First premise: Nothing made by mortals can be perfect.

Second premise: Every communication is partly made by the listener.

Conclusion: No perfect revelation to mortals can be made.

The second premise is the interesting part. Its obviously true that communication includes understanding– the listener is the understander–and so the listener makes part of the communication. But there’s another way that the listener makes it.

Just a few days ago I was flipping through my journal. As I get older and settle into myself more, journal-flipping embarrasses me less and surprises me more. The thoughts are less juvenile and less obviously mine, they surprise me the way any novel insight surprises me. This time, flipping through my journal, I came across an aphorism. “Every conversation is a little civilization.” Every conversation is its own subculture. There is a private social contract when we speak.

The speaker seeks to be understood and speaks according to his understanding of the listener. He has a model of the listener through which he filters his thoughts. This model is partly created by the listener, by the listener’s responses, and by the listener’s prior acts and being. Taking off from D&C 50 , we might even say that the listener helps directly construct the model through the channel provided by the Holy Ghost.

When we speak, we speak in roles. But those roles are partly determined by what the listener will accept and more than partly determined by who the listener is. Lehi says there are things that act and things to be acted upon. The acting thing is partly determined by the thing that is acted upon: the thing that is acted upon sets the metes and determines the bounds of the actor’s possibilities.

The word is made flesh.


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Cross-posted at the Old Country.

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