I Am One Of His Witnesses: Chiasmus in Bruce R. McConkie’s “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane”

bruce-r-mcconkie_april1985_lds-dot-org
Bruce R. McConkie (lds.org)

Bruce R. McConkie served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from October 1972 until his death in April 1985. Prior to this, he served in the First Council of the Seventy beginning in October 1946. Professionally, Elder McConkie practiced law and worked on a newspaper editorial staff. During World War II, he served as an army intelligence officer.

Elder McConkie is remembered for his prolific writing and extensive doctrinal knowledge. His books, Mormon Doctrine, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (3 volumes), The Messiah Series (6 volumes), and A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, are classics in Mormon theology.

Elder McConkie is also remembered for his final public testimony of Jesus Christ given in General Conference on April 6, 1985, thirteen days before his death. He explained how he gained his own witness of Christ, described the events of the Lord’s atonement in vivid detail, invited church members to put forth the effort to gain their own witness, and closed with a powerful testimony. This final address, titled “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” is chiastic, featuring both chiasms and parallelisms throughout. This article presents a diagram and detailed analysis of his concluding testimony (the best-remembered portion of his final address), followed by a less-detailed treatment of eight additional chiasms and parallelisms.

[Note: For an in-depth explanation of our methodology, see our article, “Recognizing Parallelisms and Chiasmus in the Scriptures,” under the Methodology tab.]


Diagram and Analysis:

A: And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God
B: I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha,
C: and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King.
D: This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses,
E: and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet
E: and shall wet his feet with my tears.
D: But I shall not know any better then than I know now
C: that he is God’s Almighty Son,
B: that he is our Savior and Redeemer,
A: and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.

conferencereport_april1985_9_mcconkie
Conference Report, April 1985 (archive.org)

A=A: “[P]erfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God” equals “his atoning blood.” The shedding of Christ’s blood was an essential component of his “perfect atonement,” by which salvation is made possible for all mankind.

B=B: “Gethsemane and at Golgotha” complements “Savior and Redeemer.” Christ shed his blood at both Gethsemane and Golgotha in order to become our Savior and Redeemer. By overcoming spiritual and physical death he made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins, be resurrected, and become like our Heavenly Parents and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

C=C: “Son of the Living God” equals “God’s Almighty Son.” Christ is the Son of God.

D=D: “I know of myself independent of any other person” complements “I shall not know any better then than I know now.” Through personal revelation, Elder McConkie is a primary source for the events of the atonement. This sure knowledge would not increase “in a coming day” when he would personally meet Christ in the spirit world and “feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet” and “wet his feet with [his] tears.” As mentioned in the introduction, Elder McConkie’s death occurred thirteen days after giving this talk, on April 19, 1985.

E=E: “I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet” complements “shall wet his feet with my tears.” Although this personal meeting with Christ would not increase his witness of Christ and the events of the atonement, the emotions of the moment would cause him to weep with gratitude for the blessings of the atonement extended on his behalf. (For similar events in the scriptures, see Luke 7:37-38 and 3 Nephi 17:10.)


Additional Chiasms and Parallelisms:

#1: This chiasm describes the process whereby Elder McConkie developed his own witness of the atonement of Christ. As he studied the words of the prophets, “the Holy Spirit of God” testified to him “that they are true.” As a result of this divine witness, whereby he “heard his voice and know[s] his word,” Elder McConkie possessed his own independent knowledge of the atonement of Christ. As a witness of Christ, his teachings about the atonement become the voice of the Lord to us in our efforts to qualify for our own witness.

A: In speaking of these wondrous things
B: I shall use my own words,
C: though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.
C: True it is they were first proclaimed by others,
B: but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance.
A: I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.


#2: This parallelism details six key aspects of the atonement. The first two proclaim it to be the pinnacle event or act in all of eternity. The final four describe the glorious blessings that have come as a result of the atonement.

A: His atonement
B: is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.
A: It
B: is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform.
A: Through it,
B: all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative.
A: Through it
B: are brought to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
A: Through it,
B: all men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.
A: And through it,
B: all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory.


#3 This parallelism details what we know and what we don’t know about Christ’s sufferings while he was accomplishing the atonement.

A: We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive
B: the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
A: We know
B: he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
A: We know
B: he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.
A: We know
B: that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
A: We know
B: that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
A: We know
B: that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be.
A: As near as we can judge,
B: these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.


