Parallelism and Chiasmus in Benjamin's Speech

A stunning array of literary structures appears in Benjamin’s
speech, purposefully and skillfully organized. Benjamin’s use of chiasmus, all
types of parallelisms, and many other forms of repeating patterns adds focus
and emphasis to the main messages and the persuasive qualities of this text.
The following discussions and textual figures explore the main structural
features of Benjamin’s speech.

King Benjamin was a sensitive and articulate man. He was
interested in making the effort to arrange his words into a careful, artistic
form. His speech, given at the coronation of his son and as part of a high and
holy convocation of his people, does not appear to have been delivered
extemporaneously. It was well thought out, and before it was distributed by
Benjamin in written form, his text appears to have been beautifully polished.
In Mosiah 2–5, one finds some superb examples of high literary achievement.

Studying the structure of Benjamin’s speech enhances
appreciation for this composition as a literary masterpiece. Writing can be
appreciated in its own right only in light of the literary tools and ideals
available to the author. So understood, Benjamin’s speech stands as a
monumental literary composition, which unfortunately has long been underestimated. Mark Twain, speaking of the Book of
Mormon in general, once called it “chloroform in print.”1 In one sense, judged by the literary
standards of Mark Twain’s day, Benjamin’s speech may not measure up. But judged
in light of the ancient conventions and stylistic preferences that were
evidently operative in Benjamin’s day, his speech shines again as it did on the
ceremonious day when these words were spoken and received in public.

Parallelism and Repetition in

Dominant features of Benjamin’s style are parallelism and
repetition. At least fourteen types of parallelism appear throughout the three
chapters. Donald W. Parry has demonstrated that “the Book of Mormon is
replete with parallelisms. The poetic patterns serve, as they do in the Bible,
to emphasize messages, define and expand them, make them more memorable, and
structure them.”2 Over fifty times
throughout his speech, Benjamin employed simple or extended synthetic
parallelism, which is composed of two or more lines, the additional lines
providing emphasis, explanation, or synthesis of the initial thought. As James
Muilenburg explains, “The parallel line does not simply repeat what has
been said, but enriches it, deepens it, transforms it by adding fresh nuances
and bringing in new elements, renders it more concrete and vivid and telling.”3

Benjamin’s speech features techniques such as simple and
extended synonymy; simple, repeated, and extended alternates; synthetic
parallelisms; climax, anabasis, catabasis; contrasting ideas and
antithetical parallelism; detailing and working out. I will not take space here
to define these varieties of parallelism, since basic definitions are readily
available4 and the rhetorical effect of
each parallelism is fairly obvious once the arrangement is pointed out. A full index of Benjamin’s parallelisms appears in the
unabridged version of this volume. Only a few illustrations and
observations will be given here.

A prevalent stylistic form that King Benjamin drew on is simple, direct parallelism. For example, Mosiah
2:18 (all scriptural references in this study, unless otherwise noted, are to
Mosiah) says:

a Behold, ye have called me your king;
a And if I, whom ye call your king,
do labor to serve you,
then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?

This passage is an example of poetic parallelism, or “words,
phrases, or sentences that correspond, compare, contrast, or repeat.”5

Likewise, Benjamin effectively taught the principle of
humility by using synthetic parallelism in 2:24:

[God] doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath
paid you.

And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be,
forever and ever.

Benjamin’s main thought in this
passage was that God has been abundantly generous to his people, and through extended
synthetic parallelism he went on to explain that people should show humility
and gratitude on account of those many blessings.

Other types of parallelism in Benjamin’s speech include antithetical

ye will not have a mind to injure one another,
but to live peaceably (4:13);


a the greatness of God,
and your own nothingness,
a and his goodness and long-suffering towards you,
unworthy creatures (4:11);

and contrasting ideas, such as
yielding to the natural man versus becoming a saint (see 3:19). The feature of
contrasting is most evident in Benjamin’s parallelisms.

Another important feature
of Benjamin’s style consists of his repetition of key words that reverberate through the text
and seem to be further evidence of deliberate organization. Certain themes echo
through the speech. Such repeating themes provide continuity and structure to
King Benjamin’s message and again form an indication of structure. For example,
the phrase list to obey occurs several times in section 2 of the speech
(for definitions and descriptions of the seven main section divisions, see
below). The concept of Benjamin’s calling as king in 2:19 finds an echo in
2:26. Contention, serving the evil spirit, and becoming an enemy to all
righteousness are themes that are found in section 2 and that surface again in
section 4. The concept of the innocence or salvation of children appears three
times in the speech. Keeping the commandments arises in sections 1, 2, 5, and
6. Remembrance characterizes sections 2, 5, 6, and 7; and salvation through
Christ is a thread that runs through five of the seven sections: 3, 4, 5, 6,
and 7. Structures such as duplication (“remember, remember”),
chiasmus, many ands, or other forms all contribute to the stylistic continuity and
coherence of Benjamin’s message.


Probably the most interesting literary device used in
Benjamin’s speech is the variety of parallelism known as chiasmus. The technique of presenting one set of words or ideas in one order and then
retracing them in the opposite order operates in this text on several levels:
in major structures, in extended word patterns, and also in smaller, simpler
configurations. Benjamin’s speech lends itself unusually well to chiastic

Defining Chiasmus

Chiasmus is the literary technique of creating double
structures in which the second half of a composition mirrors and balances the
first half, but in reverse order. In general, the device is useful for
several literary purposes, especially for concentrating attention on the main
point of the passage by placing it at the central turning point rather than in
a topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph, as is the trend with modern
writers. King Benjamin was particularly effective in creating chiastic
structures. Many of his chiasms have one clear central point (see 2:27;
3:11–16; 4:6–7; 5:6–8), while others contain a focal point of
two or more lines, forming a parallelism at the center of the chiasm. One may
assume that chiasmus served Benjamin’s purposes in several ways, for it can aid
memorization, teach by means of calculated repetition, and confer a sense of
completeness or closure to a lengthy textual development. Chiastic structures
can also convey the meaning of a passage in many ways beyond the meanings of
isolated words and individual phrases.6

In many cases the use of chiasmus is a conscious choice, but
it need not always be intentional. Poets, authors, composers, and musicians
create artistic works without being aware of every facet of their compositions.
When the degree and precision of chiastic repetition is high enough,
however—as in 3:18–19 and 5:10–12—it is likely that the
author was aware of its existence. Thus it is plausible that Homer and the
Homeric bards were aware that when Odysseus in the underworld asks the shade,
or spirit, of his mother Anticleia seven things, she responds by addressing
these seven questions in exactly the reverse order.

When does it make sense to speak of a passage as being
chiastic or not? Passages can manifest varying degrees of “chiasticity.”
Some passages are short, and their inverted order
is obvious and noncontroversial. For example, Genesis 1:27 reads, “[a] God created man [b]
in his own image; [b] in the image of God [a] created he him.” The
a–b–b–a order here is objectively verifiable. At least ten
a–b–b–a chiasms occur in Benjamin’s speech, while other
parts of the text are longer, or the structure is less certain. Thus one must
work and think in terms of degrees of chiasticity.7

Several conditions should be satisfied before one can speak
meaningfully of chiasmus in a given passage. The more a particular text
fulfills these criteria, the higher its degree of chiasticity. Chiasms are
stronger when they consist of elements that are objectively observable in the text, when they are apparently placed in a passage intentionally for stylistic purposes, and if they are the dominant forms that operate across
a literary
as a whole and not merely upon fragments or sections that
overlap or cut across significant organizational lines in the text. Many
chiasms in Benjamin’s speech consist of elements that are indeed objectively
observable in the text and do not require imaginative explanations.

Strong extended chiasmus at the verbal level is found in
3:18–19, 5:10–12, and a few other places. These chiasms exhibit balance—having
elements on both sides of the proposed focal point nearly equal in terms of
number of words, lines, or elements—and create a convincing sense
of return
and completion from the beginning to the end. Similarly,
the more compact the chiasm—or the fewer irrelevancies between its elements—and the longer the chiasm, the higher its degree of chiasticity. Benjamin has many examples
of strong chiasmus throughout his speech.

Chiasmus is a dominant feature in a passage when it is the
main structuring device present, as appears to be the case in several passages
in Benjamin’s speech (see, for example, 2:26; 3:18–19). Of course, a
powerful structural design revolves around major concepts, unique phrases, or focal words, and in some instances the only occurrences of a word or phrase
in the Book of Mormon are found in two chiastically matched parts of Benjamin’s
speech (“natural man” 3:19; “have and are” 2:34 and 4:21; “left
hand” 5:10, 12). Moreover, because the crux of chiasmus falls generally at
its central
turning point,
it is significant that Benjamin often
placed a well-defined centerpiece at the heart of his chiastic structures. Many
factors like these give evidence of a high degree of chiasticity in Benjamin’s
speech. His application of this form was fluid, consistent, and well balanced,
yet it does not draw undue attention to itself.

Of course, chiasmus is not exclusive to ancient Hebrew texts,
but has also been found in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Egyptian, Aramaic, Greek,
and Latin texts.8 Although chiasmus
occurs in many ancient works of literature, and also to an extent in modern
authors, it is employed more extensively and purposefully in the Hebrew Bible
than anywhere else. Complex chiasms, such as those identified in Benjamin’s
speech, are recognized as a fairly salient characteristic of ancient Hebrew

Some chiasms are lost in
the translation process, but larger chiastic patterns and parallelisms are
usually preserved; the Book of Mormon is no exception to this rule. Of all
poetical devices, extended chiasms and parallelisms are among the most likely
to survive a translation. Although our knowledge is somewhat limited in this
regard, it appears that several of these structures were faithfully preserved
through Joseph Smith’s translation process.

