Simultaneously on Both Sides of the Veil: Chiasmus in Elder Renlund’s “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing”

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

During the April 2018 General Conference I was particularly struck by a medical story told by Apostle Dale G. Renlund, who worked as a medical doctor prior to his calling as a general authority. He specialized in cardiology and transplant medicine, providing the chronic after-care for patients who had received heart transplantation surgery. He has drawn upon his medical experience in several prior talks, including his first address as a general authority where he used transplant medicine as a gospel analogy for maintaining the mighty change of heart, and his first talk as an apostle where he told the touching story of a patient who tragically died (including a role-reversal, where the parents of the patient provided comfort to him, the grieving doctor).

Elder Renlund’s April 2018 address tells of a heart transplant recipient becoming an important figure in the life of his heart donor’s family. This relationship is culminated in the temple sealing ordinance, where the transplant recipient acts as proxy for his heart donor as he is sealed to his parents. This story is told using a long-form textual chiasm:

A. “Todd, if you really do have to go, I promise I’ll see to it that your temple work gets done.” The next morning, Todd was declared brain dead. Surgeons
B. transplanted
C. Todd’s heart into my patient, a remarkable individual named
D. Rod. A few months after the transplant, Rod learned the identity of his heart donor’s family and began to correspond with them. About two years later,
E. Todd’s mother, Betty, invited Rod to be present when she went to the temple for the first time. Rod and Betty first met in person in the
F. celestial room of the St. George Utah Temple. Sometime thereafter, Todd’s father—Betty’s husband—died. A couple of years later, Betty invited
G. Rod to
H. vicariously
H. represent
G. her deceased son in receiving his temple ordinances. Rod gratefully did so, and the proxy work culminated in a
F. sealing room in the St. George Utah Temple. Betty was sealed to her deceased husband, kneeling across the altar from her grandson who served as proxy. Then, with tears streaming down her cheeks,
E. she beckoned for Rod to join them at the altar.
D. Rod knelt beside them, acting as proxy for her son,
C. Todd, whose heart was still beating inside Rod’s chest.
B. Rod’s heart donor, Todd, was then sealed to his parents for all eternity.
A. Todd’s mother had kept the promise she made to her dying son years before.

Notice near the center of the structure that “Rod” and “her deceased son” (Todd) are paired elements, nested within the sacred rooms of the “St. George Utah Temple”. Betty’s “promise” to have her son’s temple work done forms the outer pair of elements, surrounding the sacred events in the interior of the chiasm. The literal meaning of the words is thus reinforced by the symbolic relationships between paired elements of the literary structure.

The entire subject of temple work is chiastic, as living descendants research family history and perform vicarious ordinances for ancestors who are deceased, with the center point of the relationship being the House of God where the ordinances are performed.

temple chiasmus_3

Elder Renlund’s talk contains the following chiasms, all of which emphasize the relationship between the temporal and eternal blessings of temple work:

We can perform the ordinances vicariously in temples, and our
A. ancestors may choose to accept the ordinances. We are also encouraged to help ward and stake members with their family names. It is
B. breathtakingly amazing that, through family history and temple work,
C. we can help to redeem the dead. But as we participate in family history and temple work today,
C. we also lay claim to “healing” blessings promised by prophets and apostles. These blessings are also
B. breathtakingly amazing because of their scope, specificity, and
A. consequence in mortality.

The ascending half of this chiasm refers to the “breathtakingly amazing” effects of temple work on those who have passed through the veil, as ancestors who choose to accept the ordinances may be saved and sealed, producing consequences in eternity. The descending side shows the mirror image, describing the “breathtakingly amazing” blessings given in mortality to those who participate in this work.

The following chiasm builds off of a quote from Ezekiel chapter 47 on the ascending side to explain the meaning of the symbolic language of the scriptural passage on the descending side:

A. “[and] the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: … for
B. they shall be healed; and
C. every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” Two characteristics of the water are noteworthy. First, though the small stream had no tributaries, it grew into a
D. mighty river, becoming wider and deeper the farther it flowed. Something similar happens with the blessings that flow from the temple as individuals are
E. sealed as families. Meaningful growth occurs going
F. backward and
F. forward through the generations as
E. sealing ordinances weld families together. Second, the
D. river
C. renewed everything that it touched. The blessings of the temple likewise have a
B. stunning capacity to heal. Temple blessings can
A. heal hearts and lives and families.

The river of water flowing from the temple through the desert to heal the Dead Sea is symbolic of the blessings of the temple, which flow into the lives of temple patrons and their family members in both directions (ancestors and descendants) and on both sides of the veil.

Elder Renlund concludes his talk with a reiteration of President Nelson’s invitation for us to “sacrifice” more of our “time” to do this important work of “temple and family history”, nested at the center of a long-form chiasm between a repeated quote from C. S. Lewis. Also emphasized in this structure is the doctrine that the Lord is the ultimate source of all of the healing and sealing blessings of the temple. The relationship of these elements within the chiastic structure suggests that our willing sacrifice in temple and family history work is at the center of our opportunity to call forth the blessings of heaven to heal us and our families.

A. “The Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’” God will
B. strengthen, help, and uphold us; and He will sanctify to us our deepest distress. When we gather our family histories and go to the temple on behalf of our ancestors,
C. God fulfills many of these promised blessings simultaneously on both sides of the veil. Similarly, we are blessed when we help others in our wards and stakes do the same. Members who do not live close to a temple also receive these blessings by participating in
D. family history work,
E. collecting the names of their ancestors for temple ordinances to be performed.
F. President Russell M. Nelson, however, cautioned: “We can be inspired all day long about
G. temple and family history experiences others have had. But
H. we must do something to actually experience the joy ourselves.” He continued, “I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of
I. sacrifice—preferably a
I. sacrifice of time—
H. you can make [to] do more
G. temple and family history work.” As you accept
F. President Nelson’s invitation, you will
E. discover, gather, and connect your family. Additionally, blessings will flow to you and your family like the river spoken of by Ezekiel. You will find healing for that which needs healing. Orson and Parley Pratt experienced the healing and sealing effects of
D. family history and temple work early in this dispensation. Betty, her family, and Rod experienced it. You can too. Through His atoning sacrifice,
C. Jesus Christ offers these blessings to all, both the dead and the living. Because of
B. these blessings,
A. we will find that we, metaphorically, “have never lived anywhere except … Heaven.”


Elder Renlund teaches through precept, story, and even the very literary structure of his talk, that the blessings of temple work are simultaneously distributed to people on both sides of the veil. Jesus Christ is the source of those blessings, as he is the central figure in the Plan of Salvation and the power by which families are sealed together in the temple.

(Alan B. Sanderson, MD is a guest author. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of

Stand Firm: Chiasmus in Dallin H. Oaks’ “The Plan and the Proclamation”

Perhaps the main controversy within the LDS Church over the past decade has concerned The Family: A Proclamation to the World. This document, announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in September 1995 and approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, lays out Latter-day Saint beliefs about the family and explains the importance of governmental efforts to strengthen the family.

Dallin H. Oaks (

Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ address at the October 2017 General Conference sought to clarify misunderstandings about the Proclamation and strengthen the faith and resolve of Church members to live and teach according to it. Elder Oaks also shared his experience participating in its creation. Describing it as a “revelatory process,” he explained how members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what they should say and how they should say it.” Elder Oaks affirmed that the Proclamation is “a statement of eternal truth.”*

To emphasize different aspects of his address, Elder Oaks used the rhetorical figures of chiasmus and parallelism, including several from the words of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle James, and Gordon B. Hinckley. Interestingly, in the New Testament examples, Elder Oaks selected the portion of the verse that is a chiasm or parallelism, and, in one instance, omitted text in order to create or enhance a chiasm. In this paper, we diagram and analyze examples from each of these Church leaders.

*For a detailed analysis of chiasmus in the family proclamation, see our ebook: A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ (Westbench Publishing, 2016).

Dallin H. Oaks

#1: Elder Oaks opened his talk with a chiasm that describes how Latter-day Saints “forgo participation” in “some subjects” because of their “unique doctrine” and efforts to “follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.”

A: As is evident in our family proclamation, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
B: are blessed with unique doctrine and different ways of viewing the world.
C: We participate and even excel
D: in many worldly activities,
D: but on some subjects
C: we forgo participation
B: as we seek to follow the teachings of
A: Jesus Christ and His Apostles, ancient and modern.

#2: In this parallelism, Elder Oaks describes how faithful Latter-day Saints, or “those who strive for exaltation,” differ from “the world’s way” in their “personal choices in family life.”

A: Even as we
B: must live with the marriage laws and other traditions
C: of a declining world,
A: those who strive for exaltation
B: must make personal choices in family life according to the Lord’s way
C: whenever that differs from the world’s way.

#3: Here, Elder Oaks uses a chiasm to contrast those who “grow and mature” by “choosing to obey God’s commandments” with those who “forgo that growth and maturity” by choosing to disobey or “deliberately refrain” from following God.

A: We grow and mature spiritually
B: by choosing to obey God’s commandments in a succession of right choices.
C: These include covenants and ordinances
C: and repentance when our choices are wrong.
B: In contrast, if we lack faith in God’s plan and are disobedient to or deliberately refrain from its required actions,
A: we forgo that growth and maturity.

#4: In this parallelism, Elder Oaks shows how faithful Latter-day Saints have “distinctive priorities and practices” because of their “worldview.” As these priorities and practices sometimes result in “frustrations and pains,” Latter-day Saints are blessed through “[o]ur Savior’s Atonement” with the “strength to endure.”

A: Latter-day Saints who understand God’s plan of salvation have a unique worldview
B: that helps them see the reason for God’s commandments, the unchangeable nature of His required ordinances, and the fundamental role of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
C: Our Savior’s Atonement reclaims us from death and, subject to our repentance, saves us from sin.
A: With that worldview, Latter-day Saints have
B: distinctive priorities and practices
C: and are blessed with the strength to endure the frustrations and pains of mortal life.

