In his address at the recent “Be One” celebration that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the revelation on the priesthood, President Russell M. Nelson made use of parallelism to emphasize the need to treat everyone as equals.
After reviewing the Lord’s “essential doctrine of equal opportunity for His children”, by referencing Matthew 22:36-40 and D&C 38:24-25, President Nelson shared three sequential parallelisms to stress the importance of applying this doctrine into our lives. These parallelisms were arranged to build in intensity, climaxing with the third parallelism. This building in intensity was created through form — the first two being less clearly parallel and the third being unmistakably parallel — and content — the first two providing a case study and doctrinal basis and the third providing a summary statement containing universally understandable metaphors.
This paper presents a diagram and detailed analysis of each parallelism.
President Nelson’s first parallelism describes the process of faithful people joining the Church throughout the world and becoming one, as “[d]ifferences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance”:
A: On every continent and across the isles of the sea, B: faithful people are C: being gathered D: into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A: Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as B: the faithful C: enter the covenant path and come D: unto our beloved Redeemer.
A=A: By mentioning “every continent”, “the isles of the sea”, and “culture, language, gender, race, and nationality”, President Nelson is addressing all forms of prejudice throughout the world.
B=B: Faith is the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, followed by repentance. Likewise, faith is the first step in overcoming prejudice, as the light of the Gospel heals our minds and hearts.
C=C: “[B]eing gathered” and entering into “the covenant path” is a commitment to follow Christ and live by his teachings. This enables us to forgive and see the divinity in others.
D=D: Overcoming prejudice is made possible by Jesus Christ, whose priesthood and ordinances are available in His restored church. No form of prejudice is beyond His healing reach.
In his second parallelism, President Nelson declares that prejudice is fully overcome through comprehending “the true Fatherhood of God”. This understanding opens our eyes to the divinity of the human family.
Ultimately, we realize that A: only the comprehension of B: the true Fatherhood of God A: can bring full appreciation of B: the true brotherhood of men B: and the true sisterhood of women.
A=A: “[C]omprehension” leads to “appreciation”. The more we comprehend that God is the literal father of the human family, the more we appreciate each other.
B=B: If God is our father, then we are all brothers and sisters.
Lastly, in his third parallelism, President Nelson encourages us to develop a mindset of “cooperation” that brings people together.
That understanding inspires us with passionate desire to A: build bridges B: of cooperation A: instead of walls B: of segregation.
A=A: “[B]ridges” is antithetical to “walls”.
B=B: “[C]ooperation” is antithetical to “segregation”.
The power of this final parallelism — from its combined form and content — drew an approving applause from the audience.
In calling on the people of the world and the membership of the Church to overcome prejudice of any kind, President Nelson effectively used parallelism to enhance his message, making it more memorable and powerful.
David O. McKay served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from April 1951 until his death in January 1970. Prior to this, he served as a counselor in the First Presidency beginning in 1934 and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in 1906. Professionally, David O. McKay was an educator, serving as a teacher and principal at Weber Stake Academy (the forerunner of Weber State University) in Ogden, Utah.
President McKay is remembered for his prophet-esque physical appearance and countenance, the growth and expansion of the Church that occurred during his two-decade tenure, and his teachings: “Every member a missionary” and “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
On April 9, 1951, David O. McKay was sustained by the Church’s worldwide membership as president of the Church, replacing President George Albert Smith who had passed away a week earlier. In his inaugural address, President McKay expressed his humility at his new responsibility, dedication to the work of the Lord, and need for the sustaining faith and prayers of Church members.
To aid his expression President McKay paraphrased Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address, which was delivered on February 11, 1861 at the Great Western Railroad station in Springfield, Illinois before Lincoln departed for Washington D.C. to assume his duties as President of the United States. Lincoln biographer, Gabor Boritt, considers the Farewell Address Lincoln’s “finest poetry” up to that point in his life and Harriet Beecher Stowe considered it one of Lincoln’s three most beautiful addresses (The Gettysburg Gospel, 92, 159).
Chiasmus and parallelisms are distinctive features in both President McKay’s inaugural address and President Lincoln’s Farewell Address.* This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of Lincoln’s brief Farewell Address, followed by a diagram and detailed analysis of the relevant paraphrasing passages from McKay’s inaugural address. For an in-depth explanation of our methodology read our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.
[*Note: Chiasmus is a well-documented feature of Abraham Lincoln’s writings and speeches. For example, the chapter on “Chiasmus” in Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric references Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863), speech at Cooper Institute (1860), debate with Stephen Douglas at Ottawa (1858), letter to A. G. Hodges (1864), and letter to James Hackett (1863).]
Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address (1861)
#1: In this parallelism Abraham Lincoln attempts to express his “feeling of sadness” at leaving Springfield, Illinois. David O. McKay also had difficulty expressing his feelings in his inaugural address.
My friends — No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. A: To this place, and the kindness of these people, B: I owe every thing. A: Here B: I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. A: Here B: my children have been born, and one is buried.
A=A: “[T]his place” equals “Here” and “Here,” referring to Springfield, Illinois and the community that had been his neighbors for “a quarter of a century.”
B=B: “[E]very thing” complements “lived a quarter of a century” and “my children have been born, and one is buried.” Abraham Lincoln lived nearly half of his life in Springfield, Illinois. This was long enough to put down deep roots, raise a family, and develop close relations. Following his assassination in 1865, President Lincoln was buried in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery.
#2: This chiasm expresses a sense of foreboding doom for President Lincoln, but also evidences his courage and patriotism in the face of serious personal danger.
