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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Literary Geek-Out!

Alright, class!  Today we're going to learn about one of the coolest things ever--literary devices!!  Aren't you STOKED?!  You should be.

(**NOTE: As an English major, it is my privilege and honor to work in the medium of words.  I don't know how to sculpt or paint; I don't know a thing about electrical, plumbing, or auto-mechanics; I work in words.  So when I discover something fun about words or something I've read, I get all giddy inside and can't help but share it with everyone so they can enjoy it too!  Right?**)

Today's literary device is the elusive chiasmus (keye-AZ-muss)!  It is a syntactical structure following an ABCBA format, adding emphasis to a certain concept by placing related words and/or phrases in a reversal pattern around the crux.  Confused yet?  Think of it as an ice cream cone with a chocolatey filling at the bottom--you work your way down on both sides until you get to the center.  Let me give you an example.

I was reading in 2 Nephi 2 (Book of Mormon pg. 57) this morning, which outlines in great detail the role of Jesus Christ's sacrifice in our eventual returning to live with God (you'll have to read the whole thing on your own to get the full picture.  Facebook message me when you do so we can talk about it!).  I only got through the first 11 verses because it was so chock full of great stuff I ran out of time!  Verses 5-9 talk about how we are utterly dependent upon Christ to be able to be redeemed from our mistakes because when we sin we are unclean and no unclean thing can dwell in God's presence--that's the law.  God is perfectly "just" (think "justice") and also perfectly "merciful".  What Christ did fulfills that law by His shouldering the burden of justice and thereby satisfying the claims of mercy as well (by allowing us to repent) so God can continue to be both perfectly just and perfectly merciful.  Ya dig?

OK.  Here's the chiasmus in verse 10:

A   Wherefore, the ends of the law (we can't be saved without Christ) which [God] hath given...
      B unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed...
          C in opposition to
     B that of the happiness which is affixed
to answer the ends of the atonement (Christ shoulders the burdens of our sins so we can be redeemed)

The crux, the central focus and operative word in all of that is the word opposition.  In verses 11-16, Lehi goes on to explain that without hard things in life, we could never appreciate the sweet things in life.  How could you know what a good day feels like unless you've had a few bad ones?  How can we know to avoid sin and stupid choices unless we feel bad when we make them, so we'll know to make good choices instead?  Opposition is critical for our learning; we would never grow if we never faced challenges.  This chiasmus teaches us that the law is fulfilled by the Atonement, happiness is opposed to that punishment, and when we go through opposition, we are able to access the healing power of the Atonement by drawing closer to Christ, our only hope in having the demands of justice and mercy both satisfied on our behalf.

My friends, let us not "curse God and die" when we are faced with difficulty.  Christ has overcome all and will grant us "the happiness which is affixed" when we come unto Him, repent, and endure our opposition--our trials, bad consequences, sicknesses, etc.-- with faith in Him and in our Father's Plan for us.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

PS I hope that all made sense!  Seriously, message me on facebook if you want to discuss more!  :)


  1. This post started with me being utterly lost and confused and ended with a feeling of peace. The confusion was made clear. Christ does the same. He takes us from our lost state and brings us home. Yet again Elder Spnedlove, another class act post.

  2. Woah! I love the way you made something completly nerdy into totally spiritual and awesome!

  3. Leave it to Elder Spendlove to turn anything into something amazing and profound. I love it! There are so many things to learn all around us.

  4. the scriptures are true


  5. I found some chaismus (2 or 3 examples) in Abinadi's words in Mosiah as well... (I don't have my Spanish scriptures with me and I don't remember the exact verses.)



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