#5: In this parallelism, Elder Oaks contrasts “[t]hose who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation” with “Latter-day Saints,” implying that Church members who reject the doctrine of exaltation are on dangerous ground. Rather than being a mere “statement of policy that should be changed,” the family proclamation “defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.”

A: Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world
B: consider this family proclamation as
C: just a statement of policy that should be changed.
A: In contrast, Latter-day Saints
B: affirm that the family proclamation
C: defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.

#6: This parallelism expresses the dual responsibilities shouldered by Latter-day Saints: “following the gospel law in our personal lives” and “show[ing] love for all.”

A: We must try to
B: balance the competing demands of following the gospel law
C: in our personal lives and teachings,
A: even as we seek to
B: show love
C: for all.

#7: Elder Oaks uses a chiasm to declare his testimony that the family proclamation is “a statement of eternal truth” and to encourage Church members to “teach it” and “live by it.”

A: I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life.
B: It has been the basis of Church teaching and practice
C: for the last 22 years
C: and will continue so for the future.
B: Consider it as such, teach it, live by it,
A: and you will be blessed as you press forward toward eternal life.

#8: Referring to the teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson, this parallelism shows how “our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation” is one of the tests of our generation. Elder Oaks encourages us to “stand firm in that test.”

A: Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught
B: that “every generation has its tests
C: and its chance to stand and prove itself.”
A: I believe
B: our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation.
C: I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.

Jesus Christ

#1: In these two parallelisms, Jesus contrasts the things of God with the things of men and shows how our souls are infinitely more valuable than the riches of the world. (See Matthew 16:23, 26)

“Later, Jesus corrected Peter for not savoring

A: ‘the things that
B: be of God,
A: but those that
B: be of men,’

declaring, ‘For what is a man profited,

A: if he shall gain
B: the whole world,
A: and lose
B: his own soul?'”

#2: In these two antithetic chiasms, Jesus teaches His Apostles about the intolerance of the world. (see John 15:19)

A: “If ye were
B: of the world,
B: the world would
A: love his own:

A: but because ye are
B: not of the world,
B: … the world
A: hateth you.


#1: Mirroring the teachings of Jesus that contrast the things of God with the things of men, the Apostle Paul uses a parallelism to show how God is superior to man. (See 1 Corinthians 3:19)

A: “For the wisdom
B: of this world
A: is foolishness
B: with God.


#1: Building on these teachings that contrast God and the world, the Apostle James shows in this parallelism that man cannot be friends with both God and the world. (See James 4:4)

A: “the friendship
B: of the world
C: is enmity
D: with God[.]
A: Whosoever therefore will be a friend
B: of the world
C: is the enemy
D: of God

Gordon B. Hinckley

#1: When President Hinckley introduced the family proclamation on September 23, 1995, he included this three-part parallelism about the “sophistry,” “deception,” and “allurement and enticement” of the world that necessitated the “warn[ing] and forewarn[ing]” of the proclamation.

A: “With so much of
B: sophistry
C: that is passed off as truth,
A: with so much of
B: deception
C: concerning standards and values,
A: with so much of
B: allurement and enticement
C: to take on the slow stain of the world,
we have felt to warn and forewarn.”

#2: Using the rhetorical figure of anaphora, President Hinckley shared his optimistic vision about Church members who would faithfully “live the gospel” in “a very uncertain world.”

“I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world.
A: If we will
B: cling to our values,
A: if we will
B: build on our inheritance,
A: if we will
B: walk in obedience before the Lord,
A: if we will
B: simply live the gospel,
A: we will be
B: blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way.
A: We will be
B: looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.”


Elder Oaks’ skillful use of chiasmus and parallelism draws attention to and reinforces different aspects of his address. Specifically, chiasmus and parallelism allow him to contrast and compare with exactness and clarity and to focus the attention of his audience. A careful reading of his address, with an awareness of his use of rhetorical figures, will allow the seeker after truth to develop a correct understanding of the Proclamation and withstand the false teachings the adversary seeks to spread.

An Ever-Larger Cadre of Young Scholars: Chiasmus in Jeffrey R. Holland’s “The Greatness of the Evidence”

[UPDATE: This post received an HONORABLE MENTION AWARD at the Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association 2018 Conference in Provo, Utah.]

Jeffrey R. Holland (

On August 16, 2017, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at a Chiasmus Jubilee at Brigham Young University that commemorated 50 years since John W. Welch discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. It was on the morning of August 16, 1967 that Welch, a young LDS missionary serving in Germany, discovered chiasmus in Mosiah 5:10-12. The Chiasmus Jubilee was the conclusion of a two-day Chiasmus Conference that we attended and found to be worthwhile, as it brought together individuals from around the world who have an interest in chiasmus.  

Elder Holland has been described as “one of the greatest orators of this dispensation.”1 As such, he is a master at using rhetorical figures. Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s stealthful use of chiasmus in his essay describing his chiasmus methodology,2 Elder Holland made stealthful use of chiasmus in his talk honoring the accomplishments of John W. Welch.3

This article presents several small-scale chiasms and parallelisms from Elder Holland’s talk, a large-scale chiasm that encompasses his entire talk, and examples of other rhetorical figures.

Small-Scale Chiasms

Elder Holland opens his talk with a humorous chiasm, emphasizing the uniqueness of the event.

I don’t know about you,
A: but I don’t get invited to many jubilees.
B: Church conferences, yes.
B: Missionary meetings, yes.
B: An occasional barn raising, yes.
A: But it is rare to be part of a jubilee.

This chiasm presents a statement of gratitude for the accomplishments of John W. Welch framed within an expression of gratitude for gospel scholars throughout the Church. Welch represents the qualities of faith, loyalty, productivity, and legacy that describe the true Latter-day Saint scholar, of which there are “so many.”

A: I wish to say at the outset that the presiding officers of the Church appreciate and applaud the exceptional work being done by so many to search and to substantiate, to defend and promulgate the history and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including and especially the Book of Mormon, in a way both scholarly and spiritual.
B: Obviously one of the influential, representative figures in this generation of such work
C: is our friend and colleague John W. Welch, being honored tonight.
D: I have known and loved Jack and other members of the Welch family for at least 40 of the 50 years we are commemorating.
D: In deference to the clock I will not recount all of his academic accomplishments (much of which has been referenced here tonight), but suffice it to say,
C: Jack, that the Brethren are grateful for
B: your faith, your loyalty, your productivity, and what is increasingly your scholarly legacy in defending the kingdom of God.
A: That compliment is, of course, extended to a legion of other men and women across the Church who are putting their shoulders to the wheel of reasoned, determined, persuasive gospel scholarship.

Here we see a series of chiasms and parallelisms that emphasizes the role of the mind and the heart in receiving revelation through the Holy Ghost. It also emphasizes that all truth, whether it be of a spiritual or secular nature, is revealed in this way.

A: Faith and testimony, gospel devotion and Church loyalty, conviction so strong it leads to covenants and consecration are ultimately matters of the Spirit.
B: They come as a gift from God,
B: delivered and confirmed to our soul by the Holy Ghost in His divine role as revelator, witness, teacher of truth.
A: But it should be noted that truly rock-ribbed faith and uncompromised conviction comes with its most complete power when it engages our head as well as our heart.

A: “Behold, the Lord requireth
B: the heart and a willing mind,”4
A: Jehovah declared to the early Saints, and to Oliver Cowdery specifically He said,
B: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost. . . . Behold, this is the spirit of revelation.”5

I have always loved that definition of revelation. For one thing, it makes clear that
A: all revelation that can be called revelation
B: comes through the influence of the Holy Ghost
A: that is to say that the receipt of any truth is ultimately a spiritual experience, an enlightenment
B: facilitated and confirmed by the Holy Ghost.

Secondly, that definition makes it clear that
A: truth borne by the Holy Spirit comes with, in effect,
B: two manifestations,
B: two witnesses if you will—
A: the force of fact as well as the force of feeling.

Elder Holland uses a chiasm to parabolically tell the story of Nephi and Lehi’s mission to the Lamanites recorded in Helaman 5. Like the converted Lamanites who went forth and doubted not, we too ought to embrace the evidences the Lord has provided for our conversions and be bold in testifying of gospel truth.

A: One of the seldom-told but truly striking stories of conversion in all of scripture is
B: the success the later Nephi and Lehi had on their mission to the Lamanites outlined in the book of Helaman.
C: After a dramatic sequence of earthquakes and voices from heaven, of angels appearing and prison walls crumbling,
D: Mormon records that the people “were bidden to go forth
E: and marvel not,
E: neither should they doubt.
D: And . . . they did go forth . . .
C: declaring throughout . . . the [region] . . . all the things which they had heard and seen,
B: inasmuch that the more part of the Lamanites
A: were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received.”

After referring to Hebrews 11:1, Elder Holland uses a chiasm to declare how the Book of Mormon, a tangible piece of evidence, is “at the heart, at the very center” of his testimony of the Restored Gospel.

A: For me a classic example of substance I hope for and evidence of things I have not seen is the 531 pages of the Book of Mormon
B: that come from a sheaf of gold plates
C: some people saw and handled and hefted
C: but I haven’t seen or handled or hefted, and neither have you.
B: Nevertheless, the reality of those plates,
A: the substance of them if you will, and the evidence that comes to us from them in the form of the Book of Mormon is at the heart, at the very center, of the hope and testimony and conviction of this work that is unshakably within me forever.

This chiasm emphasizes the limitations that hamper us when we fail to take advantage of the “intellectual, documentable support” the Lord has provided to defend our testimonies. In contrast, Elder Holland invites us to imagine the “incomparably strong theological position” and “unique, persuasive vocabulary” we might enjoy in sharing the gospel.

