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.
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.
“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.
#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.
D. Todd Christofferson has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since April 2008. Prior to this, he served in the Presidency of the Seventy beginning in August 1998 and as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy beginning in 1993. He has also served as a regional representative, stake president, and bishop.
Professionally, Elder Christofferson worked as an attorney on the East Coast of the United States, including working as a law clerk for Judge John J. Sirica during the Watergate trials. He also served in the United States Army.
Like the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Christofferson has had a Facebook account since 2013 “to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren.” Elder Christofferson regularly posts his testimony of various Gospel principles and inspirational experiences from his life and ministry.
Elder Christofferson’s Facebook posts are frequently written using a chiastic structure, as evidenced by his posts on 20 September, 29 November, and 8 December 2016. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of each of these chiasms.
A: Yesterday I was blessed to speak about the Book of Mormon at the Library of Congress and to offer a prayer at the United States Senate. B: I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share my faith in Jesus Christ and testimony of the eternal truths contained in the Book of Mormon. C: Since its publication in 1830, the Book of Mormon has garnered much attention. Most recently the Book of Mormon has been added to the list of “Books That Shaped America” and listed fourth on the Library of Congress’s “America Reads” list of most influential books in American history. The Book of Mormon stresses the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives. D: I testified to those in attendance at the Library of Congress that the Book of Mormon was literally translated by Joseph Smith from ancient golden plates through the gift and power of God. D: For Latter-day Saints, the translation of the Book of Mormon was a miracle. C: What began with 5,000 copies in a small print shop in Palmyra, New York, in 1830 has resulted in millions of copies available in multiple languages around the globe. Beyond its impact on American literature and culture, for Latter-day Saints the Book of Mormon remains “the keystone of our religion.” It brings peace and comfort, counsel and guidance, inspiration and encouragement to over 15 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. B: My own witness of Jesus Christ is rooted in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. It is in an ongoing study of the Book of Mormon that my knowledge and understanding of the Savior continues to expand and deepen. A: I invite all of us to ponder the significance of the Book of Mormon and discover or rediscover its teachings.
A=A: “I was blessed to speak about the Book of Mormon at the Library of Congress” equals “I invite all of us to ponder the significance of the Book of Mormon and discover or rediscover its teachings.” Elder Christofferson’s visit to Washington D.C. included both his speech about the Book of Mormon at the Library of Congress and his prayer at the United States Senate. This chiasm, however, focuses on his speech at the Library of Congress. Elder Christofferson’s message was not limited to those in attendance at the Library of Congress. Rather his invitation to “ponder the significance of the Book of Mormon” was addressed to “all.”
B=B: “[M]y faith in Jesus Christ and testimony of the eternal truths contained in the Book of Mormon” complements “My own witness of Jesus Christ is rooted in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.” Elder Christofferson’s speech at the Library of Congress gave him the opportunity to share his “witness of Jesus Christ” and testimony of the Book of Mormon. These two are related, since it is from the Book of Mormon (and Bible) that his witness of Jesus Christ has grown.
C=C: “Since its publication in 1830, the Book of Mormon has garnered much attention” complements “What began with 5,000 copies in a small print shop in Palmyra, New York, in 1830 has resulted in millions of copies available in multiple languages around the globe” and “The Book of Mormon stresses the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives” complements “It brings peace and comfort, counsel and guidance, inspiration and encouragement to over 15 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide.” Accentuating the positive, Elder Christofferson focuses on the growing acceptance of the Book of Mormon in American society and of its “keystone” role in the LDS Church. In addition to its literary and cultural influence, the Book of Mormon provides an active, spiritual influence in the lives of Latter-day Saints around the world.
D=D: “[T]he Book of Mormon was literally translated by Joseph Smith from ancient golden plates through the gift and power of God” complements “the translation of the Book of Mormon was a miracle.” The central focus of this chiasm, and indeed a major theme of his full speech, is that the translation of the Book of Mormon is a modern-day “miracle,” evidence that the “power of God” is active in the world today.
