I’ve mentioned in the past about the presence of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. I’m not a meticulous or careful enough scholar to find these by myself. Rather I’m borrowing and presenting the work of John Welch. So, this entry is not the result of my work but that of Bro. Welch. I present it here, because it’s fascinating to me and is one more piece of evidence of the Book of Mormon’s antiquity.
A chiasmus is a Hebraic literary art form, much like a sonnet is an English literary art form. Like a sonnet, a chiasmus has a clear set of rules which the work must conform to, to be labeled as such. Where sonnets have a set meter and rhyming pattern, a chiasmus must follow a specific structure and order of meanings and expressions. Rather than rhyme, a chiasmus has a set order for its structure.
This is the chiastic structure:
In this structure, A and A’ say the same thing with slight variations in nuance, often using the same words such that read together they carry more meaning than if read alone.
In the same way, B and B’ do the same thing. But they build on A and A’ to the apex statement C, which is the heart of the expression. For a further exploration into what a chiasmus is, I suggest you read this article by Bro. Welch.
What I wanted to write about is this: 1 Nephi is written as a large chiasmus. While it was taken from the records Nephi wrote, it was something which took him a considerable amount of time to read and produce. It is far more complex than it seems when you simply read it through. Here is the chiastic structure of 1 Nephi:
A. 1 Nephi 1 - Lehi’s dream which is a warning to the Jews.
B. 1 Nephi 2 - Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem for the Promised Land
C. 1 Nephi 3-5 - Nephi performs a great feat with the help of his brothers in getting the Brass Plates from Laban. God intervenes to complete the assignment.
D. 1 Nephi 7 - Ishmael joins the group with his family
E. 1 Nephi 8 - Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life
F. 1 Nephi 10 - Lehi’s prophecy of the coming of the Messiah to the Jews.
G. 1 Nephi 11 - Nephi’s encounter with the Spirit of the Lord and his testimony of Christ, the Messiah
F’. 1 Nephi 12 - Nephi’s prophecy of Jesus coming to his descendants
E’. 1 Nephi 15 - Nephi’s interpretation of his vision of the Tree of Life
D’. 1 Nephi 16 - The marriages of Ishmael’s daughters to Lehi’s sons and the death of Ishmael
C’. 1 Nephi 17 - Nephi performs a great feat with the help of his brothers in building the boat. God intervenes to protect Nephi from his brothers.
B’. 1 Nephi 18 - Nephi’s departure from the Old World and arrival in the Land of Promise.
A’. 1 Nephi 19-22 - Nephi warns the Jews
What I find particularly interesting is the apex is the testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ. Ever after in the Book of Mormon, the Savior is referred to as Christ by the Nephites. Up until this point, Lehi’s group were Jews looking for the coming of the Messiah. Afterwords, they were Christians.