Sunday, August 10, 2008

Post 18 - Chiasmus - Evidence of The Book of Mormon's Truthfulness

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An Angel Chastizes Alma and the Four Sons of Mosiah -by Gary L. Kapp
 This painting is of the unannounced appearance of the angel of the Lord, who after having totally startled and shocked all five of the young men shown here, he then called Alma, the son of the First Alma to repentance.

Later we find that what the other four witnessed and heard, brought them to total repentance and brought each of them to a total commitment to serve the Lord in bringing back His lost sheep instead of scattering His flock as they did before.

The Angel's message caused young Alma to see the evil of his ways and to feel strongly their impact on him. This caused him to go into a state of despair and then into a comatose state for several days.

With his father and others praying constantly for his welfare, young Alma eventually, through much agony of soul, appealed with all his heart and soul to the mercies of Jesus Christ, about about whom he remembered from hearing his father teach the people of the church founded at the Waters of Mormon.

The Lord immediately rewarded the young Alma's appeal for mercy with great peace and the sure knowledge that he was totally forgiven because he had in fact totally changed.

Alma, he who we have called the First Alma, the father of this younger Alma, realized that which had happened to his son was an answer to his constant prayers regarding him, who had been, along with the sons of the king, causing much havoc in the Church which the Lord had established through him and who were brought through great adversity to eventually be led by the Lord back to the kingdom of Zarahemla where Mosiah was king.

I promised in Post 17, that in Post 18 I would provide further evidence that the Book of Mormon was not thought up and authored by Joseph Smith as biased critics insist. I said I would instead show that the Book of Mormon is a record Joseph translated through the gifts and power of God.

I state now that the Book of Mormon was originally written by prophets of God on the ancient American Continent, including many direct writings by the young Alma who had become, through this traumatic yet blessed experience, a prophet like his father, Alma.

Abinadi, here is another set of rebels who became believers in Jesus Christ through your self-sacrificing facing up to the crooked King Noah which helped the First Alma to see the truth and support it valiantly. We will always love you!

Several Sundays ago in the Murray 3rd Ward of the Murray Utah Stake, our regular teacher was unable to be with us and a former member of our ward bishopric substituted for her.

He taught us about chiasmus, which is an ancient poetic form of writing that is very unique in its form. I'm going to show you what he showed us on the blackboard and on a piece of paper we each were given. I have seen presentations like this before under the auspices of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU, but this was a very effective presentation too.

First, some background: An American LDS missionary serving in Germany back, I think, in the 1960s, by the name of John Welch, was invited along with his companion to attend a lecture given by a notable German authority on the scriptures. I believe he was a minister of perhaps a Lutheran Church.

The two Mormon missionaries attended the lecture in which this scriptural expert discussed the phenomenon of chiasmus a form of Hebrew poetic (or particularly clarifying) form of writing found often in the Bible.

After returning to their apartment Elder Welch found himself obsessed with what they had learned at that lecture. He knew that Book of Mormon prophets were from a Jewish background and that they had the plates of brass filled with scriptures, many of which are found in our Old Testament.

For this reason, while his companion had gone to bed, this intrigued missionary began reading through the Book of Mosiah (a sub-book of the Book of Mormon) searching for evidence of the use of chiasmus by King Benjamin.

His search had lasted for several hours and it was way past bedtime. He was, after all, looking for something he had first learned about just that evening. He almost gave up.

John Welch has written that instead of giving up his search, he knelt in prayer pleading for the Lord to help him find chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.

Not long after that prayer, his guidance by the Spirit in his searching, resulted in his finding chiasmus in the writings of King Benjamin. He was elated and grateful.

John Welch pursued this kind of research after having earned a law degree and becoming a law instructor at BYU. He helped found that which became the Maxwell Institute at BYU.

I have reproduced below an example of chiasmus in diagram form of Alma 36: 1-30 some of which we have delved into above, but first I'll give you the opportunity of reading (and listening if you so choose) again for yourself this striking scripture. Alma 36: 1-30

Now, please examine closely the structure of the chiasmus diagram below.

There is a comment about, each of the thirty verses of this chapter in this diagram. You'll notice at the end of each line a verse number, which is a verse of chapter 36, i.e. (2), (3), etc., up to 30. You will also notice that that each line is headed by a letter in the alphabet, from (a) to (q), then it repeats backwards, going down, from (q') to (a'). You will have noticed that the last half's letters have a ' indicating they are in the last half.

