In a recent conference Elder Holland stated: “Our testimonies aren’t dependent on evidence. We still need always and forever that spiritual confirmation in the heart of which we’ve all spoken, but not to seek for and not to acknowledge intellectual documentable support for our belief when it is available is to needlessly limit an otherwise incomparably strong theological position and deny us a unique persuasive vocabulary in the latter-day arena of religious investigation and sectarian debate. Thus armed with so much evidence of the kind we celebrated here tonight we ought to be more assertive than we sometimes are in defending our testimony of the truth” [Elder Holland, “The Greatness of Evidence” given at the Book of Mormon Chiasmus Conference in August 2017].

Elder Holland also quoted C. S. Lewis who said: “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of argument destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced, but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief but maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

I recognize that much of this blog aims at the physical evidence of the Book of Mormon. In this post, I want to focus on some of the textual evidence found in this sacred book.

 

Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon

I remember back in my early days of seminary hearing this word. Chiasmus. It meant very little to me as a young girl and I quickly forgot about it. However, after studying literature in college and rediscovering chiasmus after my mission, it has become something almost precious to me.

While serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany in 1967, twenty-year-old John W. Welch discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. He had attended a lecture with his companion where the lecturer discussed a short book written on the chiastic structures in the Gospel of Matthew. Ten days after the lecture Elder Welch awoke at four o’clock in the morning with the thought: If it is evidence of Hebrew style in the New Testament, it must be evidence of Hebrew style in the Book of Mormon.

So Elder Welch got up and started reading where he and his companion had left off the day before in Mosiah Chapter 4. He read two pages and then two words jumped out at him: Übertretung. The words were easy to spot as they were eleven letters long and the German typeset stacked them on top of each other. (The word Übertretung translates into transgression.) In Mosiah 5:10-12, the verses read (in English, of course):

And now whosoever shall not take upon them the name of Christ

  must be called by some other name;

     therefore he findeth himself on the left hand of God.

        And I would that ye should remember that this is the name

           that should never be blotted out

              except it be through transgression;

              therefore take heed that ye do not transgress

           that the name be not blotted out of your hearts

        I would that ye should remember to retain this name

     that ye are not found on the left hand of God.

  But that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called

and also the name by which he shall call you

Elder Welch was excited about his discovery and wrote home about it. I have included a couple of screenshots of his letters home because they’re fun to read! You can view the whole story on YouTube here.

Typically, at the center of a chiasm is the main point. In the Book of Mormon, there are many chiasms. The most prominent example is Alma 36, where the whole chapter is a chiasm. At its center are Jesus Christ and His atonement, truly pointing all readers to the central source of mercy, love, forgiveness, and salvation.

  • My son give ear to my words (v. 1)
    • Keep the commandments and ye shall prosper in the land (v. 1)
      • Do as I have done (v. 2)
        • Remember the captivity of our fathers (v. 2)
          • They were in bondage (v. 2)
            • He surely did deliver them (v. 2)
              • Trust in God (v. 3)
                • Supported in trials, troubles, and afflictions (v. 3)
                  • Lifted up at the last day (v. 3)
                    • I know this not of myself but of God (v. 4)
                      • Born of God (v. 5)
                        • I sought to destroy the church (v. 6-9)
                          • My limbs were paralyzed (v. 10)
                            • Fear of being in the presence of God (v. 14-15)
                              • Pains of a damned soul (v. 16)
                                • Harrowed up by the memory of my sins (v. 17)
                                  • I remembered Jesus Christ, a son of God (v. 17)
                                  • I cried, Jesus Christ, son of God (v. 18)
                                • Harrowed by the memory of my sins no more (v. 19)
                              • Joy as exceeding as was my pain (v. 20)
                            • Long to be in the presence of God (v. 22)
                          • My limbs received strength again (v. 23)
                        • I labored to bring souls to repentance (v. 24)
                      • Born of God (v. 26)
                    • Therefore my knowledge is of God (v. 26)
                  • Supported under trials, troubles, and afflictions (v. 26)
                • Trust in him (v. 27)
              • He will deliver me (v. 27)
            • And raise me up a the last day (v. 28)
          • As God brought our fathers out of bondage and captivity (v. 28-29)
        • Retain a remembrance of their captivity (v. 29)
      • Know as I do know (v. 30)
    • Keep the commandments and ye shall prosper in the land (v. 30)
  • This according to his word (v. 30)

 

Other chiasms include 2 Nephi 11:6-7 about the existence of Christ and Mosiah 3:18-19 about the natural man being an enemy to God, or even Mormon’s end-of-the-year summary in Helaman 6.

A few months ago my father told me about the new Annotated Book of Mormon that was just recently published. After looking through my father’s copy of the book I was more than a little disappointed to find that of all the chiasms they did include the one in Mosiah 5 went unnoticed. Don’t get me wrong, the book is still a wonderful annotation, I just hope that in later editions of the book they’ll think to include the one chiasm that started Elder Welch on his amazing journey.

