Articles/Essays – Volume 38, No. 4

Critique of Alma 36 as an Extended Chiasm

In 1967, John W. Welch, now a professor of law at Brigham Young University, discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon while on a mission in Germany. He wrote an article about it in 1969 and has been its foremost champion since then.[1] LDS scholars have acclaimed chiasmus as strong internal evidence for the Hebraic origin of the Book of Mormon.[2] Other scholars disagree.[3] Few scholars have published critical analyses of Book of Mormon chiasms.[4]

Although Welch and others have found a number of extended chiasms in the Book of Mormon, including the entire books of First and Second Nephi and Mosiah,[5] I will limit myself in this paper to a critique of Welch’s Alma 36 chiasm. He calls it a “masterpiece of composition,” one of his favorites, and “one of the best” from among hundreds he has evaluated.[6] He has written about it at least four times.[7] It reflects most of the problems with all of his extended chiasms. My argument is that he has imposed chiasmus on the Book of Mormon where none was intended. 

What Is Chiasmus? 

According to Welch, chiasmus is inverted parallelism. The term chiasmus derives from the Greek letter chi (X) and from the Greek word chiazein (“to mark with a X”), because X is descriptive of the chiastic form.[8] For example, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last” (1 Nephi 13:42//Matt. 20:16) is a chiasm[9] because if written thus: 

The lastshall be first, and
The first shall be last

and a line is drawn between the last’s and another between the first’s, as shown, a X is formed. There are many other simple chiasms in the Bible, such as: 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (Isa. 55:8) 

This is a simple chiasm because it contains only two elements, my and your. Simple chiasms, which are most characteristic of those written in western languages such as Greek, Latin, and English, are distinguished from extended chiasms characteristic of Hebrew and other ancient languages, in which there can be any number of elements written in one order and then repeated in reverse order, e.g., a-b-c-d- . . . -x-x- . . . -d-c-b-a.[10] For example, Psalm 3:7-8 is an extended chiasm with five paired elements: 

Save me 
O my God, 
For thou has smitten 
All my enemies 
On the cheek-bone 
The teeth 
Of the wicked 
Thou has broken. 
To Yahweh 
The salvation.[11]

Welch notes that chiasmus is a rhetorical device that has been used sporadically in poetry and prose for nearly three thousand years but doubts that Joseph Smith knew of it at the time he dictated the Book of Mormon.[12]

Analysis of Alma 36 

Welch has constructed an impressive chiasm out of Alma 36. His rendering of it has changed each time he has written about it, and his latest (1991) version follows (verse numbers in parentheses): 

a My son give ear to my words (1) 
b Keep the commandments and ye shall prosper in the land (1)
c Do as I have done (2) 
d Remember the captivity of our fathers (2) 
e They were in bondage (2) 
f He surely did deliver them (2) 
g Trust in God (3) 
h Supported in trials, troubles, and afflictions (3) 
i Lifted up at the last day (3) 
j I know this not of myself but of God (4) 
k Born of God {5) 
1 I sought to destroy the church (6-9) 
m My limbs were paralyzed (10) 
n Fear of being in the presence of God (14-15) 
o Pains of a damned soul (16) 
p Harrowed up by the memory of sins (17) 
q I remembered Jesus Christ, a son of God (17) 
q’ I cried, Jesus, son of God (18) 
p’ Harrowed up by the memory of sins no more (19) 
o’ Joy as exceeding as was the pain (20) 
n’ Long to be in the presence of God (22) 
m’ My limbs received strength again (23) 
1′ I labored to bring souls to repentance (24) 
k’ Born of God (26) 
j ‘ Therefore my knowledge is of God (26) 
h’ Supported under trials, troubles, and afflictions (27) 
g’ Trust in him (27) 
f’ He will deliver me (27) 
i’ and raise me up at the last day (28) 
e’ As God brought our fathers out of bondage and captivity (28-29) 
d’ Retain in remembrance their captivity (28-29) 
c’ Know as I do know (30) 
b’ Keep the commandments and ye shall prosper in the land (30)
a’ This according to his word (30).[13][14]

There is much to challenge in this chiasm, including the unexplained asymmetry of element i’. One has only to highlight these thirty-four elements in Alma 36 to see how much text—more than 80 per cent of it—Welch has ignored in constructing his chiasm. Alma 36 is full of repetitious language, and the language Welch selects for an element is often only one of two or more occurrences of the same term or phrase. Selected language and ignored language often work together to create false symmetry. Some paired elements are imbalanced in size, and some are creatively labeled to convey precision. Nearly all of the paired elements have these or other problems; the following nine are illustrative. 