Now you will also have noticed that some instructions for his son and the impacts on Alma of his experience with the Angel are listed in the top half (a to q) and the positive outcomes of his conversion experience are listed in the second half (q' to a').

Each letter of the alphabet and it's message corresponds to the same letter of the alphabet in both half's.

A CHIASMUS DIAGRAM: Alma Chapter 36 of the Book of Mormon

(a)My son, give ear to my words (1)
(b) Keep the commandments of God
and ye shall prosper in the land (2)
(c) Do as I have done (2)
(d) in remembering the captivity of our fathers (2);
(e) for they were in bondage (2)
(f) he surely did deliver them (2)
(g) trust in God (3)
(h) supported in their trials, troubles, and afflictions (3)
(i) shall be lifted up at the last day (3)
(j) I know this not of myself but of God (4)
(k) born of God (5)
(l) I sought to destroy the church of God (6-9)
(m) my limbs were paralyzed (10)
(n) Fear of being in the presence of God (14-15)
(o) pains of a damned soul (16)
(p) harrowed up by the memory of sins (17)
(q) I remembered Jesus Christ, Son of God (17)
(q') I cried, Jesus, Son of God (18)
(p') Harrowed up by the memory of sins no more (19)
(o') Joy as exceeding as was the pain (20)
(n') Long to be in the presence of God (22)
(m') My limbs received their strength again (23)
(l') I labored to bring souls to repentance (24)
(k') Born of God (26)
(j') Therefore my knowledge is of God (26)
(i') and raise me up at the last day (28)
(h') supported under trials, troubles, and afflictions (27)
(g') Trust in him (27)
(f)') He will deliver me (27)
(e') As God brought our fathers out of bondage and captivity (28-29)
(d') Retain in remembrance their captivity (28-29)
(c') Know as I do know (30)
(b') Keep the commandments and ye shall prosper in the land (30)
(a') This is according to his word (30).

Now that you have been shown the technical aspects of this chiasmus, go through the diagram, reading all of Alma's comments, beginning with (a) then dropping down to (a') and then from b to b', etc. The message of each letter is related to its corresponding letter in the other half of the diagram. You will begin to feel the power of that which Alma had experienced and learned.

Alma, in chiasmus form has given his son (and eventually each of us) a very dynamic view of the impact of the Angel's appearance to him. Chiasmus appears to me to be a very effective way of telling such a dynamic experience. Don't you think so?

We are not familiar with this writing form. Again, chiasmus was a part of Alma's culture, being a basically Hebrew culture literary form.

It definitely is not a part of our literary culture today. It is my understanding that it wasn't even known by Americans or even the British in Joseph Smith's day.

Again, chiasmus is used extensively in the Bible as the minister of another church taught Elder John Welch and his companion, many years ago. It is very logical that it should be found in the Book of Mormon and it is found there in a good number of places.

Now you have come to an understanding of the chiasmus diagram our Sunday school teacher gave us. Please recognize that this was an exceedingly important account that young Alma (son of the First Alma) gave his son. I'm positive that is why Alma reverted to the use of chiasmus, something he had learned from his culture, an effective way of telling an extremely important event of his life that he felt his son needed to feel strong about too!

Now good readers, this is just one more remarkable piece of evidence that the Book of Mormon is a history of very complex matters that could never have been imagined by a young citizen of the State of New York in the 1820s. Not many in the world at that time were capable of figuring out chiasmus then. It is part of the very important writings contained in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.


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If you have any questions about what you have read or viewed in this post or in any previous posts of mine, or if you even have a curiosity about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and or its teachings, please e-mail me. I'm Neil and my e-mail address is: If you contact me I'll get back to you just as soon as possible.

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iMormon said...

Brother Birch, thank you for taking the initiative to share so much with your audience. May God bless you and your family for sharing your testimony and understanding of the gospel. With your permission, I look forward to pointing folks your way. Do you mind if I post a link on

Neil Birch said...

Dear iMormon,

I really appreciated your comment received late last evening. You helped me to continue my determination to write my blog posts as I've been doing.

You have my permission to do as you suggested in posting a link to my blog "From One Mormon's Point of View"

I'm still learning about blogging because I just began in March of this year. I've learned something about linking. Thanks for your suggestion. Best wishes in your blogging. I'll check in on it regularly.

Neil Birch