The First Vision: Chiasmus in “Joseph Smith—History”

 

Joseph_Smith_portrait2_crop
Joseph Smith (wikipedia.org)

In a previous article we focused on chiasmus in Joseph Smith’s non-canonical writings, specifically “The Standard of Truth” and other passages in the “Wentworth Letter” (1842). One chiasm diagrammed in that article includes a description of his First Vision, equating it with the later visitation of the Angel Moroni to show that they were both divine experiences.

Joseph Smith—History contains the best-known account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. It was written with the help of scribes in 1838, published in the Times & Seasons in Spring 1842, and canonized as part of the Pearl of Great Price in October 1880.

Like the Wentworth Letter, Joseph Smith—History contains chiasmus throughout. For purposes of length, however, this article will focus on three chiasms. First, his opening statement (verses 1-2); second, his account of reading James 1:5 (verses 10-12); third, his description of his First Vision (verses 15-18). In comparison to the chiasm pertaining to his First Vision in the Wentworth Letter, the chiasm in Joseph Smith—History emphasizes different aspects of this experience.


Chiasm #1: Joseph Smith—History 1:1-2

A: [1] Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons,
B: in relation to the rise and progress of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
C: all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world—
C: I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts, as they have transpired,
B: in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession.
A: [2] In this history I shall present the various events in relation to this Church, in truth and righteousness, as they have transpired, or as they at present exist, being now [1838] the eighth year since the organization of the said Church.

joseph smith history_manuscript
Manuscript of Joseph Smith-History (josephsmithpapers.org)

A=A: “[M]any reports … evil-disposed and designing” contrasts with “this history … in truth and righteousness,” to set the accuracy and intent of his history against the reports of others. Others’ reports have been “evil” and misleading, whereas Joseph’s history would be “righteous” and honest. The Joseph Smith Papers provides the following historical context for understanding these unflattering reports:

“This introduction was written not long after [Joseph Smith] had fled Kirtland, Ohio, for Far West, Missouri, under threat of several lawsuits; thus, when he began the history in summer 1838 he was especially motivated to justify himself and the church in light of what he considered a long history of persecution. Such an introduction may also have been written as a more general response to the accumulated negative reports transmitted orally and in the press beginning in [Joseph Smith’s] youth and continuing throughout the 1830s.”

B=B: “[I]n relation to … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” compares with “in relation both to myself and the Church,” showing that the history of the Church is inextricably intertwined with the history of Joseph Smith, its founder and first president. Hence, he is motivated by necessity rather than vanity in publishing his personal history.

C=C: “[T]he authors thereof to militate against” contrasts with “I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind,” weighing his intent in writing his history against the motive of others. The motive of others is “to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world” whereas Joseph’s intent is “to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts.” By focusing on “the facts,” Joseph presents an impartial tone throughout this history.


Chiasm #2: Joseph Smith—History 1:10-12

A: [10] In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
B: [11] While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
C: [12] Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine.
C: It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart.
B: I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know;
A: for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

joseph smith reading bible_dot_org
lds.org

A=A: “What is to be done?” corresponds to “destroy all confidence.” As a result of the “war of words and tumult of opinions” about religion in his community, the young Joseph was deeply confused and unable to find satisfactory answers in the Bible.

B=B: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” equates with “if any person needed wisdom from God, I did.” Despite the “extreme difficulties” under which Joseph labored, he still found the faith to seek for divine guidance in the Bible. Apparently, the thought of praying for help hadn’t occurred to him, so the direction he found in the Epistle of James — that if any person lacked wisdom, he could ask of God and expect to receive an answer — was a major revelatory moment for him. He desperately lacked wisdom; the idea that he could directly approach God to gain wisdom caused him to reflect on this passage “again and again.”

C=C: “[P]ower to the heart” equates with “great force into every feeling of my heart.” In addition to the intellectual impact of James 1:5, Joseph also experienced a powerful spiritual sensation in his heart (see D&C 8:1-3). He described it as a “great force” that entered “into every feeling of my heart.” This first revelatory experience, as powerful as it was, simply prepared the young prophet for “the greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 495).