1. Elements a and a’ pair “my son give ear to my words” (v. 1) with “this according to his word” (v. 30). As in verse 1, Alma also counsels his son to hear his words in verse 3: “And now, O my son Helaman .. . I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words.” Welch has selected words in 

verse 1 for the chiasm but ignored words in verse 3. Likewise, as in verse 30, Alma refers to the Lord’s word in verse 26: “For because of the word which he has imparted unto me.” Again, Welch has selected the Lord’s word in verse 30 and ignored the Lord’s word in verse 26. 

Welch explains simply that elements a and a’ “introduce and conclude the chapter by referring to Alma’s ‘words’ and the ‘word’ of God.” But if Alma’s words in verse 1 and the Lord’s word in verse 30 qualify as elements, it is not clear why Alma’s words in verse 3 and the Lord’s word in verse 26 do not also qualify as elements (not to mention the angel’s words in verse 11), except that to pair them with each other would create asymmetry and thus Welch ignores them. 

2. Welch pairs element e, “they were in bondage” (v. 2), with element e’, “as God brought our fathers out of bondage and captivity” (w. 28-29). Element e’ exhibits not only the typical selectivity and ignored text, but also creative labeling and imbalance. Element e’ is derived from verses 28 and 29: 

Yea, and I will praise him forever, for he has brought our fathers out of Egypt, and he has swallowed up the Egyptians in the Red Sea; and he led them by his power into the promised land; yea, and he has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time. Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out o/the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day. 

In these verses, “he has brought our fathers out o f is used each time with a place, i.e., Egypt or Jerusalem, while “he has delivered them out o f is used each time with the condition of bondage and captivity, but Welch has combined one of two occurrences of “he has brought our fathers out of,” not with a place, but with one of two occurrences of the condition “bondage and captivity.” This creative combination makes the best match with e (“they were in bondage”) without repeating the key word in the adjacent f (“he will deliver me”). Element e’ does use captivity, which is used in the other adjacent element, d’ (“retain in remembrance their captivity”), but it can hardly be avoided because it is half of the phrase bondage and captivity. Thus, Welch has italicized bondage in e’ but not captivity. 

Elements e and e’ are also imbalanced. He has brought our fathers out of (v. 28)… bondage and captivity (v. 29) comprise seventy-four words, which are paired with a single four-word clause (“they were in bondage”) in verse 2. 

As with many other elements, Welch ignores much language in e’: Alma’s praising God; and God’s bringing Alma’s fathers out of Egypt, God’s swallowing up the Egyptians in the Red Sea, God’s leading Alma’s fathers into the promised land, and God’s bringing Alma’s fathers out of the land of Jerusalem. 

3. In elements f, “he surely did deliver them” (v. 2), and f, “he will deliver me” (v. 27), Welch uses only two of the six occurrences of deliver in Alma 36. In verse 2, deliver occurs twice; he uses the second one. Deliver(ed) occurs twice in verse 27 and once each in verses 28 and 29. Welch uses the second one in verse 27. The first one in verse 27 is out of order. The two occurrences in verses 28 and 29 each appear between the two phrases that Welch has selected to create element e’, “as God brought our fathers out o f and “bondage and captivity.” This would make element f somewhat asymmetrical, so Welch uses neither delivered in verses 28 and 29, even though they pair well with f because all four delivers in verses 2, 28, and 29 relate to Alma’s fathers, while the two delivers in verse 27 relate to Alma. 

4. Welch pairs 1, “I sought to destroy the church” (w. 6-9), with 1′, “I labored to bring souls to repentance” (v. 24), in the first of a series of paired elements that express contrasts. This is because 1 and 1′ begin and end the story of Alma’s conversion. Alma’s account of his conversion proceeds chiastically, from his rebellion against the church to his epiphany and his embrace of the church. In such a story, it is not difficult to find contrasting elements (e.g., rebellion against church versus embrace of church; physical effects versus relief from physical effects). 