A: Our testimonies aren’t dependent on evidence—we still need that spiritual confirmation in the heart of which we have spoken—
B: but not to seek for and not to acknowledge intellectual, documentable support for our belief when it is available
C: is to needlessly limit an otherwise incomparably strong theological position
C: and deny us a unique, persuasive vocabulary in the latter-day arena of religious investigation and sectarian debate.
B: Thus armed with so much evidence of the kind we have celebrated here tonight,
A: we ought to be more assertive than we sometimes are in defending our testimony of truth.

This parallelism, from the English cleric, Austin Farrer,6 describes the critical role “rational argument” plays in sustaining faith. Interestingly, what the first two ‘B’ elements state negatively, the third ‘B’ element states positively.

A: “Though argument does not create conviction,
B: lack of it destroys belief.
A: What seems to be proved may not be embraced;
B: but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned.
A: Rational argument does not create belief,
B: but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

In concluding his remarks, Elder Holland references Helaman 5:50 and uses a parallelism to express his desire for a new and larger generation of gospel scholars throughout the Church who can boldly declare secular supports for spiritual truths.

A: May our Father in Heaven bless us and [with?] an ever-larger cadre of young scholars around the Church
B: to do more and more to discover and delineate and declare the reasons for the hope that is in us,
A: that like those converted Lamanites,
B: we may with bold conviction hold up to a world that desperately needs it “the greatness of the evidences which [we have] received,” especially of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion.

Large-Scale Chiasm

In addition to a thorough use of chiasmus throughout his talk, Elder Holland’s entire talk is chiastically structured. At the center is our potential to be “upbraided” by the Lord if we do not take advantage of the “many infallible proofs” He continues to reveal in defending the kingdom of God. Instead, we should embrace Elder Holland’s desire for “an ever-larger cadre of young scholars” throughout the Church — whether it be as scholars ourselves or by playing a supporting role.

A: …the exceptional work being done by so many to search and to substantiate, to defend and promulgate the history and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including and especially the Book of Mormon
B: …truly rock-ribbed faith and uncompromised conviction comes with its most complete power when it engages our head as well as our heart.
C: …the more part of the Lamanites were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received.
D: …he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs
E: …He “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.”
E: …we are honor bound to affirm and declare that truth and may be upbraided if we do not.
D: …the gospel is infallibly true and that a variety of infallible proofs supporting that assertion will continue to come until Jesus descends as the ultimate infallible truth of all.
C: …ye know these things and cannot deny them [because of the] many evidences which ye have received
B: …when that complete witness is borne to our heart and our head
A: …an ever-larger cadre of young scholars around the Church to do more and more to discover and delineate and declare the reasons for the hope that is in us… especially of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion.

Other Rhetorical Figures

In addition to using chiasmus and parallelisms in his talk, Elder Holland uses other rhetorical figures that involve repetition: conduplicatio (“repetition of the same word”) and epimone, (“repetition of entire phrases”).7

After referencing 1 Peter 3:15 that includes the word “reasons,” Elder Holland repeats the word “reasons” three times. The second mention of “reasons” does not appear in the transcript of Elder Holland’s talk, but is from the delivery of his talk.

Reasons, reasons for the hope that is in us. Reasons for our belief.”

Similarly, this next example of conduplicatio is enhanced by Elder Holland’s delivery of his talk, where the word “evident,” or the third mention in the series of three, is replaced with “observable” in the transcript. The Apostle Paul’s definition of faith referred to is found in Hebrews 11:1.

“In his classic definition of faith the Apostle Paul suggests, with one of those paradoxes that so frequently crop up in the gospel, that evidence is still evidence even if it is not immediately evident.”

After referencing Acts 1:3, that contains the phrase “infallible truths,” Elder Holland repeats three variations of the phrase.

“My testimony to you tonight is that the gospel is infallibly true and that a variety of infallible proofs supporting that assertion will continue to come until Jesus descends as the ultimate infallible truth of all.”

Lastly, in telling the story of Martin Harris’s witness of the gold plates, from which the Book of Mormon was translated, Elder Holland cites two back-to-back epimones from Martin Harris’s words.

“In response to that spiritual and temporal evidence he [Martin Harris] shouted for all of us, ‘Tis enough, ‘tis enough; mine eyes have beheld, mine eyes have beheld.’”


As can be seen, Elder Holland is a master at using rhetorical figures and has the instincts to enhance them while delivering his messages. By approaching his talk, “The Greatness of the Evidence,” with a careful study of rhetorical figures, including chiasmus, we can strengthen our understanding of his message and be better equipped to apply it to our advantage. Specifically, we can do our part to foster “an ever-larger cadre of young scholars around the Church” who can more effectively prepare the world for “the ultimate infallible truth of all,” the Second Coming of the Savior.

Works Cited:

  1. This is paraphrased from Elder Holland’s introduction on 6 February 2015 at a fireside for CES Religious Educators. A video of his address, minus the introduction, is available on the Church website:
  2. Robert Louis Stevenson, “On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature” (Contemporary Review, April 1885). See our article on the subject.
  3. To learn about Elder Holland’s previous use of chiasmus, see our article: “We Must Walk Where He Walked: Jeffrey R. Holland’s Facebook Chiasm” (19 February 2017).
  4. D&C 64:34.
  5. D&C 8:2-3.
  6. Elder Holland’s source for this quote is Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist,” in Light on C.S. Lewis, ed. Jocelyn Gibb (1965), 26.
  7. Ward Farnsworth, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric (Boston: David R. Godine, 2011), 6, 10. This is also an excellent resource for learning more about chiasmus.

FOLLOW-UP: “Robert Louis Stevenson: New Perspectives” Conference

robert_louis_stevenson_sitting_in_chairFrom July 5-8, we participated in the international “Robert Louis Stevenson: New Perspectives” conference at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. This four-day conference was fantastic, as we were able to meet and learn from Stevenson scholars from around the world. Our paper focused on chiasmus in Stevenson’s essays and included a 49-page collection of parallelisms and chiasms we have so far identified.

Currently, we are continuing our research and preparing our paper for inclusion in a forthcoming conference edition of the Journal of Stevenson Studies. We are very excited to share our findings with Stevenson scholars and hope our effort will contribute to a better understanding of his essays and a fuller appreciation of his skill as a writer. Our view is that Robert Louis Stevenson belongs in the pantheon of the greatest writers in the English language.

Although he doesn’t use the term “chiasmus,” Stevenson describes his methodology in his essay, “On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature” (Contemporary Review, April 1885; Essays in the Art of Writing, 1905). Below are a few examples of parallelisms and chiasms from his essays:

1. “An Autumn Effect” (The Porfolio, 1875)

A: For it is rather in nature
B: that we see resemblance to art,
B: than in art
A: to nature;

2. “Talk and Talkers (a Sequel)” (Cornhill Magazine, 1882; Memories and Portraits, 1887)

A: Where youth agrees with age, not where they differ,
B: wisdom lies;
A: and it is when the young disciple finds his heart to beat in tune with his grey-bearded teacher’s
B: that a lesson may be learned.

3. “On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature” (Contemporary Review, 1885; Essays in the Art of Writing, 1905)

A: Pattern
B: and argument live in each other;
B: and it is by the brevity, clearness, charm, or emphasis of the second,
A: that we judge the strength and fitness of the first.

4. “Lay Morals” (1896)

A: Now the problem to the poor
B: is one of necessity;
C: to earn wherewithal to live, they must find remunerative labour.
A: But the problem to the rich
B: is one of honour;
C: having the wherewithal they must find serviceable labour.
A: Each has to earn his daily bread:
B: the one, because he has not yet got it to eat;
B: the other who has already eaten it,
A: because he has not yet earned it.

Over the next few months, we will update and expand upon our 49-page collection of parallelisms and chiasms from Stevenson’s essays. In the meantime, feel free to download a copy for personal review. Perhaps, it will inspire you to study his essays in full!

Paralleling Lincoln: Chiasmus in David O. McKay’s Inaugural Address

David O. McKay (

David O. McKay served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from April 1951 until his death in January 1970. Prior to this, he served as a counselor in the First Presidency beginning in 1934 and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in 1906. Professionally, David O. McKay was an educator, serving as a teacher and principal at Weber Stake Academy (the forerunner of Weber State University) in Ogden, Utah.

President McKay is remembered for his prophet-esque physical appearance and countenance, the growth and expansion of the Church that occurred during his two-decade tenure, and his teachings: “Every member a missionary” and “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

On April 9, 1951, David O. McKay was sustained by the Church’s worldwide membership as president of the Church, replacing President George Albert Smith who had passed away a week earlier. In his inaugural address, President McKay expressed his humility at his new responsibility, dedication to the work of the Lord, and need for the sustaining faith and prayers of Church members.

Abraham Lincoln (1863)

To aid his expression President McKay paraphrased Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address, which was delivered on February 11, 1861 at the Great Western Railroad station in Springfield, Illinois before Lincoln departed for Washington D.C. to assume his duties as President of the United States. Lincoln biographer, Gabor Boritt, considers the Farewell Address Lincoln’s “finest poetry” up to that point in his life and Harriet Beecher Stowe considered it one of Lincoln’s three most beautiful addresses (The Gettysburg Gospel, 92, 159).

Chiasmus and parallelisms are distinctive features in both President McKay’s inaugural address and President Lincoln’s Farewell Address.* This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of Lincoln’s brief Farewell Address, followed by a diagram and detailed analysis of the relevant paraphrasing passages from McKay’s inaugural address. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.

[*Note: Chiasmus is a well-documented feature of Abraham Lincoln’s writings and speeches. For example, the chapter on “Chiasmus” in Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric references Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863), speech at Cooper Institute (1860), debate with Stephen Douglas at Ottawa (1858), letter to A. G. Hodges (1864), and letter to James Hackett (1863).]

Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address (1861)

#1: In this parallelism Abraham Lincoln attempts to express his “feeling of sadness” at leaving Springfield, Illinois. David O. McKay also had difficulty expressing his feelings in his inaugural address.

My friends —
No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting.
A: To this place, and the kindness of these people,
B: I owe every thing.
A: Here
B: I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man.
A: Here
B: my children have been born, and one is buried.