Chiasm #3: Joseph Smith—History 1:15-18

A: [15] After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God.
B: I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.
C: Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
D: [16] But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me,
E: and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—
E: just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
D: [17] It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.
C: When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
B: [18] My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than
A: I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

the-first-vision_lds_dot_org
The First Vision (lds.org)

A=A: “[O]ffer up the desires of my heart to God” compares with “I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right … and which I should join,” to specify the desires of Joseph’s heart and to show that God had responded to his humble request for wisdom.

B=B: “[C]ould not speak” contrasts with “able to speak.” In this chiasm Joseph is placed in the midst of a battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. In the first half of this section, the forces of darkness attack him with “such an astonishing influence” that it binds his tongue, apparently in an effort to prevent him from completing his prayer. In the second half of this section, Joseph is liberated by the forces of light, so that he is able to complete his request — this time in a face-to-face communion with the Father and the Son.

C=C: “Thick darkness gathered around me” contrasts with “light rested upon me.” First, the forces of darkness continue their assault to the point that Joseph feels “doomed to sudden destruction.” Then, the light that liberates him is described as gentle. Although it is a superior power to the forces of darkness that had oppressively gathered around him, the light “rest[s]” upon him. Within this light are the Father and the Son, “whose brightness and glory defy all description,” yet they know his name and introduce themselves in a way that makes him feel comfortable in their presence.

D=D: “[D]eliver” compares with “delivered.” First, Joseph resists the forces of darkness, seeking deliverance from God. Then, he finds himself delivered as light surrounds him.

E=E: “[A]t the very moment” corresponds with “just at this moment.” First, Joseph describes the forces of darkness as “the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being.” At this point, the assault from the forces of darkness has become so intense that Joseph is “ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction.” Then, Joseph is liberated by “a pillar of light” that appears above his head. Although of superior power, the light is once again described in gentle terms. It “descend[s] gradually,” dispelling the darkness, until it falls upon him.

By describing his first visionary experience as a battle between the forces of light and dark, Joseph makes his uniquely special experience accessible to others who have experienced less dramatic, but still challenging, experiences dealing with the forces of darkness. He also shows that God’s superior power is paradoxically gentle in nature. We can put our trust in God, because he exercises his power gently in dealing with the righteous.


Conclusion:

A study of chiasmus in Joseph Smith—History results in a deeper understanding of the beauty of its composition and language. Matching the overall tone of the document, chiasmus in Joseph Smith—History is clear, direct, and instructive. It sheds a unique light on the young prophet’s experiences, revealing additional insights in the narrative that help readers more fully relate them to their own experiences.

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I Love Trees: Chiasmus in Gordon B. Hinckley’s Description of the Conference Center Pulpit

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Gordon B. Hinckley (history.lds.org)

Gordon B. Hinckley served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from March 1995 until his death in January 2008. Prior to serving as President of the Church, he served as a counselor in the First Presidency beginning in December 1982 and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in October 1961. The 13 years he served as President of the Church were known for expansion, growth, and building, including his initiative to construct many small temples throughout the world by the end of 2000.

Also during his presidency, the Church constructed a new meeting hall to hold its twice-yearly General Conferences. The completed building, known as the Conference Center, first hosted a General Conference in April 2000 and was dedicated at the following General Conference in October 2000.

In his introductory address in April 2000, President Hinckley reviewed the construction of the Conference Center, describing its exterior and interior and the purpose for which it was built. Chiasmus is found throughout this address. This article, however, will focus on two chiasms near the end of his address that describe the origin of the Conference Center’s pulpit.


Chiasm #1:

A: I love trees.
B: When I was a boy we lived on a farm in the summer, a fruit farm. Every year at this season we planted trees.
B: I think I have never missed a spring since I was married, except for two or three years when we were absent from the city, that I have not planted trees, at least one or two—fruit trees, shade trees, ornamental trees, and spruce, fir, and pine among the conifers.
A: I love trees.

A=A: “I love trees” equates with “I love trees” to emphasize, through repetition, his admiration of trees.

B=B: “[P]lanted trees” equates with “planted trees” to describe his familiarity with and family tradition of planting trees.

This brief chiasm celebrates President Hinckley’s lifelong love of trees. Applying the metaphor established below in Chiasm #2, “trees” also refer to his lifelong love of hearing the teachings of modern prophets at General Conference, which are declared from a pulpit of wood.