29 November 2016
A: For years, those in the Africa Southeast Area have had only one operating temple that they could visit to participate in saving ordinances for themselves and on behalf of their deceased ancestors—the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. B: During my recent visit to Africa, I was able to witness the anticipatory joy many in the area are feeling for the three additional temples in the area that are either under construction or have been announced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Durban, South Africa. C: Members in this area have always faced many challenges to get to the temple. Travel is expensive—so are passports and visas. C: Many members of the Church have been blessed by donations to the temple patron fund to help them get to the temple for the first time, but regular attendance has been extremely difficult. B: With the expansion of announced temples in the area, the increased desire among members to enter into sacred covenants is palpable. Likewise, the number of those who are doing family history work so they can extend temple blessings to their ancestors is also ramping up. It is very clear to me that the people of Africa are spiritually inclined. They believe in God, and they naturally look to Him for help. Their desire to attend and serve in the temple is an inspiration to me. A: I pray that we all will make it a goal to attend the temple as regularly as our circumstances allow. It is thanks to the covenants that we make in the temple that we are able to have the faith necessary to persevere and to do all things that are expedient in the Lord.
A=A: “For years, those in the Africa Southeast Area have had only one operating temple that they could visit to participate in saving ordinances” complements “make it a goal to attend the temple as regularly as our circumstances allow.” The limited availability of the temple in the Africa Southeast Area is a reminder for “all” Church members to place a high priority on attending the temple “as regularly as our circumstances allow.”
B=B: “During my recent visit to Africa, I was able to witness the anticipatory joy many in the area are feeling for the three additional temples in the area that are either under construction or have been announced” equals “With the expansion of announced temples in the area, the increased desire among members to enter into sacred covenants is palpable.” The announcement and construction of a new temple is always exciting for faithful Latter-day Saints, but especially so in areas where accessibility to a temple is limited.
C=C: “[M]any challenges to get to the temple” equals “regular attendance has been extremely difficult.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes the real challenges that Church members in Southeast Africa face in their efforts to attend the temple. Travel expenses are such that many members must rely on “donations to the temple patron fund to help them get to the temple for the first time.” This emphasis on the challenges they face in their efforts to attend the temple helps those of us who live closer to a temple understand the excitement the African Saints feel at the construction of three temples closer and more accessible to their homes.
20 September 2016
A: It was a great blessing to be able to participate in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple dedication with President Henry B Eyring last weekend. B: It is significant to have this temple located in the city so central to the birth of the United States of America. C: Here the Declaration of Independence was debated and adopted and has inspired the hearts of mankind ever since with “self-evident” truths that are fundamental to the plan of salvation—“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” C: Here the Constitution of the United States was drafted. Of that great document the Lord declared, “I have suffered [it] to be established, and [it] should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles. … And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” B: What happened in the United States from 1776 forward was vital to the opening of the last dispensation and reestablishment of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. The nation that began here has been the host of the kingdom of God on the earth, and as the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed, so we pray, “May the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come.” A: Now, in a sense, the circle is complete as a crowning element of the latter-day work, a holy temple, is dedicated in the birth city of the United States, the city named for brotherly love.
A=A: “Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple dedication” equals “a holy temple, is dedicated in the birth city of the United States, the city named for brotherly love.” Each temple dedication is a special and momentous occasion, but the construction of a temple in the “birth city of the United States” is especially significant.
B=B: “[C]entral to the birth of the United States of America” complements “vital to the opening of the last dispensation and reestablishment of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth.” The construction of a temple in Philadelphia is significant because the “birth of the United States of America” that happened here enabled the “opening of the last dispensation and reestablishment of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth.”
C=C: “Here the Declaration of Independence was debated and adopted” complements “Here the Constitution of the United States was drafted” and “‘self-evident’ truths that are fundamental to the plan of salvation” complements “maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.” Specifically, our founding documents — the Declaration of Independence and Constitution — proclaim “‘self-evident’ truths that are fundamental to the plan of salvation” and protect our “unalienable Rights” according to “just and holy principles.” Freedom of religion, guaranteed in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, provided an environment where the restored church could be organized, despite persecution from individuals and groups.
Elder Christofferson’s use of chiasmus in these three examples from his Facebook page transform his social media posts into mini-sermons that invite introspection and application. His first chiasm invites us to read the Book of Mormon. His second chiasm invites us to prioritize temple attendance. His third chiasm invites us to recognize the significance of a Latter-day Saint temple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As with our other articles on chiasmus in the social media posts of the apostles, Elder Christofferson’s Facebook posts are a reminder for us to ponder the words of the prophets even though they may appear in ordinary places.
