To commemorate the bicentennial of Joseph Smith’s First Vision (1820-2020), artist Jeremy Fink and I have created a book to tell of Joseph’s experience: Pillar of Light: Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Click here to access a free flipbook version. An inexpensive digital comic book version is available on Comixology.
The idea of presenting Joseph’s experience as a comic book grew out of my earlier post about chiasmus in “Joseph Smith-History” and observing how that account of his First Vision is centered around a contrast between light and dark — a conflict between good and evil. To my mind, this seemed to fit well with a comic book format. Luckily, my friend, Jeremy Fink, is a skilled comic book artist and welcomed the challenge of the project. Three years later, we are finished and hope you enjoy it.
Chiasmus is a lesser-known but characteristic feature of Robert Louis Stevenson’s essays. Beginning with his earliest published essays Stevenson uses this rhetorical figure to draw attention, please the ear, and develop his arguments. Previous studies on Stevenson’s use of chiasmus have been minimal. F. C. Riedel (1969) identifies an example in Stevenson’s ‘Pulvis et Umbra’ (1888) and describes it as an expression of his ‘juxtaposition of opposites’ in both ‘thought’ and ‘form.’ More recently, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (2010) identifies a variety of rhetorical figures in Stevenson’s essays and of chiasmus in Treasure Island. This paper will identify no less than three types of chiasmus that Stevenson employs in his essays in order to heighten our understanding of his syntax and provide a more nuanced understanding of his writings.
On 9 August 2018, Dallin H. Oaks posted on his Facebook page additional thoughts about “the important relationship between God’s love for us and His laws that implement the plan of salvation”. President Oaks has previously addressed this topic in his General Conference addresses. For example, “Loving Others and Living with Differences” (October 2014) and “Love and Law” (October 2009).
This Facebook post is built of four chiasms and one parallelism that provide a more nuanced understanding of this relationship. This article presents diagrams and analyses of each of these rhetorical figures.
1. This parallelism explains that to “show love and seek peace” is to “live together in happiness and harmony, with goodwill toward all”. Although doing so is a “command” from Jesus Christ, most of His followers sincerely “want” to follow it.
A: The Lord Jesus Christ commands His followers to B: show love and seek peace. A: Whatever our differences, most of us want to B: live together in happiness and harmony, with goodwill toward all.
2. This chiasm introduces a metaphorical “two-sided coin” and identifies each side. One side is “love of others and tolerance for their opinions and behavior”. The other side is “what is true or right”.
It is important to remember that A: love of others and tolerance for their opinions and behavior B: is C: only one side D: of a two-sided coin. C: The other side B: is A: always what is true or right.
3. Continuing this metaphor, this chiasm explains how these sides “govern” as companions.
A: One of these sides B: should not govern B: without companion understanding and practice A: of the other.
4. This chiasm illustrates how God keeps these two sides in perfect balance and explains the relationship between “commandments” and “obedience” in our eternal development. Commandments are an expression of God’s perfect love. As we obey them, we eventually become perfect like He is.
A: God’s love is so perfect B: that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments B: because He knows that only through obedience to His laws A: can we become perfect to realize our eternal destiny.
5. As a concluding statement, this chiasm expresses the perfect balance between the “love of God” and His “laws and commandments”.
A: The love of God B: does not supersede C: His laws and His commandments, C: and the effect of God’s laws and commandments B: does not diminish A: the purpose and effect of His love.
An awareness of President Oaks’s use of rhetorical figures aids our understanding of his teachings and helps us better appreciate and apply the eternal balance between love and law.
In his address at the recent “Be One” celebration that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood, President Russell M. Nelson made use of parallelism to emphasize the need to treat everyone as equals.
After reviewing the Lord’s “essential doctrine of equal opportunity for His children”, by referencing Matthew 22:36-40 and D&C 38:24-25, President Nelson shared three sequential parallelisms to stress the importance of applying this doctrine into our lives. These parallelisms were arranged to build in intensity, climaxing with the third parallelism. This building in intensity was created through form — the first two being less clearly parallel and the third being unmistakably parallel — and content — the first two providing a case study and doctrinal basis and the third providing a summary statement containing universally understandable metaphors.
This paper presents a diagram and detailed analysis of each parallelism.
President Nelson’s first parallelism describes the process of faithful people joining the Church throughout the world and becoming one, as “[d]ifferences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance”:
A: On every continent and across the isles of the sea, B: faithful people are C: being gathered D: into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A: Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as B: the faithful C: enter the covenant path and come D: unto our beloved Redeemer.