Chiasm #2:

A: Well, some 36 years ago I planted a black walnut.
B: It was in a crowded area where it grew straight and tall to get the sunlight.
C: A year ago, for some reason it died. But walnut is a precious furniture wood.
D: I called Brother Ben Banks of the Seventy, who, before giving his full time to the Church, was in the business of hardwood lumber.
D: He brought his two sons, one a bishop and the other recently released as a bishop and who now run the business, to look at the tree.
C: From all they could tell it was solid, good, and beautiful wood. One of them suggested that it would make a pulpit for this hall. The idea excited me.
B: The tree was cut down and then cut into two heavy logs. Then followed the long process of drying, first naturally and then kiln drying. The logs were cut into boards at a sawmill in Salem, Utah. The boards were then taken to Fetzer’s woodworking plant, where expert craftsmen designed and built this magnificent pulpit with that wood. The end product is beautiful. I wish all of you could examine it closely. It represents superb workmanship,
A: and here I am speaking to you from the tree I grew in my backyard, where my children played and also grew.

gbhpodium_mormonnewsroom_dot_org
mormonnewsroom.org

A=A: “I planted a black walnut” corresponds with “I am speaking to you from the tree I grew in my backyard.” President Hinckley, as a prophet speaking from that tree, establishes the metaphor of “tree = pulpit = teachings of modern prophets.” With this understanding, the phrase “where my children played and also grew” recalls the sublime promise in Isaiah 54:13: “And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” By heeding the teachings of modern prophets, this promised peace can be realized in our families from generation to generation, even as the world swirls with turmoil around us.

B=B: “[S]traight and tall” is complemented by “magnificent … beautiful … superb workmanship.” Because the tree was planted in “a crowded area,” it “grew straight and tall,” reaching to “get the sunlight.” Applying the metaphor of “tree = pulpit = teachings of modern prophets,” the opposition the Church and its members have faced has necessitated a reliance on the teachings of modern prophets spoken from the wooden pulpit, which are “magnificent,” “beautiful,” and “superb.” As a result, and by extension of the metaphor, these teachings have caused the Church and its members to grow “straight and tall” and to “increase in beauty” (D&C 82:14).

C=C: “[P]recious furniture wood” compares with “[S]olid, good, and beautiful wood.” Just as black walnut is a “precious” wood, the teachings of modern prophets are “solid, good, and beautiful” to those who recognize them as the word of God.

D=D: “Brother Ben Banks” corresponds with “his two sons.” To deflect any criticism that his black walnut tree was used to craft the pulpit for the Conference Center out of personal vanity, President Hinckley is very clear to give credit to those who made the original suggestion. This central focus emphasizes President Hinckley’s characteristic modesty and humility concerning his high calling, which is characteristic of all true prophets.


Conclusion:

gordon-b-hinckley_at_pulpit
lds.net

Gordon B. Hinckley’s use of chiasmus in describing the Conference Center pulpit helps the reader identify and understand his metaphor of “tree = pulpit = teachings of modern prophets.” Significantly, Alma the Younger uses the same metaphor to illustrate the need to exercise faith in the teachings of the prophets, which, if we do, will eventually grow within us to become “a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41). Perhaps, in an effort to make his metaphor more clear, President Hinckley concluded his address by thanking those who had a hand in building the pulpit, “for making it possible to have a small touch of mine in this great hall where the voices of prophets will go out to all the world in testimony of the Redeemer of mankind” (emphasis added).

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My Witness: Henry B. Eyring’s Facebook Chiasm

henry b eyring_facebook_photo
Henry B. Eyring (facebook.com)

Henry B. Eyring has been a counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since October 2007. Prior to this, he served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in April 1995. Like the other members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Eyring has had a Facebook account since 2013 “to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren.” On a regular basis he posts inspirational or instructive statements and occasionally includes an image.

On April 6, 2016, President Eyring posted his testimony of several things — Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, priesthood keys, The Book of Mormon, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon closer examination, President Eyring’s Facebook post is a chiasm. Instructive in many ways, it could be considered a mini-sermon.