A: I now leave, B: not knowing when, B: or whether ever, A: I may return,
A=A: “[L]eave” contrasts with “return.” In departing from home, Lincoln naturally contemplates his eventual return.
B=B: “[W]hen” complements “ever.” Perhaps a premonition of his assassination, Lincoln does not know if he will ever return to Springfield. With the Civil War weeks away from beginning and several states having already left the Union, an ominous black cloud hung over the nation. President Lincoln would give his life to preserve the Union.
#3: In this parallelism Abraham Lincoln compares his task to preserve the Union with that of George Washington’s task to create or found the Union.
A: with a task B: before me A: greater than that which B: rested upon Washington.
A=A: “[T]ask” compares to “greater than that.” Lincoln considers his “task” as president to be “greater than that” of any previous president.
B=B: “[M]e” compares to “Washington.” Lincoln specifically compares himself to George Washington, “Father of our Country,” General of the Continental Army, and first President of the United States. Instead of founding the nation, Lincoln would be preserving it — a task he considered to be “greater” or more difficult. Later, in his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln would once again draw a comparison to the nation’s founding and call for “a new birth of freedom.”
#4: This parallelism expresses Abraham Lincoln’s humility and complete reliance upon God. David O. McKay paraphrases this passage in his inaugural address.
A: Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, B: I cannot succeed. A: With that assistance B: I cannot fail.
A=A: “Without the assistance” contrasts with “With that assistance.” Lincoln refers to the “Divine Being” who oversaw the founding of the nation. His “assistance” was vital for both the founding and the preserving of the nation.
B=B: “I cannot succeed” contrasts with “I cannot fail.” Lincoln declares his complete dependence upon God. This parallelism is closely paraphrased by President McKay.
#5: This chiasm optimistically references God’s omnipresent nature.
A: Trusting in Him B: who can go with me, B: and remain with you B: and be every where for good, A: let us confidently hope that all will yet be well.
A=A: “Trusting” equals “confidently hope.” After declaring his complete dependence upon God for his task of preserving the nation, Lincoln encourages the people of Springfield to optimistically place their trust in God.
B=B: “[G]o with me” complements “remain with you” and “be every where for good.” Lincoln refers to the omnipresent nature of God.
#6: To conclude his Farewell Address, this parallelism expresses his desire that the people of Springfield pray for him as he prays for them.
A: To His care B: commending you, A: as I hope in your prayers B: you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
A=A: “His care” complements “your prayers.” Lincoln will be praying for the people of Springfield and hopes they will be praying for him, as well.
B=B: “[C]ommending you” complements “commend me.” Through the power of their prayers, God will watch over both President Lincoln and the people of Springfield.
David O. McKay’s Inaugural Address (1951)
#1: This parallelism echoes the opening of Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address where he states, “No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting.” Both Lincoln and McKay had difficulty expressing their feelings on these momentous occasions and were humbled by their new responsibilities.
My beloved fellow workers, brethren and sisters A: I wish it were B: within my power of expression C: to let you know D: just what my true feelings are on this momentous occasion. A: I would wish that B: you might look into my heart C: and see there for yourselves D: just what those feelings are.
A=A: “I wish” equals “I would wish.” This parallelism expresses the “wish” of President McKay’s heart.
B=B: “[M]y power of expression” contrasts with “you might look into my heart.” Acknowledging his own lack of expressive abilities, President McKay wishes that his audience (the world-wide membership of the Church) would be able to discern for themselves what is in his heart.
C=C: “[L]et you know” contrasts with “see there for yourselves.” While he can’t communicate effectively, he wishes they could see for themselves. He desires for them to gain their own spiritual witness of his feelings and intentions.
D=D: “[M]y true feelings” equals “those feelings.” President McKay’s sincerity is evident from his desire for complete personal transparency.
#2: This complex chiasm is constructed of a chiasm (CDEEDC) and a parallelism (FGFG) framed by a chiasm (ABBA). The chiastic structure of this passage makes it clear that President McKay is speaking from the perspective of the First Presidency, not just his own.
A: The Lord has said that the three presiding high priests chosen by the body appointed and ordained to this office of presidency B: are to be “upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the Church.”
C: No one can preside over this Church without first being in tune with D: the head of the Church, E: our Lord and Savior, E: Jesus Christ. D: He is our head. C: This is his Church.
F: Without his divine guidance and constant inspiration, G: we cannot succeed. F: With his guidance, with his inspiration, G: we cannot fail.
B: Next to that as a sustaining potent power, comes the confidence, faith, prayers, and united support of the Church. A: I pledge to you that I shall do my best so to live as to merit the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and pray here in your presence that my counselors and I may indeed be “partakers of the divine spirit.”
A=A: “[T]hree presiding high priests” equals “my counselors and I.” President McKay refers to the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the Church, which consists of the President of the Church and his counselors (see D&C 107:22). The new First Presidency, consisting of David O. McKay, Stephen L Richards, and J. Reuben Clark, will do their best to “merit the companionship of the Holy Spirit.”
B=B: “[C]onfidence, faith, and prayer of the Church” equals “confidence, faith, prayers, and united support of the Church.” The First Presidency are sustained by the membership of the Church (see D&C 107:22).
C=C: “[T]his Church” equals “His Church.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s authorized church (see D&C 1:30).
D=D: “[H]ead of the Church” equals “He is our head.” While the First Presidency is the highest governing body of the Church, Christ is the “head of the Church” and directs its affairs through revelation.