Like chiasmus in the ancient world, chiasmus in the modern world is not limited to the sacred writings of prophets. Just as chiasmus was used by Greek and Roman writers, it appears in the writings of Shakespeare, Milton, Hemingway, and others. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Christmas Sermon” features several chiasms.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a Scottish poet, novelist, essayist, and travel writer. His enduring fame is due primarily to his books Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the winter of 1887 he wrote “A Christmas Sermon” at Lake Sarnac, New York “while he convalesced from a lung ailment.” The essay was published in the December 1888 issue of Scribner’s Magazine, an American literary journal.
“A Christmas Sermon” is as much a funeral sermon (end of life) as it is a Christmas sermon (end of year). It reflects on man’s misdirected ambition, self-criticism, and judgement of others. In an effort to redirect man’s ambition, it encourages a focus on life’s true endeavor—that of being honest, kind, and patient—and of adopting a modest and reasonable view of one’s self.
This article presents diagrams and detailed analyses of four chiasms from “A Christmas Sermon,” which feature equivalent, contrasting, and complementary pairs. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.
[Note: Thanks to Professor Richard Dury at RLS Website for his assistance in locating “A Christmas Sermon” in Scribner’s Magazine.]
Diagram and Analysis:
#1: This chiasm encourages us to develop a modest and reasonable attitude about our moral progress.
A: The idealism of serious people in this age of ours is of a noble character. It never seems to them that they have served enough; they have a fine impatience of their virtues. B: It were perhaps more modest to be singly thankful that we are no worse. C: It is not only our enemies, those desperate characters C: —it is we ourselves who know not what we do;— B: thence springs the glimmering hope that perhaps we do better than we think: that to scramble through this random business with hands reasonably clean, to have played the part of a man or woman with some reasonable fulness, to have often resisted the diabolic, and at the end to be still resisting it, is for the poor human soldier to have done right well. A: To ask to see some fruit of our endeavour is but a transcendental way of serving for reward; and what we take to be contempt of self is only greed of hire.
A=A: “It never seems to them that they have served enough” complements “To ask to see some fruit of our endeavour is but a transcendental way of serving for reward.” A result of the “idealism of serious people in this age of ours” is too much focus on the “fruit of our endeavor” and a “contempt of self” from not having “served enough.” Stevenson equates these with “serving for reward” and the “greed of hire.”
B=B: “It were perhaps more modest to be singly thankful that we are no worse” complements “thence springs the glimmering hope that perhaps we do better than we think.” Stevenson suggests a “more modest” or “reasonable” approach, wherein if we are “thankful that we are no worse” we will develop the “glimmering hope that perhaps we do better than we think.”
C=C: “It is not only our enemies” equals “it is we ourselves.” The central focus of this chiasm suggests that we are oftentimes our own worst enemies. Recognizing this can lead us to the “glimmering hope” described above..
#2: This chiasm invites us to redirect our ambition away from the grand and toward life’s true endeavor, that of being kind, honest, and patient.
A: It may be argued again that dissatisfaction with our life’s endeavour springs in some degree from dulness. B: We require higher tasks, because we do not recognise the height of those we have. C: Trying to be kind and honest D: seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen of our heroic mould; E: we had rather set ourselves to something bold, arduous, and conclusive; E: we had rather found a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite. D: But the task before us, which is to co–endure with our existence, is rather one of microscopic fineness, and the heroism required is that of patience. There is no cutting of the Gordian knots of life; each must be smilingly unravelled. C: To be honest, to be kind—to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends but these without capitulation—above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself— B: here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy. A: He has an ambitious soul who would ask more;
A=A: “[D]issatisfaction with our life’s endeavour springs in some degree from dulness” contrasts with “He has an ambitious soul who would ask more.” Man’s “dissatisfaction with our life’s endeavor” is the result of misdirected ambition.
B=B: “We require higher tasks, because we do not recognise the height of those we have” complements “here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.” Repeating the same idea as in A=A, man’s requirement for “higher tasks” is the result of misdirected ambition, of not recognizing “the height of those we have.”
