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King Benjamin Addresses His People from the Temple Wall -by Gary Kapp
This painting depicts a hugely significant event in the lives of the people of Zarahemla in ancient America. Their king, Benjamin, had called them together to prepare them for his turning the kingdom over to his son, Mosiah, by teaching them principles of righteousness.
Please read (along with listening to) Chapter 2 of the Book of Mosiah which contains part of King Benjamin's remarks. After you have read those words I will copy for you some particular verses which will assist me in addressing TODAY'S THEME.
Mosiah 2: 1-41
King Mosiah taught things that were very vital in helping his people to resolve to live righteously. It is important that you read and listened to them for you now know it was crucial that his people know his words and also, to remember them! I had a key purpose in highlighting those two words.
As I promised above I will excerpt two verses, the reading of which will lead you to begin to understand TODAY'S THEME.
7 For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them.
8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words. (emphasis added)Now if King Benjamin's speech were given today, with all our electronic means, the good king wouldn't be confronted with the challenge of getting his very vital speech into the minds and hearts of all of his people. But, that was a much different time than ours.
However, their culture had, over the many centuries, brought and passed on from generation to generation, a style of speech which we know as chiasmus, which was silently but quite effectively helping, at least the older children and all of the adults to remember that which was said.
Please note that the good king had his speech written and delivered, not to all of those who present, but only to those who could not hear his voice. Nonetheless, this effective tool, chiasmus, was present in both the spoken and written word to help people remember those crucial words which the king spoke.
Here is an example of a chiastic pair of verses that illustrates that which I have just told you about the effective power of chiasms in helping readers and listeners alike, to remember well that which had been spoken.
Dear Blog readers, please notice the huge significance of these two verses! Chiasums apparently were used especially when the subject to be remembered was very important!
This scripture illustrates a unique style of writing which is found throughout the Book of Mormon and also in the Bible. That style of writing used, in this example, by King Benjamin is definitely something used very regularly in ancient Hebrew literature.
Mosiah 3:18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
You may ask, did King Benjamin speak Hebrew? Well, you can answer that question yourself after I remind you that His words which are written above, were written in about 124 B.C. His not too distant ancestor, Lehi and his family and some friends left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. They all spoke the Hebrew of that day and continued speaking it when they arrived in their Promised Land located in the Western Hemisphere, most likely in what is now called Central America.
Certainly Benjamin's Hebrew Language had been modified some from that of Father Lehi's Hebrew, as happens with all spoken languages over time, but it was certainly still Hebrew, with probably some difference in dialect from what was being spoken In Jerusalem in 124 B.C.
Now, I'd like to help you realize that a people's culture strongly influences their modes of speech and writing. Please read the following written by:
"I read this book and could not put it down. On page 6, Gaechter introduced the idea of parallelism and argued that it was especially important to the Hebrews because in their culture oral transmission was important and parallelism (of which, chiasmus is an example)helps people memorize." (clarification added)
You have just read a quote from an article written by John W. Welch, who, besides being a professor of law at Brigham Young University-Provo, was the founder of the "Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS),which is now a part of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at the Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I have given you a direct link to his complete article at the end of this post. It is just under the blue line there.
In each culture in the world, unique needs may be expressed by certain styles they have included in their writing. As John Welch states above, the use of parallelism in Hebrew was important to the ancient Jews because in their culture they emphasized the importance of oral communication and the need to memorize.
Parallelism ( repeating things written in the the first half of a statement, in the last half of that statement, in a regular rotating scheme) helps people who have to, out of necessity, emphasize oral communication.
We can assume that this emphasis allows them to memorize more easily that which they have read; for instance, the Nephites' scriptures or the religious history that was being constantly written and used by them in their personal lives and in their teaching of others.
Chiasmus is not used as far as I know, in the English language because English speakers of our day do not depend as heavily on oral communications as did the ancient Hebrews. I just checked our Birch family Webster's "New Collegiate Dictionary (1953)" and the word, chiasmus wasn't even in it! Neither is it in the Spanish/English dictionary I use.
In our day everything is recorded by various means, from old-fashioned carbon copies to what computers do for us and by all of the electronic gadgets we use today. We don't need a literary tool like Chiasmus to help us remember what was spoken.
Just my personal suposition: If the scriptures you owned were inscribed on metal plates or hand-written on paper of some kind as evidently was the practice of the Nephites, it would seem to be much more practical for you to memorize key things in those scriptures with the help of an easily memorized chiasm than to lug (carry) those heavy plates or hand-written script on sheets of paper with you as you walked over the rough terrain where you happened to live.
As you read Book of Mormon passages such as the statements of Alma the Younger who taught the Gospel much in his life, you can realize that the parallelisms in the chiasms he used in his writings, helped him remember what he had read so he could more easily use those teachings in his preaching which, the Book of Mormon shows, he did very much of. Using the word, gimmick - might help some of you understand how it is used.
