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I love this quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity about the process of becoming true Christians:
“We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”
I first heard about chiasmus in the Book of Mormon as a student at BYU.
For those unfamiliar with the term, chiasmus is an ancient literary device that has been found in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew writings. It is basically inverted parallelism where words, phrases, or concepts are introduced in ascending order and then repeated in descending order. You can find a better description of chiasmus here.
If you haven’t done this before, try looking for the chiasmus pattern in Alma 36. Read verse one, then look for a similar idea (or ideas) to be repeated near the end of the chapter. Note that the repetition is not necessarily verse by verse. Continue this process through the whole chapter and see how many ideas or concepts you can find that are repeated in reverse order through the chapter.
The central element of this chiasmus (verses 17-18) highlights to me what Alma most wanted to convey (paraphrasing):
I remembered the prophecy of Jesus Christ, Son of God, coming to atone for the sins of the world;
I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me
It is interesting to me that Alma first remembered his father’s prophecy about Jesus Christ, and then “[his] mind caught hold upon this thought….” Jesus Christ became real and personal to him- He was not just an idea but a Savior. I believe this is key for all of us.
You can read more about chiasmus in the Book of Mormon at Jeff Lindsay’s excellent site here. He also diagrams the chiasmus in Alma 36 as well as other chiasms found in the Book of Mormon.
I began reading the Book of Mormon as a child and have read it several times. Although I cannot point to any singular event by which I received a witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, very often as I read and ponder I feel the quiet, peaceful confirmation that comes from the Holy Ghost. From these numerous experiences throughout my life, I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God written by His ancient prophets and translated by His modern prophet, Joseph Smith.
Although my testimony of the Book of Mormon is not based on the finding of chiasms, their presence does offer some evidence to me of the writing’s ancient origins.
I still remember when this was sung as the closing hymn of the priesthood session of general conference in April 2007. It gave me chills then and still does every time I listen to it.
The music is by Jean Sibelius. Most will recognize the tune as “Be Still My Soul.”
The words for the hymn are written by John S. Tanner. I have included them below, and you can find more about this hymn from its author here. The hymn is based on what is often referred to as Nephi’s Psalm (see 2 Nephi 4).
As a sidenote, as I consider the title, I ask myself if I use the word “love” too flippantly. I think it is not uncommon to say “I love you” without really thinking about it. The important thing, I think, is to ask ourselves whether others know that we love them. Hopefully I convey my love for the Lord (and for others) in word and in deed.
|“I Love the Lord”|
|I love the Lord. In him my soul delights.
Upon his word, I ponder day and night.
He’s heard my cry, brought visions to my sleep,
And kept me safe o’er deserts and the deep.
He’s filled my heart with his consuming love,
And borne me high on wings of his great dove.
|Yet oft I groan,”O wretched man am I!”
My flesh is weak and I’m encompassed by
A world of sin, which holds me in its thrall,
If I give in and to temptations fall.
Then strength grows slack, I waste in sorrow’s vale.
My peace destroyed, my enemies prevail.
|Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.
Rejoice, my heart! And let me praise again
The Lord my God, who is my rock and stay
To keep me strict upon his straight, plain way.
O let me shake at the first sight of sin
And thus escape my foes without and in.