Courageous Things: Chiasmus in Russell M. Nelson’s “Becoming True Millennials”

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Russell M. Nelson (facebook.com)

Russell M. Nelson has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since April 1984. Following the death of President Boyd K. Packer in July 2015, he was set apart as the president of the Quorum. Prior to his call to full-time church service he served in several leadership capacities, including Stake President, General Sunday School President, and Regional Representative. Professionally, he worked as a surgeon and medical researcher and is internationally respected for his pioneering contributions to open-heart surgery.

In January 2016, President Nelson delivered a sermon at a Worldwide Devotional for young adults. He spoke on “Becoming True Millennials” and shared many examples from his life to illustrate the types of situations and opportunities that lay ahead for the Millennial generation.

“Becoming True Millennials” contains several chiastic structures that add precision to the meaning of specific passages and enrich his overall sermon. This article presents six chiasms from President Nelson’s sermon, divided by two general themes: True Millennials and The Prophetic Process.


Part 1: True Millennials

In the following three chiasms, President Nelson defines what he means by the term “Millennial,” in contrast to how social researchers use it, and instructs his audience about specific things they can do to become “True” Millennials.

#1:

A: Many people refer to you as Millennials.
B: I’ll admit that when researchers refer to you by that word and describe what their studies reveal about you—your likes and dislikes, your feelings and inclinations, your strengths and weaknesses—I’m uncomfortable. There is something about the way they use the term Millennial that bothers me.
C: And frankly, I am less interested in what the experts have to say about you
C: than what the Lord has told me about you.
B: When I pray about you and ask the Lord how He feels about you, I feel something far different from what the researchers say.
A: Spiritual impressions I’ve received about you lead me to believe that the term Millennial may actually be perfect for you. But for a much different reason than the experts may ever understand.

A=A: “[Y]ou as Millennials” correlates with “the term Millennial may actually be perfect for you.” While the term “Millennial” is used by secular society to describe the first generation to come of age after the year 2000, the term also has significant spiritual implications that apply to prophesied events in the near future. Coincidentally, this term is used by the world and by President Nelson, although differently, to describe the same population.

B=B: “[R]esearchers” contrasts with “the Lord” and “I’m uncomfortable” contrasts with “I feel something far different.” The findings and insights of researchers about Millennials are not in agreement with what the Lord has revealed to President Nelson through His Spirit. As a result, President Nelson has opposing feelings about the two messages — “uncomfortable” and “bother[ed]” by the researchers and “something far different” by the Lord.

C=C: “[E]xperts have to say about you” contrasts with “the Lord has told me about you.” The “experts” of the world can be helpful and contribute much with their findings and insights, but what the Lord has to say on a given topic should be of greater interest to us. Where the two differ, wisdom dictates that we should follow the Lord. This is a true principle that applies to every situation and in every setting.


#2:

A: The term Millennial is perfect for you if that term reminds you of who you really are and what your purpose in life really is.
B: A True Millennial is one who was taught and did teach the gospel of Jesus Christ premortally
C: and who made covenants with our Heavenly Father there about courageous things—even morally courageous things—that you would do while here on earth.
C: A True Millennial is a man or woman whom God trusted enough to send to earth during the most compelling dispensation in the history of this world.
B: A True Millennial is a man or woman who lives now to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His millennial reign.
A: Make no mistake about it—you were born to be a True Millennial.

A=A: “Millennial” equates with “True Millennial.” The equality of these terms is conditional, based on whether “that term reminds” young adults “of who [they] really are and what [their] purpose in life really is.”

B=B: “[D]id teach the gospel of Jesus Christ premortally” equates with “lives now to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His millennial reign.” President Nelson provides prophetic insight into the role Millennials play in our Heavenly Father’s Plan. They are teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the purpose of preparing people for the next phase of the Plan. In the premortal realm they prepared people for mortality; today they prepare people for “the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His millennial reign.”

C=C: “[M]ade covenants with our Heavenly Father” equates with “God trusted,” and “morally courageous things–that you would do while here on earth” equates with “most compelling dispensation in the history of this world.” A covenant with God is a reassuring sign of God’s trust. Millennials need that reassurance as they are living in the “most compelling dispensation in the history of this world,” a time that requires moral courage in order to follow through with their covenant role as “preparers.”


#3:

A: As a True Millennial whom the Lord can count on, you will make history too! You will be asked to accept challenging assignments and become an instrument in the Lord’s hands. And He will enable you to accomplish the impossible.
B: How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth.
B: As a True Millennial, anchored in pure doctrine,
A: when you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.