A=A: “[T]his place” equals “Here” and “Here,” referring to Springfield, Illinois and the community that had been his neighbors for “a quarter of a century.”

B=B: “[E]very thing” complements “lived a quarter of a century” and “my children have been born, and one is buried.” Abraham Lincoln lived nearly half of his life in Springfield, Illinois. This was long enough to put down deep roots, raise a family, and develop close relations. Following his assassination in 1865, President Lincoln was buried in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery.

#2: This chiasm expresses a sense of foreboding doom for President Lincoln, but also evidences his courage and patriotism in the face of serious personal danger.

A: I now leave,
B: not knowing when,
B: or whether ever,
A: I may return,

A=A: “[L]eave” contrasts with “return.” In departing from home, Lincoln naturally contemplates his eventual return.

B=B: “[W]hen” complements “ever.” Perhaps a premonition of his assassination, Lincoln does not know if he will ever return to Springfield. With the Civil War weeks away from beginning and several states having already left the Union, an ominous black cloud hung over the nation. President Lincoln would give his life to preserve the Union.

#3: In this parallelism Abraham Lincoln compares his task to preserve the Union with that of George Washington’s task to create or found the Union.

A: with a task
B: before me
A: greater than that which
B: rested upon Washington.

A=A: “[T]ask” compares to “greater than that.” Lincoln considers his “task” as president to be “greater than that” of any previous president.

B=B: “[M]e” compares to “Washington.” Lincoln specifically compares himself to George Washington, “Father of our Country,” General of the Continental Army, and first President of the United States. Instead of founding the nation, Lincoln would be preserving it — a task he considered to be “greater” or more difficult. Later, in his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln would once again draw a comparison to the nation’s founding and call for “a new birth of freedom.”

#4: This parallelism expresses Abraham Lincoln’s humility and complete reliance upon God. David O. McKay paraphrases this passage in his inaugural address.

A: Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him,
B: I cannot succeed.
A: With that assistance
B: I cannot fail.

A=A: “Without the assistance” contrasts with “With that assistance.” Lincoln refers to the “Divine Being” who oversaw the founding of the nation. His “assistance” was vital for both the founding and the preserving of the nation.

B=B: “I cannot succeed” contrasts with “I cannot fail.” Lincoln declares his complete dependence upon God. This parallelism is closely paraphrased by President McKay.

#5: This chiasm optimistically references God’s omnipresent nature.

A: Trusting in Him
B: who can go with me,
B: and remain with you
B: and be every where for good,
A: let us confidently hope that all will yet be well.

A=A: “Trusting” equals “confidently hope.” After declaring his complete dependence upon God for his task of preserving the nation, Lincoln encourages the people of Springfield to optimistically place their trust in God.

B=B: “[G]o with me” complements “remain with you” and “be every where for good.” Lincoln refers to the omnipresent nature of God.

#6: To conclude his Farewell Address, this parallelism expresses his desire that the people of Springfield pray for him as he prays for them.

A: To His care
B: commending you,
A: as I hope in your prayers
B: you will commend me,
I bid you an affectionate farewell.

A=A: “His care” complements “your prayers.” Lincoln will be praying for the people of Springfield and hopes they will be praying for him, as well.

B=B: “[C]ommending you” complements “commend me.” Through the power of their prayers, God will watch over both President Lincoln and the people of Springfield.

David O. McKay’s Inaugural Address (1951)

#1: This parallelism echoes the opening of Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address where he states, “No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting.” Both Lincoln and McKay had difficulty expressing their feelings on these momentous occasions and were humbled by their new responsibilities.

My beloved fellow workers, brethren and sisters
A: I wish it were
B: within my power of expression
C: to let you know
D: just what my true feelings are on this momentous occasion.
A: I would wish that
B: you might look into my heart
C: and see there for yourselves
D: just what those feelings are.

A=A: “I wish” equals “I would wish.” This parallelism expresses the “wish” of President McKay’s heart.

B=B: “[M]y power of expression” contrasts with “you might look into my heart.” Acknowledging his own lack of expressive abilities, President McKay wishes that his audience (the world-wide membership of the Church) would be able to discern for themselves what is in his heart.

C=C: “[L]et you know” contrasts with “see there for yourselves.” While he can’t communicate effectively, he wishes they could see for themselves. He desires for them to gain their own spiritual witness of his feelings and intentions.

D=D: “[M]y true feelings” equals “those feelings.” President McKay’s sincerity is evident from his desire for complete personal transparency.

#2: This complex chiasm is constructed of a chiasm (CDEEDC) and a parallelism (FGFG) framed by a chiasm (ABBA). The chiastic structure of this passage makes it clear that President McKay is speaking from the perspective of the First Presidency, not just his own.

A: The Lord has said that the three presiding high priests chosen by the body appointed and ordained to this office of presidency
B: are to be “upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the Church.”

C: No one can preside over this Church without first being in tune with
D: the head of the Church,
E: our Lord and Savior,
E: Jesus Christ.
D: He is our head.
C: This is his Church.

F: Without his divine guidance and constant inspiration,
G: we cannot succeed.
F: With his guidance, with his inspiration,
G: we cannot fail.

B: Next to that as a sustaining potent power, comes the confidence, faith, prayers, and united support of the Church.
A: I pledge to you that I shall do my best so to live as to merit the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and pray here in your presence that my counselors and I may indeed be “partakers of the divine spirit.”

Conference Report, April 1951 (

A=A: “[T]hree presiding high priests” equals “my counselors and I.” President McKay refers to the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the Church, which consists of the President of the Church and his counselors (see D&C 107:22). The new First Presidency, consisting of David O. McKay, Stephen L Richards, and J. Reuben Clark, will do their best to “merit the companionship of the Holy Spirit.”

B=B: “[C]onfidence, faith, and prayer of the Church” equals “confidence, faith, prayers, and united support of the Church.” The First Presidency are sustained by the membership of the Church (see D&C 107:22).

C=C: “[T]his Church” equals “His Church.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s authorized church (see D&C 1:30).

D=D: “[H]ead of the Church” equals “He is our head.” While the First Presidency is the highest governing body of the Church, Christ is the “head of the Church” and directs its affairs through revelation.

E=E: “Lord and Savior” equals “Jesus Christ.” The same Jesus Christ testified of in the New Testament and to whom the Christian world prays is the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

F=F: “Without his divine guidance and constant inspiration” contrasts “With his guidance, with his inspiration.” Paraphrasing Lincoln, President McKay acknowledges the needed “guidance” and “inspiration” that comes from God, who also inspired and guided Washington and Lincoln.

G=G: “[W]e cannot succeed” contrasts with “we cannot fail.” Like Lincoln, President McKay expresses his and his counselors’ complete dependence on God, their need for His “sustaining potent power,” and gives Him the credit for any success that may come during their tenure.


With a professional background as an educator, David O. McKay was a widely and well-read individual. This is apparent from his paraphrasing of Abraham Lincoln to express his feelings at a parallel moment in his life. Although the sense of foreboding doom is absent from President McKay’s inaugural address, he is aware that his calling will only end with his death (which happened of natural causes at age 96). Retirement is not an option. Hence, McKay is also expressing courage and commitment. While McKay’s paraphrasing of Lincoln can be identified and appreciated without a knowledge of chiasmus, recognizing the presence of chiasmus in both addresses provides a more precise and nuanced understanding of their words and how they relate to each other.

His Gift To Us: Chiasmus in Russell M. Nelson’s “The Sabbath Is a Delight”

Russell M. Nelson (

In a previous article, we wrote about chiasmus in Russell M. Nelson’s “Becoming True Millennials,” a Worldwide Devotional address for young adults delivered in January 2016. In this article, we discuss chiasmus in “The Sabbath is a Delight,” his April 2015 General Conference address. This was his final General Conference address before becoming President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in July 2015. As such, throughout this article we refer to him as Elder Nelson.

In order to more fully appreciate chiasmus in this address, we need to introduce a new term: “spiral chiasmus.” In Chiasmus and Culture, a volume of scholarly essays published in 2014, Anthony Paul describes four types of chiasmus: cross-shaped, mirroring, circling, and spiral. A spiral chiasm occurs when “the formal symmetry sets up a more dynamic process of movement …, returning to the starting point, with the piquant difference that this starting point is no longer exactly what it was at the start — or where it was.” The value of this type of chiasm is its “capacity to open up thought” and generate “new possibilities” (p. 24, 36). In the same volume, Ivo Strecker describes the potential of spiral chiasmus to “shatter expectations and conventions (and establish new ones)” (p. 87).

In “The Sabbath Is a Delight,” Elder Nelson makes use of two spiral chiasms, one from the New Testament teachings of Christ and one of his own creation to help us assess our individual Sabbath observance. This article presents a detailed treatment of each of these chiasms, followed by a less-detailed analysis of several additional chiasms and parallelisms from his address. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.

Diagram and Analysis:

#1: To shatter cultural conventions (and establish new ones) concerning Sabbath observance during his mortal ministry, the Lord declared a memorable spiral chiasm that is recorded in Mark 2:27

What did the Savior mean when He said that
A: “the sabbath was
B: made for man,
B: and not man
A: for the sabbath”?

A=A: “[S]abbath” contrasts with “sabbath.” The key to understanding this chiasm is recognizing that the two sabbaths mentioned are not the same sabbath. The first is made for man, the second is not made for man, but is used to control and limit his actions and to stifle his good works and communion with the Lord. In contrast, a sabbath made for man removes this burden and aides his spiritual and physical development.

B=B: “[M]an” equals “man.” Under the influence of either sabbath, the same man is observed. Under one he is liberated, under the other he is limited. This spiral chiasm invites us to ponder the differences between these two forms of sabbath observance and their effect on man and society. Which is preferred? Which should we work toward? Certainly, a sabbath where man selfishly focuses on himself is no more what the Lord had in mind than a sabbath where man is restricted and burdened. This spiral chiasm opens our minds to new possibilities concerning sabbath observance and encourages us to develop a sabbath observance that truly benefits man.