#4: This chiasm describes the mockery inflicted upon Christ by the leaders of the Jews and Romans following his arrest. With their worldly authority Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod mocked Christ’s divine and rightful authority by placing a “crown of thorns” upon “his trembling brow.” With their saliva they mocked his holy face, which is only revealed to his special witnesses in our day. With “vicious blows” they mocked his sacred body that was part mortal and part immortal, and which was his vehicle for overcoming spiritual and physical death on our behalf.

A: They took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten.
B: Their foul saliva ran down his face
C: as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body.
C: With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back.
B: Blood ran down his face
A: as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow.


#5: This chiasm describes the agony Christ experienced as he “carried his own cross” toward the “hill called Calvary.” As a result of the physical and spiritual torture he had experienced over the previous twelve hours, Christ “collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.” Insightfully, Elder McConkie describes how the “helpless disciples” of Christ “looked on” as he was nailed to the cross and experienced a similar agony “in their own bodies.” Perhaps this experience prepared them to carry their own crosses as they worked to spread the Gospel throughout the ancient world.

A: Then he carried his own cross
B: until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.
C: Finally, on a hill called Calvary
C: again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls
B: while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies,
A: the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.


#6: These two parallelisms describe the essential roles of Adam and Christ in our eternal development. By bringing death into the world, Adam is the “father of mortality.” By bringing life into the world, Christ is the “father of immortality.” Without the Fall, mankind could not experience “mortality and death.” Without the Atonement, mankind could not experience “immortality and eternal life.”

A: As Adam brought death,
B: so Christ brought life;
A: as Adam is the father of mortality,
B: so Christ is the father of immortality.

A: Thus, Creation is father to the Fall; and by the Fall came mortality and death;
B: and by Christ came immortality and eternal life.
A: If there had been no fall of Adam, by which cometh death,
B:there could have been no atonement of Christ, by which cometh life.


#7: This parallelism describes the process of moving from having “a superficial knowledge” to possessing “a sound and sure knowledge” of the Atonement. We must “cast aside the philosophies of men” that encourage us to have only a passive reliance upon the Lord. We must cast aside “the wisdom of the wise” who only believe what they can see. Instead, we must seek to have “faith like Enoch and Elijah.” In order to “believe what [Enoch and Elijah] believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived,” we must “hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.” In other words, we need to develop our spiritual capacities and sensitivities, so that we can confidently act on revelation and see the hand of God in our lives.

A: Many of us have a superficial knowledge
B: and rely upon the Lord and his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life.
C: But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah
D: we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.
A: May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.
B: We must cast aside the philosophies of men
C: and the wisdom of the wise
D: and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.


#8: Continuing in this process of “gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement,” this parallelism focuses on the role of scripture study. Elder McConkie invites us to “search the scriptures,” which means we must “read” them, “ponder” their contents, and “pray” for spiritual insight and confirmation. By accepting the scriptures as “the mind and will and voice of the Lord,” “our minds” will be open to divine instruction and testimony about what happened in the “three gardens of God” — the Garden of Eden, where spiritual and physical death were introduced into the world; the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ overcame spiritual death; and the Garden of the Empty Tomb, where Christ overcame physical death. These events are “the very power of God unto salvation.” Hence, the scriptures that teach and testify of these events are also the power of God unto salvation, since they help us develop faith in Christ.

A: We must search the scriptures,
B: accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord
C: and the very power of God unto salvation.
A: As we read, ponder, and pray,
B: there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God—
C: the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.


Conclusion:

Chiasmus in Bruce R. McConkie’s final public testimony, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” emphasizes and clarifies different aspects of his message. First, it details the process of how he gained his own witness of the atonement of Jesus Christ and how we can gain our own. Second, it brings to light unique aspects of his witness, suggesting that each person’s witness may be unique in certain details while agreeing in essentials (for an example of this in the scriptures, see 1 Nephi 15:27). Lastly, it demonstrates the strong witness of Christ that we can each possess if we put forth the required effort, as did Elder McConkie.

He Lives: Chiasmus in “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles”

the_living_Christ_image_bw.jpgOn 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.

the_living_christ_signers
Signers of “The Living Christ” (lds.org)

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.


Conclusion:

“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.

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