Element 1 comprises four verses, which begin and end with seeking to destroy the church of God. In between, much is ignored, which creates an imbalance in the two elements. The two occurrences of seeking to destroy the church of God and all the ignored language in between comprise ninety-seven words. Element 1′ contains twelve words. 

5. The contrasting elements m, “my limbs were paralyzed” (v. 10), and m’, “my limbs received strength again” (v. 23), pair the only two uses of limbs in Alma 36 while ignoring language that does not work chiastically. Element m ignores Alma’s falling to the earth in verse 10, which matches or contrasts with “we all fell to the earth” in verse 7, “I arose and stood up” in verse 8, “I fell to the earth” in verse 11, or “I stood upon my feet” in verse 23. Element m also ignores Alma’s being unable to open his mouth for three days and nights, which are the same three days and nights in verse 16. And m’ ignores Alma’s being “born of God,” which is used in k and k’. None of this matching or contrasting language works chiastically and Welch ignores it. 

6. There is more ignored language between m and n—all of verses 11, 12, and 13—than between any other two elements. Elements n, “fear of being in the presence of God” (vv. 14-15), and n’, “long to be in the presence of God” (v. 22), are both creatively labeled. 

Verse 14 reads in part: “the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.” Welch re duces this clause to “fear of being in the presence of God” for n and avoids using rack, which occurs four other times in Alma 36 but all in the front part of Welch’s chiasm with n: verses 12 (“I was racked with eternal torment” and “racked with all my sins”); 16 (“was I racked”); and 17 (“I was thus racked with torment”). None of these matches chiastically with rack in verse 14, and Welch ignores them all. 

Presence of God occurs twice in verses 14 and 15 (n), but not at all in verse 22 (n’). Welch simply adds presence of God to n’ and it becomes a literal match with n. 

7. Welch pairs element o, “pains of a damned soul” (v. 16), with element o’, “joy as exceeding as was the pain” (v. 20). His key word is pain(s). On the front side of his chiasm, pains appears twice, inverses 13 (“I was tormented with the pains of hell”), which he ignores as out of sequence; and 16 (“was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul”), which he selects. In the second half of his chiasm, pain(s) appears three times, in verses 19 (“I could remember my pains no more”), which he ignores as out of sequence; 20 (“joy as exceeding as was my pain”), which he selects; and 21 (“nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains”), which he ignores. 

Welch’s selection of the language in verse 20 is the worst match with o. Indeed, the language in any two of the other four verses is a better match than the language in verses 16 and 20 because pains is plural in all four rather than singular as in verse 20, and all four deal only with pains rather than contrasting pain with joy as in verse 20. 

8. Element p, “harrowed up by the memory of sins” (v. 17), and element p’, “harrowed up by the memory of sins no more” (v. 19), illustrate once again the selectivity behind Welch’s chiasm. Between o (“pains of a damned soul”) (v. 16) and p, the clause “I was thus racked with torment” is ignored; but read in combination with p, this part of verse 17 reads, “I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins.” This language pairs better with other ignored language from verse 12 than with p’ in verse 19. Verse 12 reads, “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.” Verses 12 and 17 thus have two phrases in common: “racked with torment” and “harrowed up with sins.” In contrast, p in verse 17 and p’ in verse 19 have only one clause in common: “harrowed up by memory of sins.” Welch, however, ignores verse 12 as out of sequence. 

9. Elements q, “I remembered Jesus Christ, a son of God”(v. 17), and q’, “I cried, Jesus, son of God” (v. 18), are the turning point in Welch’s chiasm. Welch notes that “the main idea of the [chiastic] passage is placed at the turning point.”[15] One problem is that Welch has changed his mind over time about what the turning point is—that is, what Alma’s “main idea” is. In 1969, he had a one-line turning point: 

Called upon Jesus Christ (v. 18); 
in 1981, he added a matching element: 
Alma remembers one Jesus Christ (17) 
Alma calls upon Jesus Christ (18); 
in 1982, he included the atonement, which became a one-line turning point: 
Alma remembers one Jesus Christ (17) 
Christ will atone for the sins of the world (17) 
Alma calls upon Jesus Christ (18) 
and in 1991, he returned essentially to his 1981 turning point:
I remembered Jesus Christ, a son of God (17) 
I cried, Jesus, son of God (18). 

[Editor’s Note: For designed chiasmuses, see PDF]

If the turning point really is as important as Welch affirms, then it should, logically, be less difficult to identify. 