After referencing this declaration from the Lord, Elder Nelson (in the form of a parallelism) offers his authoritative commentary on the Lord’s meaning.

A: I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us,
B: granting real respite from the rigors of daily life
C: and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal.
A: God gave us this special day,
B: not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty,
C: with physical and spiritual relief.

A=A: “Sabbath was His gift to us” equals “God gave us this special day.” Recognizing that the Sabbath is a gift from God helps us develop an appropriate Sabbath observance. Our priority should be to use it for His purposes and for the furthering of His “work and glory” (see Moses 1:39).

B=B: “[R]eal respite from the rigors of daily life” equals “rest from duty.” Elder Nelson clarifies that the Sabbath is not a day for amusement or labor, but is a day for setting aside our rigorous routines.

C=C: “[S]piritual and physical renewal” equals “physical and spiritual relief.” The rest invited by the Sabbath is intended for both physical and spiritual rejuvenation.

#2: In addition to providing insight into the Lord’s spiral chiasm, Elder Nelson introduces his own spiral chiasm to spur further thought and insight. What is the relationship between “faith” and “love”? How does the Sabbath help us develop “a love for God”? This spiral chiasm introduces a spiral pattern for application that increases our love for and faith in God and His Sabbath day.

A: Faith in God engenders
B: a love for the Sabbath;
B: faith in the Sabbath engenders
A: a love for God.

A=A: “Faith in God” complements “love for God.” Faith in God means we believe in His promised blessings and live accordingly. Love for God develops as we experience His blessings and understand His intentions toward us. Faith in and love for God help us endure His chastening hand, knowing that the challenges we endure are for our benefit; we look for ways to grow in the midst of our challenges. The Sabbath is intended for believers — those who already have a faith in God. It is not intended to govern those who do not have a faith in God. In other words, observing the Sabbath is voluntary rather than compulsory and is intended for a society that recognizes religious freedom. However, choosing to observe the Sabbath will help us develop faith in and love for God, so individuals who are curious about God are invited to observe the Sabbath as part of their effort to understand and come to know Him.

B=B: “[L]ove for the Sabbath” complements “faith in the Sabbath.” Faith in God helps us appreciate or love the day of rest He has provided for us. This appreciation leads us to exercise faith in the promises of the Sabbath. Receiving the blessings of Sabbath observance helps us develop a love for God. This, in turn, helps us develop greater faith in God, a greater love for the Sabbath, and greater faith in the promises of the Sabbath. Viewed this way, the Sabbath becomes a vehicle for developing greater faith in and love for God.

Additional Chiasms and Parallelisms:

#3: The word “prophet,” especially in the title of the hymn “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet,” usually refers to the president of the Church. However, in this context it refers collectively to all those who participated in General Conference — through music, prayer, and the spoken word.

A: Dear brothers and sisters, these two days of conference have been glorious.
B: We have been uplifted by inspiring music and eloquent prayers.
B: Our spirits have been edified by messages of light and truth.
A: On this Easter Sunday, we again unitedly and sincerely thank God for a prophet!

#4: Although Elder Nelson is the final speaker at this Conference, he invites the congregation to be open to the Spirit during his address in order to receive additional personal revelation.

A: The question for each of us is: because of what I have heard and felt during this conference,
B: how will I change?
B: Whatever your answer might be, may I invite you also to
A: examine your feelings about, and your behavior on, the Sabbath day.

#5: Elder Nelson uses a parallelism to invite the congregation to join him as he explores the meaning of “delight” as a description of the Sabbath (see Isaiah 58:13).

A: I am intrigued by the words of Isaiah,
B: who called the Sabbath “a delight.”
A: Yet I wonder,
B: is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?

#6: In this chiasm, Elder Nelson shares his own experience discovering the delights of the Sabbath day. As a medical doctor, it’s no surprise that this came about as a relief from his professional demands.

A: I first found delight in the Sabbath many years ago when, as a busy surgeon, I knew that the Sabbath became a day for personal healing.
B: By the end of each week, my hands were sore from repeatedly scrubbing them with soap, water, and a bristle brush.
B: I also needed a breather from the burden of a demanding profession.
A: Sunday provided much-needed relief.

#7: After detailing the origin and history of the Sabbath, Elder Nelson uses a chiasm to emphasize the modern-day covenant aspect of Sabbath observance.

In Hebrew, the word Sabbath means “rest.” The purpose of the Sabbath dates back to the Creation of the world, when after six days of labor the Lord rested from the work of creation. When He later revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses, God commanded that we “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Later, the Sabbath was observed as a reminder of the deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Perhaps most important, the Sabbath was given as a perpetual covenant, a constant reminder that the Lord may sanctify His people.
A: In addition, we now partake of the sacrament
B: on the Sabbath day
C: in remembrance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
D: Again, we covenant
D: that we are willing to take upon us His holy name.
C: The Savior identified Himself as
B: Lord of the Sabbath. It is His day! Repeatedly, He has asked us to keep the Sabbath or to hallow the Sabbath day.
A: We are under covenant to do so.

#8: This chiasm details how Elder Nelson became self-reliant in his efforts to keep the Sabbath day holy. Initially, he followed the “lists of dos and don’ts” created by others, but then developed the ability to discern appropriate behaviors for himself.

A: How do we hallow the Sabbath day?
B: In my much younger years, I studied the work of others
C: who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath.
D: It wasn’t until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted
D: a sign between me and my Heavenly Father.
C: With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts.
B: When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself,
A: “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.

#9: This chiasm emphasizes that the Sabbath is not just an ancient tradition, but a practice that has been renewed in our day for our benefit. Following this chiasm, he details these modern-day benefits by quoting D&C 59:9–10, 13, 15–16, drawing special attention to the promise that the “fulness of the earth” is given “to those who keep the Sabbath day holy.”

A: Though the doctrine pertaining to the Sabbath day
B: is of ancient origin,
B: it has been renewed in these latter days
A: as part of a new covenant with a promise.

#10: After detailing his own experience of becoming self-reliant in keeping the Sabbath day holy, Elder Nelson invites members of the congregation to explore their own Sabbath observance.

A: How can you ensure that your behavior on the Sabbath will lead to joy and rejoicing?
B: In addition to your going to church, partaking of the sacrament, and being diligent in your specific call to serve,
B: what other activities would help to make the Sabbath a delight for you?
A: What sign will you give to the Lord to show your love for Him?

Next, Elder Nelson provides a variety of ideas for members of the congregation to consider in their own efforts to keep the Sabbath day holy. These ideas are presented in a series of chiasms and parallelisms.

#11: Part of God’s intention in giving us the Sabbath is to strengthen eternal family ties.

A: The Sabbath provides a wonderful opportunity
B: to strengthen family ties.
A: After all, God wants
B: each of us, as His children, to return to Him as endowed Saints, sealed in the temple as families, to our ancestors, and to our posterity.

#12: To encourage parents to take advantage of Sabbath opportunities to teach the gospel to their children, Elder Nelson quotes a chiasm found in D&C 68:25 that emphasizes their responsibility to do so.

We make the Sabbath a delight when we teach the gospel to our children. Our responsibility as parents is abundantly clear. The Lord said,
A: “Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion …
B: that teach them not to understand
C: the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God,
C: and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old,
B: the sin be upon
A: the heads of the parents.”

#13: After quoting from a First Presidency letter from 11 February 1999, Elder Nelson uses a chiasm to rejoice in the availability of “wonderful resources” that aid “righteous, intentional parenting.”

Years ago the First Presidency stressed the importance of quality family time. They wrote:
“We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.
“We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”
A: When I ponder this counsel, I almost wish I were a young father once again.
B: Now parents have such wonderful resources available to help them make family time more meaningful, on the Sabbath and other days as well.
C: They have,, the Bible videos, the Mormon Channel, the Media Library, the Friend, the New Era, the Ensign, the Liahona, and more—much more.
B: These resources are so very helpful to parents in discharging their sacred duty to teach their children.
A: No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!

#14: A Sabbath activity that can bring “immense joy” is family history work. The following two chiasms describe and illustrate this joy and invite us to experience it for ourselves.

A: In addition to time with family, you can experience true delight on the Sabbath from
B: family history work.
B: Searching for and finding family members who have preceded you on earth—those who did not have an opportunity to accept the gospel while here—
A: can bring immense joy.

A: I have seen this firsthand. Several years ago, my dear wife Wendy determined to learn how to do family history research.
B: Her progress at first was slow, but little by little she learned how easy it is to do this sacred work.
C: And I have never seen her happier.
B: You too need not travel to other countries or even to a family history center. At home, with the aid of a computer or mobile device, you can identify souls who are yearning for their ordinances.
A: Make the Sabbath a delight by finding your ancestors and liberating them from spirit prison!

#15: Our Sabbath observance can extend outside our family circles and include rendering service to others, especially the sick and lonely.

A: Make the Sabbath a delight
B: by rendering service to others,
C: especially those who are not feeling well
C: or those who are lonely or in need.
B: Lifting their spirits
A: will lift yours as well.

#16: Self-discipline is required in order for us to not slip into pursuing our “own pleasure” on the Sabbath day (see Isaiah 58:13–14).

A: Not pursuing your “own pleasure” on the Sabbath requires self-discipline.
B: You may have to deny yourself of something you might like.
C: If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord,
B: you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day.
A: Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time.

#17: Drawing a parallel between paying tithing and keeping the Sabbath day holy, Elder Nelson uses a parallelism and a chiasm to help us see that both are ways of showing gratitude to the Lord.

Think of this:
A: In paying tithing,
B: we return one-tenth of our increase to the Lord.
A: In keeping the Sabbath holy,
B: we reserve one day in seven as His.

A: So it is our privilege to consecrate
B: both money
B: and time
A: to Him who lends us life each day.