In Joseph Smith’s day, not much was known about chiasmus.
In England, two authors had written books in the 1820s about Hebrew literature
in the Bible, and they explored the possibility of chiasmus in the Bible. But
the idea took root slowly, and it was not until much later that biblical
commentators endorsed chiasmus. Furthermore, those pioneering volumes of the
1820s do not seem to have found their way to the United States by Joseph Smith’s
day. And even if they did, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith was aware of
them. The chance that Joseph Smith unconsciously assimilated chiasmus through
his familiarity with the Bible assumes a great deal about literary osmosis.

What does the presence of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon
prove?9 The presence of various forms of
parallelism and chiasm in Benjamin’s speech is significant in any literary
evaluation of its qualities. It demonstrates that this text was composed
carefully, meticulously, purposefully, and elegantly, in a manner consistent
with the basic parallelistic norms of ancient Hebrew style.

The Main Divisions of Benjamin’s

In overview, it is apparent that Benjamin’s text divides
naturally into seven sections, which are demarcated either by intervening
ceremony or by abrupt shifts in subject matter. As can be seen below, after the
preliminary account of preparations for the speech, section 1 (found in
2:9–28) is separated from section 2 (2:31–41) by the coronation
ceremony itself (2:29–30). Between sections 2 and 3 (the latter of
which is 3:2–10), Benjamin began as if anew: “And again my brethren
I would call your attention [almost as if they had taken a break or he had lost
their attention], for I have somewhat more to speak unto you” (3:1). After
section 4 (covering 3:11–27), the people fall to the ground and are
forgiven of their sins (4:1–3) in a purification ceremony. And after
sections 5 and 6 (4:4–12 and 4:13–30, respectively) and before the
final section 7 (namely, 5:6–15), the people enter into a covenant to
continue living according to the will of God and to be obedient to the commandments,
thereby honoring the new kings who should command them for the remainder of
their days (5:1–5). Only the boundaries between sections 3 and 4 and
between sections 5 and 6 are not delineated by explicit pronouncements. These,
however, are formed by shifts in meaning and focus that are largely dictated by
the fact that section 3 is the angel’s testimony of the life of Jesus and
section 5 is Benjamin’s testimony of the necessity of faith in Jesus. The shift
from section 3 to 4 is from a focus on Christ and his atonement to a focus on
mankind and what mankind must do in order to take advantage of the atonement;
the shift from section 5 to section 6 is basically from faith to works: again,
from believing in God to acting consonant with that belief.

Overview of
Benjamin’s Speech

      Successor named and new name to be
      People gathered but not yet numbered
      Tower constructed

1. All are indebted to God (2:9–28)

      God is the heavenly king
      God has physically created and
sustains all people
      People should serve and thank God
      The hope of exaltation after death

First break (2:29–30)
      Coronation announcement

2. Consequences of obedience or disobedience (2:31–41)

      Obedience brings victory and
      Prohibition of contention (2:32)
      Rebellion and disobedience bring pain and
      All are eternally indebted to heavenly

Second break
      Remember, remember, the Lord has
      Benjamin calls again for attention

3. The angel’s testimony of Christ’s deeds

Omnipotent will come down in power and goodness
      The sacred name of God
      The suffering and death of Jesus

4. Sanctification by the atonement of
Christ (3:11–27)

      The only possibility of reconciliation
      Putting off the natural man and
becoming a saint
      People will be judged according to
their works

Third break (3:27–4:4)
      Thus has the Lord commanded, Amen
      The people fall to the ground and
      Atoning blood is applied; joy and
      Benjamin begins to speak again

5. Benjamin’s testimony of God’s goodness

      God is good, patient, long-suffering
      Believe in God
      God is all powerful, loving, and
      Call upon the name of the Lord daily

6. Righteous behavior of the redeemed

      Living in peace and social order
      Prohibition of contention (4:14)
      Because God imparts, all must give to
those in need
      Avoid guilt and sin

Fourth break
      Remember, and perish not
      Covenant response of the people
      Benjamin accepts their covenant

7. The sons and daughters of God

      God has spiritually begotten you this
      The only head to make you free from
      Excommunication upon breach of
      Covenant people know God by serving
      The hope of exaltation after death

Final acts (6:1–3)
      Names recorded of all who accepted the
      Mosiah consecrated
      Priests appointed
      People dismissed

Although the interrelationships between these sections will
not be discussed until their full texts have been examined below, the nature of
the three ceremonies conducted during the course of the speech deserves
attention at the outset. In the first ceremony, Mosiah2 (Benjamin’s son) was given charge over
the people as their king and commander (2:29–30). In the second, staged
at the middle of the speech, all the people were cleansed and forgiven of their
wrongs (4:1–4). The third placed the people under the obligation of
covenant to obey the commandments of God (5:1–5) or, in other words, to obey the commandments given of
the new king (2:31). Thus the pattern of the ceremonies is
a–b–a, namely, establishing the king over the people, cleansing the
people, establishing the people under the king. Therefore, the entire ceremony
was more than just a coronation; it was a ritual that recognized the
reciprocity of relations and responsibilities between a ruler and his subjects,
involving the entire nation, its purity, and its duty of civil obedience.

Certain general balances are achieved in the broad structure
of these seven sections. First, their length is consistent: there are three
long sections (1, 4, 6) containing 20, 17, and 18 verses respectively, and four
short sections (2, 3, 5, 7) with 11, 9, 9, and 10 verses each. Second, the
direction regularly alternates between expressing man’s ultimate subservience
to the king in heaven (1, 3, 5, 7) and formulating a humanistic basis of
ethical behavior (2, 4, 6). In section 1, man was instructed to thank his
heavenly king for the ultimate blessings of life; in 3, the ministry of Christ
the King was prophesied; in 5, Benjamin testified of God; and in 7, the people
took upon themselves the name of Christ through a covenant. In the
even-numbered sections, however, the attention is directed to man, his
accountability for his rebellious state, the necessity of putting off his natural
state, and becoming charitable.

We now turn to the organization and structure of these seven
individual sections.

Section 1 (2:9–28)

Outline. Benjamin started his speech with introductory
material explaining why he had gathered the people together, and he reminded
them—in chiastic form—of their responsibilities as citizens of
the land and as subjects of God.

A Purpose of the assembly
What is man?

The laws in Benjamin’s kingdom

Man cannot boast of service to fellowmen

Imperatives to serve one another and thank God

Man cannot boast of service to God

The laws in God’s kingdom

What is man?

A’ Purpose of the assembly

From the very beginning,
then, Benjamin introduced his main form of
organization—chiasmus—and also the fundamental point of his speech:
people on earth are involved in a crucial relationship with God and with each

Detailed Analysis. When looking at the words and phrases in Benjamin’s
speech, one can readily see certain important parallelistic forms: simple
synonymous (2:9, ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear
my words), extended synonymous (2:11, chosen by this people, consecrated
by my father, was suffered by the hand of the Lord), simple alternate (2:22,
all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments and he has promised you
that if ye would keep his commandments), detailing (2:14, why he has labored),
climactic forms (2:9, 11, 13–14, etc.), like paragraph endings
(2:16–17), repetition and duplication of words, and many other forms,
including, of course, chiasmus. The full text of section 1 can be displayed as follows:

  A Purpose of the assembly

2:9     a  My brethren all ye that have assembled
yourselves together

              b  you that can hear my words
which I shall speak
unto you this day
          a  For I have not commanded you to come up

to trifle with the words which I shall speak

          1  but that you should hearken unto me
          2  and open your ears that ye may hear
          3  and your hearts that ye may understand
          4  and your minds that the mysteries of God
may be unfolded to your view

2:10   a  I have not commanded you to come up
that ye should fear me

      B What is

Or that ye should think that I of myself
am more than a mortal man
2:11   a  But I am like as

subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind

          1  Yet I have been chosen by this people
          2  and consecrated by my

          3  and was suffered by the hand of the

          4  that I should be a ruler and a king over
this people

have been kept and preserved by his matchless power
serve you with all the might, mind, and strength
the Lord hath granted unto me

          C The laws
in Benjamin’s kingdom

2:12    a  I say unto you
as I have been suffered to spend my days
in your service
even up to this time
and have not sought gold nor silver
nor any
of riches of you

2:13    1  Neither have I suffered that ye should be
confined in dungeons
           2  nor that ye should make slaves one of
           3  nor that ye should murder
           4  or plunder
           5  or steal
           6  or commit adultery
           7  nor even have I suffered that ye should
commit any manner of wickedness
           8  and have taught you that ye should keep
the commandments of the Lord in all things which
               he hath commanded you

2:14        b  And
even I myself have labored with mine own hands
that I might serve you
and that ye should not be laden with taxes
                               f   and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne
           a  and of all these things which I have

ye yourselves are witnesses this day

               D Man
cannot boast of service to fellowmen

2:15    a  Yet my brethren I have not done
these things
that I might boast
neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you
but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear
conscience before
                   God this day
2:16    a  Behold I say unto you that because I said
unto you that I had spent my days in your service I
               do not
desire to boast

           a  for I have only been in the
service of God

2:17        b 
and behold I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom
that ye may learn that
           a  when ye are in the service of your fellow
beings ye are only in the service of your God

Imperatives to serve one another and thank God

2:18    a  Behold ye have called me your

           a  and if I whom ye call your king
do labor
to serve
then ought not ye
to labor
to serve
one another?

2:19    a  And behold also if I
whom ye call your king

who has spent his days in your service
and yet has been in the service of God
do merit any thanks from you
O how you ought
to thank
           a  your
heavenly King!