E=E: “Lord and Savior” equals “Jesus Christ.” The same Jesus Christ testified of in the New Testament and to whom the Christian world prays is the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
F=F: “Without his divine guidance and constant inspiration” contrasts “With his guidance, with his inspiration.” Paraphrasing Lincoln, President McKay acknowledges the needed “guidance” and “inspiration” that comes from God, who also inspired and guided Washington and Lincoln.
G=G: “[W]e cannot succeed” contrasts with “we cannot fail.” Like Lincoln, President McKay expresses his and his counselors’ complete dependence on God, their need for His “sustaining potent power,” and gives Him the credit for any success that may come during their tenure.
With a professional background as an educator, David O. McKay was a widely and well-read individual. This is apparent from his paraphrasing of Abraham Lincoln to express his feelings at a parallel moment in his life. Although the sense of foreboding doom is absent from President McKay’s inaugural address, he is aware that his calling will only end with his death (which happened of natural causes at age 96). Retirement is not an option. Hence, McKay is also expressing courage and commitment. While McKay’s paraphrasing of Lincoln can be identified and appreciated without a knowledge of chiasmus, recognizing the presence of chiasmus in both addresses provides a more precise and nuanced understanding of their words and how they relate to each other.
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.”
On January 1, 2000, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve of Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a public statement to “commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago.” Titled “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” its purpose was “to build the faith of our Heavenly Father’s children” and “add our witness to that of our predecessors” (First Presidency letter, Dec. 10, 1999).
The printed statement featured the signatures of the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at that time: Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, James E. Faust, Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry, David B. Haight, Neal A. Maxwell, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, M. Russell Ballard, Joseph B. Wirthlin, Richard G. Scott, Robert D. Hales, Jeffrey R. Holland, and Henry B. Eyring. Although several of these men have since passed away, all “duly ordained Apostles” share this same testimony and could add their signatures “to that of [their] predecessors.” It is also the same testimony that we should seek to develop in ourselves.
“The Living Christ” consists of an elegant chiasm that emphasizes different aspects of the mission of Jesus Christ and the profound influence of the Savior in each our lives. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of this chiasm.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. B: None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth. C: He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come. D: He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth. E: We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world. F: He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10). F: Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, E: even the voice of Jehovah, saying: “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4). D: Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! “For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— C: “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24). B: We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth— “built upon the foundation of . . . apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts. A: We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles— that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.
A=A: “[W]e offer our testimony” equals “We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles” and “His matchless life” complements “the matchless gift of His divine Son.” Those who are bearing testimony in this document are Christ’s “duly ordained Apostles.” They are testifying of “the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice,” which are a “matchless gift” from Heavenly Father.
B=B: “None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live” complements “His priesthood and His Church … He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords … [e]ach of us will stand to be judged of Him.” All mankind have been, are, and will be profoundly influenced by Jesus Christ: first, through His priesthood and Church, if they desire the ordinances and doctrines of salvation and exaltation; second, through His world government during the Millennium; third, through His eternal judgement, which decides our opportunities in the afterlife.
C=C: “[C]reator of the earth” is expanded by “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created” and “sons and daughters of God” equals “sons and daughters unto God.” Jesus Christ is not an absent or distant Creator. Rather, He makes use of His Creation to further Heavenly Father’s “work and glory” (Moses 1:39). After the spirit “sons and daughters of God” were sent to earth to gain physical bodies, Christ came to teach “the truths of eternity” and entreat “all to follow His example,” so that we can reach our “potential … in the life to come.” This pattern and purpose has been followed on each of the “worlds without number” Jesus Christ has created (Moses 1:33), although His atonement was performed on this earth.
D=D: “He gave His life” complements “he lives!” The first half of this element focuses on His overcoming of spiritual death through the atonement and the second half focuses on His overcoming of physical death through the resurrection.
E=E: “His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary” complements ““I am the first and the last.” This element describes the three phases of Christ’s eternal existence — premortal, mortal, and post-mortal — and emphasizes his significant and leading role in each. Just as Jesus Christ was the “Firstborn” spirit child of our Heavenly Father in the premortal existence, He was the “Only Begotten Son” in mortality, and the first to be resurrected. In His resurrected state, He is our “Redeemer” and “advocate with the Father.”
F=F: “Risen Lord” equals “Living Christ” and “Joseph Smith” equals “Prophet Joseph.” The central element of this chiasm emphasizes that Jesus has been resurrected, that he is the “Living Christ.” To do so, three witnesses of His resurrection are presented: first, “those He had loved in life,” or His disciples in the Holy Land; second, “His ‘other sheep’ (John 10:16) in ancient America,” a testimony recorded in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; third, the Prophet Joseph Smith, who, as head of the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10), is the chief testifier of the Living Christ to our modern world.
“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” offers an authoritative testimony of Jesus Christ. Chiasmus in this document emphasizes and expands our understanding of His divine mission and role in our lives. For example, Christ played a significant and leading role in the premortal realm, this mortal existence, and in our post-mortal destiny; He is an active Creator of worlds — in addition to organizing their elements and setting them in motion, He teaches their inhabitants and sets the example for them to follow; as our Priest, King, and Judge, He has a direct and profound influence upon all mankind; as our Savior and Redeemer, He overcame spiritual and physical death; as the Living Christ, He manifests himself to his chosen witnesses, both in the meridian of time and in our modern world. As “The Living Christ” declares at both its beginning and end, the life, accomplishments, and influence of Christ are truly “matchless.” With gratitude to the Father, we should seek to learn about and follow the example of His Son.