C=C: “Trying to be kind and honest” equals “To be honest, to be kind.” Here Stevenson reveals life’s true endeavor, that of being “kind and honest.” In the second half, he defines this term: “to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends but these without capitulation—above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself.”
D=D: “[S]eems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen of our heroic mould” contrasts with “But the task before us … is rather one of microscopic fineness, and the heroism required is that of patience.” Stevenson provides the necessary redirection to help us understand that, although seemingly “too simple and too inconsequential,” the heroic “task before us” is micro, not macro. “Patience” and self-control are the required attributes that must be developed.
E=E: “[W]e had rather set ourselves to something bold, arduous, and conclusive” equals “we had rather found a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite.” The central focus of this chiasm is man’s ambitious vanity that overlooks the true heroic quest in life, that of being “kind and honest.” However, as suggested above, man’s ambition can and must be redirected and turned into a positive force.
#3: This chiasm acknowledges that we will never fully succeed at being kind, honest, and patient.
A: he has a hopeful spirit who should look in such an enterprise to be successful. B: There is indeed one element in human destiny that not blindness itself can controvert: C: whatever else we are intended to do, we are not intended to succeed; C: failure is the fate allotted. It is so in every art and study; it is so above all in the continent art of living well. B: Here is a pleasant thought for the year’s end or for the end of life: Only self–deception will be satisfied, A: and there need be no despair for the despairer.
A=A: “[H]e has a hopeful spirit who should look in such an enterprise to be successful” contrasts with “there need be no despair for the despairer.” Paradoxically, life’s endeavor requires neither a hopeful nor a despairing spirit.
B=B: “There is indeed one element in human destiny that not blindness itself can controvert” complements “Only self–deception will be satisfied.” Despite “blindness” and “self-deception,” there is no way around this “one element in human destiny,” the need to become kind and honest.
C=C: “[W]e are not intended to succeed” equals “failure is the fate allotted.” The central focus of this chiasm reveals that we are “not intended to succeed” in being kind and honest. Recognizing and accepting this will help us avoid the disappointments of having a hopeful spirit and the limitations of a becoming a despairer. Only a reasonable approach will do.
#4: This chiasm celebrates the joyous effect of Christmas and discusses the eternal importance of developing a childlike character of gentleness and cheerfulness.
A: But Christmas is not only the mile–mark of another year, moving us to thoughts of self–examination: it is a season, from all its associations, whether domestic or religious, suggesting thoughts of joy. B: A man dissatisfied with his endeavours is a man tempted to sadness. And in the midst of the winter, when his life runs lowest and he is reminded of the empty chairs of his beloved, it is well he should be condemned to this fashion of the smiling face. C: Noble disappointment, noble self–denial are not to be admired, not even to be pardoned, if they bring bitterness. D: It is one thing to enter the kingdom of heaven maim; another to maim yourself and stay without. D: And the kingdom of heaven is of the childlike, of those who are easy to please, who love and who give pleasure. C: Mighty men of their hands, the smiters and the builders and the judges, have lived long and done sternly and yet preserved this lovely character; and among our carpet interests and twopenny concerns, the shame were indelible if we should lose it. B: Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality; they are the perfect duties. And it is the trouble with moral men that they have neither one nor other. A: It was the moral man, the Pharisee, whom Christ could not away with. If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong. I do not say “give them up,” for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.
A=A: “Christmas … is a season … suggesting thoughts of joy” complements “If your morals make you dreary … conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.” Christmas is a season of “self-examination” and “joy,” not of “dreary” judgemental attitudes and behavior. To avoid spoiling the lives and holidays of “better and simpler people,” we should “conceal” our downer mindsets “like a vice.”
B=B: “[I]t is well he should be condemned to this fashion of the smiling face” equates “Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality; they are the perfect duties.” If the dreariness of winter tempts us “to sadness,” Christmas helps us to put on a “smiling face.” The “gentleness and cheerfulness” that Christmas invites are the “perfect duties” and supercedes the gloom of criticism.