               D’ Man
cannot boast of service to God

2:20    a  I say unto you my brethren
that if you should render all the thanks and praise
which your whole soul has power to possess

to that God who has created you
and has kept and preserved you
and has caused that ye should rejoice
and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another

2:21    a  I say unto you
               b  that if ye should serve him

           5  who has created you from the beginning
           6  and is preserving you from day to day
           7  by lending you breath that ye may live and move and do according to your own will
           8  and even supporting you from one moment
to another

I say if ye should serve him
with all your whole souls
           a  yet ye would be unprofitable

           C’ The
laws in God’s kingdom

2:22    a  And behold all that he
requires of you is to keep his commandments
and he
has promised
that if
ye would keep his commandments

ye should prosper in the land

and he never doth vary
from that which he hath said
therefore if ye do keep his commandments
he doth bless you and prosper you

       B’ What is

2:23    And now in the first place
hath created

              and granted unto you your lives
which ye are indebted unto him

2:24    And secondly he doth require
ye should do as he hath commanded you              
which if ye do    
doth immediately bless you                        
therefore he hath paid you                      
ye are still indebted unto him                                   
are and will be forever and ever
of what have ye to boast?

2:25    a  And now I ask
can ye say aught of yourselves?
           a  I
Nay. Ye cannot say

that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth  
yet ye were created
of the dust
of the earth
but behold it belongeth      
to him who created you

2:26    And I, even I, whom ye call
your king
no better than ye yourselves are
for I am also of the dust
and ye behold that I am old
and am about to yield up this mortal frame
to its mother earth

   A’ Purpose of the assembly

2:27    Therefore as I said unto you
that I had served you walking with a clear conscience before God,
           even so I at
this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together

that I might be found blameless
           2  and that your blood should
not come upon me when I shall stand to be judged of God of the
whereof he hath commanded me concerning you

2:28    I say unto you that I have
caused that ye should assemble yourselves together

           3  that I might rid my garments of your blood at this period of time when I am about to go down
               to my grave
           4  that I might go down in
peace and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the
of a just God.

Comments. Benjamin used a number of rhetorical techniques
in section 1. One is balancing the equivalent words and phrases. For example, “service”
and “riches” in the first part of C balance “serve” and “taxes”
in the second part of C. In E and D’, serving fellowman and God balances
thanking and praising God. The association between service and thanksgiving
was probably closer in Benjamin’s mind than it is in ours, since ancient
Semitic languages speak of thanks more in terms of grateful love, blessing, or
praise (compare 2:20), which was to be rendered as service was rendered. Effective
contrasts are also achieved in C, C’, and E by means of the contraposition of
the king on earth against the king in heaven.

We also encounter here frequent emphatic uses of
quadripartite arrangements. Such figures are central in A, B, C (twice), D’
(twice), and A’, and are consistently present throughout the speech.

The continuity of this
section was enhanced by Benjamin’s astute bridging from one thought to the
next. After the initial order had been established from A to E, Benjamin
retreated, connecting each step with a previous one. In E, two points were
made, that man should serve his fellowman and that man should render thanks to
his God. In D’ the same ideas appear, but in the reverse order. The central
quatrains of D’ describe the source of man’s indebtedness and, as such, they
prepare the audience for the interrogatories of B’. The transition from C’ to B’
focuses on mortality, which leads back to Benjamin’s preparations for his death
and hence to the very purpose of the assembly in A’.

The chiastic outline exposes the development of Benjamin’s
thoughts as well as his style. When Benjamin repeated, he not only inverted but
intensified what had previously been said. Accordingly,
A’ adds a new dimension to A, for he first tells the purpose of the assembly
from the audience’s viewpoint by indicating to them what they could expect to
do and to receive at the assembly, but the second explains the purpose of the
assembly from Benjamin’s perspective and outlines his own purposes. Subsection
B is a humble statement to be made by a king, but it is not nearly as
abasing as the statements in B’. In B man is simply a mortal being subject to
infirmities, while in B’ he is irreparably in debt to God and is less than the
dust of the earth. In C the topic is the civil order in Benjamin’s kingdom, but
in C’ the operation of obligations under God’s kingship is described. D asserts
(and this is often misunderstood) that one cannot boast a record of service to
other people because all service is unavoidably service to God. D’ then adds
the further humiliation that one cannot boast a record of service to God
because, despite our most diligent efforts, we are all unprofitable servants to

The turning point at E contains the two moral imperatives—to
serve one another and to thank God—written in concise parallel form. The
logic of verses 2:18–19 is discussed below in conjunction with similar
reasoning found at 4:21. The shift that occurs at the center of this section
moves from giving an accounting of benefits, which had been received by
Benjamin (B) or by the people (C, D), to becoming profoundly aware of the
obligations of gratitude and dependence that derive from the receipt of those
blessings (D’, B’). The ultimate reciprocation and fulfillment of these
obligations does not, however, enter the ceremony until the covenant is
consummated in section 7.

Section 2 (2:31–41)

Outline. In section 2, Benjamin explains in further
detail the relationship between God and his children and the consequences of

F Temporal blessings of obedience
Willful rebellion against God condemned

The accountability of the people

Willful rebellion against God condemned

F’ Eternal blessings of obedience

section’s central point, as seen in its chiastic structure, is the
accountability of the people to their creator. Benjamin’s purpose
was to turn the focus of his people from the temporal blessings of obedience to
the more important eternal blessings of dwelling in the presence of God and
having “never-ending happiness” (2:41).

Detailed Analysis. The second section of the speech
employs various arrangements of chiastic and alternating lines to create a
meaningful formal basis on which a systematically complete message is imposed.
The execution of chiasmus in this instance is carried out with substantial
accuracy and, indeed, with several noteworthy variations that promote cohesion
in the transitions from one subsection to the next. Benjamin showcased his
versatility here, since while subduing the distinction between human and divine
institutions that dominated the chiastic augmentations in the first section, he
proceeded to new contrasts to display his thoughts.

   F Temporal
blessings of obedience

2:31    And now my brethren I would
that ye should do as ye have hitherto done

           a1 As ye have kept my commandments
           a2 and also the commandments of my father
                b1 and have prospered
                b2 and have been kept from
falling into the hands of your enemies

           a1 even so if ye
shall keep the commandments of my son
           a2 or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him
                b1 ye shall prosper in the land
                b2 and your enemies shall have no power over you.

Willful rebellion against God condemned

2:32    But, O my people, beware lest there shall
arise contentions among you

and ye list
to obey
the evil spirit
which was spoken of by my father Mosiah
2:33        b  for
behold there is a wo pronounced upon him
who listeth
to obey
that spirit

if he listeth
to obey
           and remaineth
and dieth
in his sins
same drinketh damnation to his own soul
he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment

The accountability of the people

having transgressed the law of God contrary to his own knowledge
2:34        b  I say unto you that there are not any
among you except it be your little children that have
                   not been taught concerning these things
but what knoweth
that ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father
to render to him all that you have and are

                               1  and also have been taught concerning the records which contain the
                               2  which have been spoken by the holy prophets
                               3  even
down to the time our father Lehi left Jerusalem
2:35                        4  and also all that has been spoken by our fathers until

                       d  and behold also they spake that which was
commanded them of the Lord
therefore they are just and true       
2:36            c  and now I say unto you my brethren
that after ye have known
and have been taught all these things
if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has
been spoken

Willful rebellion against God condemned

that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord
that it may have no place in you
                   c  to guide you in wisdom’s
that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved
2:37                d  I say unto you that the man that doeth
this the same cometh out in open rebellion
                           against God

therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit
and becometh an enemy to all righteousness
therefore the Lord has no place in him
for he dwelleth
in unholy temples

2:38    a  therefore if that man
repenteth not and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God
the demands of divine justice do awaken
                   c  his immortal soul to a lively sense
of his own guilt which doth cause him to shrink from the
                       presence of the Lord
                   c’ and doth fill his breast with guilt and
pain and anguish which is like an unquenchable fire
                       whose flame ascendeth
up forever and ever
2:39         b’ and now I say unto you
that mercy hath no claim on that man
therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment

   F’ Eternal blessings of obedience

2:40    O all ye old men and also ye
young men and you little children who can understand my words

           a  For I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand
               b  I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen
                   into transgression.
2:41            c  and moreover I would desire that ye
should consider on the blessed and happy state of
                      those that keep
the commandments of God
                   c’ for behold they are blessed in all
things both temporal and spiritual and if they hold out
                      faithful to the end
they are received into heaven that thereby they may dwell with God in a
                      state of never-ending happiness.
               b’ O remember,
that these things are true
           a’  For the Lord God
hath spoken it.

Comments. We can first observe that the general
tone of this section is not negative or pessimistic, even though a fair amount
of its material would add punch to any hellfire sermon. That material, however,
does not occupy the prime positions of dominance in the balance of this passage.
The middle and the extremes of section 2 are promissory, optimistic, and
promote the righteous desires of the subjects to continue living in civil and
spiritual obedience. The negative topics are introduced to create rhetorical opposition
and emphasis.

The theme of section 2 is introduced in subsection F,
directly following the coronation of Mosiah2: the king promises
victory and prosperity in reciprocation for loyalty and obedience. Subsection F
is essentially an eight-line double structure naming four lawgivers, namely,
Benjamin, his father Mosiah1, his heir Mosiah2, and God.
For Benjamin, political orders were sanctioned by two sources: the inherited
right and the divine right. Thus Mosiah1 stood to Benjamin as God
stood to Mosiah2 as the respective sources of these two sovereign
rights (lines a2). In b1 and b2 the blessings
of the monarchy were reinstated in a continuation from the kingship of Benjamin
to the reign of his son. Perpetuity of legal powers from one administration to
the next is the crucial aspect of any succession.

In subsection F, physical blessings alone occupy the attention
of the orator; but in F’, he was concerned about blessings “in all things
both temporal and spiritual.” Subsection F’, though not engaged in
assuring the succession of the king’s rights, is devoted to increasing the subjects’
propensity to obey. Benjamin prayed that the people would remember the
consequences of disobedience. The central lines in F’ contrast the awful
situation of those who disobey with the blessed and happy state of the righteous.
Two lines (c and c’) then repeat “blessed” and “happy,”
words that appear at the center of the first line, with the interesting
gravitation of “blessed” toward the beginning of the following line
and that of “never-ending happiness” toward the end of the same line.
In good chiastic passages, frequently accentuated words tend to gravitate to
opposite extremes of corresponding lines; this is a minor point, but it is in
the details that art must meticulously measure up. In addition, “blessed”
and “happy” in F’ balance the ideas of prosperity and victory in F;
Benjamin’s words, contrasted with those of God in F’, harmonize with the posture
of the lawgivers in F. Thus F and F’ form a well-matched pair in both content
and structure. F’ is slightly more elaborate, but this is the result of the
impulse to embellish the second of each pair as it elevates the original idea.
This elevation consistently occurs in section 2, since both F’ and G’ are
considerably more elaborate than F and G.

