Dallin H. Oaks has been a member of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1984. Prior to his call to full-time church service, Elder Oaks served as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court beginning in 1980 and as president of Brigham Young University beginning in 1971.
In the April 2016 General Conference of the Church, Elder Oaks gave an address on the “essential role” of opposition in our Heavenly Father’s Plan for our eternal development. His address, “Opposition In All Things,” contains several strong chiasms that provide precision in meaning. This article presents one extensive chiasm in detail, providing a step-by-step analysis. Afterward, six additional chiasms are presented and receive a less detailed treatment.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to the Father’s plan and to Satan’s rebellion against it.
B: As the Lord revealed to Moses, in the council of heaven Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3).
C: That destruction was inherent in the terms of Satan’s offer. He came before the Father and said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).
D: Thus, Satan proposed to carry out the Father’s plan in a way that would prevent the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and give Satan His glory.
E: Satan’s proposal would have ensured perfect equality: it would “redeem all mankind,” that not one soul would be lost.
F: There would be no agency or choice by anyone and, therefore, no need for opposition.
F: There would be no test, no failure, and no success. There would be no growth to attain the purpose the Father desired for His children.
E: The scriptures record that Satan’s opposition resulted in a “war in heaven” (Revelation 12:7), in which two-thirds of the children of God earned the right to experience mortal life by choosing the Father’s plan and rejecting Satan’s rebellion.
D: Satan’s purpose was to gain for himself the Father’s honor and power (see Isaiah 14:12–15; Moses 4:1, 3).
C: “Wherefore,” the Father said, “because that Satan rebelled against me, … I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:3) with all the spirits who had exercised their agency to follow him (see Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:8–9; D&C 29:36–37). Cast down as unembodied spirits in mortality, Satan and his followers tempt and seek to deceive and captivate the children of God (see Moses 4:4).
B: So it is that the evil one, who opposed and sought to destroy the Father’s plan, actually facilitated it,
A: because it is opposition that enables choice and it is the opportunity of making the right choices that leads to the growth that is the purpose of the Father’s plan.
A=A: “[A]gency and opposition” is complemented by “it is opposition that enables choice” and “central to the Father’s plan” equates with “the purpose of the Father’s plan.” Agency and opposition are “central to the Father’s plan” because opposition enables choice and making right choices is what leads to “the growth that is the purpose of the Father’s plan.” In contrast, Satan sought to remove both agency and opposition in an effort to thwart the plan.
B=B: “[S]ought to destroy” equals “sought to destroy.” In his effort to destroy the Father’s plan, Satan “actually facilitated it” by providing the opposition needed for agency to function.
C=C: “He came before the Father” is complemented by “Satan and his followers tempt and seek to deceive and captivate the children of God.” Just as Satan seeks to “deceive and captivate the children of God” in mortality, he first sought to deceive Heavenly Father at the council in heaven. Evidently, he tried to take advantage of Heavenly Father’s infinite love for His posterity by guaranteeing to redeem each one, but he underestimated Heavenly Father’s infinite wisdom and sense of justice. Satan’s plan was not even a viable option; it was a complete lie.
D=D: “[P]revent the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and give Satan his glory” equates with “Satan’s purpose was to gain for himself the Father’s honor and power.” Ultimately, Satan was motivated by pride; he wanted Heavenly Father’s “honor,” which is His “power” (see D&C 29:36).
E=E: “[N]ot one soul would be lost” contrasts with “two-thirds of the children of God earned the right to experience mortal life by choosing the Father’s plan and rejecting Satan’s rebellion.” Paradoxically, in his deceptive efforts to “redeem all mankind,” Satan halted the progress of one-third of the spirit children of God. Only those who successfully opposed Satan’s efforts were qualified to move forward into mortality.
F=F: “[N]o agency or choice … no need for opposition” is complemented by “no test, no failure, and no success … no growth to attain the purpose the Father desired for His children.” By removing agency and opposition, Satan would ultimately have prevented growth and exaltation.
#1 — This chiasm emphasizes the tempering influence of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which allows opposition to fuel our progress rather than prevent it through our wrong choices.
A: Central to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the Father’s plan of salvation for the eternal progress of His children. That plan, explained in modern revelation, helps us understand many things we face in mortality. My message focuses on the essential role of opposition in that plan.
B: The purpose of mortal life for the children of God is to provide the experiences needed “to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”
C: As President Thomas S. Monson taught us so powerfully this morning, we progress by making choices,
D: by which we are tested to show that we will keep God’s commandments (see Abraham 3:25).