Diagram and Analysis:

A: I bear you my witness that God the Father lives, a glorified and exalted Man. He is the Father of our spirits. He and His Beloved Son, both resurrected and glorified, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in a grove of trees in New York. They were there. The Father spoke to Joseph, first calling him by name and then introducing His Son.
B: Heavenly messengers came to restore all the priesthood keys of authority.
C: Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.
C: It had been written on plates by ancient prophets, one of whom gave them to Joseph and took them back when the translation was done.
B: The keys of the priesthood are on the earth today.
A: As a witness of Jesus Christ, I testify to you that I know He lives and that He leads His Church.

henry b eyring_facebook_status
(facebook.com)

A=A: “I bear you my witness that God the Father lives” complements “As a witness of Jesus Christ, I testify to you that I know He lives” and “He and His Beloved Son … both appeared to the boy Joseph Smith” complements “He leads His Church.” In this section, President Eyring testifies of two things. First, by equating his testimony of God the Father with his testimony of Jesus Christ, President Eyring is referring to the concept of divine investiture of authority, whereby Jesus represents or acts on behalf of Heavenly Father in all that He says and does. By testifying of both the Father and the Son, he is also referring to the process described in John 14:12-27, whereby Christ becomes the Second Comforter to the faithful, and, as Joseph Smith taught, “even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him” (TPJS, 151). Second, by comparing the origin story of the Church with the status of the Church today, President Eyring is testifying of the ever-present and very real leadership provided by the Lord through His living prophets.

B=B: “[P]riesthood keys” is equal to “keys of the priesthood.” The keys of the priesthood that were restored to Joseph Smith by “heavenly messengers” are still operative “on the earth today.” In other words, the Church has not drifted into apostasy, but has enjoyed an unbroken line of authority to act in the name of the Lord from the days of Joseph Smith to the days of Thomas S. Monson. This is in accord with prophecies concerning the latter-days. (See Isaiah 54:9-10; Jeremiah 33:15-18; Official Declaration-1; Jeffrey R. Holland, “Terror, Triumph, and a Wedding Feast.”)

C=C: “Joseph translated the Book of Mormon” complements “written on plates by ancient prophets.” The Book of Mormon contains the writings of ancient prophets and was translated by Joseph Smith “by the gift and power of God.” In other words, The Book of Mormon was not written by Joseph Smith nor any of his associates but is the record of ancient prophets. This process, of mortal man receiving divine help to accomplish God’s purposes, is the key to understanding the unfolding of the Restoration. Isaiah used this same example, the translation of The Book of Mormon, as a model to illustrate this process in the unfolding of the “marvelous work and a wonder” in the latter-days. If we have “eyes to see” we can see this process in action in the Church today as God works through man to accomplish His purposes.


Conclusion:

President Henry B. Eyring skillfully uses chiasmus to pack greater meaning into his relatively brief Facebook post. At first glance, his post is a powerful testimony of what he personally knows about the Restored Gospel. By using chiasmus, however, he is able to modestly disclose more intimate details about his testimony and how it was received. Ultimately, his Facebook post is a concise, inclusive witness of what he knows by revelatory means.

While much of what is posted on Facebook is intended for quick and easy consumption, President Eyring’s chiasm encourages us to slow down and ponder upon the words of the prophets, even though they may appear in commonplace spaces. With the knowledge they possess — the result of personal faithfulness and the gift of revelation — we can rely upon their teachings as if they come directly from the Lord.

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The Standard of Truth: Chiasmus in Joseph Smith’s “Wentworth Letter”

 

Joseph_Smith_portrait_crop
Joseph Smith (lds.org)

Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, served as president of the Church from 1830 until his death in 1844. Chiasmus in his canonical writings is well documented, including The Book of Mormon (1830), an ancient record he translated with divine assistance, and The Doctrine & Covenants (1835), a collection of revelations he received beginning in 1823. Less known, however, is chiasmus that appears in Joseph Smith’s non-canonical writings.

In 1842, in response to a request for information about the Church from John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, Joseph Smith wrote the now famous “Wentworth Letter.” This document is a “sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints.” Its most well-known passages are “The Standard of Truth,” a poetic and expansive prophecy of the Church’s missionary efforts, and “The Articles of Faith,” a brief summary of Church beliefs that was canonized in 1880.