Thomas S. Monson has served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since February 2008. Prior to this, he served as a counselor in the First Presidency beginning in November 1985 and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in October 1963. Before his call to full-time Church service, he served as president of the Canadian Mission and as a counselor in a stake presidency and a bishop in Salt Lake City. Professionally, he worked as an executive in the publishing and printing industries. As a young man he served in the United States Navy during World War II.
His years as President of the Church have thus far been marked by continued temple building, historical transparency, doctrinal clarification, and a realignment of culture and practice. He is known for the illustrative stories and experiences he shares in his talks, which are filled with hope, encouragement, good humor, and prophetic warning.
President Monson’s address at the October 2013 General Relief Society Meeting, “We Never Walk Alone,” contains several chiasms and parallelisms. One chiasm from this talk was featured as his Facebook post on 13 September 2016. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of his Facebook chiasm, followed by a less detailed treatment of several additional chiasms and parallelisms from his address.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: Prayer is not just for times of trouble. We are told repeatedly in the scriptures to “pray always” and to keep a prayer in our hearts. B: The words of a favorite and familiar hymn pose a question which we would do well to ask ourselves daily: “Did you think to pray?” C: Allied with prayer in helping us cope in our often difficult world C: is scripture study. B: The words of truth and inspiration found in our four standard works are prized possessions to me. I never tire of reading them. A: I am lifted spiritually whenever I search the scriptures. These holy words of truth and love give guidance to my life and point the way to eternal perfection.
A=A: “[P]ray always” is complemented by “whenever I search the scriptures.” Each element in this chiasm emphasizes the synergic relationship between prayer and scripture study. This element focuses on the timeless need for prayer and scripture study, which are “not just for times of trouble” and which lift him spiritually “whenever” he turns to them. As a result of constant prayer and regular scripture study, President Monson receives spiritual and temporal “guidance.”
B=B: “[W]e would do well to ask ourselves daily: ‘Did you think to pray?’” is complemented by “I never tire of reading them [our four standard works].” This element of the chiasm serves as gentle encouragement for us to pray daily and to consider the scriptures “prized possessions.” Rather than focus on one particular book of scripture, President Monson emphasizes all “four standard works” and their “words of truth and inspiration.” We would do well to include each in our personal scripture study.
C=C: “[P]rayer” is complemented by “scripture study.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes the practical purpose and inestimable value of prayer and scripture study. As “allied” forces, they help us “cope in our often difficult world.” “Cope,” which means “to deal with and attempt to overcome problems and difficulties,” is an interesting word choice. It suggests that prayer and scripture study don’t remove problems from our lives. Instead, they give us the needed advantage to benefit and grow from the opposition and challenges we face in life. (For a further discussion on the essential role of opposition in our lives, see “Facilitating Our Growth: Chiasmus in Dallin H. Oaks’ ‘Opposition In All Things’”)
Additional Chiasms and Parallelisms:
#1: In this chiasm, President Monson compliments the women of the Relief Society by declaring them to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Through their “strength,” “devotion,” and “goodness,” they invite “the spirit” wherever they go or happen to be.
A: My dear sisters, B: the spirit we feel this evening is a reflection of B: your strength, your devotion, and your goodness. A: To quote the Master: “Ye are the salt of the earth. … Ye are the light of the world.”
#2: This chiasm focuses on the love Frances Monson had for Relief Society, the many assignments she had within Relief Society, and the great blessings that came into her life as a result of her service. Specifically, “some of her closest friendships came as a result of” her service in the Relief Society.
A: As I have contemplated my opportunity to address you, I have been reminded of the love my dear wife, Frances, had for Relief Society. B: During her lifetime she served in many positions in Relief Society. C: When she and I were both just 31 years of age, I was called to be president of the Canadian Mission. C: During the three years of that assignment, Frances presided over all of the Relief Societies in that vast area, which encompassed the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. B: Some of her closest friendships came as a result of that assignment, as well as from the many callings she later filled in our own ward Relief Society. A: She was a faithful daughter of our Heavenly Father, my beloved companion, and my dearest friend. I miss her more than words can express.
#3: This chiasm acknowledges the variety of women (and their unique challenges) that make up the membership of the Relief Society, but emphasizes their commonality. Despite their differing circumstances, they can find unity and benefit individually through their involvement in Relief Society.
A: Relief Society is made up of a variety of women. B: There are those of you who are single—perhaps in school, perhaps working—yet forging a full and rich life. C: Some of you are busy mothers of growing children. D: Still others of you have lost your husbands because of divorce or death D: and are struggling to raise your children without the help of a husband and father. C: Some of you have raised your children but have realized that their need for your help is ongoing. B: There are many of you who have aging parents who require the loving care only you can give. A: Wherever we are in life, there are times when all of us have challenges and struggles. Although they are different for each, they are common to all.
#4: This chiasm includes a parallelism. The elements CDE are a parallelism that equates the teachings of Ezra Taft Benson with the teachings of the Apostle Paul. Both encouraged their people to pray and promised them spiritual peace as a result. The elements AB, which turn this passage into a chiasm, are President Monson’s third witness to the peace that comes through prayer.
A: There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith. B: When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer. C: I love the words of President Ezra Taft Benson concerning prayer. Said he: D: “All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have … received. It has become an integral part of me—an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis of my knowledge of things divine. … E: “… Though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing.” C: The Apostle Paul admonished: D: “Let your requests be made known unto God. E: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” B: What a glorious promise! Peace is that which we seek, that for which we yearn. A:We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: “Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”
#5: This chiasm emphasizes the benefits that come from combining prayer with scripture study.
A: As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. B: We can find answers to our questions. C: We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. B: We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. A: When scripture study is combined with our prayers, we can of a certainty know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.