#18: In concluding his address, Elder Nelson uses two chiasms to remind us that keeping the Sabbath day holy is part of being “an example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12) and part of the process of becoming “sanctified in Christ” (Moroni 10:32-33).

Now, as this conference comes to a close, we know that
A: wherever we live we are to be examples
B: of the believers
C: among our families, neighbors, and friends.
B: True believers
A: keep the Sabbath day holy.

I conclude with the farewell plea of Moroni, as he closed the Book of Mormon. He wrote,
A: “Come unto Christ,
B: and be perfected in him,
C: and deny yourselves of all ungodliness;
C: and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness,
B: and love God with all your might, mind and strength,
A: then … are ye sanctified in Christ.”


In his two addresses that we have diagrammed, a distinct chiastic pattern is emerging. Russell M. Nelson speaks in a series of brief chiasms that mostly go unnoticed during an initial reading. However, each emphasizes a principle or practice of the Gospel that is worthy of study and that greatly enriches a study of his entire talk. The insights available through a chiastic study of this talk can help us to more deliberately keep the Sabbath day holy and realize its promised “delight.”

We Must Walk Where He Walked: Jeffrey R. Holland’s Facebook Chiasm

Jeffrey R. Holland (

Jeffrey R. Holland has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since June 1994. Prior to this he served in the First Quorum of the Seventy beginning in April 1989.

Professionally, Elder Holland was a religious educator in the Church Educational System. After serving as dean of the College of Religious Education at Brigham Young University and Church commissioner of education, he served as President of Brigham Young University from 1980-89.

Elder Holland is known for his engaging talks, skillful teaching, and tender heart.

Like the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Holland has had a Facebook account since 2013 “to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren.” Elder Holland occasionally posts experiences and photographs from his world-wide ministry, his thoughts on specific issues, and his witness of Jesus Christ.

On February 5, 2017, Elder Holland posted his concern for those “in the midst of a struggle.” Chiasmus in his post emphasizes how challenges are an inescapable part of mortality and that we need to remain strong as disciples of Christ, “come what may.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, Illustrated hardbound edition [2006], 262.
Elder Holland is no stranger to chiasmus. In his classic book, Christ and the New Covenant [1997], he diagrams the first day of the Lord’s visit to the Nephites (3 Nephi 11-18) to show its chiastic pattern. Accompanying the diagram, Elder Holland writes: “In reviewing that day, it is impressive to note the cohesive, chiasmic nature of the messages that were delivered. Note the reinforcement and revealed unity of the manner in which this day’s experience began and the way it concluded” (Illustrated hardbound edition [2006], 261).

This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of Elder Holland’s Facebook chiasm, which features complementary and equivalent pairs. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.

Diagram and Analysis:

A: I often think of those of you who are in the midst of a struggle. As much as we want life to be easy and comfortable, as much as I wish it could be that way for you, it simply cannot be.
B: We are all, in one way or another, at one point in our lives, going to deal with a moral conundrum or a difficult issue without an easy answer. At that point, we need to ask ourselves, “How much does the gospel of Jesus Christ really mean to me?” How will you act when that call comes? Will you defend Christ and His gospel, come what may?
C: John Taylor wrote that he once heard Joseph Smith say to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. … God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”
C: The life of Christ was like that. It is not coincidental that the word that is used for Christ’s experience in Gethsemane is that He was in “agony.” If we say we’re disciples of Christ, we will on occasion be in agony. We must walk where He walked.
B: When those moments come—contemporary issues, historical complexities, personal problems at home, challenges in a mission or a marriage, wherever it is—I pray and ask and bless you to the end that you will be strong.
A: May you follow Christ with every ounce of your being, in good times and in bad.


A=A: “As much as we want life to be easy and comfortable, as much as I wish it could be that way for you, it simply cannot be” equals “good times and in bad.” Life inescapably consists of both good and bad experiences. Knowing this helps us consistently “follow Christ with every ounce of our being,” whether we are “in the midst of struggle” or enjoying a period of ease and comfort.

B=B: “We are all, in one way or another, at one point in our lives, going to deal with a moral conundrum or a difficult issue without an easy answer” equals “When those moments come—contemporary issues, historical complexities, personal problems at home, challenges in a mission or a marriage” and “Will you defend Christ and His gospel, come what may?” equals “I pray and ask and bless you to the end that you will be strong.” The moral conundrums or difficult issues we encounter in life include (but are not limited to) “contemporary issues, historical complexities, personal problems at home, [and] challenges in a mission or a marriage.” In these moments we have the choice as to how we will respond. The “strong” response is to “defend Christ and His gospel, come what may.” The prayers and support of others help us to endure through and benefit from these challenges.

C=C: “Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” equals “disciples of Christ” and “God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings” equals “we will on occasion be in agony” and “[I]f you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God” complements “We must walk where He walked.” While Joseph Smith’s counsel (recorded by John Taylor) was directed to the members of the “Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” it applies to all “disciples of Christ.” The “agony” that we experience from “all kinds of trials” is by divine design. It is the process of God feeling after us, taking hold of us, and wrenching our “very heart strings.” It is the same process that Jesus Christ, our Great Exemplar, endured through His life. This process is required of us if we are to become “fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.”


Elder Holland’s Facebook post helps us understand the divine purpose to the challenges of our lives. With the understanding that trials refine and prepare us for life in the presence of God, we are motivated to stay true to the Gospel. Additionally, with the knowledge that we are walking where Jesus walked — that He experienced that same types of trials we experience — the scriptures take on new meaning and added value as guidebooks for enduring as Jesus endured. Chiasmus in this post defines terms and provides a means for better understanding and applying Elder Holland’s encouraging message.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Speaking at “Robert Louis Stevenson: New Perspectives” Conference (July 2017)

(Creative Commons)Robert Louis Stevenson portrait
Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson (1887) by John Singer Sargent, oil on canvas 

We are happy to announce that we have been invited to present a paper this summer at the “Robert Louis Stevenson: New Perspectives” conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. To get an idea of what we’ll be speaking about, here is a link to an article we posted in December: “To Be Honest, To Be Kind: Chiasmus in Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘A Christmas Sermon.'”

Stay tuned for more details.

New Beginnings: David A. Bednar’s Facebook Chiasm

David A. Bednar (

David A. Bednar has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since October 2004. Prior to this, he served as “an Area Seventy, Area Authority Seventy, regional representative, twice as a stake president, and as a bishop.”

Professionally, Elder Bednar worked in academia for two and a half decades. Following the completion of his PhD in 1980, he “joined the business faculty at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.” From 1997-2004 he was president of BYU-Idaho, leading its transition from junior college (Ricks College) to four-year university.

Like the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Bednar has had a Facebook account since 2013 “to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren.” Elder Bednar regularly posts experiences and photographs from his world-wide ministry, doctrinal mini-sermons, and his testimony of Jesus Christ.

On January 11, 2017, Elder Bednar posted his thoughts on New Year’s resolutions and “the process of turning unto God.” Chiasmus in his post emphasizes the “reality” and “power” of the “Savior’s atoning sacrifice” in our imperfect efforts to “become better.”

This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of Elder Bednar’s Facebook chiasm, which features complementary and equivalent pairs. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.

Diagram and Analysis:

A: While the Lord desires that we strive consistently to become better, He also knows we will make mistakes.
B: Thankfully, a loving Savior has provided a way for us to heal from spiritual wounds and illness by turning to and coming unto Him.
C: As we begin this new year, let us remember and focus our lives upon new beginnings, or as Elder Neal A. Maxwell described it, “turning away from evil and turning to God.”
C: I can think of few gospel principles that are as positive and encouraging as repentance and the process of turning unto God.
B: As we learn about and focus our faith in the Redeemer, then we naturally turn toward and come unto Him.
A: I testify of the reality and of the power of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice and of the blessings of hope and peace for our souls made available to us because of His great offering.


A=A: “He also knows we will make mistakes” complements “Savior’s atoning sacrifice.” Because the Lord knows we “will make mistakes” in our strivings to “become better,” the “Savior’s atoning sacrifice” brings “hope and peace for our souls.”

B=B: “Savior” equals “Redeemer” and “turning to and coming unto Him” complements “naturally turn toward and come unto Him.” It is the “Savior” and “Redeemer,” Jesus Christ, to whom we need to turn and approach in order to be healed from “spiritual wounds and illness” (see Acts 4:12). By learning about and focusing our faith in Christ, we will “naturally” turn and come unto Him.

C=C: “[T]urning away from evil and turning to God” equals “repentance and the process of turning unto God.” The central focus of this chiasm addresses the beginning of a new year and the appropriateness of focusing “our lives upon new beginnings.” At its very core, improving aspects of our lives is a form of “repentance” and part of the “positive and encouraging” process of “turning unto God.”


Elder Bednar’s Facebook post invites us to include the atonement of Jesus Christ in our New Year’s resolution efforts and helps us focus on “turning away from evil” and “turning unto God.” Chiasmus in his post adds richness to his message by defining terms and providing further insight into how to make the atonement naturally operative in our lives. It also helps us understand that we need not be perfect to enjoy the “hope and peace” the Atonement brings.

Teach Us How To Pray: Chiasmus in Brigham Young’s 1867 Dedication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle

Brigham Young (

Brigham Young served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from December 1847 until his death in August 1877. Prior to this, he served as an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in February 1835 (and Quorum president beginning in 1838). He joined the LDS Church in April 1832 after studying the faith for two years.

Professionally, Brigham Young was a carpenter. Before joining the Church he operated his own woodworking shop on his father’s farm in Mendon, New York, where he “supported his family by making and repairing chairs, tables, and cupboards and installing windows, doors, stairways, and fireplace mantels.”

President Young is most well-known for his colonizing efforts in the American West. Under his direction as many as 70,000 Latter-day Saints gathered to the Intermountain West between the years 1847 and 1869, where they established approximately 400 settlements. In honor of his pioneering efforts and leadership, a statue of Brigham Young stands in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

In 1861, the Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City were in need of a new tabernacle, since they had outgrown the Old Tabernacle built in 1857. This New Tabernacle would feature “a curved ceiling and a seating capacity of more than 12,000.” Although the New Tabernacle would not be completed and dedicated until October 1875, General Conferences of the Church were held there beginning in October 1867.