A related problem is that Welch ignores some text between q and q’: “to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart.” He explains: “At the absolute center stand the words ‘atone,’ ‘mind,’ and ‘heart,’ bordered by the name of Jesus Christ. The message is clear: Christ’s atonement and man’s responding sacrifice of a broken heart and willing mind are central to receiving forgiveness from God.” However, the omitted language says nothing about a “responding sacrifice” of a “broken heart and willing mind.” Furthermore, the consistent requirement throughout the Book of Mormon, as articulated by Lehi, Jesus, Mormon, and Moroni, is of a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (2 Ne. 2:7, 4:32; 3 Ne. 9:20, 12:19; Morm. 2:14; Eth. 4:15; Moro. 6:2). This new formulation of a “broken heart and willing mind” is not Alma’s “clear message” (or “main idea”) but Welch’s invention. 

In short, Alma 36 seems hardly to be a carefully crafted masterpiece by Alma but a creatively fashioned chiasm imposed on the text by Welch.[16]

Efforts to Defend Alma 36 as a Chiasm 

In his 1991 article on Alma 36 as a chiastic masterpiece, Welch does two additional things of interest here. First, he divides Alma 36 in its entirety into eleven paired units and labels them A through K to pair with K’ through A’, thus creating a “full text” chiasm.[17] Welch refers to the eleven paired units as sections. These sections are “panels of text filling in the gaps” between the “main girders of the structure,” which are the seven teen paired elements in his Alma 36 chiasm, which I examined above.[18]

Second, Welch defends Alma 36 as an extended chiasm using fourteen of a set of fifteen criteria he proposed in 1989 for identifying and evaluating the presence of chiasmus.[19] He republished these criteria in 1995 with slight modifications, using Alma 36 to exemplify nine of them.[20]

The “full text” chiasm is, if anything, even weaker than Welch’s “main girder” chiasm. It has an extra A section comprising the first twenty-eight words of verse 3 and appearing asymmetrically between D and E with no matching A’ section. Welch does not explain this absence of a chiastic pairing, but by one of his fifteen criteria (length), “an extended chiasm is probably not much stronger than its weakest links.”[21]

The extra A section is only one of many weaknesses. For example, under the criterion of “balance,” Welch asserts that Alma 36 is balanced because “the first half of the structure contains 52.4% of the words, and the second half, 47.6%. Even minor words like ‘behold’ (six times in each half) and ‘my’ (eighteen times in the first half and seventeen in the second) occur equally in the two halves.”[22]

Welch’s inclusion of minor words like my and behold is not only a stretch but invites a look at analogous words that challenge his chiasm’s balance. I, for example, is analogous to my but is used thirty-five times (57.4%) in the first half and twenty-six times (42.6%) in the second half; and yea is analogous to behold but is used only four times in the first half and fifteen times in the second half. Of more importance, however, Welch’s eleven paired sections range in length from seven to 213 words. Section E’ (sixty-six words) is twice as long as E (thirty-three words); D’ (ninety-two words) is two and one-half times longer that D (thirty-six words); B’ (fifty-eight words) is nearly three times longer than B (twenty-one words); and H (213 words) is more than four times longer than H’ (forty-eight words). As “panels” between “main girders,” the sections are so unbalanced, and the “main girders” are so unevenly spaced within the sections, that they fail not only Welch’s “balance” test but his “aesthetics” test as well. 

Welch’s “purpose” criterion looks for “an identifiable literary reason why the author might have employed chiasmus,” and his “boundaries” criterion specifies that a chiasm operates “across a literary unit as a whole” and does not “unnaturally [chop] sentences in half.”[23] To examine this last point first, Welch divides sentences in half between sections A and B; C and D; the second A and E; G and H; J and K; H’ and G’; G’ and F’; E’ and D’; and D’ and C\ Some of these mid-sentence divisions may be a function of punctuation, and not all of them may be unnatural, but some of them are. G’, for example, ends, “For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God”-, and F’ begins, “and have tasted as I have tasted …. ” This is clearly an unnatural mid-sentence division but was apparently done to keep born of God out of F’, where it would weaken the chiasm under another of Welch’s criteria called “mavericks.”[24] (Born of God does occur in H’ as a maverick, however). This mid-sentence division keeps born of God in G’ where there is another born of God, both to pair with a single born of God in G.[25]

Regarding the purpose and boundaries of Alma 36 as a chiasm, Welch notes that “an understanding of chiasmus will also greatly enhance interpretation of Book of Mormon scriptures.”[26] In other words, recognizing a chiasm will help us to understand better what the writer is saying. But the imposition of a chiasm on chapter 36 may actually obscure the message, which suggests that no such chiasm was intended. 

