Dieter F. Uchtdorf has served in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since February 2008. Prior to this, he served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in October 2004 and as a General Authority beginning in April 1994.
President Uchtdorf was born in Czechoslovakia, but because of World War II was painfully uprooted twice in his boyhood years. He spent his teenage years in Frankfurt, Germany where he joined the German Air Force as a fighter pilot. Afterward, he spent his career as a commercial pilot and airline administrator.
Like the other members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Uchtdorf 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, often including an image or video.
On June 21, 2016, President Uchtdorf posted a four-paragraph message about Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon. Upon closer examination, President Uchtdorf’s Facebook post is a chiasm that reinforces and reveals the deeper subtleties of his message. In form and content it is a literary gem.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: Not long ago, the Church published photos and background information on seer stones.
B: People have asked me, “Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?” And I answer, “Yes! That is exactly what I believe.” This was done as Joseph said: by the gift and power of God.
C: In reality, most of us use a kind of “seer stone” every day. My mobile phone is like a “seer stone.” I can get the collected knowledge of the world through a few little inputs. I can take a photo or a video with my phone and share it with family on the other side of our planet.
D: I can even translate anything into or from many different languages!
E: If I can do this with my phone, if human beings
F: can do this with their phones or other devices,
F: who are we to say that God could not help
E: Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration,
D: with his translation work?
C: If it is possible for me to access the knowledge of the world through my phone, who can question that seer stones are impossible for God?
B: Many religions have objects, places, and events that are sacred to them. We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us.
A: We should never be arrogant, but rather polite and humble. We still should have a natural confidence, because this is the Church of Jesus Christ.
A=A: “Church” equates with “Church of Jesus Christ.” When the Church publishes material about its history and beliefs, it is not doing so out of compulsion, fear, or embarrassment. Rather it does so with “a natural confidence” because it is the Church of Jesus Christ.
B=B: “‘Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?’” contrasts with “We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us.” Oftentimes, people who would otherwise be polite and respectful are highly critical and disparaging of the beliefs of others. Mormons are all too familiar with this, both in our history and in the present day. Rather than develop a victim mentality, the Church shows respect for the “sacred beliefs of other religions.”
C=C: “[M]obile phone” compares to “seer stones.” If man can develop complex, technologically advanced tools to help him accomplish his work, why can’t the God of the Universe provide divine tools to help His servants accomplish His work?
D=D: “”[T]ranslate” equates with “translation.” Both mobile phones and seer stones have the power to translate languages for the use of man.
E=E: “[H]uman beings” equates with “Joseph Smith.” Although Joseph Smith was a prophet, he was also a human being. In order for him to accomplish God’s work he needed divine assistance. On a more subtle level, this reinforces the position that Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith.
F=F: “[P]hones” contrasts with “God.” As mobile phones have developed greater and greater powers, society has become more and more obsessed with them. Oftentimes, consumers will wait in line for several hours just to get the latest model, which will become outdated in a few months. How much different would our society be if we would place that same devotion toward God (who is all-powerful and all-knowing) and the revelations He gives His prophets?
A chiastic analysis of President Uchtdorf’s Facebook post emphasizes the subtleties of his message: the Church possesses a natural confidence because it is led by Jesus Christ; the sacred beliefs of all people should be respected, even if they seem hokey; mobile phones, which were a science fiction dream a generation ago, are not much different than seer stones; Joseph Smith was a human being, not a God or Christ-figure; mobile phones are a modern-day idol. Like our earlier post about Henry B. Eyring’s Facebook chiasm, Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Facebook chiasm is another reminder for us to slow down and ponder the words of the prophets, even though they may appear in commonplace spaces.