A=A: By mentioning “every continent”, “the isles of the sea”, and “culture, language, gender, race, and nationality”, President Nelson is addressing all forms of prejudice throughout the world.
B=B: Faith is the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, followed by repentance. Likewise, faith is the first step in overcoming prejudice, as the light of the Gospel heals our minds and hearts.
C=C: “[B]eing gathered” and entering into “the covenant path” is a commitment to follow Christ and live by his teachings. This enables us to forgive and see the divinity in others.
D=D: Overcoming prejudice is made possible by Jesus Christ, whose priesthood and ordinances are available in His restored church. No form of prejudice is beyond His healing reach.
In his second parallelism, President Nelson declares that prejudice is fully overcome through comprehending “the true Fatherhood of God”. This understanding opens our eyes to the divinity of the human family.
Ultimately, we realize that A: only the comprehension of B: the true Fatherhood of God A: can bring full appreciation of B: the true brotherhood of men B: and the true sisterhood of women.
A=A: “[C]omprehension” leads to “appreciation”. The more we comprehend that God is the literal father of the human family, the more we appreciate each other.
B=B: If God is our father, then we are all brothers and sisters.
Lastly, in his third parallelism, President Nelson encourages us to develop a mindset of “cooperation” that brings people together.
That understanding inspires us with passionate desire to A: build bridges B: of cooperation A: instead of walls B: of segregation.
A=A: “[B]ridges” is antithetical to “walls”.
B=B: “[C]ooperation” is antithetical to “segregation”.
The power of this final parallelism — from its combined form and content — drew an approving applause from the audience.
In calling on the people of the world and the membership of the Church to overcome prejudice of any kind, President Nelson effectively used parallelism to enhance his message, making it more memorable and powerful.
During the April 2018 General Conference I was particularly struck by a medical story told by Apostle Dale G. Renlund, who worked as a medical doctor prior to his calling as a general authority. He specialized in cardiology and transplant medicine, providing the chronic after-care for patients who had received heart transplantation surgery. He has drawn upon his medical experience in several prior talks, including his first address as a general authority where he used transplant medicine as a gospel analogy for maintaining the mighty change of heart, and his first talk as an apostle where he told the touching story of a patient who tragically died (including a role-reversal, where the parents of the patient provided comfort to him, the grieving doctor).
Elder Renlund’s April 2018 address tells of a heart transplant recipient becoming an important figure in the life of his heart donor’s family. This relationship is culminated in the temple sealing ordinance, where the transplant recipient acts as proxy for his heart donor as he is sealed to his parents. This story is told using a long-form textual chiasm:
A. “Todd, if you really do have to go, I promise I’ll see to it that your temple work gets done.” The next morning, Todd was declared brain dead. Surgeons
C. Todd’s heart into my patient, a remarkable individual named
D. Rod. A few months after the transplant, Rod learned the identity of his heart donor’s family and began to correspond with them. About two years later,
E. Todd’s mother, Betty, invited Rod to be present when she went to the temple for the first time. Rod and Betty first met in person in the
F. celestial room of the St. George Utah Temple. Sometime thereafter, Todd’s father—Betty’s husband—died. A couple of years later, Betty invited
G. Rod to
G. her deceased son in receiving his temple ordinances. Rod gratefully did so, and the proxy work culminated in a
F. sealing room in the St. George Utah Temple. Betty was sealed to her deceased husband, kneeling across the altar from her grandson who served as proxy. Then, with tears streaming down her cheeks,
E. she beckoned for Rod to join them at the altar.
D. Rod knelt beside them, acting as proxy for her son,
C. Todd, whose heart was still beating inside Rod’s chest.
B. Rod’s heart donor, Todd, was then sealed to his parents for all eternity.
A. Todd’s mother had kept the promise she made to her dying son years before.
Notice near the center of the structure that “Rod” and “her deceased son” (Todd) are paired elements, nested within the sacred rooms of the “St. George Utah Temple”. Betty’s “promise” to have her son’s temple work done forms the outer pair of elements, surrounding the sacred events in the interior of the chiasm. The literal meaning of the words is thus reinforced by the symbolic relationships between paired elements of the literary structure.
The entire subject of temple work is chiastic, as living descendants research family history and perform vicarious ordinances for ancestors who are deceased, with the center point of the relationship being the House of God where the ordinances are performed.