#6: This parallelism reassures us that whatever our temporal or spiritual circumstances, the love of God is a constant on which we can rely.
My dear sisters, your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes.
A: It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. B: It is simply there. A: It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. B: It is simply always there.
Chiasmus in President Monson’s address to the Relief Society emphasizes principles and doctrines taught in various passages. A major theme of his address is the blessings that come from combining daily prayer with scripture study — peace, answers to questions, increased doctrinal understanding, a sure testimony, and guidance in navigating “our often difficult world.” An additional theme is the blessings of involvement in Relief Society — unity, close friendships, and individual benefit. Above all is a reminder that Heavenly Father’s love for us “never changes” and “is simply always there.” By identifying and studying the chiasms and parallelisms in President Monson’s address, we are able to gain a more thorough understanding of his message and benefit from a more focused application.
In a previous article we presented a chiasm President Henry B. Eyring posted on his Facebook wall in April 2016. This article presents chiasmus in “Our Perfect Example,” his General Conference address from October 2009, in which he testifies of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to help us “become better” throughout our lives.
One chiasm from this address is cited in our e-book, A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ (Westbench Publishing, 2016). In this article we present a diagram and detailed analysis of this chiasm, followed by a more general treatment of two additional chiasms from President Eyring’s address.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: Just as Jesus used a child in His mortal ministry as an example for the people of the pure love they must and could have to be like Him, B: He has offered us the family as an example of an ideal setting in which we can learn how to love as He loves. C: That is because the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows we experience are in family relationships. D: The joys come from putting the welfare of others above our own. That is what love is. D: And the sorrow comes primarily from selfishness, which is the absence of love. C: The ideal God holds for us is to form families in the way most likely to lead to happiness and away from sorrow. B: A man and a woman are to make sacred covenants that they will put the welfare and happiness of the other at the center of their lives. A: Children are to be born into a family where the parents hold the needs of children equal to their own in importance. And children are to love parents and each other.
A=A: “[C]hild” equates with “Children” and “pure love” equates with “parents hold the needs of children equal to their own … [a]nd children are to love parents and each other.” By comparing a child in the meridian of time to children in contemporary culture, President Eyring shows the timeless importance of the family. In order for families to be successful, they must possess “pure love,” which he chiastically defines as parents holding “the needs of children equal to their own in importance” and children loving parents and each other.
B=B: “[F]amily” equates with “A man and a woman” and “learn how to love as He loves” equates with “put the welfare and happiness of the other at the center of their lives.” Like the Proclamation on the Family, of which he is a signer, President Eyring defines the family as being “between a man and a woman.” The “pure love” described in the previous section also applies to the relationship between husband and wife. In this section, he defines this love as putting “the welfare and happiness of the other at the center of their lives.” C=C: “[J]oys” equates with “happiness” and “sorrows” is the same as “sorrow.” By seeking after and possessing pure love in our familial relationships, we can experience the “joys” and “happiness” God intends us to experience. If we reject or fail to cultivate this love, then we will experience “sorrow,” the opposite of happiness. D=D: “[J]oys” contrasts with “sorrow” and “love” contrasts with “absence of love.” The central focus of this chiasm emphasizes President Eyring’s definition of “pure love.” In the first part, “joy” is the fruit of “love,” which is “putting the welfare of others above our own.” In the second part, “sorrow” is the result of “the absence of love,” which is “selfishness.”
Chiasmus in this passage from President Eyring’s talk reinforces his definition of “pure love,” or the love that Christ expresses and that we are to express in our families. By understanding that “love” contrasts with “selfishness” and “sorrow” contrasts with “joy” and “happiness,” we can more deliberately and successfully develop this kind of love in our familial relationships. Ultimately, we can achieve what President Eyring describes as “the ideal of a loving family.”
Additional Chiastic Structures:
#1 — This chiasm corrects the mistaken view of those who think they have “no need to improve” or who have “given up trying to be better.” Instead, the message of the Gospel is that “we can and must expect to become better” throughout our lives. The key to personal improvement is praying for the gift of charity so that we can be “true followers” of Christ and prepared for His Second Coming.
A: There may be a few who mistakenly feel they are good enough and a few who have given up trying to be better. B: But, for all, the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can and must expect to become better as long as we live. C: Part of that expectation is set for us in a revelation given by God to the Prophet Joseph Smith. It describes the day when we will meet the Savior, as we all will. D: It tells us what to do to prepare and what to expect. D: It is in the book of Moroni: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; C: that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” B: That ought to help you understand why any believing Latter-day Saint is an optimist about what lies ahead for him or her, however difficult the present may be. We believe that through living the gospel of Jesus Christ we can become like the Savior, who is perfect. A:Considering the attributes of Jesus Christ should quash the pride of the self-satisfied person who thinks he or she has no need to improve. And even the most humble person can take hope in the invitation to become like the Savior.
#2 — This chiasm describes an experience President Eyring had of watching a group of children sing the well-known Primary song, “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus.” He observed that the children sang with determination and confidence, fully believing perfection through the Atonement of Christ was possible. Such is the power of inspired music to build testimony.
A: How that wonderful transformation will happen is captured for me in a song written for children. B: I remember watching the faces of a room full of children singing it on a Sunday. Each of the children was leaning forward, almost to the front of the chair. I could see light in their eyes and C: determination in their faces as they sang with gusto. D: You may have heard the song too. I hope it will sound forever in our memories. I only hope I can give it the feeling those children had. D: I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways. I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say. At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, “Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, For these are the things Jesus taught.” C: It seemed to me that they were not just singing; they were declaring their determination. Jesus Christ was their example. To be like Him was their fixed goal. B: And their eager looks and their shining eyes convinced me that they had no doubts. They expected to succeed. They believed that the instruction of the Savior to be perfect was not a hope but a command. And they were sure He had prepared the way. That determination and confidence can and must be in the heart of every Latter-day Saint. A: The Savior has prepared the way through His Atonement and His example. And even the children who sang that song knew how.
