On 9 August 2018, Dallin H. Oaks posted on his Facebook page additional thoughts about “the important relationship between God’s love for us and His laws that implement the plan of salvation”. President Oaks has previously addressed this topic in his General Conference addresses. For example, “Loving Others and Living with Differences” (October 2014) and “Love and Law” (October 2009).
This Facebook post is built of four chiasms and one parallelism that provide a more nuanced understanding of this relationship. This article presents diagrams and analyses of each of these rhetorical figures.
1. This parallelism explains that to “show love and seek peace” is to “live together in happiness and harmony, with goodwill toward all”. Although doing so is a “command” from Jesus Christ, most of His followers sincerely “want” to follow it.
A: The Lord Jesus Christ commands His followers to B: show love and seek peace. A: Whatever our differences, most of us want to B: live together in happiness and harmony, with goodwill toward all.
2. This chiasm introduces a metaphorical “two-sided coin” and identifies each side. One side is “love of others and tolerance for their opinions and behavior”. The other side is “what is true or right”.
It is important to remember that A: love of others and tolerance for their opinions and behavior B: is C: only one side D: of a two-sided coin. C: The other side B: is A: always what is true or right.
3. Continuing this metaphor, this chiasm explains how these sides “govern” as companions.
A: One of these sides B: should not govern B: without companion understanding and practice A: of the other.
4. This chiasm illustrates how God keeps these two sides in perfect balance and explains the relationship between “commandments” and “obedience” in our eternal development. Commandments are an expression of God’s perfect love. As we obey them, we eventually become perfect like He is.
A: God’s love is so perfect B: that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments B: because He knows that only through obedience to His laws A: can we become perfect to realize our eternal destiny.
5. As a concluding statement, this chiasm expresses the perfect balance between the “love of God” and His “laws and commandments”.
A: The love of God B: does not supersede C: His laws and His commandments, C: and the effect of God’s laws and commandments B: does not diminish A: the purpose and effect of His love.
An awareness of President Oaks’s use of rhetorical figures aids our understanding of his teachings and helps us better appreciate and apply the eternal balance between love and law.
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.
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.
#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 areblessed 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 proclamationas 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.
#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.
Dallin H. Oaks has been a member of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1984. Prior to his call to full-time church service, Elder Oaks served as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court beginning in 1980 and as president of Brigham Young University beginning in 1971.
In the April 2016 General Conference of the Church, Elder Oaks gave an address on the “essential role” of opposition in our Heavenly Father’s Plan for our eternal development. His address, “Opposition In All Things,” contains several strong chiasms that provide precision in meaning. This article presents one extensive chiasm in detail, providing a step-by-step analysis. Afterward, six additional chiasms are presented and receive a less detailed treatment.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to the Father’s plan and to Satan’s rebellion against it.
B: As the Lord revealed to Moses, in the council of heaven Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3).
C: That destruction was inherent in the terms of Satan’s offer. He came before the Father and said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).
D: Thus, Satan proposed to carry out the Father’s plan in a way that would prevent the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and give Satan His glory.
E: Satan’s proposal would have ensured perfect equality: it would “redeem all mankind,” that not one soul would be lost.
F: There would be no agency or choice by anyone and, therefore, no need for opposition.
F: There would be no test, no failure, and no success. There would be no growth to attain the purpose the Father desired for His children.
E: The scriptures record that Satan’s opposition resulted in a “war in heaven” (Revelation 12:7), in which two-thirds of the children of God earned the right to experience mortal life by choosing the Father’s plan and rejecting Satan’s rebellion.
D: Satan’s purpose was to gain for himself the Father’s honor and power (see Isaiah 14:12–15; Moses 4:1, 3).
C: “Wherefore,” the Father said, “because that Satan rebelled against me, … I caused that he should be cast down” (Moses 4:3) with all the spirits who had exercised their agency to follow him (see Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:8–9; D&C 29:36–37). Cast down as unembodied spirits in mortality, Satan and his followers tempt and seek to deceive and captivate the children of God (see Moses 4:4).
B: So it is that the evil one, who opposed and sought to destroy the Father’s plan, actually facilitated it,
A: because it is opposition that enables choice and it is the opportunity of making the right choices that leads to the growth that is the purpose of the Father’s plan.
A=A: “[A]gency and opposition” is complemented by “it is opposition that enables choice” and “central to the Father’s plan” equates with “the purpose of the Father’s plan.” Agency and opposition are “central to the Father’s plan” because opposition enables choice and making right choices is what leads to “the growth that is the purpose of the Father’s plan.” In contrast, Satan sought to remove both agency and opposition in an effort to thwart the plan.
B=B: “[S]ought to destroy” equals “sought to destroy.” In his effort to destroy the Father’s plan, Satan “actually facilitated it” by providing the opposition needed for agency to function.
C=C: “He came before the Father” is complemented by “Satan and his followers tempt and seek to deceive and captivate the children of God.” Just as Satan seeks to “deceive and captivate the children of God” in mortality, he first sought to deceive Heavenly Father at the council in heaven. Evidently, he tried to take advantage of Heavenly Father’s infinite love for His posterity by guaranteeing to redeem each one, but he underestimated Heavenly Father’s infinite wisdom and sense of justice. Satan’s plan was not even a viable option; it was a complete lie.
D=D: “[P]revent the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and give Satan his glory” equates with “Satan’s purpose was to gain for himself the Father’s honor and power.” Ultimately, Satan was motivated by pride; he wanted Heavenly Father’s “honor,” which is His “power” (see D&C 29:36).
