The Use and Abuse of Chiasmus in Book of Mormon Studies

The Use and Abuse of Chiasmus in Book of Mormon Studies This paper will demonstrate that simple Hebraic-type chiasmus does not exist in the Book of Mormon except in rare instances, but that there is a natural explanation for these occurrences. This paper will also examine longer, more complex chiasms. Applying the criteria of a growing number of Bible scholars to the complex Book of Mormon chiasms proposed by John W. Welch and Donald W. Parry, I will demonstrate that the vase majority depart from what the chiasmists themselves call ‘symmetrical parallelism.” Most exhibit imbalance, asymmetry, questionable demarcation, mixed parallel styles, and arbitrary omission and inclusion of key elements. Additionally, many proposed examples ignore and disrupt more dominant literary patterns and serve no discernable literary purpose. Even if we allow for the possibility that complex chiasmus might occasionally appear in the Book of Mormon, the multitude of near-misses points to what statisticians call the fallacy of the enumeration of favorable circumstances, or emphasizing the successes while disregarding the failures.

Dan Vogel