Elder Renlund’s talk contains the following chiasms, all of which emphasize the relationship between the temporal and eternal blessings of temple work:
We can perform the ordinances vicariously in temples, and our
A. ancestors may choose to accept the ordinances. We are also encouraged to help ward and stake members with their family names. It is
B. breathtakingly amazing that, through family history and temple work,
C. we can help to redeem the dead. But as we participate in family history and temple work today,
C. we also lay claim to “healing” blessings promised by prophets and apostles. These blessings are also
B. breathtakingly amazing because of their scope, specificity, and
A. consequence in mortality.
The ascending half of this chiasm refers to the “breathtakingly amazing” effects of temple work on those who have passed through the veil, as ancestors who choose to accept the ordinances may be saved and sealed, producing consequences in eternity. The descending side shows the mirror image, describing the “breathtakingly amazing” blessings given in mortality to those who participate in this work.
The following chiasm builds off of a quote from Ezekiel chapter 47 on the ascending side to explain the meaning of the symbolic language of the scriptural passage on the descending side:
A. “[and] the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: … for
B. they shall be healed; and
C. every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” Two characteristics of the water are noteworthy. First, though the small stream had no tributaries, it grew into a
D. mighty river, becoming wider and deeper the farther it flowed. Something similar happens with the blessings that flow from the temple as individuals are
E. sealed as families. Meaningful growth occurs going
F. backward and
F. forward through the generations as
E. sealing ordinances weld families together. Second, the
C. renewed everything that it touched. The blessings of the temple likewise have a
B. stunning capacity to heal. Temple blessings can
A. heal hearts and lives and families.
The river of water flowing from the temple through the desert to heal the Dead Sea is symbolic of the blessings of the temple, which flow into the lives of temple patrons and their family members in both directions (ancestors and descendants) and on both sides of the veil.
Elder Renlund concludes his talk with a reiteration of President Nelson’s invitation for us to “sacrifice” more of our “time” to do this important work of “temple and family history”, nested at the center of a long-form chiasm between a repeated quote from C. S. Lewis. Also emphasized in this structure is the doctrine that the Lord is the ultimate source of all of the healing and sealing blessings of the temple. The relationship of these elements within the chiastic structure suggests that our willing sacrifice in temple and family history work is at the center of our opportunity to call forth the blessings of heaven to heal us and our families.
A. “The Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’” God will
B. strengthen, help, and uphold us; and He will sanctify to us our deepest distress. When we gather our family histories and go to the temple on behalf of our ancestors,
C. God fulfills many of these promised blessings simultaneously on both sides of the veil. Similarly, we are blessed when we help others in our wards and stakes do the same. Members who do not live close to a temple also receive these blessings by participating in
D. family history work,
E. collecting the names of their ancestors for temple ordinances to be performed.
F. President Russell M. Nelson, however, cautioned: “We can be inspired all day long about
G. temple and family history experiences others have had. But
H. we must do something to actually experience the joy ourselves.” He continued, “I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of
I. sacrifice—preferably a
I. sacrifice of time—
H. you can make [to] do more
G. temple and family history work.” As you accept
F. President Nelson’s invitation, you will
E. discover, gather, and connect your family. Additionally, blessings will flow to you and your family like the river spoken of by Ezekiel. You will find healing for that which needs healing. Orson and Parley Pratt experienced the healing and sealing effects of
D. family history and temple work early in this dispensation. Betty, her family, and Rod experienced it. You can too. Through His atoning sacrifice,
C. Jesus Christ offers these blessings to all, both the dead and the living. Because of
B. these blessings,
A. we will find that we, metaphorically, “have never lived anywhere except … Heaven.”
Elder Renlund teaches through precept, story, and even the very literary structure of his talk, that the blessings of temple work are simultaneously distributed to people on both sides of the veil. Jesus Christ is the source of those blessings, as he is the central figure in the Plan of Salvation and the power by which families are sealed together in the temple.
Mardy Grothe, in his book, Never Let A Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You (Penguin Books, 1999), introduces the concept of “implied chiasmus”, which describes “a special kind of abbreviated chiastic expression.” He explains:
“Ordinarily chiasmus contains two phrases or clauses, the second one reversing the first. In implied chiasmus a reversal implies a saying–generally a well-known one–but stands alone.” (Chapter 16)
A clever example he shares is from the Muppet character, Kermit the Frog:
“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”
This is an implied chiasm of the well-known idiom:
“Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Grothe’s concept of implied chiasmus acknowledges the parallel attributes of spoonerisms, the “interchange of sounds” that produces “a phrase with a meaning entirely different from the one intended” and which is quite humorous. In a classic spoonerism, the sound order is inverted from the familiar or intended phrase, so that together they create a chiasm and separated they create an implied chiasm. Implied chiasmus is similar to “phonetic chiasmus,” described in Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (David R. Godine, 2010), which is “based just on the sound or length of the words involved.”