To Welch, Alma 36 is where “Alma tells his son Helaman about his dramatic conversion.”[27] But it seems strange, if this is what Alma 36 is about, that so much of Alma’s conversion experience is ignored in Welch’s “main girders” chiasm. Indeed, most of what is omitted from Welch’s “main girders” chiasm occurs in verses 6 through 19, which comprise Alma’s actual conversion experience. 

What, then, is Alma’s real message? Alma 36 begins the first of three talks that Alma gives to his three sons, to Helaman in Alma 36-37, to Shiblon in Alma 38, and to Corianton in Alma 39-42. If we consider Alma 36 apart from Alma 37, we arguably lose what Alma was trying to accomplish in speaking to his son Helaman. Alma 36 seems to be about preparing Helaman to receive the sacred records that Alma turns over to him in Alma 37. The two chapters go together; indeed, they are a single chapter (XVII) in the first edition of the Book of Mormon. If Alma 36 should be read together with Alma 37, then by imposing a chiasm on Alma 36 alone, Welch creates a chiasm that does not operate “across a literary unit as a whole,” viz., Alma 36 and 37 together, contrary to his “boundaries” criterion, and he misses Alma’s main purpose, which was to prepare Helaman to receive the sacred things. 

Nevertheless, two physics professors, W. Farrell Edwards and his son, Boyd F. Edwards, claim to have demonstrated statistically the intentionality of Alma 36 as an extended chiasm. They use the four of Welch’s fifteen criteria that can be “quantified numerically, namely: length (number of chiastic elements), density (the fraction of the passage that is devoted to chiastic elements), mavericks (the number of extra appearances of chiastic elements …) , and reduplication (the extent of repetition of nonchiastic elements).”[28] They distill these four quantitative criteria into a single quantity L, which they use in their algorithm to calculate P, the chiastic probability that a chiasm could have appeared by chance. Their algorithm “establishes with 99.98 percent certainty” that “the strongest chiasm in the Book of Mormon, Alma 36 . . . appeared in this book by design and rules out the hypothesis that it appeared by chance.”[29] Their “quantitative judgments regarding the intentionality of chiasmus,” however, “are based only on the order of words and ideas and disregard the overall integrity and literary merit of chiasms.” Thus, they recognize that their tools “may add to, but not replace, Welch’s nonquantitative criteria and other indices of chiastic strength.”[30]

For their analysis, Edwards and Edwards created two “full text” chiasms from Alma 36, both differing from Welch’s. (See their Appendix L.) One has ten paired sections, at least half of which are unbalanced, and the most unbalanced of which is G with 213 words and G’ with fifteen. Furthermore, there are two extra sections without matching sections, a second E between F and G, and a second I between G and H. 

There is much more to challenge in their ten-section chiasm. For example, they pair F’ (120 words) with a much shorter F (twenty-one words), each reflecting the idea that “I (and others) were born of God.”[31] Born of God occurs once in F and three times in F’, but Edwards and Edwards permit multiple occurrences of key words in a section by their Rule 4, which is one of “a set of strict selection rules” they followed to guide their construction of their chiasm.[32] F’ is long because it begins with born of God in verse 23b, picks up born of God in verse 24, and ends with born of God in verse 26a, and thus there is no born of God maverick. 

To avoid a born of God maverick, however, F’ begins in the middle of a sentence. G’ comprises the first fifteen words of the sentence: “But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet,” and F’ begins with the last thirteen words of the sentence: “and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.” To include the entire sentence in G’ would create a maverick of born of God so it is forced into F in the middle of a sentence.[33] Thus, their long section F avoids a maverick.

The long section F ignores the exceeding joy that Alma experiences in verses 24 and 25, which is also permitted by Rule 4 “as long as [such nonchiastic elements] .. . do not appear outside this section.”[34] Thus, Rule 4 permits any amount of extraneous language in a chiastic section as long as it stays within the section. But Alma also experiences joy in verses 20 (expressed twice) and 21 outside F , and it is not clear how, under Rule 4, Edwards and Edwards can ignore Alma’s joy, which he expresses five times. 