C=C: “Noble disappointment, noble self–denial are not to be admired, not even to be pardoned, if they bring bitterness” contrasts with “Mighty men of their hands, the smiters and the builders and the judges, have lived long and done sternly and yet preserved this lovely character.” It is possible to be “mighty” and accomplished and yet preserve “this lovely character” of gentleness and cheerfulness. A moral philosophy that brings “bitterness” should not be “admired” nor “pardoned.”
D=D: “It is one thing to enter the kingdom of heaven maim; another to maim yourself and stay without” contrasts “the kingdom of heaven is of the childlike, of those who are easy to please, who love and who give pleasure.” The central focus of this chiasm is the childlike attributes that are necessary for us to develop in order to “enter the kingdom of heaven.” These include being “easy to please” and loving to “give pleasure.” In contrast, if we adopt dreary and critical attitudes we will “maim” ourselves and prevent our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
Robert Louis Stevenson uses chiasmus in “A Christmas Sermon” to divide his text into mini-sermons, drawing our attention to specific passages and inviting us to ponder his words. As we do so, we will more likely reflect upon our own lives and apply his message to a greater or lesser extent. Perhaps we will begin to see ourselves in a more modest light. Perhaps we will begin to redirect our ambitions to being more kind, honest, and patient. Perhaps we will learn to be less discouraged at our apparent lack of progress in life’s true endeavor. Perhaps we will begin developing greater gentleness and cheerfulness, especially at Christmas time. “A Christmas Sermon” serves as a case study in the function of chiasmus to guide a reader’s attention and thoughts.
Quentin L. Cook has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since October 2007. Prior to this, he served as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy beginning in 1998. He has also served as a bishop, stake president, regional representative, Area Authority, and member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. For his professional career, he worked as an attorney and healthcare executive in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Like the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Cook has had a Facebook account since 2013 “to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren.” Elder Cook regularly posts inspirational thoughts and snapshots from his world-wide ministry.
On December 1, 2016, Elder Cook posted a brief report about a recent visit to the Philippines. Chiasmus in his post emphasizes that the Saints’ love for and commitment to the Savior is the secret to their happiness and the cause of the Church’s impressive growth in the Philippines over the past 20 years.
A: As a newly called General Authority of the Church in 1996, my first assignment was with members in the Philippines. I have returned several times since, but this recent visit to the country marks 20 years since my first assignment. I was pleased to see how the Church has grown there and witness how the gospel of Jesus Christ is changing lives. B: In the last 20 years, the number of members of the Church in the country has nearly doubled. We are certainly pleased with the growth—but not surprised. I have always been impressed by the positive attitudes of those in the Philippines. It is a land of beautiful smiles, and the people there are some of the happiest people you will find anywhere. C: I believe they are so happy because they have a sincere love of the Savior. C: You can really feel a warmth from the people. Their commitment to modesty, kindness, and other Christlike virtues is apparent. B: Because of their love for the gospel of Jesus Christ, where there once were branches 20 years ago, there are now stakes. The Primary children from 20 years ago are now returned missionaries, and the returned missionaries are now Church leaders. Their lives serve as a testament to me that the gospel of Jesus Christ lifts us out of life’s challenges. It empowers us to have joy in spite of difficult circumstances. A: I pray we will all follow the examples I saw from the members of the Church in the Philippines to make the Savior and His Atonement the foundation of our lives. When we do so, He will help and heal us.
A=A: “[M]embers in the Philippines” equals “members of the Church in the Philippines” and “the gospel of Jesus Christ is changing lives” equals “He will help and heal us.” This chiasm describes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines, and serves as an example of how the “gospel of Jesus Christ [changes] lives.” This change comes about as Church members “make the Savior and His Atonement the foundation of their lives.” As they do so, Christ “help[s] and heal[s]” them.
B=B: “In the last 20 years, the number of members of the Church in the country has nearly doubled” equals “where there once were branches 20 years ago, there are now stakes” and “some of the happiest people you will find anywhere” complements “joy in spite of difficult circumstances.” The LDS Church has seen impressive growth in the Philippines over the past 20 years “[b]ecause of their love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Although they experience “life’s challenges,” the Gospel of Jesus Christ has lifted and empowered them to “have joy in spite of [their] difficult circumstances.” As a result, they are “some of the happiest people you will find anywhere.”
