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At remarks given at Brigham Young University Wednesday, John Welch, who first identified the ancient writing style chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, said, “The discoveries of chiasmus whether in the Book of Mormon or in the Bible belong to all of us. They belong to me, to you, to Catholics, Mormons, Protestants, and Jews.” He continued, “I hope you will see it as a type of experience that we all have in common, experiences of seeing the paths of our lives providentially crossing, of making meaningful connections and … bringing forth things both old and new.”
The two-day conference included presentations by Latter-day Saints and scholars of other faiths discussing chiasmus in the Bible and other texts, including the Book of Mormon. Chiasmus, which comes from the Greek for “crossing” or “diagonal arrangement,” is a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions or concepts are repeated in reverse order.
Welch, currently a law professor at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, first identified this particular writing style in the Book of Mormon while he was a missionary serving in Regensburg, Germany, in 1967. This suggests that the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient text, he said, and not authored in the 1800s.
“Before chiasmus, we all tended to read the Book of Mormon, and the Bible for that matter, as plain texts, not seeing scriptural words connected with their context and style,” said Welch. “After chiasmus, we become more attentive readers, seeing every word as intriguing and meaningful. It helps us appreciate the beauty and goodness of the scriptures.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the closing remarks at a session Wednesday evening. He said, “In making our case for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe God intends us to find and use the evidence He has given — reasons, if you will — which affirm the truthfulness of His work.
“Our testimonies aren’t dependent on evidence — we still need that spiritual confirmation in the heart of which we have spoken,” Elder Holland said. “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.”
The event was sponsored by BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central, a private nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire greater knowledge of the Book of Mormon.
Conference participants also viewed materials about the chiasmus at the Harold B. Lee Library on BYU’s campus. Personal items showing Welch’s discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon are on display for the public to view through mid-September.