Subsection G features a short chiastic section, followed by
four lines that mention listing to obey the evil spirit, remaining and dying in
sins, damnation, and everlasting punishment as coterminal ideas.

Subsection G introduces the topics that receive greater
treatment in G’. The bond between them is secured by the reoccurrence of the
four elements: listing to obey the evil spirit, “remaineth and dieth”
in opposition to God, the guilt and anguish
of damnation, and a final doom. The first part of G’ by itself exhibits a fine
chiastic composition, made most apparent by the repetition of “no place”
(b and b’). Significant is the
association of “withdraw[ing] yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord”—which
is done voluntarily, with the withdrawal of the Spirit—which is
necessary, “for he dwelleth not in unholy temples” (a and a’). Being
guided in wisdom’s path is the obverse of following the evil spirit into
antagonism against righteousness (c and c’). The center of G’ declares that a
man who willingly withdraws from the Spirit is in open rebellion against God.
Thus the logic of the passage is: if you withdraw from God he must withdraw
from you, for without any guidance of wisdom you become an enemy of all that is
good, and this means you stand in rebellion against God. The “wo”
that was announced in general terms in G (b) is then pronounced in specific
language upon such a person in G’.

Subsection G’ contains a mature psychological attitude toward
punishment. Its central motif portrays two different reactions of the
individual to the realization of his own culpability; these reactions appear to
modify the two terms introduced in G—”damnation” and “everlasting
punishment.” Thus Benjamin seems to hold that the judgment will be
self-executing, for “damnation” can be linked with “shrink[ing]
from the presence of the Lord,” and “eternal punishment” is
identifiable with the anguish of the soul “which is like an unquenchable
fire.” In this picture, punishment is strictly internal and existential;
no external decree or fiery torture is necessary for spiritual anguish.

In the second half of G’, Benjamin made a successful effort
to maintain equal lengths of lines in corresponding parts, even though the
redundant addition of “and pain and anguish” was necessary in one
case. The final line of G’ also functions in a remarkable way, for while “never-ending”
relates back to “remaineth” an enemy to God, it also looks ahead to
the contrast with “never-ending happiness” created in the concluding

The middle and turning point of section 2 is subsection H.
It is chiastically framed by several lines (a, b, c, d, e) constructed around
the key words “transgress,” “contrary,” “taught,”
“know,” “heavenly Father” or “the Lord,” and “have
and are” or “just and true.” Pairing the words “have and
are” with “just and true” shows keen conceptual association, for justice is the equitable distribution or retribution of things, privileges, or rights
which people have, and truth is that whose referent
is those things which ultimately are. At the very center,
somewhat similar to the structure of the middle, E, in section 1, a quatrain is
presented that is comprised of two couplets. The first couplet mentions,
parallelistically in lines 1 and 2, the content and authorship of the records;
the second couplet mentions, chiastically at the beginning and ending of lines
3 and 4, the two relevant time periods from which these records originate; the
word “spoken” appears in the second and fourth lines, as in good
form. The thought at the turning point is the accountability of the people,
based upon the knowledge of their indebtedness to God, who is the source of
their material existence and their holy writ.

The shift at the center is styled out of temporal elements,
by dividing time periods before and after the departure from Jerusalem, and
also out of the contrast between physical and spiritual indebtedness. But most
important, H contains the thought that is indispensable to the logic of
section 2, for it is axiomatic that a knowledge of one’s obligations is
prerequisite for any assignment of responsibility, which in turn is necessary
for the ascription of either praise or blame. Blameworthiness is the condition
on which punishment is predicated, and praiseworthiness is the condition of
reward. Hence accountability, or responsibility, is the keystone in the
structure of section 2, whose topic deals with blessings and punishments.

In sum, although this section is structurally complex, its
underlying framework can be simplified and displayed by highlighting certain
words that appear in one order in the first half of the section and whose
counterparts are introduced in the opposite order in the second half:

keep the commandments (31)
listeth to obey, remaineth and dieth (32–33)
contrary (33)
these things (34)
and are (34)
holy prophets (34)
Lehi, fathers (34–35)
and true (35)
these things (36)
contrary (36)
listeth to obey, remaineth and dieth (37–38)
keep the commandments (41)

The chiastic organization of this
passage makes its central point quite clear and also renders the overall logic
of the section coherent.

Section 3 (3:2–10)

Outline. The angel of the Lord delivered to
Benjamin the information about Christ and his atonement found in sections 3 and
4. It is interesting to see how Benjamin placed the words of the angel into the
overall chiastic structure of his own speech.

J The Lord has judged thy righteousness
The Lord will descend

The Lord’s works among men

Christ’s power over evil spirits

Christ will be divine and bring salvation

Christ will be accused of having an evil spirit

Men’s treatment of Jesus

The Lord will ascend

J’ The Lord will judge the world righteously

This section requires little exposition to elucidate its
strong chiastic structure. Here Benjamin set forth his prophetic vision of the
great marvels of the ministry of the Savior and then contrasted these marvels
with the deep ironies of his rejection by his own chosen people. It should be
readily evident that chiasmus was employed here to intensify those ironies, for
it is ironic that Jesus’ “own” should consider him merely a man after
he has suffered more for them than any man of normal mortal frame can possibly
suffer (N); that he should be accused of being possessed by a devil considering
the fact that he drove out so many devils (M); and that the way he was put to
death is rooted in the way that he blessed their sick and raised their dead

Detailed Analysis. The important concepts dealt
with in this section are righteousness, judgment, and the divinity and mission
of Christ.

          J The Lord
has judged thy righteousness

3:3     Awake and hear the
words which I shall tell thee:                  
for behold I am come to declare unto you
the glad tidings of great joy

3:4     for
the Lord hath heard thy prayers and hath judged of thy
and hath sent me to declare unto thee that
thou mayest rejoice
and that thou mayest declare unto thy people that
they may also be filled with joy

     K The Lord
will descend

3:5     For behold the time cometh
is not far distant               
with power
Lord omnipotent                              
was and is                   
all eternity  
all eternity
          shall come
from heaven among the children of men
shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay

          L The Lord’s
works among men

shall go forth amongst men
mighty miracles such as
the sick
the dead
the lame to walk
blind to receive their sight
the deaf to hear

             M Christ’s
power over evil spirits

3:6     And he shall cast out
devils or the evil spirits

                 N Christ
will be divine and bring salvation

3:7     and lo he shall suffer
temptations and pain
of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue
          2  even more than man can suffer except it be unto death
          3  for behold blood cometh from every pore
          4  so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people

3:8         and
he shall
be called
Jesus Christ
Son of God                     
Father of heaven and earth                                   
Creator of all things from the beginning         
his mother shall be called Mary           

3:9     and lo he cometh unto his

          6  that salvation might come unto the children
of men

          7  even through faith on his name
          8  and even after all this they shall
consider him a man

             M’ Christ
will be accused of having an evil spirit


          L’ Men’s
treatment of Jesus


     K’ The
Lord will ascend

3:10    and he shall rise the third day from the dead

           J’ The Lord will judge the world righteously

behold he standeth to judge the world
           and behold all these
things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children
           of men.

Comments. This chiastic structure builds on the
contrast between the eternal period of Christ’s reign in heaven and the
temporal duration of his spell with death, as well as the descension (K) and
ascension (K’) of God into earthly history. The center of K is constructed out
of three pairs (power–omnipotent, who–who,
eternity–eternity), while the elaboration in L contains two triads
(healing–raising–causing, to walk–to receive–to hear).
Also of significance is the appearance of “judgment” and “righteousness”
in the J and J’ subsections. This usage can be compared to a similar chiastic
treatment of these ideas in certain psalms, such as Psalm 58. If this
passage in Mosiah 3 is indeed following the pattern of Hebrew psalmody, we
should recognize that “judgment” is used in the introduction and
conclusion of several of the Psalms as a general desire and expectation of

The turning point (N) is certainly the central idea of the
passage. The divinity of Christ and his sacrifice on behalf of mankind falls
distinctly at the center of intention and attention in this portion of the
speech. The nomenclature at the center is also of note, for vocatives calling
upon the Lord often appear at the center of chiastic systems (compare Psalm 58;
Alma 36). Here the form is declarative but the idea of using the name to call
upon the Lord is not far distant. The unusual brevity of M’, L’, and K’
accentuates the stark contrasts they expose.

A nice effect is also achieved by means of the two closely
interrelated quatrains that flank the names at the center. These two quatrains
should be read together. The one ends (4) and the other begins (5) with
reference to Jesus’ own people; even after the extent of his bleeding and
suffering (2), he shall be considered only a man (8); ironically, his
sufferings bring the possibility of salvation to man (6); the offering of
Christ was his blood (3), in response to which people offer faith on his name

Section 4 (3:11–27)

Outline. This section of Benjamin’s speech
continues with the words of the angel and discusses the atonement and the law,
judgment and salvation. Its components may be outlined as follows:

P The atonement covers the sins of the

Repentance is necessary for the rebellious

        R  We may rejoice now as though Christ
had already come

The atonement is necessary for the law of Moses

P’ The atonement covers the sins of the innocent

S Salvation is exclusively in Jesus Christ
Putting off the natural man and becoming a saint

S’ Salvation is universal in Jesus Christ

U The angel’s words are witnessed by God
    W Final
warning of God’s judgment

U’ The angel’s words are witnessed by God

This is the central section of
Benjamin’s entire speech and covers the principles of repentance and the
progression from one’s natural state to becoming a saint.