The long section F also ignores the language, “I labored to bring souls to repentance,” which is Welch’s element V in his “main girders” chiasm. Welch contrasts this language with “I sought to destroy the church,” which occurs twice in his ninety-seven-word contrasting element 1. Edwards and Edwards ignore this language, too, even though it occurs three times in their much longer, 213-word section G. They ignore it because by their Rule 2, the literary elements must share the same essential word or words, and Welch’s “I labored to bring souls to repentance” and “I sought to destroy the church” do not share the same essential words. Thus, language that Welch includes in his “main girders” chiasm is ignored by Edwards and Edwards, which suggests some flexibility in constructing chiasms. 

While this survey by no means exhausts the problems with the ten-section chiasm, Edwards and Edwards also developed an eight-section chiasm with the same imbalances between sections and many of the same problems but with one notable advantage: it eliminates the extra E and I of the ten-section chiasm. They did this by simply combining both E’s (“I received knowledge of God”) with F (“I (and others) were born of God”) into a single section e (“I (and others) received knowledge of God, and were born of God”); and both I’s (“I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins (no more)”) with H (“I feared (longed) to be with God”) into a single section g (“I feared (longed) to be with God and was harrowed up by the memory of my sins (no more)”). 

The “full text” chiasms of both Welch and Edwards and Edwards simply swallow up ignored language in their large sections and avoid mavericks by including multiple chiastic elements in these sections, but their “full text” chiasms also reveal the amount of repetition in Alma 36, the flexibility in fashioning a chiastic structure, and the consequent uncertainty about just what it was that Alma supposedly crafted with such care. 


The existence of extended chiasmus in the Book of Mormon seems far from proved by Alma 36. While the inverted parallelism developed by Welch is impressive on first reading, on closer analysis it is Welch’s creativity that is most notable. By following flexible rules, he has fashioned a chiasm by selecting elements from repetitious language, creatively labeling elements, ignoring text, pairing unbalanced elements, and even including asymmetrical elements. His efforts to defend it with a “full text” chiasm and fifteen criteria only highlight all the problems as well as his own creativity. 

As for Edwards’s and Edwards’s analysis, they acknowledge that their “quantitative judgments” are based “only on the order of words and ideas” that they themselves select. They explicitly “disregard the overall integrity and literary merit” of the chiasm, which, as shown above, has little “chiastic strength” under Welch’s own criteria.[35]

Note: The Dialogue Foundation provides the web format of this article as a courtesy. There may be unintentional differences from the printed version. For citational and bibliographical purposes, please use the printed version or the PDFs provided online and on JSTOR.

[1] John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10, no. 1 (Autumn 1969): 69-84. Although Welch’s scholarly efforts have not been limited to chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, he wrote his M.A. thesis, “A Study Relating Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon to Chiasmus in the Old Testament, Ugaritic Epics, Homer, and Selected Greek and Latin Authors” (Brigham Young University, 1970), on the topic and the following articles, among others: “Introduction” and “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” in Chiasmus in Antiquity, edited by John W Welch (Hildesheim, Germany: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981), 9-16, 198-210; “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 33-52; “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies [FARMS], 1991), 114-31; and “What Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove?” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, edited by Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997), 199-224. 

[2] See, for example, Noel B. Reynolds, “Nephi’s Outline,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 53-74; Donald W. Parry, “Climactic Forms in the Book of Mormon,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 290-92; Davis Bitton, “B. H. Roberts and Book of Mormon Scholarship; Early Twentieth Century, Age of Transition,” in journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8, no. 2 (1999): 60-69; Hugh W. Pinnock, Finding Biblical Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1999); Robert A. Rees, “Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the American Renaissance,” Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 35, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 83-112; Terryl L Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 125, 133, 173, 222.

[3] See, for example, John S. Kselman, “Ancient Chiasmus Studied,” Dia logue: A journal of Mormon Thought 17, no. 4 (Winter 1984): 146-48; Brent Lee Metcalfe, “Apologetic and Critical Assumptions about Book of Mormon Historicity,” Dialogue, A journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 3 (Fall 1993): 153-84; Dan Vogel, “The Use and Abuse of Chiasmus in Book of Mormon Studies,” Paper delivered at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 2001; David P. Wright, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or, Joseph Smith in Isaiah,” in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, edited by Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 157-234; David P. Wright, “The Fallacies of Chiasmus: A Critique of Structures Proposed for the Covenant Collection (Exodus. 20:23-23:19),” in Zeitschri/t fur Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 10 (2004): 162-63 note 37. 