C=C: “[T]hey have a sincere love of the Savior” complements “[t]heir commitment to modesty, kindness, and other Christlike virtues is apparent.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes their “sincere love of the Savior” that is manifested through their “commitment to modesty, kindness, and other Christlike virtues.” This commitment enables their happiness and is the root cause of the impressive growth of the Church in the Philippines.
As with our previous articles on chiasmus in the Facebook posts of the Apostles, this post by Elder Cook reminds us to slow down and ponder the words of the prophets even though they may appear in ordinary places. By following the example of the Saints in the Philippines, we can find happiness and strengthen our wards and stakes by centering our lives on “the Savior and His Atonement.”
Bruce R. McConkie served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from October 1972 until his death in April 1985. Prior to this, he served in the First Council of the Seventy beginning in October 1946. Professionally, Elder McConkie practiced law and worked on a newspaper editorial staff. During World War II, he served as an army intelligence officer.
Elder McConkie is remembered for his prolific writing and extensive doctrinal knowledge. His books, Mormon Doctrine, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (3 volumes), The Messiah Series (6 volumes), and A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, are classics in Mormon theology.
Elder McConkie is also remembered for his final public testimony of Jesus Christ given in General Conference on April 6, 1985, thirteen days before his death. He explained how he gained his own witness of Christ, described the events of the Lord’s atonement in vivid detail, invited church members to put forth the effort to gain their own witness, and closed with a powerful testimony. This final address, titled “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” is chiastic, featuring both chiasms and parallelisms throughout. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of his concluding testimony (the best-remembered portion of his final address), followed by a less-detailed treatment of eight additional chiasms and parallelisms.
A: And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God— B: I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, C: and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. D: This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses, E: and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet E: and shall wet his feet with my tears. D: But I shall not know any better then than I know now C: that he is God’s Almighty Son, B: that he is our Savior and Redeemer, A: and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.
A=A: “[P]erfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God” equals “his atoning blood.” The shedding of Christ’s blood was an essential component of his “perfect atonement,” by which salvation is made possible for all mankind.
B=B: “Gethsemane and at Golgotha” complements “Savior and Redeemer.” Christ shed his blood at both Gethsemane and Golgotha in order to become our Savior and Redeemer. By overcoming spiritual and physical death he made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins, be resurrected, and become like our Heavenly Parents and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.
C=C: “Son of the Living God” equals “God’s Almighty Son.” Christ is the Son of God.
D=D: “I know of myself independent of any other person” complements “I shall not know any better then than I know now.” Through personal revelation, Elder McConkie is a primary source for the events of the atonement. This sure knowledge would not increase “in a coming day” when he would personally meet Christ in the spirit world and “feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet” and “wet his feet with [his] tears.” As mentioned in the introduction, Elder McConkie’s death occurred thirteen days after giving this talk, on April 19, 1985.
E=E: “I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet” complements “shall wet his feet with my tears.” Although this personal meeting with Christ would not increase his witness of Christ and the events of the atonement, the emotions of the moment would cause him to weep with gratitude for the blessings of the atonement extended on his behalf. (For similar events in the scriptures, see Luke 7:37-38 and 3 Nephi 17:10.)
Additional Chiasms and Parallelisms:
#1: This chiasm describes the process whereby Elder McConkie developed his own witness of the atonement of Christ. As he studied the words of the prophets, “the Holy Spirit of God” testified to him “that they are true.” As a result of this divine witness, whereby he “heard his voice and know[s] his word,” Elder McConkie possessed his own independent knowledge of the atonement of Christ. As a witness of Christ, his teachings about the atonement become the voice of the Lord to us in our efforts to qualify for our own witness.
A: In speaking of these wondrous things B: I shall use my own words, C: though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets. C: True it is they were first proclaimed by others, B: but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. A: I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.
#2: This parallelism details six key aspects of the atonement. The first two proclaim it to be the pinnacle event or act in all of eternity. The final four describe the glorious blessings that have come as a result of the atonement.
A: His atonement B: is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity. A: It B: is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. A: Through it, B: all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative. A: Through it B: are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. A: Through it, B: all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment. A: And through it, B: all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory.