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) uses both implied chiasmus and implied parallelism in his writings. This article discusses a profound example of implied parallelism from Stevenson’s essay, “Aes Triplex” (1878), that references the words of William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
As an aside, according to the LDS Scripture Citation Index, Robert Louis Stevenson has been quoted more by President Thomas S. Monson in General Conference addresses than by any other LDS General Authority. President Monson also frequently quoted the words of William Wordsworth that are implied by Stevenson in this parallelism. To our knowledge, President Monson was unaware of this reference in Stevenson’s writings, but we consider this implied chiasm to be a fitting tribute to the life of President Thomas S. Monson, who died earlier this week.
Stevenson and Wordsworth:
Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay, “Aes Triplex” (1878), challenges the conventional thinking that death is the worst possible thing that can happen to a person and, instead, argues that not embracing life is worse than death. At the conclusion of his essay, he describes those who die while in the midst of pursuing “good work with their whole hearts”. He writes:
“In the hot-fit of life, a-tiptoe on the highest point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other side. The noise of the mallet and chisel is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, when, trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy starr’d, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual land.” (emphasis added)
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting And cometh from afar; Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home:” (emphasis added)
Diagram and Analysis:
A: But trailing clouds of glory B: do we C: come From D: God, who is our home:
A: trailing with him clouds of glory, B: this happy starr’d, full-blooded spirit C: shoots into D: the spiritual land.
Stevenson’s meaning seems to be that, just as we bring with us “clouds of glory” from the presence of God when we are born, if we embrace life and seek to perform “good work with [our] whole hearts” while we are here, we can return to God’s presence at the end of our life with “clouds of glory” and be prepared to dwell in that “spiritual land”.
The concept of implied chiasmus is useful for identifying and understanding certain references authors make to other authors. By recognizing the implied structure of a reference, we can gain a deeper and more thorough understanding of an author’s intended meaning. Interestingly, this example from Stevenson is structurally a parallelism, but conceptually a chiasm, since it involves coming from and returning to God.
Perhaps the main controversy within the LDS Church over the past decade has concerned The Family: A Proclamation to the World. This document, announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in September 1995 and approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, lays out Latter-day Saint beliefs about the family and explains the importance of governmental efforts to strengthen the family.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ address at the October 2017 General Conference sought to clarify misunderstandings about the Proclamation and strengthen the faith and resolve of Church members to live and teach according to it. Elder Oaks also shared his experience participating in its creation. Describing it as a “revelatory process,” he explained how members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what they should say and how they should say it.” Elder Oaks affirmed that the Proclamation is “a statement of eternal truth.”*
To emphasize different aspects of his address, Elder Oaks used the rhetorical figures of chiasmus and parallelism, including several from the words of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle James, and Gordon B. Hinckley. Interestingly, in the New Testament examples, Elder Oaks selected the portion of the verse that is a chiasm or parallelism, and, in one instance, omitted text in order to create or enhance a chiasm. In this paper, we diagram and analyze examples from each of these Church leaders.
#1: Elder Oaks opened his talk with a chiasm that describes how Latter-day Saints “forgo participation” in “some subjects” because of their “unique doctrine” and efforts to “follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.”
A: As is evident in our family proclamation, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints B: are blessed with unique doctrine and different ways of viewing the world. C:We participate and even excel D: in many worldly activities, D: but on some subjects C:we forgo participation B: as we seek to follow the teachings of A:Jesus Christ and His Apostles, ancient and modern.
#2: In this parallelism, Elder Oaks describes how faithful Latter-day Saints, or “those who strive for exaltation,” differ from “the world’s way” in their “personal choices in family life.”
A: Even as we B: must live with the marriage laws and other traditions C: of a declining world, A: those who strive for exaltation B: must make personal choices in family life according to the Lord’s way C: whenever that differs from the world’s way.
#3: Here, Elder Oaks uses a chiasm to contrast those who “grow and mature” by “choosing to obey God’s commandments” with those who “forgo that growth and maturity” by choosing to disobey or “deliberately refrain” from following God.
A: We grow and mature spiritually B: by choosing to obey God’s commandments in a succession of right choices. C: These include covenants and ordinances C: and repentance when our choices are wrong. B: In contrast, if we lack faith in God’s plan and are disobedient to or deliberately refrain from its required actions, A: we forgo that growth and maturity.