If Joseph Smith did fabricate the Book of Mormon and included all these complex chiasms, why not capitalize on them during his lifetime? The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 and Joseph Smith wasn’t killed until fourteen years later. Why would Joseph leave chiasms to be discovered by a twenty-year-old boy some one hundred years later? Could Joseph Smith have added these on accident? With how often they appear and with how carefully some of them are constructed, this is very unlikely. I think John W. Welch worded it excellently when he said: “As evidence of Book of Mormon authorship, the discovery of biblical-style chiasms in the Book of Mormon strongly reduces the probability that Joseph Smith or any of his contemporaries could have written the book.”

 

Polysyndeton in the Book of Mormon

My father taught me about this one a few months ago and now that I know about it it seems silly that I never noticed it before. The form is called polysyndeton. Polysyndeton is a literary technique in which conjunctions are used repeatedly in quick succession, often with no commas, even when the conjunctions could be removed. The word polysyndeton comes from a Greek compound word meaning “many” and “bound together”.

In his book Elder Hugh W. Pinnock (of the Seventy back in 1977-2000) states: “Hebrew writing did not employ punctuation as we know it today, so and was often used in place of commas and semicolons. Because so much of Hebrew is written using repetitions, the connective and was used to link these elements and sometimes also to add continuity to a series of thoughts, principles, or historical happenings that the writer wanted to communicate” [Finding Biblical Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon].

A Biblical example comes from Joshua 7:24:

And Joshua,

and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah,

and the silver,

and the garment,

and the wedge of gold,

and his sons,

and his daughters,

and his oxen,

and his asses,

and his sheep,

and his tent,

and all that he had:

and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

Other examples in the Bible include Genesis 22:9; Genesis 7:23; Haggai 1:11; Luke 10:27.

The Book of Mormon is absolutely peppered with this literary form. Here are three examples:

Helaman 3:14

But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites,

and their wars,

and contentions,

and dissensions,

and their preaching,

and their prophecies,

and their shipping

and their building of ships,

and their building of temples,

and of synagogues

and their sanctuaries,

and their righteousness,

and their wickedness,

and their murders,

and their robbings,

and their plundering,

and all manner of abominations

and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.

3 Nephi 30:2

Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways;

and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings

and deceivings,

and of your whoredoms,

and of your secret abominations,

and your idolatries,

and of your murders,

and your priestcrafts,

and your envyings,

and your strifes,

and from all your wickedness

and abominations,

and come unto me,

and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins,

and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.

Mosiah 11:3

And he laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed, a fifth part of their gold

and of their silver,

and a fifth part of their ziff,

and of their copper,

and of their brass

and their iron;

and a fifth part of their fatlings;

and also a fifth part of all their grain.

Other uses of polysyndeton in the Book of Mormon are found in 1 Nephi 2:4; 49; 2 Nephi 33:9; Enos 1:21; Alma 7:27; 8:21-23; 9:21; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 4:7; 11:19-20; 17:13-25; 4 Nephi 1:5-7; Mormon 8:37 and Ether 9:17-27.

 

Anaphora in the Book of Mormon

The discovery of this literary form, for me, was very exciting. I mean, the repetition of and is cool and all, but the repetition of whole phrases is even better! I wish I could point to a neat origin story like that of John W. Welch for both polysyndeton and anaphora (and many others for that matter), but no such stories can be found.

The word anaphora is a Greek term meaning “to repeat” or “to bring again.”  Probably the best known is “and it came to pass” which appears nearly 1,500 times in the Book of Mormon text. Mark Twain famously joked that if the phrase were omitted Joseph Smith would have published a pamphlet instead of a book [Mark Twain, Roughing It, 133]. It seems however that this little phrase can go a long way in revealing the literary origins of this sacred book.

Anaphora is a form of Hebrew poetry and was used to emphasize certain aspects of the author’s teachings.

For example in 2 Nephi 9:31-38 Jacob explains the penalties for sin:

And wo unto the deaf that will not hear; for they shall perish. Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also. Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day. Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell. Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth, for he shall die. Wo unto them who commit whoredoms, for they shall be thrust down to hell. Yea, wo unto those that worship idols, for the devil of all devils delighteth in them. And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.

Also in 2 Nephi 29:12 Nephi reveals that the Bible, The Book of Mormon and, in fact, all nations of the earth shall keep records of Jesus Christ:

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

Other forms of anaphora in the Book of Mormon are found in Alma 5:3-60 forms of “I say unto you”; Alma 21:6 “how knowest thou”; Alma 33:5-11 “thou didst hear me”; Alma 34:20-24 “cry unto him”; Helaman 6:26-29 “that same being”; Mormon 8:26-32 “it shall come in a day”; Ether 2:17 “tight like unto a dish”

 

Conclusion

I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I believe it not because of the existence of chiasms or polysyndeton or anaphora, but because I have read it, studied it, and have prayed for myself to know if the book is true. It seems that despite the seemingly abundant array of evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon, no one can know of its truthfulness except by the Holy Ghost. If you read and study the book and then pray, I promise you that the Lord will teach you by the feelings of the Holy Spirit that the Book is true. It is His word. He has strategically placed it as the cornerstone of our religion.

If the book is true, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is Jesus Christ’s true church established again upon the earth. If the book is true, then Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God. If the book is true, then Jesus really is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that the Bible teaches that same thing: That Jesus is the Christ. But for me, having the additional testimony of the Book of Mormon shows that God cares about all of His children, not just those who were in Jerusalem. He even cares about me. He even cares about you. Of this, I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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