1 Nephi 1:2  Hidden Message: Chiasms

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According to Raymond Treat, there is a hidden message in the first verses of the Book of Mormon.  The key to finding this hidden message is to know that these verses are a chiasm, which is one form of Hebrew poetry.  A chiasm is an inverted parallelism, or in other words, you say something then repeat yourself in reverse order.  One advantage of writing chiastically is that you can place special emphasis on the most important point by placing it in the center of the chiasm.  Nephi deliberately constructed his chiasm so that “the learning of the Jews” was in the center:

“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea:

       A.  having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God,

              B.  therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

                C.  Yea, I make a record in the language of my father,

                        D.  which consists of the learning of the Jews

                C’.  and the language of the Egyptians

              B’.  And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with my own hand;

     A’.  and I make it according to my knowledge. (1 Nephi 1:1-3)

Nephi is telling us that “the learning of the Jews” is an important key to understanding the Book of Mormon. . . . We have used one area of “the learning of the Jews”–Hebrew poetry–to find a hidden message.  Another area in which “the learning of the Jews” greatly enhances our understanding is that of covenant-making. . . .

The main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to establish a knowledge of the covenants to a remnant of the house of Israel.  One way to demonstrate that this is the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to point out that it begins and ends with the covenant.  In the title page we read:

. . . Which is to shew unto the remnant of the house of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off for ever . . .

And then in the second to the last verse in the entire Book of Mormon, which is the last verse before Moroni’s farewell, we again see the covenant:

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ which is in the covenant of the Father, unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy without spot. (Moroni 10:33)

If we make proper use of the concept of the covenant according to the “learning of the Jews” as taught in the Book of Mormon and the other scriptures, then we will not only receive greater blessings now but we will also be in a position to receive more scripture including additional information about the covenants.  Lehi tells us:

” . . . I am a descendant of Joseph, which was carried captive into Egypt.  And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.  Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. (2 Nephi 3:4-5)

[Raymond C. Treat, “Understanding Our Covenants,” in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 34, 38]  [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:5; 1 Nephi 22:1-3; 3 Nephi 5:12]

Copyright 1999, Ancient America Foundation.