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The Wentworth Letter as it appeared in the Times & Seasons on 1 March 1842 (lib.byu.edu)

According to The Joseph Smith Papers, Joseph Smith may have had the help of scribes in composing the Wentworth Letter. Additionally, in describing his “early visionary experiences” and summarizing the Church’s beliefs, he borrowed from Orson Pratt’s pamphlet, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records (1840). Pratt, in turn, quoted passages from Oliver Cowdery’s eight letters on Church history that had previously been published in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate (1834-5). However, as The Joseph Smith Papers concludes, “Whatever his debt to … others, [Joseph Smith] took responsibility for [the letter] when it was published in the Times and Seasons” on 1 March 1842 under the name “Church History.”

Chiasmus is found throughout the Wentworth Letter. For purposes of length, however, this article will focus on diagramming and analyzing The Standard of Truth, which is part of a larger chiastic structure, and only touch lightly on additional chiasms.


Oliver_Cowdery_portrait_crop
Oliver Cowdery (mormonhistoricsites.org)

The Standard of Truth may have been based on a passage in the eighth of Oliver Cowdery’s eight letters (28 May 1835) that documents a prophecy given by the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith on the Hill Cumorah in 1823. According to the original manuscript of Cowdery’s account, the Angel Moroni declared:

“[W]hen it is known that the Lord has shown you these things [i.e. the gold plates], the workers of iniquity will seek your overthrow: they will circulate falshoods [sic] to destroy your reputation, and also will seek to take your life; but remember this, if you are faithful, and shall hereafter continue to keep the commandments of the Lord, you shall be preserved to bring these things forth; for in due time he will again give you a commandment to come and take them. When they are interpreted the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands. Then will persecution rage more and more; for the iniquities of men shall be rev[e]aled, and those who are not built upon the Rock will seek to overthrow this church; but it will inecrease [sic] the more opposed, and spread farther and farther, increaseing [sic] in knowledge till they shall be sanctified and receive an inheritance where the glory of God will rest upon them; and when this takes place, and all things are prepared, the ten tribes of Israel will be revealed in the north country, whither they have been for a long season; and when this is fulfilled will be brought to pass that saying of the prophets—’And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord’ [Isaiah  59:20].” (emphasis added)

In this passage, persecution will come upon Joseph Smith for possessing the gold plates and later upon the Church for possessing divine authority and proclaiming the gospel. Interestingly, there appears to be a proportional relationship between persecution and Church growth. Additionally, persecution will serve to sanctify Church members, leading to the return of the Lost Tribes of Israel and the establishment of Zion.

Echoes of this passage appear in Joseph Smith’s The Standard of Truth, which also describes a relationship between persecution and Church growth, and tells of missionary work culminating in a declaration from the Lord.


The Standard of Truth is part of a larger chiastic structure composed of two reflective chiasms joined by a parallelism. Since this chiastic structure consists of multiple parts, they will first be diagrammed and analyzed separately; then the reflective parts will be diagrammed and analyzed.

Diagram and Analysis of Separate Elements

Part 1: This chiasm reflects the chiasm in Part 3.

A: We have commenced to build a city called “Nauvoo” in Hancock co., we number from six to eight thousand here besides vast numbers in the county around and in almost every county of the state. We have a city charter granted us and a charter for a legion the troops of which now number 1500. We have also a charter for a university, for an agricultural and manufacturing society, have our own laws and administrators, and possess all the privileges that other free and enlightened citizens enjoy.
B: Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame, it has spread with increasing rapidity, proud of the cause which they have espoused and conscious of our innocence and of the truth of their system amidst calumny and reproach have
C: the elders of this Church gone forth,
C: and planted the gospel in almost every state in the Union;
B: it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages and
A: has caused thousands of our intelligent, noble, and patriotic citizens to obey its divine mandates, and be governed by its sacred truths.

A=A: “[S]ix to eight thousand here besides vast numbers in the county around and in almost every county of the state” complements “thousands” to numerically describe the growth of the Church.