Detailed Analysis. Section 4 is relatively
difficult to parse, despite two unmistakable clues to its composition: First,
this section is distinct from the foregoing section; section 3 dealt entirely
with the mission of Christ, while section 4 discusses exclusively the human
situation and the conditions related to it under which the atonement operates
to absolve humans of sin. Second, section 4 contains one of the longest and
most precise chiastic centerpieces in Benjamin’s speech (subsection T,
3:18–19), which indeed occurs at the center of the central section of the
whole speech. To this extent the structure and nature of section 4 is
self-evident, but the organization of the materials that flank this monumental
central passage is less obvious.

  P The atonement covers the sins of the

3:11   1  For behold and also his blood atoneth for the sins
              2  of those who have fallen
                  3  by the transgression of Adam
                      4  who have died not
the will of God concerning them or who have ignorantly

Repentance is necessary for the rebellious

3:12                    5  but wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God
for salvation cometh to none such
                                   7  except it be through
repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ

                R We may rejoice now as though Christ
had already come

3:13   a  and the Lord God hath sent his holy
among all the children of men to declare
             things to every kindred, nation, and tongue that thereby

whosoever should believe that Christ should come
the same might receive remission of their sins and rejoice
with exceedingly great joy
even as though he had already come among them

3:14   Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people
and he appointed unto them
a law even the law of Moses
3:15                   e 
And many signs and wonders
types and shadows
showed he unto them

concerning his coming
          a  and also holy prophets spake unto them
his coming

The atonement is necessary for the law of Moses

                          5  And yet they hardened their
                              6   and understood not that the
law of Moses availeth nothing
                                   7  except it
were through the atonement of his blood

  P’ The atonement covers the sins of the innocent

3:16                4  and even if it were possible that little
could sin they could not be saved,
                           I say unto you they are blessed
for behold as in Adam
or by nature they fall
even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins

   S Salvation is exclusively in Jesus Christ

3:17    v  and moreover I say unto you that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor
              means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men
              w  only in and through the
name of
Christ the Lord Omnipotent
3:18            x 
for behold he judgeth and his judgment is just
and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy
but men drink damnation to their own souls

Putting off the natural man and becoming a saint

except they humble themselves
and become as little children
                   c  and believe that salvation was and
is and is to come in and through the atoning blood of
                       Christ the Lord
3:19                d 
for the natural

is an enemy to God
and has
from the fall of Adam           
and will
forever and ever
unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit
and putteth off the natural man
                   c  and becometh a saint through the atonement
of Christ the Lord

and becometh as a child
           a  submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord
               seeth fit
to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father

   S’ Salvation is universal in Jesus Christ

3:20    v  And
moreover I say unto you that
the time shall come when the knowledge
of a Savior shall
              spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue and people,
3:21            x  and behold, when that time cometh none
shall be found
before God
except it be little children   
              w  only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent
3:22                    z  and even at this time when thou shalt
have taught thy people the things which the
                              Lord thy God hath commanded thee
even then are they found no more blameless in
                              the sight
of God only according to the words which I have spoken unto thee

   U The angel’s words are witnessed by God

3:23    And now I have spoken the
words which the Lord God hath commanded me
3:24    and thus saith the Lord

Final warning of God’s judgment

           a  They shall stand as a bright testimony
against this people at the judgment day
           a  whereof they shall be judged

every man according to his works whether they be good
or whether they be

3:25            c 
and if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view
of their own guilt and abominations

                       d  which doth cause them to shrink from the
presence of the Lord into a state of misery
                       d  and endless torment from
whence they can no more return;

therefore they have drunk
damnation to their own souls;

3:26        b 
therefore they have drunk out of the cup
of the wrath of God

                   c   which justice could no
deny unto them
                   c   than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit;

                        d  therefore mercy
could have claim on them no more forever
3:27                 d  and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone whose flames are unquenchable
                            and whose
smoke ascendeth up forever and ever

   U’ The angel’s words are witnessed by God

hath the Lord commanded me. Amen.

Comments. Working from the inside out, the turning
point here (T) is exceptional. It is composed of six elements repeated in close
proximity in reverse order. The phrase “natural man” is not only
unique to this section of the speech, but these are its only two appearances in
the entire Book of Mormon.

The central chiasm found in 3:18–19 can be summarized
and displayed as follows:

           a  humble themselves
become as little children
                   c  salvation through the atoning blood
of Christ the Lord
natural man
enemy to God
has been from the fall of Adam
will be forever and ever
yieldeth to the Holy Spirit
natural man
                   c  become a saint
through the atonement of Christ the Lord
become as a child
           a  submissive, meek, humble

In addition, 3:17–18
(S) can readily be identified with 3:20–22 (S’). Both are introduced by “moreover,”
and both qualify the preceding discussion of the general effects of the
atonement of Christ. Benjamin taught that there shall be no other name upon
which salvation is predicated (making the name of the Savior universal). Both S
and S’ mention salvation or being found blameless only through the name of
Jesus Christ (W), the innocence of infants (Y), the responsibility of men for
their own evil doing (Z), and the judgment (or in other words, being found
blameworthy of God). These concepts are presented in nearly identical
sequences in both groups, which, therefore, form alternating lines in contrast
with the extensive chiastic centerpiece.

Two further groups remain on the extremities, namely, verses
3:11–16 (P–Q–R–Q’–P’) and verses 23–27
(U–W–U’). The two are related only by contrast, since the single
direct link is one reference to Adam (3:26), which perhaps echoes P (3:11) and
P’ (3:16), the only other references to Adam in the speech. But the contrast
between these two groups is sharp and most likely intentional, therefore being
sufficient to justify aligning them. In 3:11–16, emphasis is placed on
the merciful manifestations of the atonement and the blessings that are
bestowed on souls by its effective operation. Thus, “his blood atoneth for
the sins of those . . . who have died not knowing the will of
God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned” (P). Likewise, little
children are blessed (P’). For those who have rebelled or have hardened their
hearts, the way is prepared for reconciliation through repentance and faith (Q)
and the atonement (Q’). Above all, it was necessary for Benjamin’s era to know
that the atonement could be operative upon those who believe that the Christ
should come, even though Christ had not yet received his mortal shroud. Thus
the key to the favorable, positive, and gracious working of the atonement among
Benjamin’s people is given at R: that they might “rejoice . . .
even as though he had already come” and that the law itself is a
sign, wonder, type, and shadow looking forward to his future coming. The
structure of R itself is complicated by the occurrence of “holy prophets”
at its beginning and end, followed by two minor chiasms,
b–c–c–b in 3:13 and d–e–e–d 3:14–15.
Although R manifests less discreteness of form, I prefer to leave it in a
simple structural arrangement conjoining the futurity of Christ’s coming and
the presence of his atonement.

In contrast with the future working of the atonement,
3:23–27 focuses on the onerous responsibility that attaches to one’s
knowledge and awareness of the nature of the atonement. The mood is prepared
for this stern warning as far back as 3:10: “all these things are done
that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.” The cadence
of these lines is introduced when Benjamin charged his people unequivocally
with responsibility for their own knowledge; they were “found no more
blameless in the sight of God” (3:22). The eight segments that comprise W
portray the nature of the judgment. For Benjamin, the judgment occurred
internally in the separate soul, which views its own guilt and shrinks from the
presence of the Lord of its own accord, thus being placed beyond the help even
of mercy by the unrelenting self-view and guilt-awareness that cannot be
deceived away. It may be that these eight strophes, each of which manifests an
element of duplication, divide into the conventional arrangement of two halves
of four strophes each (compare Alma 34:18–25), for judgment is the theme
of lines one and five (a), and torment is the subject of lines four and eight
(d); further associations may be drawn that are helpful but not necessarily

Section 5 (4:4–12)

Outline. After the review of Christ’s life and work, Benjamin’s
next section describes how a knowledge of the power of God leads to action and
progression of the human spirit.

 X Man’s knowledge of the goodness of God
     Y Articles
of belief

 X’ Man’s knowledge of the goodness of God

Section 5 contains the king’s
testimony of God and of the efficacy of the atonement of Christ, coupled with
thoughts that accent mankind’s need for the remission of sins in order to be redeemed
from a state of “nothingness” and unworthiness. If it is correct that
the general organization of the speech associates Benjamin’s testimony of God
with the angel’s testimony of Christ’s ministry, then we may secure the
antecedent of the phrase “in the faith of that which is to come”
(4:11) as being the ministry and atoning acts of the Savior. The chiasmus in
this section as a whole and in its subsections is powerful and effective.

Detailed Analysis. This section contains a balance
of negative and positive aspects of life and obedience and many forms of

 X Man’s knowledge of the goodness of God

4:5    k  for behold, if the knowledge
of the goodness of God
at this time 
has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness 
and your worthless and fallen state 

4:6    k I say unto you if ye
have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God
and his matchless power and his wisdom 
and his patience and his long suffering

towards the children of men
and also the
atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world

that thereby salvation might come to him
that should put his trust in the Lord
                         e  and should be diligent in keeping his
and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life I mean the life
of the mortal body
4:7             c 
I say that this is the man who receiveth salvation
through the
atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world

for all

ever were since the fall of Adam
who are
who ever shall be
unto the end of the world.

  Y Articles of belief

4:8     1  and this is the means whereby salvation cometh,
there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of

          2  neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved
the conditions which I have told you.

