To Love As He Loves: Chiasmus in Henry B. Eyring’s “Our Perfect Example”

henry-b-eyring_our-perfect-example
Henry B. Eyring (lds.org)

In a previous article we presented a chiasm President Henry B. Eyring posted on his Facebook wall in April 2016. This article presents chiasmus in “Our Perfect Example,” his General Conference address from October 2009, in which he testifies of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to help us “become better” throughout our lives.

One chiasm from this address is cited in our e-book, A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ (Westbench Publishing, 2016). In this article we present a diagram and detailed analysis of this chiasm, followed by a more general treatment of two additional chiasms from President Eyring’s address.


Diagram and Analysis:

A: Just as Jesus used a child in His mortal ministry as an example for the people of the pure love they must and could have to be like Him,
B: He has offered us the family as an example of an ideal setting in which we can learn how to love as He loves.
C: That is because the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows we experience are in family relationships.
D: The joys come from putting the welfare of others above our own. That is what love is.
D: And the sorrow comes primarily from selfishness, which is the absence of love.
C: The ideal God holds for us is to form families in the way most likely to lead to happiness and away from sorrow.
B: A man and a woman are to make sacred covenants that they will put the welfare and happiness of the other at the center of their lives.
A: Children are to be born into a family where the parents hold the needs of children equal to their own in importance. And children are to love parents and each other.

A=A: “[C]hild” equates with “Children” and “pure love” equates with “parents hold the needs of children equal to their own … [a]nd children are to love parents and each other.” By comparing a child in the meridian of time to children in contemporary culture, President Eyring shows the timeless importance of the family. In order for families to be successful, they must possess “pure love,” which he chiastically defines as parents holding “the needs of children equal to their own in importance” and children loving parents and each other.

B=B: “[F]amily” equates with “A man and a woman” and “learn how to love as He loves” equates with “put the welfare and happiness of the other at the center of their lives.” Like the Proclamation on the Family, of which he is a signer, President Eyring defines the family as being “between a man and a woman.” The “pure love” described in the previous section also applies to the relationship between husband and wife. In this section, he defines this love as putting “the welfare and happiness of the other at the center of their lives.”
C=C: “[J]oys” equates with “happiness” and “sorrows” is the same as “sorrow.” By seeking after and possessing pure love in our familial relationships, we can experience the “joys” and “happiness” God intends us to experience. If we reject or fail to cultivate this love, then we will experience “sorrow,” the opposite of happiness.
D=D: “[J]oys” contrasts with “sorrow” and “love” contrasts with “absence of love.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes President Eyring’s definition of “pure love.” In the first part, “joy” is the fruit of “love,” which is “putting the welfare of others above our own.” In the second part, “sorrow” is the result of “the absence of love,” which is “selfishness.”

Chiasmus in this passage from President Eyring’s talk reinforces his definition of “pure love,” or the love that Christ expresses and that we are to express in our families. By understanding that “love” contrasts with “selfishness” and “sorrow” contrasts with “joy” and “happiness,” we can more deliberately and successfully develop this kind of love in our familial relationships. Ultimately, we can achieve what President Eyring describes as “the ideal of a loving family.”


Additional Chiastic Structures:

#1 — This chiasm corrects the mistaken view of those who think they have “no need to improve” or who have “given up trying to be better.” Instead, the message of the Gospel is that “we can and must expect to become better” throughout our lives. The key to personal improvement is praying for the gift of charity so that we can be “true followers” of Christ and prepared for His Second Coming.

A: There may be a few who mistakenly feel they are good enough and a few who have given up trying to be better.
B: But, for all, the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can and must expect to become better as long as we live.
C: Part of that expectation is set for us in a revelation given by God to the Prophet Joseph Smith. It describes the day when we will meet the Savior, as we all will.
D: It tells us what to do to prepare and what to expect.
D: It is in the book of Moroni: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God;
C: that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”
B: That ought to help you understand why any believing Latter-day Saint is an optimist about what lies ahead for him or her, however difficult the present may be. We believe that through living the gospel of Jesus Christ we can become like the Savior, who is perfect.
A:Considering the attributes of Jesus Christ should quash the pride of the self-satisfied person who thinks he or she has no need to improve. And even the most humble person can take hope in the invitation to become like the Savior.


#2 — This chiasm describes an experience President Eyring had of watching a group of children sing the well-known Primary song, “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus.” He observed that the children sang with determination and confidence, fully believing perfection through the Atonement of Christ was possible. Such is the power of inspired music to build testimony.

A: How that wonderful transformation will happen is captured for me in a song written for children.
B: I remember watching the faces of a room full of children singing it on a Sunday. Each of the children was leaning forward, almost to the front of the chair. I could see light in their eyes and
C: determination in their faces as they sang with gusto.
D: You may have heard the song too. I hope it will sound forever in our memories. I only hope I can give it the feeling those children had.
D: I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways. I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say. At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, “Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, For these are the things Jesus taught.”
C: It seemed to me that they were not just singing; they were declaring their determination. Jesus Christ was their example. To be like Him was their fixed goal.
B: And their eager looks and their shining eyes convinced me that they had no doubts. They expected to succeed. They believed that the instruction of the Savior to be perfect was not a hope but a command. And they were sure He had prepared the way. That determination and confidence can and must be in the heart of every Latter-day Saint.
A: The Savior has prepared the way through His Atonement and His example. And even the children who sang that song knew how.


Conclusion:

In his writings that we have thus far presented, President Henry B. Eyring is a master of chiasmus. He writes with a high degree of precision and care in an effort to clearly teach the doctrines of the Gospel. In “Our Perfect Example,” he uses chiasmus to help us see that perfection is possible through the Atonement of Christ and to motivate us to keep putting forth the effort to improve. He also shows how “pure love” or unselfishness is the necessary key to establishing a happy family. The existence of chiasmus in the writings of our Church leaders is an invitation for us to carefully study and ponder their messages.

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