Similarly, Alma must have used chiasms in order that the important points he was making in his teaching would better stick in the minds and hearts of those he was teaching.
Here is a Chiastic Pattern of the Chiasm used by King Benjamin in verses 18 and 19 of Mosiah Chapter 3, quoted above: (Brother John Welch didn't put together this, I did. His version surely would have been better, but I think I'm close to getting it right.)
After you have read through my Chiastic Pattern several times by going from (a) to (a') and then from (b) to (b') and then from (c) to (c') and then from (d) to (d'), and comparing the two statements of the same basic letter each time, and seeing how they all fit together, you will clearly see the parallelisms that King Benjamin has used.
(a) but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children.(b) and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.(c) For the natural man is an enemy to God,(d) Unless the the natural man yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.(d') and putteth off the natural man through the atonement of Christ.(c') and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man.(b') and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.(a')willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
You can now, after thinking that through some, see that this chiastic tool could help Benjamin's people recall what he taught them because of the systematic parallel points which they could more easily remember.
Again, his people were used to this kind of a system being used ensuring that they would more easily remember what was taught or what to teach! You will notice that the central point of this (and of all chiasms is the center point; in my example, the d and the d'.
You may say, "Well, a chiasm wouldn't help me if I had been there in front of the temple listening to King Benjamin." Well, I must remind you that you aren't a person who needs such help because you, in our day, would have easy access to any such report of what was said, over the Internet, or over the TV or perhaps by reading a written report that would have been handed out, fresh off the press at the handy printer which could be easily arranged for in our day, after the king finished his appeal to you, or even in the next morning's newspaper.
Remember how catchy phrases have a way of sticking in your mind, especially if they were lined up in the parallel way they are in King Benjamin's chiasm.
Now there is a very important point I desire to make from this TODAY'S THEME. That which I've been sharing with you today, thanks to John W. Welch and the Lord who guided him as a young missionary to discover chiasms in the Book of Mormon, is undeniable evidence that the Book of Mormon could not have been made up and written by an uneducated farm boy, Joseph Smith, or anybody else in his generation, simply because nobody in the United States knew about chiasmus in the USA then (or not very often, now. Did you know about it before reading this post?) A few astute persons among the many of you now reading this will have, of course, nodded their heads after reading that question.
Even the Jewish people over time and in Lehi's time may not have identified it as a system. They probably were just used to using it all the time and didn't even have a name for it because they were so used to having it help them so they wouldn't forget what was said. People in all the history of the world would , most likely, take such a system for granted. Probably, only scholars pay attention to such as being a system of speech.
Now please try to give me mercy and don't become impatient with me for giving you an assignment of creating a Chiastic Pattern, similar to that which I just did above (colored in red). Of course, you don't have to do it, but it may surprise you how much you may enjoy doing what I am asking you to do.
There are Chiasms all over the Book of Mormon. I discuss in detail one given by the Book of Mormon Prophet, Alma the Younger in my Post 18 back on August 10, 2008. You could scroll down, patiently, to that post and read one of Alma's chiasms or you could totally skip reading that and instead tackle this assignment! Using the Chiastic Pattern I gave you above, that I just now created by myself and/or the one I borrowed from someone else that you could study down in Post 18, I request that you consider tackling the challenge.
You may be surprised how easily you can handle making a chiastic pattern of another of King Benjamin's speeches that I haven't, until now, asked you to read.
Remember, I just did the one above in this post and it was the first I have ever tried to do by myself. Somebody else might have done it a little differently, but I think I did OK. Of course I have seen at least one that someone else has composed which I typed into my Post 18. But, so have you, you've seen the one I just did, now you get to do what I just did for the first time ever!
OK. Here is a King Benjamin passage for you It's just one verse longer than the one I just did for you, but not as long as Alma's chiasm in Post 18 which comprised one entire chapter (Alma 36).
Mosiah 5:10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
11 And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take
heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.
12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.I suggest you prepare to compose your own version of a Chiasm Detail, by methodically figuring it out in the scripture above. You probably would want to consider highlighting the scripture above and printing it, doing your typing under the scripture which is your guide and using a Microsoft Word screen or whatever program you use.
I just laughed out-loud (politely) after typing the previous paragraph. I laughed because I wonder if any of you who are reading this will take on this "opportunity" to learn, firsthand about the ancient Chiastic style. You may surprise yourself and enjoy doing it! You may well do better than I did with the scripture I assigned myself and finished (above in red).
Move over, King Benjamin, Alma and other Book of Mormon Nephite prophets, here come some of the readers of this blog who want to learn first-hand that which you understood so naturally! (You are welcome to copy your final result into an e-mail to me. My e-mail address is below if you want to copy it into any e-mail you decide to do. If I do receive any such e-mails, I would share them in a future post only if you tell me you want yours shared.
Please now access the John W. Welch article on how he discovered Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon:
Here is the latest Mormon Messages Video. You will find it very well done and hopefully will be very applicable to you and to your particular needs.
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