4:9     3  believe in God, believe that he is
that he created all things both in heaven and in earth

          4  believe that he has all wisdom
all power both in heaven and in earth

          5  believe that man doth not comprehend all the things
the Lord can comprehend

4:10   6  and again believe that ye must repent of your
              and forsake them

          7  and humble yourselves before God
              and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you

          8  and now if you believe all these things
that ye do them

   X’ Man’s knowledge of the goodness of God

4:11    And again I say unto you as I
have said before

           k  that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God
           k  or if ye have known of his goodness               

               v  and have tasted of his love                           
                   s  and have received a remission
of your sins

                       j  which causeth such exceedingly great joy in
your souls

even so I would that ye should remember
and always retain in remembrance
the greatness of God
and your own nothingness
and his goodness and long suffering
towards you unworthy creatures                                    

and humble yourselves
even in the depths of humility                                          

calling on the name of the Lord daily
and standing steadfastly in the faith
of that which is to come
which was spoken by the mouth of the angel

4:12     and behold I say unto you
if ye do this ye shall always rejoice  
and be filled with the love of God                               
and always retain a remission of your sins          
and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you    
            k  or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

Comments. Section 5 is constructed of three
subsections: X–Y–X’. Both X and X’ manifest adept chiastic arrangements
and are closely associated with each other by the repetition of many thoughts
and phrases occurring in both instances. X is introduced by two references to
the “knowledge of the goodness of God,” a phrase that reappears in
increasingly elaborate forms twice at the beginning of X’ and twice at the end
(k). The two negative aspects of mortal existence (– –) and the two
companion positive traits of divine nature (+ +) gravitate from the beginning
of X to the middle of X’, with identical phrases recurring in alternating lines
in the complementary passage (+ – + –). This gravitation
accompanies a broader shift in emphasis from X to X’, in that X discusses the
atonement in terms of its being “prepared from the foundation of the world”
and coming to mankind, while X’ approaches the atonement from the
standpoint of mankind coming to it through faith, humility, and cognizance of
the human plight. Thus it furthered Benjamin’s purposes to position the
conditions of salvation in the middle of X (d–e–d) and to move the
terms describing mankind’s contribution to the saving process to the middle of
X’ (h–n–f).

Whereas little remains to be said about the chiastic
characteristic of X—since
a–b–c–d–e–d–c–b–a is straightforward—the
material in X’ is presented in a very creative form. The two pairs of k lines
at the beginning and ending of this system make reference to the knowledge of
the glory and goodness of God; they are interesting in light of Moroni 10:6,
which reads: “whatsoever thing is good is just and true.” The
chiastic structure of X’ links “goodness” in 4:11 with “that
which is just and true” in 4:12. Thus it can be concluded that the roots
of the definition in Moroni 10:6 date at least to the time of Benjamin (124 B.C.)
in Nephite thought.

In X’, three ideas appear grouped in nearly inverted order in
the second positions. As is often present in good chiastic writing, these
repetitions are also accompanied by a careful sense of intensification: the
first instance (v) refers to tasting God’s love (4:11), while the corresponding
line in 4:12 makes the promise of being “filled with” that love.
On one hand the remission of sins (s) is mentioned in 4:11, but on the other,
its counterpart in 4:12 speaks of “always retain[ing] a
remission of your sins”; likewise, line (j) first deals with feeling “great
joy in your souls” now, but the intensification in 4:12 promises “ye
shall always rejoice.” The thrust of these climactic
contrapositionings may be eschatological, so that we should understand Benjamin
to be saying that the everlasting joy, the fullness of love, and the retention
of remission will all come in the day of the Lord’s final judgment. Or we may
take the thrust of his comments to be more limited to events that are located
in the scope of this-worldly experiences and expectations. According to the
latter alternative, Benjamin expected the effects of salvation to become
manifested in the field of this life. In light of Benjamin’s general humanistic
bent, and from the sense apparent in the line “if ye do this, ye shall
always rejoice” (4:12), we may infer that Benjamin’s perspective on the
judgment of man was as much involved in events in this world as in the next.

In the center of X’ we encounter an interesting pattern
constructed of two couplets containing climatic parallelism in their second
lines: “remember” becomes “always retain in remembrance,”
and “humble” becomes “the depths of humility.” The first
quatrain then alternates the positive and negative concepts (+ – +
–) that occurred at the introduction of X
(– – + +), while the second quatrain is one of
straight parallelisms (n–f–f–n), in which the first two lines
describe two righteous forms of behavior, “calling
on the name of the Lord daily” and “standing steadfast in the faith,”
while the second two lines are relative clauses modifying the former two
chiastically: the first and fourth lines (n) are linked because the angel
gave the name that should be called upon daily, and the second and third
lines (f) both associate with the idea of faith in future events.

Between X and X’ the text includes an eight-part interlude in
subsection Y. These eight lines form a magnificent declaration of faith and
promise, to compare favorably with the eight-part exhortation of
Alma 34:18–25 or with the structure of the Beatitudes in
Matthew 5:2–9.

Subsection Y may be
viewed from several angles. As paired couplets, it is apparent that 1 and 2 are
closely connected, since both express common conditions of salvation and
confirm the exclusive nature of this way to salvation. Lines 3 and 4 are joined
by the phrase “both in heaven and in earth,” which appears in each,
and also by similar thoughts about God, his existence, and his power. Lines 5
and 6 deal with man’s ignorance and iniquity. Lines 7 and 8 describe the way in
which man can fulfill the requirements necessary to achieve the goal of
salvation. These pairs then fall into two groups, namely
1–2–7–8, which all speak of the conditions of salvation,
humble asking and doing; and 3–4–5–6, which all begin with the
word “believe,” the first
two in reference to God, the second two in reference to man. And beyond that,
an alternation occurs within this structure:
lines 1–2–6–7 describe specific events or are limited by
phrases of exclusion (“none other,” “except” and “must”);
on the other hand 3–4–5–8 deal with generalities and universals
and are especially detectable by the presence of the words “all things,”
“all wisdom,” and “all these things.” Thus in the
conventional pairing of couplets that occurs frequently in Hebrew literature,
Benjamin incorporated an alternation of universal (U) and specific (S) features
in the pattern SS–UU–US–SU in 4:9–10. This type of
pattern has been encountered before, particularly at Mosiah 3:7, 9, the central
panel of section 3 (this section’s counterpart), where the pattern was the
reverse of this one, i.e., ab–ba–aa–bb. It is also found in X
and X’, where the positive and negative aspects combine in the order –
– + +; + – + –.

Section 6 (4:13–30)

Outline. The second to last section of Benjamin’s
speech describes in more detail the obligations of social justice that require
members of the community to impart of their substance to those who are in need.

A Distribution of property
Teach your children the laws of God

Ministering to the poor

The rich man’s excuse

Curse for not repenting

Imperative to impart substance to one another

Curse for not repenting

The poor man’s excuse

Ministering to the poor

Adult approach to following the laws of God

A’ Distribution of property
Final warning against sin

Here Benjamin draws an important
parallel between our treatment of fellow
human beings and God’s treatment of us.

Detailed Analysis. Aside from two unusual
departures from the standard form, namely, the logic at the center and the
reiteration of the sanction, the basic organization of section 6 may be
justifiably described as chiastic, even though Benjamin’s style here has become
more expositive and personal. In certain respects, it is as though Benjamin was
writing from a broad chiastic outline only, with the imperative at the center.
For he had no intention of discarding—in order to enhance the chiasmus at
this point—important thoughts or even afterthoughts that bolstered the
logic of the moral obligation he was issuing. But still his thoughts retraced
themselves as the passage unwinds from the twice-pronounced dependence of man
on God (major premise, 4:19, 21), the twice-invoked “wo” upon those
who turn away their neighbor in need (E, E’, 4:18, 23), and reference to the
two states of mind in which the rich and the poor approach the beggar (4:17,
24). Verse 25 appears to be a refrain, repeating one of the central ideas of
the passage (4:22). Verses 29 and 30 are somewhat parenthetical, and together
they form an epilogue spoken as the final admonition before the ceremony in
which the people answered the king and made their covenant with the Lord

   A Distribution of property

4:13    And ye will not have a mind
to injure one another
to live peaceably

to render to every man
to that which is his due

Teach your children the laws of God

4:14    a  And ye
will not suffer
your children
that they go hungry or naked
will ye suffer
that they transgress the laws of God and
fight and quarrel one with another

           and serve the devil
is the master of sin or
is the evil spirit
hath been spoken of by our fathers
being an enemy to all righteousness

4:15    a  but ye
will teach
to walk in the ways of truth and soberness
will teach
to love one
and to serve one

Ministering to the poor

4:16    and also ye yourselves will succor
that stand in need of your succor

will administer of your substance
him that standeth in need

ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition
           to you in
and turn him out to perish

The rich man’s excuse

4:17    perhaps thou shalt say
man has brought upon himself his misery
I will stay my hand
will not give unto him of my food
impart unto him of my substance
he may not suffer
               for his
are just

Curse for not repenting

4:18    but I say unto you
O man, whosoever doeth this
the same hath great cause to repent
and except he repenteth
of that which he hath done
          he perisheth forever
hath no interest in the kingdom of God

Imperative to impart substance to one another

4:19    For behold, are we not all beggars
we not all depend upon the same Being even God

all the substance which we have

both food and raiment and
gold and for silver and
all the riches which we have
of every kind

4:20    and behold, even at this time
have been calling on his name
           and begging for a remission of your sins
has he suffered that ye have begged in vain?

he has poured out his Spirit upon you
              and has
that your hearts should be filled with joy
              and has
that your mouths should be stopped that ye
                 could not
find utterance so exceedingly great was your joy

4:21    a  And now, if God,
who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all
ye have
and are
doth grant unto you
whatsoever ye ask that is right
in faith
that ye shall receive
O then how ye ought to impart
of the substance that ye have one to another

4:22    And
if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your
that he perish not          
               and condemn him
much more just will be your condemnation
withholding your substance

which doth not belong
to you
but to God
                   to whom also
               your life

Curse for not repenting

yet ye put up no petition
           nor repent of the thing which thou hast done

4:23    I say unto you wo be unto
that man
his substance shall perish with him
now I say these things unto those who are rich
pertaining to the things of this world

The poor man’s excuse

4:24    a  and again I say unto the poor, ye who have

yet have sufficient that ye remain from day to day
mean all you who deny the beggar because ye have not

