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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT--A Logical Testimony

Today I was reading one of the most powerful passages of scripture of all time: Alma 36. This particular chapter has always stood out for me as a piece of my logical testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Why? It is a chiasmus. Chiasmus were used throughout the Bible and in ancient Egyptian and Hebrew writings. They are simply a pyramidical writing style, and are very poetic in nature. If you look at the verses, they build up one verse at a time, to a climax, then descend in a parallel nature. For example, Alma begins by discussing the nature of his sins, the pain he went through and the sorrow of a guilty soul. Then, at the climax, he remembers the Savior, who would atone for the sins of the world. Then, as his exceeding pain turns to exceeding joy, the chiasmus brings us back down, and now Alma is teaching the people instead of leading them astray. The wording in the parallel verses is quite similar, making them a little easier to match up. Here are two passages bringing together the climax of Alma's conversion, so you can see what I mean. This is the top of the chiamus's pyramid:

17-18: "And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart; O Jesus, Thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, an am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

19-20 "And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy and what marvelous light I did behold ; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Torment was replaced with exceeding joy, darkness was replaced with light. The memory of all of Alma's sins were taken away, all built upon the climatic conversion to the Savior. Isn't that beautiful?

So back to my logical testimony. As you can see, the chiasmus, though beautiful, is a very complex style of writing. There is an art to writing one. It would be highly unlikely that a young, uneducated farm boy would even know what a chiasmus was, and even more unlikely that he would be able to write one. Yet, they are found throughout the Book of Mormon. So each time I read this chapter, I am struck by the beauty of Alma's conversion, but also, I rejoice in my own testimony of the Book of Mormon.


Tamaran said...

I want to make one small correction to your comments. You wrote, "The memory of all of Alma's sins were taken away".

Often we read this passage and believe this is what happened. When read a little more closely, we see that it says "I could remember my PAINS no more; yea, I was HARROWED UP BY THE MEMORY of my sins no more". Because Alma is recounting the story, we know that he most certainly remembered the pain, the torment.

Sometimes we think (or atleast I have) that if we can remember our sins, we have not truly repented of them. It is my opinion that it is the memory of the spiritual pain and torment that keeps us from falling back into a previous act of sin.

Just my two cents. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to reading them.

K Walton said...

Very good point. You're absolutley right about that. It's actually a good thing that we cannot completely forget the pain our past choices brought. Otherwise, we'd never learn from our mistakes. Thanks for the input!