 B=B: “[S]pread with increasing rapidity” is equivalent to  “spread over our villages” to geographically describe the growth of the Church. This section introduces the important concept that persecution is the engine of growth for the Church — the same concept Oliver Cowdery documented from the words of the Angel Moroni, that the greater the persecution, the more rapid the growth. This concept is later emphasized using chiasmus in Part 3 and in the larger-scale chiasm (see Analysis of Reflective Parts, below).

 C=C: “[G]one forth” complements “planted the gospel” to describe the focus of the elders’ activities. They are not a group of fly-by-night itinerant ministers, but are intent on permanently establishing and organizing the Church wherever they go. 


Part 2: This parallelism connects the two reflective chiasms (Parts 1 and 3) and anchors the message of the larger chiastic structure.

A: It has also spread into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: in the year 1839 where a few of our missionaries were sent
B: over five thousand joined the standard of truth, there are numbers now joining in every land.
A: Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places,
B: the standard of truth has been erected:

A=A: “[O]ur missionaries were sent” parallels “our missionaries are going forth” to describe the nations where missionaries have been. From its small beginning in the British Isles, missionary work has expanded to mainland Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia, and elsewhere.

B=B: “[S]tandard of truth” parallels “standard of truth” to describe the message the missionaries share throughout the earth. The Church will grow regardless of opposition because its teachings are a message of truth to all the world and provide a standard for all to live by.


Part 3: This chiasm reflects the chiasm in Part 1.

A: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing,
B: persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame,
C: but the truth of God will go forth
C: boldly, nobly, and independent
B: till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear,
A: till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

A=A: “[N]o unhallowed hand can stop the work” complements  “the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” No matter the efforts of man to counter the work of the missionaries, the work will not stop until the Lord declares it complete. Implied here is not only a divine mandate, but the promise of divine protection.

B=B: “[P]ersecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame” complements “penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear.” Here is emphasized the important concept introduced in Part 1 that persecution is the engine of growth for the Church. Defamation and calumny allow the message to sound in every ear, raging persecutions expedite its penetration of continents, combining mobs facilitate its visiting of climes, and assembled armies help the divine message to sweep countries. In other words, the Church will grow because of opposition, not in spite of it.

C=C: “[T]he truth of God will go forth” complements “boldly, nobly, and independent” to describe how the Lord and the Church, acting together, will carry out the divine mandate.


Analysis of Reflective Parts

Studied as a whole, the larger chiastic structure sheds additional light on the destiny of the missionary efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To understand how these elements fit together to form this larger structure, it may help to visualize them as parts of a book cover. The first chiasm (Part 1) represents the front cover, the second chiasm (Part 3) represents the back cover, complementing and balancing the front cover in meaning and structure; and the central parallelism (Part 2) represents the binding that holds the whole statement together. Significantly, in some instances words that corresponded to form the chiasms in Parts 1 and 3 are not the same words that correspond to form the larger chiastic structure.

A: We have commenced to build a city called “Nauvoo” in Hancock co., we number from six to eight thousand here besides vast numbers in the county around and in almost every county of the state. We have a city charter granted us and a charter for a legion the troops of which now number 1500. We have also a charter for a university, for an agricultural and manufacturing society, have our own laws and administrators, and possess all the privileges that other free and enlightened citizens enjoy.
A: has caused thousands of our intelligent, noble, and patriotic citizens to obey its divine mandates, and be governed by its sacred truths.
A: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing
A: till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

A=A: “[S]ix to eight thousand here besides vast numbers in the county around and in almost every county of the state” and “thousands” complements “no unhallowed hand can stop the work” and “the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” The first half (Part 1) provides growth evidence of the unhindered, divinely appointed work of the Church declared in the last half (Part 3).

B: Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame, it has spread with increasing rapidity, proud of the cause which they have espoused and conscious of our innocence and of the truth of their system amidst calumny and reproach
B: it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages
B: persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame
B: till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear

B=B: “Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame, it has spread with increasing rapidity” and “it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages” is equivalent to “persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame” and “penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear.” Notice the repetition of the words “persecution,” calumny,” and “penetrated” in Part 1 that are not pairing elements of the original chiasm, but connect only with corresponding words in Part 3. This provides evidence that the chiasm in Part 1 is intended to be compared with the chiasm in Part 3 for additional insight. Further emphasis is given here that persecution is the engine of growth for the Church. Outwardly, to those who oppose the missionary efforts of the Church, this is a courageous, almost taunting, message. Inwardly, however, to the membership of the Church, this message provides comfort, perspective, and direction — rather than be frightened and discouraged by opposition, the faithful should see it as evidence of the divine mandate in operation and a testimony of the truthfulness of Mormonism.