#3 This parallelism details what we know and what we don’t know about Christ’s sufferings while he was accomplishing the atonement.
A: We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive B: the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane. A: We know B: he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him. A: We know B: he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death. A: We know B: that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name. A: We know B: that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup. A: We know B: that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be. A: As near as we can judge, B: these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.
#4: This chiasm describes the mockery inflicted upon Christ by the leaders of the Jews and Romans following his arrest. With their worldly authority Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod mocked Christ’s divine and rightful authority by placing a “crown of thorns” upon “his trembling brow.” With their saliva they mocked his holy face, which is only revealed to his special witnesses in our day. With “vicious blows” they mocked his sacred body that was part mortal and part immortal, and which was his vehicle for overcoming spiritual and physical death on our behalf.
A: They took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten. B: Their foul saliva ran down his face C: as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body. C: With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back. B: Blood ran down his face A: as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow.
#5: This chiasm describes the agony Christ experienced as he “carried his own cross” toward the “hill called Calvary.” As a result of the physical and spiritual torture he had experienced over the previous twelve hours, Christ “collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.” Insightfully, Elder McConkie describes how the “helpless disciples” of Christ “looked on” as he was nailed to the cross and experienced a similar agony “in their own bodies.” Perhaps this experience prepared them to carry their own crosses as they worked to spread the Gospel throughout the ancient world.
A: Then he carried his own cross B: until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all. C: Finally, on a hill called Calvary— C: again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls— B: while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies, A: the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.
#6: These two parallelisms describe the essential roles of Adam and Christ in our eternal development. By bringing death into the world, Adam is the “father of mortality.” By bringing life into the world, Christ is the “father of immortality.” Without the Fall, mankind could not experience “mortality and death.” Without the Atonement, mankind could not experience “immortality and eternal life.”
A: As Adam brought death, B: so Christ brought life; A: as Adam is the father of mortality, B: so Christ is the father of immortality. A: Thus, Creation is father to the Fall; and by the Fall came mortality and death; B: and by Christ came immortality and eternal life. A: If there had been no fall of Adam, by which cometh death, B:there could have been no atonement of Christ, by which cometh life.
#7: This parallelism describes the process of moving from having “a superficial knowledge” to possessing “a sound and sure knowledge” of the Atonement. We must “cast aside the philosophies of men” that encourage us to have only a passive reliance upon the Lord. We must cast aside “the wisdom of the wise” who only believe what they can see. Instead, we must seek to have “faith like Enoch and Elijah.” In order to “believe what [Enoch and Elijah] believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived,” we must “hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.” In other words, we need to develop our spiritual capacities and sensitivities, so that we can confidently act on revelation and see the hand of God in our lives.
A: Many of us have a superficial knowledge B: and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. C: But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah D: we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived. A: May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement. B: We must cast aside the philosophies of men C: and the wisdom of the wise D: and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.
#8: Continuing in this process of “gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement,” this parallelism focuses on the role of scripture study. Elder McConkie invites us to “search the scriptures,” which means we must “read” them, “ponder” their contents, and “pray” for spiritual insight and confirmation. By accepting the scriptures as “the mind and will and voice of the Lord,” “our minds” will be open to divine instruction and testimony about what happened in the “three gardens of God” — the Garden of Eden, where spiritual and physical death were introduced into the world; the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ overcame spiritual death; and the Garden of the Empty Tomb, where Christ overcame physical death. These events are “the very power of God unto salvation.” Hence, the scriptures that teach and testify of these events are also the power of God unto salvation, since they help us develop faith in Christ.
A: We must search the scriptures, B: accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord C: and the very power of God unto salvation. A: As we read, ponder, and pray, B: there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God— C: the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.
Chiasmus in Bruce R. McConkie’s final public testimony, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” emphasizes and clarifies different aspects of his message. First, it details the process of how he gained his own witness of the atonement of Jesus Christ and how we can gain our own. Second, it brings to light unique aspects of his witness, suggesting that each person’s witness may be unique in certain details while agreeing in essentials (for an example of this in the scriptures, see 1 Nephi 15:27). Lastly, it demonstrates the strong witness of Christ that we can each possess if we put forth the required effort, as did Elder McConkie.