EPANALEPSIS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
Larry Childs (Provo, Utah) has recently complete a valuable study of "epanalepsis" in the Book of Mormon. Epanalepsis is the name of a significant literary device known in antiquity. It occurs where an author repeats certain words in the course of a lengthy sentence, to pick up a previous train of thought after a parenthetical aside or other type of diversion, repeating certain words to remind the reader of the original idea of the sentence. The repeated words in the previous sentence illustrate the point. This technique was noted in antiquity by Demetrius, and it is sometimes called "resumptive repetition."
Epanalepsis is well illustrated by an occurrence of it in Alma 3:1: "And it came to pass that the Nephites who were not slain by the weapons of war, after having buried those who had been slain—now the number of the slain were not numbered because of the greatness of their number—after they had finished burying their dead they all returned to their lands and to their houses, and their wives, and their children." Childs' study details 84 such occurrences of epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon. It was apparently helpful in ancient texts to use resumptive repetition, since those texts did not have the benefit of modern punctuation or paragraphing.
The Childs study lists and analyzes the use and distribution of epanalepsis among all Book of Mormon authors. Some authors use the device more frequently than others. In particular, 49 of the 84 occurrences of epanalepsis are found in the writings of Mormon, and 7 are found in the writings of Nephi. The remaining 28 are distributed among 24 other authors. Childs concludes: "The study of epanalepsis gives us some insight into the writing style of the Book of Mormon authors." Especially for an author like Mormon, who was engaged in a process of abridging other records, epanalepsis was "really the best means they had to return to their original train of thought." A copy of this paper may be ordered on the attached order form.