C: the elders of this Church gone forth
C: and planted the gospel in almost every state in the Union
C: but the truth of God will go forth
C: boldly, nobly, and independent

C=C: “[T]he elders of this Church gone forth” and “planted the gospel in almost every state in the Union” complements “the truth of God will go forth” and “boldly, nobly, and independent.” Notice, once again, the similar wording — “gone forth” and “go forth” — that are not pairing elements in the smaller chiasms but provide a link between the first chiasm (Part 1) and the second chiasm (Part 3). This is further evidence that these chiasms are intended to be compared as part of a larger chiastic structure. This section offers a description of the behavior and demeanor of missionaries and the character, practices, and policies of the Church as it is organized throughout the earth. The missionaries who have “gone forth” personify the “truth of God” that “go[es] forth” and must be consistent in action with the principles of the Gospel. This also applies to Church members throughout the earth, since every member is a missionary. Additionally, the Church as it is organized throughout the earth is “boldly, nobly, and independent;” these terms are used throughout the scriptures and in the teachings of modern-day prophets. As the missionaries continue to go forth, the Church will continue to be organized in nation after nation and the Lord will continue to use opposition to fuel this growth “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”


Additional Chiasms

1. The chiasm which follows, which is similar to several verses of the more familiar “Joseph Smith–History” account in the Pearl of Great Price, describes Joseph’s humble upbringing, search for truth, and prophetic call. Structurally, it contrasts Joseph’s humble origins with his exalted call to restore the Church of Jesus Christ and the confusion he felt while searching for truth with the clarity he was given about the coming restoration and fulfillment of God’s covenant with ancient Israel. It compares his vision of the Father of the Son with the Angel Moroni’s later visit to show that they were both divine. The central focus contrasts the Christianity of Joseph’s youth that lacked divine authority with the restored Christianity of his adulthood that would possess priesthood authority.

A: I was born in the town of Sharon, Windsor co., Vermont, on the 23d of December, A.D. 1805. When ten years old my parents removed to Palmyra, New York, where we resided about four years, and from thence we removed to the town of Manchester. My father was a farmer and taught me the art of husbandry.
B: When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state, and upon enquiring [of] the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment; if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another, each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, He would not teach another, principles which were diametrically opposed.
C: Believing the word of God I had confidence in the declaration of James; “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not and it shall be given him,” I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord, while fervently engaged in supplication my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day.
D: They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom.
D: And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.
C: On the evening of the 21st of September, A.D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance, and brightness burst into the room, indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded.
B: This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign.
A: I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.


2. The following chiasm describes the translation and contents of The Book of Mormon. The first half provides a physical description of the gold plates, whereas the second half describes its translated contents that are found in The Book or Mormon. The central focus describes the Urim and Thummim, the instrument prepared by God to make translation of the ancient record possible.

A: I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country [America], and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me: I was also told where there was deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgment of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22d of September, A.D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.
These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving.
B: With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.
B: Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God.
A: In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century [before] the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century [A.D]. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Savior made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection, that he planted the gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as was enjoyed on the eastern continent, that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions, that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, &c., and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days. For a more particular account I would refer to the Book of Mormon, which can be purchased at Nauvoo, or from any of our travelling elders.


Conclusion

A chiastic study of Joseph Smith’s Wentworth Letter provides a wealth of insights concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith, his work, and the foreseen destiny of the Church. In particular, it helps us better understand the message of The Standard of Truth — that persecution is the engine of growth for the Church and should be utilized rather than feared or avoided. As the Church is beginning to see a growing opposition after enjoying relative peace for several years, it becomes us as members of the Church to strengthen our testimonies and deepen our conversions. As we do so, the Church will grow in proportion to the persecution it receives and the saints will be refined and prepared for Zion and the Lord’s Second Coming.

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