I would that ye say in your hearts
that I give not
because I have not
but if I had
I would give    
4:25        b  and
now, if ye
this in your hearts

           a  ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are
your condemnation is just
ye covet that which ye have not received

Ministering to the poor

4:26    And now for
the sake of
these things which I have spoken unto you
is for
the sake of
           a remission of your sins from day to day
ye may walk guiltless before God
would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor

man according
that which he hath                 
as feeding the hungry
the naked
the sick and
to their relief           
spiritually and temporally
their wants

Adult approach to following the laws of God

4:27    And see that all these things are done
wisdom and order
for it
is not requisite

a man should run faster
he has strength
and again it is expedient
he should be diligent
thereby he might win the prize
           therefore all
must be done in order

   A’ Distribution of property

4:28    And I would that ye should
remember that
whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor
should return the thing that he borroweth
as he doth agree  
or else thou shalt commit sin        
and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit

   Final warning against sin

4:29    a  And finally I
cannot tell
the things
whereby ye may commit sin
for there are divers ways and means
even so
that I cannot number them

4:30    but this much I can
if ye do not watch yourselves
your thoughts and your words and your deeds
observe the commandments of God and continue in
                     the faith of what ye have heard
concerning the coming
                     of our Lord even unto the end of your lives

must perish
now, O man, remember,
                  and perish

Comments. Subsections A–B–C
(4:13–16) balance C’–B’–A’ (4:26–28), with important
recurrences being “impart of your substance” (C, C’, 4:16, 26), “the
hungry” (4:14, 26), and “render to every man according to
. . . his due” (4:13, compare “return the thing that he
borroweth according as he doth agree” 4:28). By incorporating both halves
of these related subsections into a single unit, we find that, in each case,
Benjamin specifically stated both the types of behavior that he desired his
people to avoid and also the criteria he prescribed for remedying difficulties
should they arise: in A, the desired behavior was the return of physical property,
which would have been especially meaningful in connection with the restitution
of property associated with the jubilee-year rites. The necessary criteria were
first, having “no mind to injure one another” and ultimately to desire
to avoid committing sin or causing one’s neighbor to commit sin also. The
remedy was found in rendering to each man according to his due, which appears
to mean “according as he doth agree” (A’, 4:28). Thus, A–A’ instructed
the people to keep their promises and agreements regarding the return of
possessions at this time and as a general ethical rule.

In B, the desired behavior
was to raise children by providing them sufficient temporal and spiritual
support. The prerequisites were to avert the devil and to avoid contention
(compare section 2.G, 2:32). This was to be accomplished in B by teaching them
to obey “the laws of God,” to “walk in the ways of truth and soberness” and to
love and serve one another, and in B’ all this is “done in wisdom and
order,” not running faster than one has strength.

In C, Benjamin desired to encourage charitable administration
of substance to the needy. This is associated in C’ with the retention of “a
remission of your sins from day to day,” which was achieved by feeding the
hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and administering to those
spiritually or temporally in need.

Although this section is softer in style than some of the
earlier sections in Benjamin’s speech, the flowing, almost lyrical passages in
this section communicate a feeling of warmth, goodness, and assurance,
conducive of engendering the spirit of generosity and humanitarian goodness
that Benjamin wants to instill in the minds and spirits of his audience. The
overall feeling of fullness and completeness in this section is enhanced by the
use of chiasmus in several of its subsections: fine chiasms in subsections E
(a–b–b–a), F
a–b–c–c–b–a), and D’ (a–b–c–d–d–c–b–a) induce a natural sense of logical persuasion
and moral closure. Moreover, to a greater degree than in other sections of his
speech, Benjamin makes use of effective duplications in other parallelistic
arrangements: suffer–suffer, teach–teach (B); succor–succor
(C); my food–my substance (D); all the substance–all the riches,
begging–begged, joy–joy, substance–substance,
condemn–condemnation (F); have not–have not (D’);
guiltless–guiltless (D’, C’); sake of–sake of, according
to–according to (C’); order–order (B’); borroweth–borroweth,
commit sin–commit sin (A’); cannot–cannot, perish–perish
not (final warning). The recurrence of these numerous two-part repetitions
comports stylistically with the central theme of this section, which emphasizes reciprocity, mutual support, and balanced equality among individuals.

At the center, Benjamin’s
logic is intriguing. By drawing together
certain relationships, he was able to derive a moral imperative by means
of a conditional transitivity of obligations. The logic here, as discussed
above in this volume (see chapter 3, subsection 11), is quite unlike
traditional syllogistic or predicate logic, and in order to understand its
operations on this occasion, it should be studied in conjunction with similar
reasoning at 2:18–19 (1.E) and in terms of the structure of these
passages. On all three occasions, the argument began with a statement of fact
that, by its nature, entails certain rights, privileges, or obligations. A
conditional or contingent premise then followed, through which an obligation
was transferred to the people. Thus in 2:18 the lines of argument may be
sketched as follows:

I am your king (fact)
You should serve me (entailed obligation from kingship)
I serve you (condition)
Therefore, you should serve one another (conclusion)

This conclusion follows
logically only because Benjamin had voluntarily chosen to serve
others, naming them as the recipients of all his efforts and assets. Thus the
obligation owed to him by the people transfers from him to “others”
as his beneficiaries. Notice, however, that without the supplied entailment the
argument will not go through, for

I am your king
I serve you
Therefore you should serve one another

is not in the least persuasive and
appears to derive an “ought” from an “is,” a logical
fallacy. From 2:19 we obtain:

I am your king (fact)
You should thank me for my service to you (entailment)
My service to you is service to God (condition)
Therefore you should thank God (conclusion)

Here, the king’s
right to thanks is dependent upon service which belongs to God. Benjamin,
therefore, conveyed directly to God any credits that he might have earned
in that service, and since the people still owed a debt of thanks, the
obligation to pay that debt to Benjamin transferred to an obligation to thank

In 4:19–22, the reasoning employs the same methodology
and structure:

We are all dependent upon the same God for everything
(major premise)
You should recognize him as the source and controller of
all (entailment)
God grants whatever is asked of him and even what is not
asked of him (conditional premise)
Therefore, you ought to impart your substance to one another

Benjamin was not just saying here
that he preferred people to be charitable one to another. Instead, he argued
that an obligation to be charitable derives from man’s obligation to recognize
the immediate implication of the factual relationship asserted by the major
premise. If there is a duty to recognize God as the controller, and God chooses
to distribute benevolence universally, then people have an obligation to
distribute their substance as the controller himself would distribute it. Just
as the obligation is effectively transferred in 2:18 from one
existing between the people and their king to one between the people and
their fellowmen, here it transfers from a relationship between God and mankind
to one between one human and another. In this way, Benjamin’s arguments have
merit and they form an unusual model of ethical deduction and presentation.

Section 7 (5:6–15)

Outline. Benjamin maintained the chiastic format to
the very end of his epoch-making speech. Not only is each of the individual
subsections well balanced and skillfully constructed, but section 7 as a whole
is harmonic, contains an extensive chiastic turning point (Z, 5:10–12),
and features additional chiasms in 5:7 and 5:8–9.

 X Born of Christ
Obedience to the name of Christ

Excommunication for transgression

Serving the master is the key to knowing his name

 X’ Sealed by God

These elements contain Benjamin’s
final warnings against sin and describe the eternal blessings of obedience.

Detailed Analysis. The principles of covenants and
freedom, of rebirth and worthiness discussed in this last section of Benjamin’s
speech were carefully encased in chiasms and parallelisms.

 X Born of Christ

5:6    Ye have spoken the
words that I desired

and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant
5:7    a  and now because of
the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ
his sons and his daughters
for behold this day he hath spiritually begotten you
for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name
therefore ye are born of him
and have become his sons and his daughters
5:8     a  and under this head
ye are made

and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free

Obedience to the name of Christ

there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh
therefore I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ
all you that have entered into the covenant with God
that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives
5:9             c 
and it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this
shall be found at the right hand of God
for he shall know the name by which he is called
for he shall be called by the name of Christ

Excommunication for transgression

5:10    a  And now it shall come to
pass that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ
must be called by some other name             
therefore he findeth himself on the left hand of God
5:11                d 
and I would that ye should remember also that this is the
name that I said I should give
                           unto you
that never should be blotted out
except it be through transgression
therefore take heed that ye do not transgress
that the name be not blotted out of your hearts
5:12                d 
I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name
written always
                           in your hearts
that ye are not found on the left hand of God
but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called
and also the name by which he shall call you

Serving the master is the key to knowing his name

5:13    a  for
how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served and who
is a stranger unto him and
               is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?
5:14        b  and again doth a man take an ass which belongeth
to his neighbor and keep him?
say unto you nay.
               b  he will not even suffer that he shall
feed among his flocks but will drive him away and cast him
           a  I say unto you that even so shall it be
among you if ye know not the name by which ye are called

   X’ Sealed by God

5:15    Therefore I would
that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works
               2  that Christ the Lord God Omnipotent may
seal you his
               3  that you may be brought to heaven           
               4  that ye may have everlasting salvation
and eternal life

and power
and justice
and mercy

created all things      
heaven and in earth
is God above all. Amen.

Comments. Regarding section 7, we note the
following: In X it is interesting that a double reference (a a) to making a
covenant (5:6–7) is contrasted with a double reference (a a) to
making people free (5:8). This direct association is confirmed by the integral
connection between the ancient Israelite concept of freedom and the rights of
liberty and the notion of being a covenant people (see Exodus 21:2; Jeremiah
35:9–10; John 8:33).

The rebirth of the multitude (5:7) appears to be the enactment
of the central admonition and requirement of Benjamin’s speech (3:18), that one
must become as a child. This points to the conclusion that to Benjamin, “becom[ing]
as little children” meant being born of God.

