most likely draw the sort of rectangular loaf with a rounded top that is so ubiquitous in American kitchens. If you were to ask a Spaniard to draw bread, or pan on the board, they would most likely draw a long, tapered loaf of the sort of crusty bread that you pick up at the panadería on your way home for lunch each day. Despite the fact that the sentences “I went to the store and bought bread” and “Fui al mercado y compré pan” are functionally equivalent, you could argue that they still create completely different meanings for their readers. Thus we have what Jose Ortega y Gasset famously called “The misery and the splendor of translation.”

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