E=E: “[N]ot one soul would be lost” contrasts with “two-thirds of the children of God earned the right to experience mortal life by choosing the Father’s plan and rejecting Satan’s rebellion.” Paradoxically, in his deceptive efforts to “redeem all mankind,” Satan halted the progress of one-third of the spirit children of God. Only those who successfully opposed Satan’s efforts were qualified to move forward into mortality.
F=F: “[N]o agency or choice … no need for opposition” is complemented by “no test, no failure, and no success … no growth to attain the purpose the Father desired for His children.” By removing agency and opposition, Satan would ultimately have prevented growth and exaltation.
#1 — This chiasm emphasizes the tempering influence of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which allows opposition to fuel our progress rather than prevent it through our wrong choices.
A: Central to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the Father’s plan of salvation for the eternal progress of His children. That plan, explained in modern revelation, helps us understand many things we face in mortality. My message focuses on the essential role of opposition in that plan.
B: The purpose of mortal life for the children of God is to provide the experiences needed “to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”
C: As President Thomas S. Monson taught us so powerfully this morning, we progress by making choices,
D: by which we are tested to show that we will keep God’s commandments (see Abraham 3:25).
D: To be tested,
C: we must have the agency to choose between alternatives.
B: To provide alternatives on which to exercise our agency, we must have opposition.
A: The rest of the plan is also essential. When we make wrong choices—as we inevitably will—we are soiled by sin and must be cleansed to proceed toward our eternal destiny. The Father’s plan provides the way to do this, the way to satisfy the eternal demands of justice: a Savior pays the price to redeem us from our sins. That Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father, whose atoning sacrifice—whose suffering—pays the price for our sins if we will repent of them.
#2 — This chiasm explains how opposition takes us from the realm of innocence into the realm of accountability. Confronted with options, we must choose for ourselves and reap the results.
A: One of the best explanations of the planned role of opposition is in the Book of Mormon, in Lehi’s teachings to his son Jacob. “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).
B: As a result, Lehi continued, “the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself
C: save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (verse 16).
C: Similarly, in modern revelation the Lord declares, “It must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men,
B: or they could not be agents unto themselves” (D&C 29:39).
A: Opposition was necessary in the Garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve had not made the choice that introduced mortality, Lehi taught, “they would have remained in a state of innocence, … doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:23).
#3 — In this chiasm, the bitter forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden represents the various forms of opposition we encounter throughout life, including “temptation to sin” and “difficult circumstances.”
A: Significantly, the temptation to sin is not the only kind of opposition in mortality.
B: Father Lehi taught that if the Fall had not taken place, Adam and Eve “would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery” (2 Nephi 2:23). Without the experience of opposition in mortality, “all things must needs be a compound in one,” in which there would be no happiness or misery (verse 11).
C: Therefore, Father Lehi continued, after God had created all things, “to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, …
D: it must needs be that there was an opposition;
D: even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter” (verse 15).
C: His teaching on this part of the plan of salvation concludes with these words: “Behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
B: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (verses 24–25).
A: Opposition in the form of difficult circumstances we face in mortality is also part of the plan that furthers our growth in mortality.
#4 — In this chiasm, opposition is a universal mortal experience and is manifest in various ways and to varying degrees, to the end that we “grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.”
A: All of us experiencevarious kinds of opposition that test us.
B: Some of these tests are temptations to sin. Some are mortal challenges apart from personal sin.
B: Some are very great. Some are minor. Some are continuous, and some are mere episodes.
A: None of us is exempt.Opposition permits us to grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.
#5 — To illustrate how opposition can manifest itself in our own lives, this chiasm shows to what extent Joseph Smith had to face opposition in order to publish the Book of Mormon after translating it. As with our own trials, “the Lord did not make it easy, but He did make it possible.”
A: After Joseph Smith had completed translating the Book of Mormon, he still had to find a publisher. This was not easy. The complexity of this lengthy manuscript and the cost of printing and binding thousands of copies were intimidating. Joseph first approached E. B. Grandin, a Palmyra printer, who refused.
B: He then sought another printer in Palmyra, who also turned him down.
C: He traveled to Rochester, 25 miles (40 km) away, and approached the most prominent publisher in western New York, who also turned him down.
B: Another Rochester publisher was willing, but circumstances made this alternative unacceptable.
A: Weeks had passed, and Joseph must have been bewildered at the opposition to accomplishing his divine mandate. The Lord did not make it easy, but He did make it possible. Joseph’s fifth attempt, a second approach to the Palmyra publisher Grandin, was successful.
#6 — Referring to the words of the Lord to Joseph Smith and the teachings of President Thomas S. Monson, this chiasm informs us that opposition is for our good, since it gives us “experience” and “presents us with the real test of our ability to endure.” While we may wonder about the wisdom of our present trials, Heavenly Father knows that “we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices.”
A: Years later, Joseph was painfully imprisoned in Liberty Jail for many months. When he prayed for relief, the Lord told him that “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
B: We are all acquainted with other kinds of mortal opposition not caused by our personal sins, including illness, disability, and death.
C: President Thomas S. Monson explained: “Some of you may at times have cried out in your suffering, wondering why our Heavenly Father would allow you to go through whatever trials you are facing. …
C: “Our mortal life, however, was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices.
B: Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us.
A: These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.”
Dallin H. Oaks’ use of chiasmus serves to focus the reader’s attention on the meaning of specific passages of his address, leading to a thorough understanding of the role of opposition in our lives. With this understanding we are better equipped to use opposition proactively to accelerate our development, permitting us to “grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.”