The components of section 7 are almost exclusively
constructed out of couplets and are matched with their corresponding elements
in pairs. This technique seems to be executed in this culminating section of
the speech more uniformly than in any other portion of the oration. The related
couplets in X are nearly synonymous. In Y the (a) lines name the obligation and
reward of obedience. Moreover, the (a) passages in Y relate to the (a) passages
in Y’, with the one addition that in Y the knowledge of the name is simply
acquired by way of the ceremony but in Y’ it is achieved by way of acquaintance
through service.

Subsection X’ invokes the final aspiration of the people of
covenant, namely, to be sealed or marked with a seal, certifying purity of
quality and accurateness of measurement in preparation for receipt by the Lord.
It may be that the four stages of exaltation mentioned in 5:15 were intended to
be paralleled by the four attributes of God mentioned immediately thereafter.
Sealing is a product of God’s wisdom or his knowledge of the quality of a person’s
works; “that you may be brought to heaven” is effected by God’s
power; “that you may have everlasting salvation” results from the
justice of the atonement; and “eternal life,” which is the greatest
of the gifts of God, is bestowed on mortals by the Father’s mercy.

The central chiasm found in 5:10–12 can be summarized
and displayed as follows:

a  name of Christ
called by some other name
left hand of God
remember the name
blotted out
blotted out
remember to retain the name
left hand of God
voice by which ye shall be called
a  the name by which he shall call you

The sustained precision of form in
these central verses merits comment. The length of this chiasm alone is impressive,
equaled only by the central chiasm of the entire speech in 3:18–19. But
even more meaningful is the successful integration of some unusual terms. For
example, the phrase “left hand of God” appears twice in subsection Z
(5:10, 12) and is a rare metaphor in the
scriptures. Likewise, “blotted out” (5:11) occurs only in these
verses in the Book of Mormon. This passage successfully builds to its
climax and intensifies its final exhortation against transgression by the
striking introduction of these carefully chosen and intentionally reiterated

Chiasmus at the Level of the Entire Speech

We have so far examined
the boundaries between the seven sections of the speech and the presence of
chiasmus at the levels of main concepts and individual words as they appear
throughout the seven main sections. One final level of overall analysis remains
to be considered. When viewed as a whole and in detail, the seven major
sections of Benjamin’s speech associate with each other in a balancing and
complementary fashion. The order is again chiastic, pairing sections 1 and 7, 2
and 6, 3 and 5, with 4 at the center. The subject matter of each section
relates to that of its complementary section more advantageously than it does
to any other section in the system.

Section 1 (2:9–28)

     Section 2

         Section 3

              Section 4

         Section 5

     Section 6

Section 7 (5:6–15)

Many links form a strong
bond between the first and last sections of the speech. God’s roles as heavenly
king (2:19) and Heavenly Father (5:7) are brought to the audience’s attention
in 1 and 7. The first speaks of the physical creation, the latter of becoming
spiritually begotten this day. At the end of 1.A’ (2:28), Benjamin’s thoughts
turned to his death with the hope that his spirit will be raised up to praise
God; the conclusion of 7.X’ expresses the same hope for all people, “that
you may be brought to heaven” (5:15). The turning point of 7.Z
(5:10–12) impresses upon the audience the importance of the covenant
(5:1–5), which placed the people under the rule of the king and God;
likewise, the imperatives in 1.E (2:18–19) are emphatic about the
obligations that devolved upon the people under the rule of God and their king.
In 1.D–D’, Benjamin disparages his own years of service, for one cannot
boast of his service to his fellowmen, since that service is only in the
service of God, but service to God is unavoidably unprofitable to God and
therefore it too is not to man’s credit. However, in 7.Y–Y’, we learn
that the purpose and benefit of service is not found in repaying God but in
increasing our knowledge of the Lord, “for how knoweth a man a master whom
he hath not served?” (5:13). The idea that all service is service to God
(1.D, 2:16–17) is also related to the declarations in Leviticus
25:8–55, which forbid one child of the covenant from enslaving another
after the beginning of the jubilee year, because “they are my
servants, which I brought up from the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 25:42; see
25:55). Thus all charity is ultimately of God, and hence Benjamin explained: “neither
have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons nor that ye should make
slaves one with another” (2:13, 1.C). Leviticus 25:10 also required that
because of this freedom and equality among the Israelites, at jubilee “ye
shall . . . proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all
the inhabitants of the land.” Accordingly, in 7.X (5:8), Benjamin
proclaimed his people to be reviewed under the covenant, “and under this
head ye are made free.”

Sections 2 and 6 both strive to create a well-ordered
covenant community based on individual righteousness and generosity that is
motivated by God’s goodness and forgiveness. Both sections condemn contention
and promote obedience. Benjamin warns in 2:32, “Beware lest there shall
arise contentions among you and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was
spoken of by my father Mosiah,” and in 4:14, “neither will ye suffer
that they . . . fight and quarrel one with another, and serve
the devil, who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers.”
Enough allusions to the jubilee laws of Leviticus 25–26 occur in sections
2 and 6 that it is probable that Benjamin had this portion of the Pentateuch in
mind when he spoke of “the records” (2:34, 2.H) and “the laws of
God” (4:14, 6.B). For example, Leviticus 25:10 says, “Return every
man unto his possession,” and Mosiah 4:28 says each person “should return
the thing that he borroweth”; Leviticus 26:3 declares, “Walk in my
statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them,” and Mosiah 2:31
encourages, “Keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God.”
Accordingly, sections 2 and 6 are closely related by several factors, including
the density of their simultaneous use of material from Leviticus 25–26.

Sections 3 and 5
naturally complement each other as the angel proclaims of Christ’s
mission and Benjamin testifies of God’s goodness which provides the way for

Section 4, at the center, expresses the condition which all
people must satisfy before they can be redeemed from their iniquities. This is
clearly the turning point of a righteous relationship with God, the point
of conversion, and the precondition of the
covenant. Much the same condition is required in the Pentateuch: “If they
shall confess their iniquity . . . if then their
uncircumcised hearts be humbled . . . then will I remember my
covenant with Jacob” (Leviticus 26:40–42; compare Mosiah 4:2;


Since 1830, when the Book of Mormon was published, those who
have believed in the book have asserted that its style reads like that of
Hebrew texts. Those who have not accepted the book have insisted that its style
is “stilted, complicated, diffuse, meaningless or even brutal”10 and that any resemblance between the style
of the Book of Mormon and Hebrew is due solely to the passages in the Book of
Mormon that have been “plagiarized from the Bible.”11 The book has been attacked frequently
because of its repetitive and apparently redundant manner of speaking. For many
years, the literary qualities of the Book of Mormon remained inadequately
studied. Even among its literary critics “the Book of Mormon has not been
universally considered as one of those books that must be read in order to have
an opinion on it.”12 Several recent
publications, however, have made significant progress in reversing these dour
assessments of the Book of Mormon as literature, and this study takes one
further step in that direction by examining the literary structure of a small
but significant portion of that book. The results have shown that Benjamin
achieved a substantially high and distinguished plateau of literary fluency and
accomplishment in the use of ancient forms of parallelism and chiasmus. These attributes
show Benjamin’s speech as a marvelous example of chiastic literature.

It is impressive how fluently Benjamin employed chiastic
orders and sustained precise balances of length and meaning in the related
sections and subsections of his presentation. It is insightful to see how
much these literary figures enhance and convey the messages and especially
the practical applications of Benjamin’s ethical principles; many details take
on new significance in light of comparative and structural analysis. Interestingly,
Benjamin frequently placed man and the human situation at the center of
attention in his chiastic arrangements. This differs from Nephi, for example,
who consistently placed the word of the Lord or revelations of the Lord at the
focal point. In this regard, Benjamin’s approach accords with his renaissance
personality and his overall moment in Nephite history, when several democratic
impulses were shifting important privileges to the ordinary members of society.

For all these reasons, I
believe that careful literary analysis helps in many ways to understand
Benjamin’s speech itself. Seeing it against a background of Hebrew literature
and formal artistry, in addition to all the other historical, religious, and
cultural settings that have been detailed by the studies in this book, reveals
an unmistakable congruence between Old World conventions, universal qualities,
divine revelation, and the literary achievement of King Benjamin’s incomparable


1.   Mark Twain, Roughing
(New York: Harper, 1899), 132.

2.   Donald W. Parry, “Hebrew
Literary Patterns in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign (October 1989): 59.

3.   James
Muilenburg, “A Study in Hebrew Rhetoric: Repetition and
Style,” Vetus Testamentum Supp. 1 (1953): 98, quoted in David J. A. Clines,
“The Parallelism of Greater Precision: Notes from Isaiah 40 for a Theory
of Hebrew Poetry,” in Directions in
Biblical Hebrew Poetry
, ed.
Elaine R. Follis (Sheffield, England: JSOT, 1987), 87.

4.   Defined in Donald W. Parry, The
Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns
(Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), i–li. See also Donald W. Parry, “Poetic
Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon” (FARMS, 1988); “Parallelisms
Listed in Textual Sequence” (FARMS, 1983); and “Parallelisms according
to Classification” (FARMS, 1988).

5.   Parry, “Hebrew Literary
Patterns,” 59, citing Robert Lowth, Isaiah: A New Translation (London: Nichols, 1795), ix.

6.   See John W. Welch, ed., Chiasmus
in Antiquity
(Hildesheim, Germany: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981; reprint,
Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1999), and John W. Welch and Daniel B.
McKinlay, eds., Chiasmus Bibliography (Provo,
Utah: FARMS, 1999).

7.   For a list of fifteen
important criteria, see John W. Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and
Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/2 (1995): 1–14.

8.   See the various chapters in
Welch, Chiasmus
in Antiquity

9.   See John W. Welch, “What
Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove?” in Book of Mormon Authorship
Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins
, ed. Noel B. Reynolds
(Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997), 199–224.

10.  Bruce Kinney, Mormonism, the Islam of America (New York: Revell, 1912), 60.

11.  Ibid.

12.  Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 26.