moroniI 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):Christ in America
     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.

book of mormonI 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.