In his writings that we have thus far presented, President Henry B. Eyring is a master of chiasmus. He writes with a high degree of precision and care in an effort to clearly teach the doctrines of the Gospel. In “Our Perfect Example,” he uses chiasmus to help us see that perfection is possible through the Atonement of Christ and to motivate us to keep putting forth the effort to improve. He also shows how “pure love” or unselfishness is the necessary key to establishing a happy family. The existence of chiasmus in the writings of our Church leaders is an invitation for us to carefully study and ponder their messages.
Orson Hyde was ordained an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on February 15, 1835. In addition to his other responsibilities, Elder Hyde was given multiple inspired directives concerning a future ministry to the Jews, including a blessing given by Joseph Smith following his baptism in 1831:
“In due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem, the land of thy fathers, and be a watchman unto the house of Israel; and by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people” (History of the Church 4:375).
In fulfillment of these directives, Orson Hyde requested and was appointed at the April 1840 General Conference of the Church “to visit the Jews” (History of the Church 4:106-9). After traveling through New York, London, Amsterdam, Constantinople, and Jerusalem — making contact with prominent Jewish leaders along the way and publishing a pamphlet entitled “An Address to the Hebrews” — Elder Hyde ascended the Mount of Olives on the morning of Sunday, October 24, 1841 and offered a prayer of dedication. (History of the Church 4:372-9; 4:384-5; 4:388; 4:454-9).
Orson Hyde’s inspired prayer contains chiastic and parallel structures that offer insight into the destiny and responsibilities of modern Judah. In this article, we present a diagram and detailed analysis of one extensive chiasm, followed by a less detailed treatment of an additional chiasm and a parallelism.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs; let it again flow with plenty to feed the returning prodigals who come home with a spirit of grace and supplication;
B: upon it let the clouds distil virtue and richness, and let the fields smile with plenty.
C: Let the flocks and the herds greatly increase and multiply upon the mountains and the hills;
D: and let Thy great kindness conquer and subdue the unbelief of Thy people.
E: Do Thou take from them their stony heart,
E: and give them a heart of flesh;
D: and may the Sun of Thy favor dispel the cold mists of darkness which have beclouded their atmosphere.
C: Incline them to gather in upon this land according to Thy word.
B: Let them come like clouds and like doves to their windows.
A: Let the large ships of the nations bring them from the distant isles; and let kings become their nursing fathers, and queens with motherly fondness wipe the tear of sorrow from their eye.
A=A: “Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs” is complemented by “[l]et the large ships of the nations bring them from the distant isles… .” As the “rightful heirs” return, the Holy Land will become “abundantly fruitful … to feed the returning prodigals.” This change in the land will happen for two reasons. First, Judah will “come home with a spirit of grace and supplication,” allowing the Lord to bless them. Second, in addition to providing transportation for Judah, the kings and queens of the earth will “wipe the tear of sorrow from their eye” by aiding in their development.
B=B: “Let the clouds distil virtue and richness” compares with “[l]et them come like clouds.” As Judah returns “like clouds and like doves” (Ezra Taft Benson suggests this refers to airplanes), needed moisture will fall from the clouds, watering the land and causing the “fields to smile with plenty.” This prosperity will result from Judah’s “virtue and richness,” by which they will govern the land.
C=C: “Let the flocks and the herds greatly increase and multiply” is complemented by “[i]ncline them to gather in upon this land.” As the population of Judah increases in the Holy Land, the “flocks and herds” will “greatly increase and multiply upon the mountains and the hills.” Judah will become an economic power throughout the nations of the earth.
D=D: “[L]et Thy great kindness conquer and subdue the unbelief of Thy people” compares metaphorically to “may the Sun of Thy favor dispel the cold mists of darkness which have beclouded their atmosphere.” As Judah rises from obscurity, their unbelief and biases will fade away.
E=E: “[T]ake from them their stony heart” contrasts with “give them a heart of flesh.” Central to the prosperity of Judah will be their changed heart, whereby they are receptive to the influence of the Lord. As a result, modern Judah will experience a fulfillment of Moses’s promise to the House of Israel that “if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments…. [b]lessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep…. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand” (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14). This humility and obedience will eventually lead them to recognize and embrace Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah.
Additional Parallel and Chiastic Structures:
#1: This parallelism explains that the gathering and prosperity of Judah in the latter-days is the fulfillment of the covenant God made anciently with their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
A: “O Thou, Who didst covenant with Abraham, Thy friend, and who didst renew that covenant with Isaac, and confirm the same with Jacob with an oath,
B: that Thou wouldst not only give them this land for an everlasting inheritance, but that Thou wouldst also remember their seed forever.
A: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have long since closed their eyes in death, and made the grave their mansion.
B: Their children are scattered and dispersed abroad among the nations of the Gentiles like sheep that have no shepherd, and are still looking forward for the fulfillment of those promises which Thou didst make concerning them;
#2: This chiasm describes how the Holy Land became barren and sterile following the crucifixion of Christ in the meridian of time. But in the last days, through the atonement of Christ, the Holy Land will be healed and once again teem with productive agriculture.