[4] Vogel, for example, “The Use and Abuse,” examines in detail Parry’s 1992 chiasms of 1 Nephi 1:20-2:1 and 1 Nephi 15:25. 

[5] Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1969); Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1981); Reynolds, “Nephi’s Outline”; and Noel B. Reynolds, “The Political Dimension in Nephi’s Small Plates,” in BYU Studies 27, no. 4 (Fall 1987): 15-37. 

[6] Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 116. 

[7] Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1969); “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1981); “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1982); and “A Masterpiece: Alma 36” (1991). 

[8] Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1982), 35. 

[9] This particular chiasm is also found in Ether 13:12//Matthew 19:30, although the order is first, last, last, first. 

[10] Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1982), 36.

[11] Ibid., 36-37. The King James translation does not form a chiasm. It reads: “Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people.” Welch explains, ibid., 51-52 note 3, that many chiasms have not survived the King James translation but are clear in Hebrew. 

[12] John W. Welch, “How Much Was Known about Chiasmus in 1829 When the Book of Mormon Was Translated?” FARMS Review 15, no. 1 (2003): 47-80, acknowledges that Joseph Smith could have known about chiasmus but in sists that there is no direct evidence that Smith, in fact, did. He states: “Today, I acknowledge that people in Joseph Smith’s environs [in] 1829 could have known of chiasmus, but I still doubt that Joseph Smith actually did.” Ibid., 75 note 107.

[13] Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 117. 

[14] [Editor’s Note: There is no footnote 14 in-text, so I have added it here] Ibid., 124.

[15] Ibid., 114. See also Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1982), 42. In Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1969), 76, he states: “The thoughts which appear at the center must always be given special attention.” Wright, “The Fallacies of Chiasmus,” 145 note 5, points out that the first and last elements of a chiasm may be the most important.

[16] [Editor’s Note: There is no footnote 16 in-text, so I have added it here] Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 127.

[17] Ibid., 119-24. 

[18] Ibid., 118. 

[19] Welch, Criteria for Identifying the Presence of Chiasmus (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1989). 

[20] Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4, no. 2 (1995): 1 -14.  

[21] Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,” 6. He notes that there are degrees of chiasticity. If the researcher intends to use the analysis for a specific purpose other than to simply identify orderliness or balance in the text, “the analysis must be more rigorous. The bolder the implications to be drawn [e.g., the Hebraic origin of the Book of Mormon], the greater the support the analysis needs” (10). 

[22] Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 130.

[23] Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,” 5, 6. 

[24] Ibid., 7. According to Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 129, “A chiasm is less convincing if important words in the structure appear elsewhere in the text outside the suggested arrangement [e.g., mavericks].” 

[25] Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 128-29, explains away the weaknesses of Alma 36 as an extended chiasm by observing: “If an author uses chiasmus mechanically, it can produce rigid, stilted writing. . . . Alma, however, does not simply stick a list of ideas together in one order and then awkwardly and slavishly retrace his steps through that list in the opposite order. His work has the markings of a skillful, painstaking writer, one completely comfortable with using this difficult mode of expression well.” But Welch apparently wants it both ways. In his 1995 article, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,” 7, he wrote that “tightness in the text is indicative of greater craftsmanship, rigor, focus, intention, and clarity.” 

[26] Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1982), 42. 

[27] Welch, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” 116. See also his “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon” (1982), 49.

[28] Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, “Does Chiasmus Appear in the Book of Mormon by Chance?” in BYU Studies 43, no. 2 (2004): 103-30, esp. 107; retrieved in February 2005 from

[29] Ibid., 123. 

[30] Ibid., 111. 

[31] Ibid., 122. 

[32] Ibid., 112.

[33] It is not clear why this occurrence does not violate their Rule 1, which requires that “chiastic boundaries .. . be located at the ends of sentences or significant phrases” to preclude “contrived boundaries . . . without regard to interruptions of grammatical structure.” Ibid. 

[34] Ibid., 113.

[35] Ibid., 111.