D: To be tested,
C: we must have the agency to choose between alternatives.
B: To provide alternatives on which to exercise our agency, we must have opposition.
A: The rest of the plan is also essential. When we make wrong choices—as we inevitably will—we are soiled by sin and must be cleansed to proceed toward our eternal destiny. The Father’s plan provides the way to do this, the way to satisfy the eternal demands of justice: a Savior pays the price to redeem us from our sins. That Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father, whose atoning sacrifice—whose suffering—pays the price for our sins if we will repent of them.
#2 — This chiasm explains how opposition takes us from the realm of innocence into the realm of accountability. Confronted with options, we must choose for ourselves and reap the results.
A: One of the best explanations of the planned role of opposition is in the Book of Mormon, in Lehi’s teachings to his son Jacob. “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).
B: As a result, Lehi continued, “the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself
C: save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (verse 16).
C: Similarly, in modern revelation the Lord declares, “It must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men,
B: or they could not be agents unto themselves” (D&C 29:39).
A: Opposition was necessary in the Garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve had not made the choice that introduced mortality, Lehi taught, “they would have remained in a state of innocence, … doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:23).
#3 — In this chiasm, the bitter forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden represents the various forms of opposition we encounter throughout life, including “temptation to sin” and “difficult circumstances.”
A: Significantly, the temptation to sin is not the only kind of opposition in mortality.
B: Father Lehi taught that if the Fall had not taken place, Adam and Eve “would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery” (2 Nephi 2:23). Without the experience of opposition in mortality, “all things must needs be a compound in one,” in which there would be no happiness or misery (verse 11).
C: Therefore, Father Lehi continued, after God had created all things, “to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, …
D: it must needs be that there was an opposition;
D: even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter” (verse 15).
C: His teaching on this part of the plan of salvation concludes with these words: “Behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
B: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (verses 24–25).
A: Opposition in the form of difficult circumstances we face in mortality is also part of the plan that furthers our growth in mortality.
#4 — In this chiasm, opposition is a universal mortal experience and is manifest in various ways and to varying degrees, to the end that we “grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.”
A: All of us experience various kinds of opposition that test us.
B: Some of these tests are temptations to sin. Some are mortal challenges apart from personal sin.
B: Some are very great. Some are minor. Some are continuous, and some are mere episodes.
A: None of us is exempt. Opposition permits us to grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.
#5 — To illustrate how opposition can manifest itself in our own lives, this chiasm shows to what extent Joseph Smith had to face opposition in order to publish the Book of Mormon after translating it. As with our own trials, “the Lord did not make it easy, but He did make it possible.”
A: After Joseph Smith had completed translating the Book of Mormon, he still had to find a publisher. This was not easy. The complexity of this lengthy manuscript and the cost of printing and binding thousands of copies were intimidating. Joseph first approached E. B. Grandin, a Palmyra printer, who refused.
B: He then sought another printer in Palmyra, who also turned him down.
C: He traveled to Rochester, 25 miles (40 km) away, and approached the most prominent publisher in western New York, who also turned him down.
B: Another Rochester publisher was willing, but circumstances made this alternative unacceptable.
A: Weeks had passed, and Joseph must have been bewildered at the opposition to accomplishing his divine mandate. The Lord did not make it easy, but He did make it possible. Joseph’s fifth attempt, a second approach to the Palmyra publisher Grandin, was successful.
#6 — Referring to the words of the Lord to Joseph Smith and the teachings of President Thomas S. Monson, this chiasm informs us that opposition is for our good, since it gives us “experience” and “presents us with the real test of our ability to endure.” While we may wonder about the wisdom of our present trials, Heavenly Father knows that “we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices.”
A: Years later, Joseph was painfully imprisoned in Liberty Jail for many months. When he prayed for relief, the Lord told him that “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
B: We are all acquainted with other kinds of mortal opposition not caused by our personal sins, including illness, disability, and death.
C: President Thomas S. Monson explained: “Some of you may at times have cried out in your suffering, wondering why our Heavenly Father would allow you to go through whatever trials you are facing. …
C: “Our mortal life, however, was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices.
B: Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us.
A: These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.”
Dallin H. Oaks’ use of chiasmus serves to focus the reader’s attention on the meaning of specific passages of his address, leading to a thorough understanding of the role of opposition in our lives. With this understanding we are better equipped to use opposition proactively to accelerate our development, permitting us to “grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.”