A: and even this land, which once poured forth nature’s richest bounty, and flowed, as it were, with milk and honey, has, to a certain extent, been smitten with barrenness and sterility
B: since it drank from murderous hands the blood of Him who never sinned.
B: “Grant, therefore, O Lord, in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ,
A: to remove the barrenness and sterility of this land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil. Let the vine and olive produce in their strength, and the fig-tree bloom and flourish.
The presence of chiasmus in Orson Hyde’s dedication of the Holy Land provides a method for developing a deeper understanding of the gathering of Judah in modern times. Specifically, it shows a direct connection between their gathering, their prosperity (including a tempering of the climate and an increased productivity of the land), their humility before the Lord, and the promises given anciently to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As these conditions continue to develop, the prophecies contained in this inspired prayer will reach fulfillment, including their hearts being prepared to accept Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah.
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.”
Joseph Fielding Smith served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from January 1970 to July 1972, after serving as a counselor in the First Presidency since 1965 and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since April 1910. His many decades of Church service were known for his prolific writing and fearless defense of Church doctrine.
In September 1931, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote a 2-page article entitled “The Law of Chastity” for The Improvement Era, a Church publication. His article discusses the importance of obeying the law of chastity, describes the essential role of marriage and family in the preservation of human civilization, and provides an expansive view of marriage and family within the Plan of Salvation.
“The Law of Chastity” is predominantly chiastic, consisting of chiasms interspersed with parallel structures. One of these chiasms is cited in our e-book, A Chiastic Analysis of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ (Westbench Publishing, 2016). What follows is a diagram and detailed analysis of this chiasm and a more general treatment of several additional chiasms from Elder Smith’s article.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: The abuse of this ordinance has been the primary cause of the downfall of nations.
B: When the sacredness of the marriage covenant is lost, and the vows are broken, destruction is inevitable.
C: This principle cannot be received in the spirit of contempt and indifference.
C: It is ordained to be more, far more, than a civil contract.
B: No nation can survive the abuse of this principle.
A: Rome, Greece, Babylon, Egypt, and many other nations owe their downfall to the breaking of the sacred covenant of marriage. The anger of a just God was kindled against them for their immorality. The bones of dead civilizations on this American continent bear silent but convincing evidence that it was unchastity and the disregard of this sacred covenant which brought them to their final judgment.
A=A: “The abuse of this ordinance has been the primary cause of the downfall of nations” equates with “nations owe their downfall to the breaking of the sacred covenant of marriage.” Whatever else may have contributed to the downfall of individual nations throughout history (foreign invasion, natural disaster, civil war, etc.), the “breaking” and “abuse” of the marriage covenant is the “primary cause” of irrecoverable disaster.
B=B: “[D]estruction is inevitable” equates with “no nation can survive.” Whether destruction happens immediately or not, the rejection or abandonment of “the sacredness of the marriage covenant” is the tipping point that ultimately leads to the downfall of nations.
C=C: “Cannot be received in the spirit of contempt and indifference” contrasts with “ordained to be more, far more, than a civil contract.” To regard marriage as merely a civil contract is not enough to ensure national survival; this is equivalent to regarding marriage with “contempt and indifference.” Instead, the eternal implications of marriage need to be recognized and honored.
To shed further light on the role marriage plays in the stability and survival of civilization, the remainder of this article offers diagrams and brief analyses of additional chiastic and parallel structures found throughout Joseph Fielding Smith’s article.
Additional Chiasms and Parallel Structures:
#1 — The following parallelism provides a description of societal attitudes regarding marriage in 1931, which are strikingly similar to present-day attitudes. This indicates a gradual decline of our civilization, which could accelerate at any time as the moral hollowing out continues.
A: There is no ordinance connected with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
B: of greater importance, of more solemn and sacred nature, and more necessary to the eternal joy of man,
C: than, marriage.
A: Yet there is no principle
B: which has been made the butt of coarser jokes, a greater jest by the vulgar and the unclean, and even by many who think themselves refined,
C: than that of marriage.
#2 — This parallelism acknowledges the challenges inherent in marriage, but provides guidance on how best to approach them. It offers a glimpse of the potential blessings available to those who keep their marriage covenant — both in mortality and in the eternities. Marriage becomes the key to expansive, almost incomprehensible progress, growth, and happiness.
A: Marriage is a principle which, when entered, presents more serious problems than any other. It should be received
B: in the spirit of patience and love, even that greater love which comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.
C: Nothing will prepare mankind for glory in the kingdom of God as readily as faithfulness to the marriage covenant. Through this covenant, perhaps more than any other, we accomplish the perfect decree of the Divine will, but this covenant is only one of many required of man who seeks to do the will of the Father.
A: If properly received this covenant becomes the means of the greatest happiness.
B: The greatest honor in this life, and in the life to come, honor, dominion and power in perfect love, are the blessings which come out of it.
C: These blessings of eternal glory are held in reserve for those who are willing to abide in this and all other covenants of the Gospel.
#3 — This chiasm contrasts the eternal destiny of those who prove faithful to the marriage covenant with those who reject the marriage covenant.
A: Others shall not be so blessed.
B: Marriage is the grandest, most glorious and most exalting principle connected with the Gospel.
B: It is that which the Lord holds in reserve for those who become his sons and daughters;
A: all others are servants only, even if they gain salvation. They do not become members of the household of our Father and our God if they refuse to receive the celestial covenant of marriage.
#4 — This chiasm describes the responsibility married couples have to bear children; this is the process whereby the spirit children of Heavenly Father receive physical bodies and are able to continue in their eternal progression. In contrast, because of their rebellion, Satan and his angels have been denied physical bodies and the opportunity to progress.