Salt Lake Tabernacle Exterior (

As part of their Lost Sermons project, historians at the Church History Library have recently discovered that Brigham Young dedicated the New Tabernacle at the October 1867 General Conference. According to news reports at the time this was not considered a formal dedication, but merely the opening prayer of the first session of Conference:

“The Thirty-seventh Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, convened … on Sunday morning, Oct. 6th, at 10 o’clock, in the New Tabernacle, which was ready for Conference to be held in it, the great exertions made for some time past by those having charge of its erection, having been thus far successful…. [A] detailed description of it will be more appropriate when it is finished, and dedicated…. Conference was called to order, and [a] hymn, composed by E. R. Snow for the occasion, was then read by the clerk and sung by the Tabernacle choir…. Prayer was then offered by President B. Young” [emphasis added] (Deseret News, October 9, 1867, 1).

The text of the prayer, recently brought to light and transcribed from Pitman shorthand, suggests that it was a preliminary dedication, or a prayer for divine help in completing the structure and dedicating their efforts toward this end. A similar pattern was followed in the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple, as portions of the building were dedicated and put to use as they were completed, followed by an official dedication. Additionally, the Conference Center was first used for General Conference in April 2000, but not dedicated until October 2000.

A careful study of Brigham Young’s 1867 dedication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle shows it to consist of a series of chiasms and ending with a parallelism. Dividing the text in this way invites us to ponder individual sections in context of his entire prayer. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of each of these sections in sequential order. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.

[Thanks to LaJean Carruth at the Church History Library for providing a more detailed understanding of the Lost Sermons project.]

Brigham Young’s Opening Remarks

#1: This chiasm, which consists of complementary and equivalent paired phrases, is structured around Brigham Young’s optimism that the organ would be completed in due time despite the audience’s apparent disappointment that it was not ready at the time of the dedication. He uses alternating optimistic and apologetic phrases.

A: It will be a [satisfying] reflection to myself if there is a spirit in the Latter-day Saints of Israel to forward the temple as we have this tabernacle. I wish to make a little apology to the people for the unfinished state of our organ.
B: We have commenced one that I think will do credit to the wilderness we inhabit when it is complete.
C: There is not over I suppose one third of the pipes now up in cases, and around it we have thrown … [a veil] to cover its nakedness, shall I say. …
D: When it is completed, the height of it will be more than once again than
E: the height of its present appearance.
E: It is now built about fifteen feet tall.
D: [It will] be, when completed, in the neighborhood of thirty-five feet in height.
C: We have done the best we could with it.
B: Brother Ridges has been faithful, and the hands [that have] been assisting him.
A: It is in the best order as could be under present circumstances.

A=A: “I wish to make a little apology to the people for the unfinished state of our organ” complements “the best order as could be under present circumstances.” Brigham Young opens with an apology for the “unfinished state of our organ,” but explains that “it is in the best order as could be under present circumstances.” Anyone who has visited the Salt Lake Tabernacle understands the visual prominence of the organ pipes within the hall. Since they are impossible to ignore, it is easy to understand why he would begin by addressing their unfinished state.

B=B: “We have commenced one that I think will do credit” complements “Brother Ridges has been faithful.” To comfort any doubters or those who may be disappointed, President Young mentions the faithfulness of Joseph H. Ridges, designer of the organ, and anticipates an organ that “will do credit” to their wilderness surroundings.” This is an understatement compared to the completed organ that has become world famous and draws tourists from around the world.

C=C: “[O]ne third of the pipes now up” complements “the best we could.” Although the organ pipes are only one-third of the way up, it is still “the best” their limited resources would permit. The Deseret News reported that the organ had “seven hundred mouths” at the time of this first General Conference, but would eventually contain “two thousand.” (Deseret News, October 9, 1867, 1)

D=D: “When it is completed, the height of it will be more than once again” equals “when completed, in the neighborhood of thirty-five feet in height.” To build anticipation and provide encouragement, President Young optimistically describes the eventual 35-foot height of the organ pipes.

E=E: “[P]resent appearance” equals “now built about fifteen feet tall.” The central element of this chiasm accentuates President Young’s apology by describing the “present appearance” of the organ pipes to be “about fifteen feet tall.”

Despite not being complete the organ was used to accompany the choirs which sang at the Conference and impressed those in attendance. The Deseret News, for example, provided this glowing review:

“The new Organ, which was played [by Joseph J. Daynes] with the singing of the Tabernacle choir, will be a magnificent and splendidly toned instrument when fully completed. Of its quality of tone and compass satisfactory evidence was obtained during Conference” (Deseret News, October 9, 1867, 1).

Brigham Young’s Dedicatory Prayer

#2: This chiasm uses both complementary and equivalent paired phrases to describe our relationship to each member of the Godhead. We worship Heavenly Father in the name of Christ and are directed to “all truth and holiness” through the influence of the Holy Ghost.

A: O God our Heavenly Father, who dwells in the heavens, in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ
B: we come before thee at this time to worship thee on this occasion.
C:We ask for the aid of thy holy spirit to teach us how to pray, what we should ask for, [and] how to ask that we may receive.
C: We pray that the Holy Ghost may be given unto us to bring us unto all truth and holiness, to [enlighten] our understanding, to enlarge our views pertaining to [the] heavens and to [the] earth, and all creations of God, to inspire us to faithfulness,
B: to [meld us] to a oneness
A: so that we may be the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A=A: “[I]n the name of thy Son Jesus Christ” complements “disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Disciples of Jesus Christ do all things in His name. Through Him they worship Heavenly Father. (see D&C 20:29)

B=B: “[W]orship thee” complements “oneness.” Coming together to worship God is a fundamental way disciples of Christ become united. (see 3 Nephi 27:1)

C=C: “[H]oly spirit … teach us how to pray, what we should ask for, [and] how to ask that we many receive” equals “Holy Ghost … bring us unto all truth and holiness, to [enlighten] our understanding, to enlarge our views pertaining to [the] heavens and to [the] earth, and all creations of God, to inspire us to faithfulness.” The central focus of this chiasm discusses the role of the Holy Ghost, who “teaches us how to pray,” including what to ask for and how to ask, “that we may receive.” Additionally, the Holy Ghost “brings us unto all truth and holiness” by enlightening “our understanding” and enlarging “our views pertaining to … all creations of God.” As a result of becoming familiar with “truth and holiness,” we are inspired “to faithfulness.”

#3: This chiasm uses complementary paired phrases to discuss the importance of dedicating ourselves to God.

A: We pray thee in the name of Jesus to bless this congregation who have assembled within the walls of this house for the first time to worship thee.
B: We dedicate ourselves unto thee, each and every one of us.
B: We dedicate unto thee this house and all that pertains there unto,
A: and pray thee in the name of Jesus Christ to give us the ability to complete the same. After we dedicate it unto the Lord of Hosts, it is then really thine.

A=A: “[P]ray thee in the name of Jesus … within the walls of this house” complements “pray thee in the name of Jesus Christ … ability to complete the same.” The congregation consists mainly of those participating in the construction of the Tabernacle. President Young prays that they may have the “ability to complete” the Tabernacle, a feat they would achieve eight years later in 1875.

B=B: “We dedicate ourselves unto thee” complements “[w]e dedicate unto thee this house.” The central focus of this chiasm is dedication to God — personal dedication as well as dedicating a house of worship. Through dedicated labor, the Latter-day Saints would be prepared to dedicate the completed Tabernacle to God, or to use it for His purposes. Joseph Fielding Smith taught this principle at the dedication of the Ogden Utah Temple in 1972: “May I remind you that when we dedicate a house to the Lord, what we really do is dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service, with a covenant that we shall use the house in the way he intends that it shall be used.”

The next three chiasms focus on the necessity of leaders in the Church to exhibit wisdom.

#4: This chiasm uses complementary paired phrases to describe the equality that exists between priesthood leaders and priesthood laborers and of the importance of possessing wisdom when serving in leadership callings.

A: We ask thee our Father to bless thy priesthood,
B: [to] bless those that have authority in thy church and kingdom. Pour out of thy spirit upon them.
C: Give [us] wisdom to speak. Give [us] wisdom to pray.
C: Give us wisdom to pray and sing and to do all things that is necessary and becoming to thy saints.
B: Bless thy servants that have labored upon this house. We pray thee to inspire their hearts
A: give them that constitution and that faith and constant enjoyment in the love of Christ that will assist them [and pay them] for their diligence in their faithful labor.

A=A: “[B]less thy priesthood” complements “give them that constitution and that faith and constant enjoyment in the love of Christ.” Compensation for service in the kingdom of God is faith, joy, and charity.

B=B: “[B]less those that have authority in thy church… . Pour out of thy spirit upon them” complements “[b]less thy servants that have labored upon this house … inspire their hearts.” Any successful endeavor requires effective leadership and dedicated labor; it is a partnership requiring mutual trust and respect. In the case of a religious endeavor, inspiration from the Spirit is also required of both parties so that their endeavor can be pleasing to God. Although they play different roles, leaders and laborers are equal in the work of God.

C=C: “Give [us] wisdom to speak … [and] wisdom to pray” equals “Give us wisdom to pray and sing and to do.” The central focus of this chiasm is an acknowledgement that leaders in the church need the gift of divine wisdom in order to lead the Saints effectively.

#5: This chiasm uses equivalent and complementary paired phrases to emphasize the importance of apostles possessing the gift of wisdom.

A: We ask thee to bless the apostles.
B: Give unto them great wisdom
B: and understanding
A: that they may magnify their holy apostleship before thee.

A=A: “[A]postles” equals “holy apostleship.” Blessings from heaven are required in order to successfully magnify this holy calling. The same is true of any calling in the church.