#4: In this parallelism, Elder Oaks shows how faithful Latter-day Saints have “distinctive priorities and practices” because of their “worldview.” As these priorities and practices sometimes result in “frustrations and pains,” Latter-day Saints are blessed through “[o]ur Savior’s Atonement” with the “strength to endure.”
A: Latter-day Saints who understand God’s plan of salvation have a unique worldview B: that helps them see the reason for God’s commandments, the unchangeable nature of His required ordinances, and the fundamental role of our Savior, Jesus Christ. C: Our Savior’s Atonement reclaims us from death and, subject to our repentance, saves us from sin. A: With that worldview, Latter-day Saints have B: distinctive priorities and practices C: and areblessed with the strength to endure the frustrations and pains of mortal life.
#5: In this parallelism, Elder Oaks contrasts “[t]hose who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation” with “Latter-day Saints,” implying that Church members who reject the doctrine of exaltation are on dangerous ground. Rather than being a mere “statement of policy that should be changed,” the family proclamation “defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.”
A:Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world B:consider this family proclamationas C:just a statement of policy that should be changed. A: In contrast, Latter-day Saints B:affirm that the family proclamation C:defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.
#6: This parallelism expresses the dual responsibilities shouldered by Latter-day Saints: “following the gospel law in our personal lives” and “show[ing] love for all.”
A: We must try to B: balance the competing demands of following the gospel law C: in our personal lives and teachings, A: even as we seek to B: show love C: for all.
#7: Elder Oaks uses a chiasm to declare his testimony that the family proclamation is “a statement of eternal truth” and to encourage Church members to “teach it” and “live by it.”
A: I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life. B: It has been the basis of Church teaching and practice C: for the last 22 years C: and will continue so for the future. B: Consider it as such, teach it, live by it, A: and you will be blessed as you press forward toward eternal life.
#8: Referring to the teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson, this parallelism shows how “our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation” is one of the tests of our generation. Elder Oaks encourages us to “stand firm in that test.”
A: Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught B: that “every generation has its tests C: and its chance to stand and prove itself.” A:I believe B: our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. C: I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.
#1: In these two parallelisms, Jesus contrasts the things of God with the things of men and shows how our souls are infinitely more valuable than the riches of the world. (See Matthew 16:23, 26)
“Later, Jesus corrected Peter for not savoring
A: ‘the things that B: be of God, A: but those that B: be of men,’
declaring, ‘For what is a man profited,
A: if he shall gain B: the whole world, A: and lose B: his own soul?'”
#2: In these two antithetic chiasms, Jesus teaches His Apostles about the intolerance of the world. (see John 15:19)
A: “If ye were B: of the world, B: the world would A: love his own:
A: but because ye are B: not of the world, B: … the world A: hateth you.”
#1: Mirroring the teachings of Jesus that contrast the things of God with the things of men, the Apostle Paul uses a parallelism to show how God is superior to man. (See 1 Corinthians 3:19)
A: “For the wisdom B: of this world A: is foolishness B: with God.”
#1: Building on these teachings that contrast God and the world, the Apostle James shows in this parallelism that man cannot be friends with both God and the world. (See James 4:4)
A: “the friendship B: of the world C: is enmity D: with God[.] A: Whosoever therefore will be a friend B: of the world C: is the enemy D: of God”
Gordon B. Hinckley
#1: When President Hinckley introduced the family proclamation on September 23, 1995, he included this three-part parallelism about the “sophistry,” “deception,” and “allurement and enticement” of the world that necessitated the “warn[ing] and forewarn[ing]” of the proclamation.
A: “With so much of
B: sophistry C: that is passed off as truth,
A: with so much of
B: deception C: concerning standards and values,
A: with so much of
B: allurement and enticement C: to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn.”
#2: Using the rhetorical figure of anaphora, President Hinckley shared his optimistic vision about Church members who would faithfully “live the gospel” in “a very uncertain world.”
“I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world. A: If we will B: cling to our values, A: if we will B: build on our inheritance, A: if we will B: walk in obedience before the Lord, A: if we will B: simply live the gospel, A: we will be B: blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way. A: We will be B: looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.”
Elder Oaks’ skillful use of chiasmus and parallelism draws attention to and reinforces different aspects of his address. Specifically, chiasmus and parallelism allow him to contrast and compare with exactness and clarity and to focus the attention of his audience. A careful reading of his address, with an awareness of his use of rhetorical figures, will allow the seeker after truth to develop a correct understanding of the Proclamation and withstand the false teachings the adversary seeks to spread.