"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chiasmus: Alma 46:13-16

In a previous post, I cited Joseph and Blake Allen's usage of Alma 46:39-41 in their discussion of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon [1]. As it turns out, that's not even the only chiasmus in that chapter. 

Beginning partway into verse 13 through verse 16 (with emphases added): 

A and he [Captain Moroni] prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, 

B so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—

C For thus were all the true believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God, 

D called by those who did not belong to the church. 

E And those who did belong to the church were faithful; 

E' yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ,  

D' or Christians as they were called

C' because of their belief in Christ who should come. 

B' And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians

A' and the freedom of the land might be favored.

I'm not sure if my dissection is correct; this chiasmus is not as tidy as, say, 
Ether 10:23. The phrase "true believers of (or in) Christ" appears in lines C and E', "belong to the church" appears in three consecutive lines (C, D, and E), the word "Christians" appears in line D' as well and B and B', and Moroni praying is referenced in  in lines A and B'. Here's my attempt at trying to resolve those issues:

a and he [Captain Moroni] prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, 

b so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—

c For thus were all the true believers of Christ

d who belonged to the church of God, 

e called by those who did not belong to the church. 

d' And those who did belong to the church were faithful; 

c' yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, 

b' or Christians as they were called

??? because of their belief in Christ who should come. 

a' And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored.

Well, that really doesn't look right, does it? 

Back to the original dissection, then: Though they comprise the central (and thus, most important) idea, the 'E' lines are not explicitly similar as other pairings are. We know they're meant to equate, however, given the use of the word 'yea'--a word which appears so often in the Book of Mormon, we usually ignore it. 'Yea,' as defined by Merriam-Webster (I feel like I'm beginning a sacrament meeting talk): 

(adv) more than this : not only so but —used to introduce a more explicit or emphatic phrase <yet the impression, yea the evidence, is inescapable — J. G. Harrison>


"those who did belong to the church" = "all those who were true believers in Christ"

"were faithful" = "took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ" (emphasis added) 

A few thoughts about these central "equations," then:

1)  When stating the faithful took upon them the name of Christ, that Mormon added the word 'gladly' should not be overlooked. He is teaching, I believe, that true faithfulness lies not only in our actions in performing the work of the Lord, but also in our attitudes about it. As stated in Doctrine and Covenants 64:34

"Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days."
And in D&C 123:12-14 & 17
"For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations... who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it— 
"Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven— 
"These should then be attended to with great earnestness... 
"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (emphasis added) 
2)  "Those who did belong to the church" are more precisely described as "all those who are true believers in Christ." This calls to mind Elder Donald L. Hallstrom's Conference address from last April: 

"Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed. 
"By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but they are of greater eternal importance. For example, how much faith do we really have? How repentant are we? How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?" [2]
3) The reverse of the second point is just as important; for one to be among the "true believers in Christ," he or she must "belong to the church." This refutes the both the trend among the rising generation that de-emphasizes the need for organized religion ("spiritual but not religious"), as well as the more established philosophy which embraces the need for organized religion, but not the idea that just one could contain a fulness of truth ("all roads lead to heaven"). Regarding the former, Elder Dallin H Oaks said: 
"Those who reject the need for organized religion reject the work of the Master, who established His Church and its officers in the meridian of time and who reestablished them in modern times." [3]
The Lord Himself warned of calamities to come in the day when his children "seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god..." (D&C 1:16, emphasis added) [4] 

As for the latter philosophy, Elder Delbert H Stapley said very bluntly:

"This man-made philosophy—for such it is—sounds good, but the scriptures do not support it. I assure each of you that the road to God's presence is not that easy. I feel certain that the devil chuckles whenever this false opinion is expressed, for it pleases him that the minds of men have been so blinded to revealed truth by his cunning craftiness and deceit that they will believe any religion to be acceptable to God regardless of its tenets and ordinances or how or by whom those ordinances are administered... 
"If truth is consistent, and I testify it is, can there be more than one true way to God and eternal life? The Savior said to the Jews who believed on him:
"'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32).'
"A man cannot truly be free who is handicapped by false tradition, false teachings, error, and a lack of true knowledge that saves." [5] 
Elder Stapley also reminded of Paul's admonition for believers in Christ to "all speak the same thing" (1 Corinthians 1:10) and be of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). Later verses in Ephesians 4 are also germane to the refutation of both philosophies: 

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 
"For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" (Ephesians 4:11-14
I have to admit, I'm a little hesitant to share #3, as I don't wish to offend any friends of other faiths who might read this. Let me then end with this these remarks from President Gordon B Hinckley to the National Press Club some years ago: 
"We are a church, a church in whose name is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We bear witness of Him, and it is His example and His teachings we try to follow. We give love. We bring peace. We do not seek to tear down any other church. We recognize the good they do. We have worked with them on many undertakings. We will continue to do so. We stand as the servants of the Lord. We acknowledge that we could not accomplish what we do without the help of the Almighty. We look to Him as our Father and our God and our ever-present helper as we seek to improve the world by changing the hearts of individuals." 
And from Alma 5:62
"I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life."

[1] Joseph L. Allen, Blake J Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Rev. ed. (Orem, Utah : Book of Mormon Tours and Research Institute, LLC, 2011), 40.

[2] Donald L. Hallstrom, "Converted to His Gospel through His Church," April 2012 General Conference

[3] Dallin H Oaks, "Two Lines of Communication," April 2010 General Conference

[4] see Charles Didier, "The Church: A Community of Saints," Ensign, April 2006

[5] Delbert L Stapley, "Can Two Walk Together" April 1958 General Conference

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