To Stand By One’s Principles: Chiasmus in Howard W. Hunter’s “The Great Symbol of Our Membership”

howard-w-hunter_ldsorg_small
Howard W. Hunter (lds.org)

Howard W. Hunter served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nine months, from June 1994 until his death in March 1995. His major message during his brief presidency was a plea for Church members to “be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend” (Conference Report, October 1994). Looking back, one can see how this effort foreshadowed the acceleration of temple building that came just a few years later under his successor, Gordon B. Hinckley.

Howard W. Hunter’s chiasm that is referenced in our e-book, A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World, is found in the final two paragraphs of his article “The Great Symbol of Our Membership” (Ensign, October 1994). In this chiasm, President Hunter describes the process whereby Church members can make the temple symbolic of their Christian discipleship.

Diagram:

A: To have the temple indeed be a symbol unto us, we must desire it to be so.
B: We must live worthy to enter the temple. We must keep the commandments of our Lord. If we can pattern our life after the Master, and take His teaching and example as the supreme pattern for our own, we will not find it difficult to be temple worthy, to be consistent and loyal in every walk of life,
C: for we will be committed to a single, sacred standard of conduct and belief.
D: Whether at home or in the marketplace, whether at school or long after school is behind us, whether we are acting totally alone or in concert with a host of other people, our course will be clear and our standards will be obvious.
D: The ability to stand by one’s principles, to live with integrity and faith according to one’s belief—that is what matters. That devotion to true principle—in our individual lives, in our homes and families, and in all places that we meet and influence other people—that devotion is what God is ultimately requesting of us.
C: It requires commitment—whole-souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment to the principles we know to be true in the commandments God has given.
B: If we will be true and faithful to the Lord’s principles, then we will always be temple worthy,
A: and the Lord and His holy temples will be the great symbols of our discipleship with Him.

Analysis:

In general, the message of this chiasm is that the temple will become a symbol to us once we make the Lord’s standards our own standards.

A=A: “To have the temple indeed be a symbol unto us” corresponds with “the Lord and His holy temples will be the great symbols of our discipleship with Him.” Making the temple the symbol of our Church membership will naturally make the Lord a companion symbol in our lives, since the temple is the House of the Lord. The desire and effort we put forth to make this happen will transform us into disciples of Christ.

B=B: “We must live worthy to enter the temple” corresponds with “If we will be true and faithful to the Lord’s principles, then we will always be temple worthy.” We must keep the Lord’s commandments to be worthy to enter the temple. The difficulty of qualifying for a temple recommend can be removed as we pattern our lives after the example the Lord set and the principles He taught.

C=C: “[C]ommitted to a single, sacred standard of conduct and belief” corresponds with “commitment—whole-souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment to the principles we know to be true.” Commitment to true principles is the key to being temple worthy. The good habits and discipline we must develop in order for true principles to govern our behavior will enable us to overcome temptation and the limitations of our mortal state.

D=D: To form the central focus of this chiasm, “[O]ur course will be clear and our standards will be obvious” corresponds with “The ability to stand by one’s principles, to live with integrity and faith according to one’s belief—that is what matters.” Ultimately, our commitment to true principles will enable us to live with integrity, to follow one standard of behavior in all aspects of our lives—whether alone or in a group, in public or in private. By doing so, everyone we come in contact with will know and be influenced by the true principles exemplified by our behavior. This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ.


Additional Chiastic and Parallel Structures:

President Hunter’s entire article makes for worthwhile study, as it contains additional chiasms and parallelisms. The chiasm diagrammed and analyzed above is part of a larger structure consisting of three conjoined chiasms that emphasizes the relationship between being temple worthy and being a temple-motivated people:

A: Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people.
B: It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy.
B: I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of―and carry―a current temple recommend,
A: even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.
A: Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace. It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy unto us.
B: It is pleasing to the Lord for our youth to worthily go to the temple and perform vicarious baptism for those who did not have the opportunity to be baptized in this life.
B: It is pleasing to the Lord when we worthily go to the temple to personally make our own covenants with Him and to be sealed as couples and as families.
B: And it is pleasing to the Lord when we worthily go to the temple to perform these same saving ordinances for those who have died, many of whom eagerly await the completion of these ordinances in their behalf.
A: But to have the temple indeed be a symbol unto us, we must desire it to be so.
B: We must live worthy to enter the temple. We must keep the commandments of our Lord.
B: If we can pattern our life after the Master, and take His teaching and example as the supreme pattern for our own, we will not find it difficult to be temple worthy, to be consistent and loyal in every walk of life, for we will be committed to a single, sacred standard of conduct and belief. Whether at home or in the marketplace, whether at school or long after school is behind us, whether we are acting totally alone or in concert with a host of other people, our course will be clear and our standards will be obvious.
B: The ability to stand by one’s principles, to live with integrity and faith according to one’s belief—that is what matters. That devotion to true principle—in our individual lives, in our homes and families, and in all places that we meet and influence other people—that devotion is what God is ultimately requesting of us. It requires commitment—whole-souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment to the principles we know to be true in the commandments God has given. If we will be true and faithful to the Lord’s principles, then we will always be temple worthy,
A: and the Lord and His holy temples will be the great symbols of our discipleship with Him.


A chiasm that appears earlier in President Hunter’s article explains the necessity of having the priesthood on the earth in order to build temples and perform temple ordinances:

A: We have no record that temples were built in either the Old or New World
B: during the long period of apostasy before the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in these latter days.
C: The priesthood, which is essential to temple ordinances, did not exist upon the earth.
B: After the restoration of the gospel through a prophet of the Lord, raised up for that very purpose, and the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
A: temples were once again erected according to divine commandment.


President Hunter employed two parallelisms to accentuate and elaborate Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians that prophesies of the mighty gathering “together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Ephesians 1:9-10). According to President Hunter, the temple plays an essential role in this gathering:

A: Temples are sacred for
B: the closest communion between the Lord and those receiving the highest and most sacred ordinances of the holy priesthood.
A: It is in the temple that
B: things of the earth are joined with the things of heaven.

A: The doctrine that all creation will ultimately
B: be united in Christ is the major theme of Paul’s epistle [Ephesians].
A: The things of earth will
B: become one with the things of heaven.
A: The great family of God will
B: be united through the saving ordinances of the gospel.


Conclusion:

Chiasmus is a distinctive feature in this article by Howard W. Hunter. He artfully and skillfully applies chiasmus to emphasize and expound gospel doctrine, principles, and application. Through chiasmus he emphasizes the need for priesthood authority in temple construction and ordinance work. Through chiasmus he elaborates on the meaning of temple worthiness and how it is manifest in our lives. Through chiasmus he explains the role of the temple in our Christian discipleship. Through parallelism he describes all the earthly things that are being united in Christ through the Restoration and the role of the temple in this process. Through chiastic study President Hunter’s message in this article becomes more clear and its profound, poetic beauty becomes more appreciated. Further investigation of President Hunter’s teachings will likely uncover additional chiasms from throughout his 35-year apostolic ministry.

familyproc_bannerad

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s