A: Nothing should be held in greater sacredness and honor than the covenant by which the spirits of men — the offspring of God in the spirit — are privileged to come into this world in mortal tabernacles.
B: It is through this principle that the blessing of immortal glory is made possible.
C: The greatest punishment ever given was proclaimed against Lucifer and his angels. To be denied the privilege of mortal bodies forever is the greatest curse of all.
C: These spirits can have no progress, no hope of resurrection and eternal life! Doomed are they to eternal misery for their rebellion!
B: And then to think that we are not only privileged, but commanded to assist our Father in the great work of redemption by giving to his children, as we have obtained these blessings for ourselves, the right to live and continue on, even to perfection!
A: No innocent soul should be condemned to come into this world under a handicap of illegitimacy. Every child has the right to be well born! Every individual who denies them that right is guilty of a mortal sin.
#5 — This chiasm emphasizes the importance of the physical body in our eternal progression. Since the resurrection is the permanent reunion of the spirit and the flesh, we cannot progress without being born into mortality. This process is the only way to become like our Heavenly Father.
A: The importance of these mortal tabernacles is apparent from the knowledge we have of eternal life.
B: Spirits cannot be made perfect without the body of flesh and bones. This body and its spirit are brought to immortality and blessings of salvation
C: through the resurrection.
C: After the resurrection
B: there can be no separation again, body and spirit become inseparably connected that man may receive a fulness of joy.
A: In no other way, other than birth into this life and the resurrection, can spirits become like our eternal Father.
The function of chiasmus and parallelism in this article by Joseph Fielding Smith is to reinforce and emphasize aspects of the doctrine being taught. By presenting Church doctrine in this way, Elder Smith makes it nearly impossible to misunderstand the Lord’s purpose for the law of chastity. A chiastic study of his article will strengthen our understanding of marriage and family, which will protect us from temptation and deception.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf has served in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since February 2008. Prior to this, he served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles beginning in October 2004 and as a General Authority beginning in April 1994.
President Uchtdorf was born in Czechoslovakia, but because of World War II was painfully uprooted twice in his boyhood years. He spent his teenage years in Frankfurt, Germany where he joined the German Air Force as a fighter pilot. Afterward, he spent his career as a commercial pilot and airline administrator.
Like the other members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Uchtdorf has had a Facebook account since 2013 “to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren.” On a regular basis he posts inspirational or instructive statements, often including an image or video.
On June 21, 2016, President Uchtdorf posted a four-paragraph message about Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon. Upon closer examination, President Uchtdorf’s Facebook post is a chiasm that reinforces and reveals the deeper subtleties of his message. In form and content it is a literary gem.
Diagram and Analysis:
A: Not long ago, the Church published photos and background information on seer stones.
B: People have asked me, “Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?” And I answer, “Yes! That is exactly what I believe.” This was done as Joseph said: by the gift and power of God.
C: In reality, most of us use a kind of “seer stone” every day. My mobile phone is like a “seer stone.” I can get the collected knowledge of the world through a few little inputs. I can take a photo or a video with my phone and share it with family on the other side of our planet.
D: I can even translate anything into or from many different languages!
E: If I can do this with my phone, if human beings
F: can do this with their phones or other devices,
F: who are we to say that God could not help
E: Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration,
D: with his translation work?
C: If it is possible for me to access the knowledge of the world through my phone, who can question that seer stones are impossible for God?
B: Many religions have objects, places, and events that are sacred to them. We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us.
A: We should never be arrogant, but rather polite and humble. We still should have a natural confidence, because this is the Church of Jesus Christ.
A=A: “Church” equates with “Church of Jesus Christ.” When the Church publishes material about its history and beliefs, it is not doing so out of compulsion, fear, or embarrassment. Rather it does so with “a natural confidence” because it is the Church of Jesus Christ.
B=B: “‘Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?’” contrasts with “We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us.” Oftentimes, people who would otherwise be polite and respectful are highly critical and disparaging of the beliefs of others. Mormons are all too familiar with this, both in our history and in the present day. Rather than develop a victim mentality, the Church shows respect for the “sacred beliefs of other religions.”
C=C: “[M]obile phone” compares to “seer stones.” If man can develop complex, technologically advanced tools to help him accomplish his work, why can’t the God of the Universe provide divine tools to help His servants accomplish His work?
D=D: “”[T]ranslate” equates with “translation.” Both mobile phones and seer stones have the power to translate languages for the use of man.
E=E: “[H]uman beings” equates with “Joseph Smith.” Although Joseph Smith was a prophet, he was also a human being. In order for him to accomplish God’s work he needed divine assistance. On a more subtle level, this reinforces the position that Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith.
F=F: “[P]hones” contrasts with “God.” As mobile phones have developed greater and greater powers, society has become more and more obsessed with them. Oftentimes, consumers will wait in line for several hours just to get the latest model, which will become outdated in a few months. How much different would our society be if we would place that same devotion toward God (who is all-powerful and all-knowing) and the revelations He gives His prophets?
A chiastic analysis of President Uchtdorf’s Facebook post emphasizes the subtleties of his message: the Church possesses a natural confidence because it is led by Jesus Christ; the sacred beliefs of all people should be respected, even if they seem hokey; mobile phones, which were a science fiction dream a generation ago, are not much different than seer stones; Joseph Smith was a human being, not a God or Christ-figure; mobile phones are a modern-day idol. Like our earlier post about Henry B. Eyring’s Facebook chiasm, Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Facebook chiasm is another reminder for us to slow down and ponder the words of the prophets, even though they may appear in commonplace spaces.