A=A: “[A]sked to accept challenging assignments” equates with “asked to do impossible things.” President Nelson provides a glimpse of what lies ahead for Millennials. They will be given “challenging assignments” by the Lord, but, like Nephi, they will be able to respond with faith, “dogged persistence,” and cheerfulness, knowing that the Lord will “enable [them] to accomplish the impossible.”

B=B: “Strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth” equates with “anchored in pure doctrine.” The key to being able to “do impossible things” is being “anchored in pure doctrine,” through study of Church doctrine and “by relentlessly seeking truth.”


Part 2: The Prophetic Process

In the next three chiasms, President Nelson describes the “prophetic process” and shows how this same process is followed when receiving personal revelation.

#4:

A: We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators.
B: When a thorny problem arises—and they only seem to get thornier each day—these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord.
C: After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my Brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned.
C: And my Brethren have the same experience.
B: The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively.
A: And then we watch the Lord move upon the President of the Church to proclaim the Lord’s will.

A=A: “15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators” corresponds to “President of the Church.” Although the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles each hold all the revealed keys of the priesthood, the President of the Church directs their use. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece on the earth. (See Bruce R. McConkie, “The Keys of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 1983.)

B=B: “[T]hese 15 men wrestle with the issue” equates with “the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together.” Before the Lord’s will is proclaimed, the “15 men” put forth a collective effort to thoroughly understand the issue. This is done through reason and revelation.

C=C: “[I]t is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions” equates with “my Brethren have the same experience.” In addition to their collective effort, each of the 15 men put forth an individual effort and often receive “further impressions” pertaining to the issue at hand.


#5:

A: This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries and again with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries.
B: Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter.
C: Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise.
C: We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration.
B: And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.
A: Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.

A=A: “[P]rophetic process” equates with “sacred process.” The example of this process featured in this chiasm serves as a model for personal application.

B=B: “Lord’s will” equates with “will of the Lord.” In order to understand the Lord’s will, we need to be in tune with the Spirit of the Lord, which requires charity.

C=C: “[W]e considered” equates with “we met repeatedly in the temple.” The “prophetic process” includes both reason and revelation.


#6 — President Nelson posted this chiasm to his Facebook page on June 16, 2016, which was the impetus for this article:

A: My dear brothers and sisters, you have as much access to the mind and will of the Lord for your own life as we Apostles do for His Church. Just as the Lord requires us to seek and ponder, fast and pray, and study and wrestle with difficult questions, He requires you to do the same as you seek answers to your own questions.
B: You can learn to hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
B: As helpful as Google, Twitter, and Facebook may seem, they simply do not provide answers to your most important questions!
A: My dear young friends, you can know the mind and will of the Lord for your own life. You do not have to wonder if you are where the Lord needs you to be or if you are doing what He needs you to do. You can know! The Holy Ghost will tell you “all things what ye should do.”

A=A: “Mind and will of the Lord for your own life” equates with “mind and will of the Lord for your own life.” Members of the Church have the same “access” to the “mind and will of the Lord” for their individual lives as the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles do for the Church and the world. The key is developing that gift through “seek[ing] and ponder[ing], fast[ing] and pray[ing], and study[ing] and wrestl[ing] with difficult questions.”

B=B: “[W]hisperings of the Holy Ghost” contrasts with “Google, Twitter, and Facebook.” For our “most important questions,” rather than seeking the wisdom of “experts” and others as found on “Google, Twitter, and Facebook,” we should seek to “hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.”


Conclusion:

A chiastic study of President Nelson’s sermon enables a deeper and more thorough understanding of his message, which is filled with inspiring and practical counsel for young adults. In concluding his sermon, President Nelson warned* young adults of the “somber reality … that there are ‘servants of Satan’ embedded throughout society” who make “a mock of that which [is] sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation” (see Helaman 4:12). This mockery is in direct opposition to President Nelson’s sermon, which offers keys for developing “the spirit of prophecy and of revelation.” Our hope is that this article will serve to strengthen the youth of the Church by helping them more fully incorporate President Nelson’s message into their lives. As a result, they will be enabled to identify and reject the “servants of Satan” they encounter and, instead, embrace their identity as “True Millennials.”


*This warning is in the form of a parallelism:

A: Around 41 b.c., many Nephites joined the Church, and the Church prospered.
B: But secret combinations also began to grow, and many of their cunning leaders hid among the people and were difficult to detect.
C: As the people became more and more prideful, many of the Nephites made “a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation.”
A: Those same threats are among us today.
B: The somber reality is that there are “servants of Satan” embedded throughout society.
C: So be very careful about whose counsel you follow.

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