B=B: “[G]reat wisdom” complements “understanding.” Similar to the previous chiasm, wisdom and understanding are essential to successfully lead in the church.

#6: This chiasm uses equivalent and complementary paired phrases to acknowledge the heavy burdens that bishops carry and of the need for them to possess great wisdom.

A: O Lord, bless all the quorums of thy church.
B: Especially bless the bishops.
C: We realize our Heavenly Father that their labors are great,
C: their tasks onerous.
B: They need great wisdom much patience, much forbearance, much wisdom from thee to magnify their high and holy calling in the midst of the people.
A: Bless the seventy and high priests, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons.

A=A: “[B]less all the quorums of thy church” equals “Bless the seventy and high priests, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons.” Listed here are the priesthood quorums that then functioned within each stake of the Church. The seventy now function as general or area authorities.

B=B: “[B]less the bishops” complements “They need great wisdom much patience, much forbearance, much wisdom from thee.” Bishops in the Church are blessed with the great spiritual gifts of “much patience, much forbearance, [and] much wisdom.”

C=C: “[T]heir labors are great” equals “their tasks onerous.” The central focus of this chiasm acknowledges the heavy burdens carried by priesthood holders, especially the bishops. Few understand the tremendous burdens bishops carry.

#7: This chiasm uses equivalent and complementary paired phrases to emphasize the importance of the family in the kingdom of God.

A: We pray thee in name of Jesus Christ to bless all the families of thy saints.
B: Inspire every heart that we may become one,
B: that our labors, our faith, our desires, our hopes, our pursuits in life may be concentrated
A: [to the] building up of thy kingdom and [the] establishment of peace and righteousness upon the earth.

A=A: “[A]ll the families of thy saints” complements “thy kingdom.” God’s kingdom consists of faithful families. Indeed, the family is the “fundamental unit of society,” both here and in the eternities.

B=B: “[O]ne” equals “concentrated.” As families are united in Christ, the kingdom will also be united.

#8: The chiasm uses complementary and equivalent paired phrases to show that a proactive attitude is needed to overcome challenges, since it preserves our agency and allows us to grow.

A: We ask thee our Heavenly Father to preserve thy people in these mountains.
B: Give us power to multiply and increase, and wilt thou multiply every blessing upon us.
C: Wilt thou give wisdom to thy people to know how to sustain and preserve themselves, that they may understand the elements,
C: that they may understand and have wisdom and power and disposition to accumulate and gather around us from the elements the necessaries for our consumption.
B: Bless the children of the saints that they may live to grow up in righteousness before thee;
A: and heal up the sick.

A=A: “[P]reserve thy people” complements “heal up the sick.” In order for the Latter-day Saints to be preserved and flourish in the Intermountain West, sickness would need to be tempered.

B=B: “[M]ultiply and increase” complements “children of the saints.” Sickness was of particular concern regarding children, who represented the future of Latter-day Saint growth and strength.

C=C: “[W]isdom … understand the elements” equals “wisdom … gather around us from the elements.” The central focus of this chiasm expresses a desire to proactively survive as a people, rather than passively seek divine deliverance from the effects of their harsh surroundings. President Young prays for wisdom and an understanding of the elements around them, so they can “sustain and preserve themselves.”

#9: This chiasm uses complementary and equivalent paired phrases to discuss missionary work and the gathering of the Latter-day Saints to Utah.

A: Remember all the subjects of our prayers and bless thy saints in various lands
B: and regard in great [mercy] thy servants that are travelling and preaching and laboring
C: to do good to bring souls to the knowledge of [the] truth.
C: Give them solace … and every blessing they need to perform their duty freely bestow upon them.
B: Preserve them and bring them safely to us again.
A: Open up the way for the gathering of thy poor saints from distant lands [that they] may [fill] up this land full of faith. Bless those [who have] arrived here. Inspire them to do right, …  [to] magnify their calling [and] live their religion, that they may be examples to others.

A=A: “[T]hy saints in various lands” complements “thy poor saints from distant lands.” During this period in Church history, new converts were encouraged to physically gather to the Intermountain West and help build a powerful nucleus that could later sustain a worldwide faith. The invitation to gather was a difficult burden, especially for “thy poor saints from distant lands.” This concern for the difficult realities of gathering led Church leaders to establish the Perpetual Emigrating Funding in 1849, which continued until 1887 and helped “more than 30,000 individuals to travel to Utah.”

B=B: “[T]hy servants that are travelling” complements “bring them safely to us again.” At an early date in Church history, missionaries began traveling internationally to share the message of the Restored Gospel. They would also assist new converts in gathering to the Intermountain West, often serving as leaders of emigrating groups on their journeys home. Then, as now, there was a constant concern and prayer for their safety.

C=C: “”[T]o bring souls to the knowledge of the truth” equals “their duty.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes the duties of missionaries and prays for the spiritual gifts that would enable success.

#10: This chiasm uses complementary and equivalent paired phrases to emphasize the unique role the Salt Lake Tabernacle would play in inviting the Spirit into people’s lives through music. Significantly, this chiasm foreshadows the international ministry of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which provides spiritual uplift through music to the nations of the earth.

A: We ask thee to bless our families, our wives and children, our houses and barns and flocks and herds.
B: Bless and pour out of thy spirit upon the good, honest, upright [and] faithful [among] all nations of the earth.
C: Bless them, and forgive us for our sins for Jesus’ sake.
D: Wilt thou inspire us.
E: Bless those that sing.
E: Bless him that plays the organ and all that assist in singing,
D: our brethren [and sisters who] come from distant [lands]. Inspire them to seek [the] power of thy holy spirit
C: and help each one of us so to conduct ourselves
B: so that we may be inspired from on high and have the gift of revelation,
A: that we may speak thereby, pray thereby, sing thereby, [and] hear thereby, that we may be perfected.

A=A: “[B]less our families” complements “that we may be perfected.” The ultimate aim of God’s blessings upon us is our eventual perfection as families. Music is a powerful tool for strengthening families in righteousness. As the First Presidency advised in their Preface to the 1985 edition of the LDS Hymn Book, “Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. Latter-day Saints should fill their homes with the sound of worthy music.”

B=B: “[P]our out of thy spirit” equals “inspired from on high.” Both the honest in heart among “all nations” and the Latter-day Saints need revelation from heaven. Sacred music originating in the Salt Lake Tabernacle would play a distinctive role in God pouring out His spirit upon all nations. This is particularly manifested by the Church’s semi-annual General Conferences (which were broadcast from the Tabernacle until 2000) and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly broadcast, Music & the Spoken Word. Additionally, an imprint of the Tabernacle organ pipes and casing is featured on the cover of the LDS Hymn Book, which is the basic standard for music in the Church.

C=C: “[F]orgive us of our sins” complements “help each one of us to so conduct ourselves.” Forgiveness is only forthcoming when we put forth the effort to overcome sin. We need divine help to “conduct ourselves” faithfully. Sacred music can help us overcome temptation and develop the desire to repent of sin.

D=D: “[I]nspire us” complements “Inspire them.” Both the Latter-day Saints who had already gathered and the Latter-day Saints in “distant lands” needed divine inspiration and the “power of the Holy spirit.” Throughout the gathering period, music played an important role in lifting the spirits of the Saints and unifying their efforts. As the Lord revealed to Brigham Young twenty years earlier when organizing the Saints for their westward journey, “If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.” (D&C 136:28)

E=E: “[T]hose that sing” complements “all that assist in singing.” The central focus of this chiasm is the powerful influence of music in promoting righteousness and spirituality. The ability to compose and perform such uplifting music is a gift of the Spirit. As evidenced by the organ pipes then under construction, music would be a distinctive feature of the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

Salt Lake Tabernacle Interior (

#11: This parallelism uses complementary and comparative paired phrases to show that completing the Salt Lake Temple was never very far from their minds.

A: We ask thee to bless us with all these blessings,
B: for we feel to dedicate [unto] thee this building
C: and pray thee to preserve us to finish the same,
D: that we may dedicate it and thy people to thee.
A: Bless our labors
B: [in] building [the] temple,
C: that we may have power to accomplish further work,
D: that we may receive our further blessings in the holy priesthood. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, … amen.

A=A: “[B]less us” complements “[b]less our labors.” In concluding his prayer, President Young again seeks the blessings of the Lord, both to complete the Tabernacle and to receive the blessings that will enable them to use the building according to His purposes.

B=B: “[D]edicate [unto] thee this building” compares with “building [the] temple.” In addition to completing the Tabernacle, President Young also sought for power to complete the construction of the neighboring Salt Lake Temple. The Latter-day Saints love both the Tabernacle and the Temple and dedicate both to God’s purposes.

C=C: “[P]reserve us to finish the same” complements “power to accomplish further work.” While completing the Tabernacle is the immediate focus of this prayer, the desire to finish the neighboring temple is never far from his mind. Receiving the blessings of the temple would endow them with “power to accomplish further work.”

D=D: “[D]edicate it and thy people to thee” complements “that we may receive our further blessings.” Both the Tabernacle and the Temple would be buildings dedicated to God, but the Temple would enable them to “receive our further blessings in the holy priesthood.”


The existence of chiasmus in Brigham Young’s 1867 dedication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle suggests that the original Pitman shorthand record of the prayer and subsequent transcription is accurate to President Young’s original words, since imposing a chiastic structure while recording his words in real-time is highly unlikely and practically impossible.

Brigham Young’s use of chiasmus divides his prayer into mini-sermons, with each focusing on a different aspect of the Tabernacle and the needs of the Church at that time. A major theme is the need for wisdom throughout the membership of the Church, so they can be united and successful in their efforts. Additional themes are the international gathering of the Saints to the Intermountain West and their prosperity in a new and challenging land, their desires to complete the Tabernacle and the Temple, and the eventually international ministry of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Brigham Young’s dedicatory prayer demonstrates that chiasmus is an effective literary device for discussing multiple topics in an organized way in one text.