Another reprint from Mormon Matters.
In Sunday School I was assigned to teach Alma 36-39. I decided to concentrate on Alma 36.
I refused to use the word “Chiasmus” during the lesson. I’m not an expert in ancient Hebrew poetry, so I thought I’d leave such arguments to others. And really, I don’t care. What I did want to emphasize was the structure of Alma’s thoughts about his own redemption. Alma has structured his thoughts beautifully and very creatively.
Alma 36 uses a series of thoughts that lead up to Jesus Christ, and then reverse back out, often with the reverse thought. For example, first his limbs get paralyzed then after he turns to Jesus they can move again. First he tries to destroy the Church, then he wants to build it up. Etc. You get the picture. It’s stunningly beautiful.
I was worried that a discussion about if it’s a Chiasmus or not would detract from the beauty and what we can learn from Alma’s intended structure.
Luckily I made it all the way through the class with only one woman mentioning it was “a type of poetry” but she didn’t even mention that it was Hebrew-ish or ancient poetry. There is a PhD in my class that was the editor for the Arabic Book of Mormon and I was very lucky he didn’t bring it up and derail the lesson.
This was my hand out for the class. It’s a slightly modified version of Jeff Lindsay’s web presentation to keep things symmetrical. The numbers in parenthesis are the verse.
Grab a Book of Mormon and follow along:
(a) My son, give ear to my WORDS (1) (b) KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS of God and ye shall PROSPER IN THE LAND (2) (c) DO AS I HAVE DONE (2) (d) in REMEMBERING THE CAPTIVITY of our fathers (2); (e) for they were in BONDAGE (2) (f) he surely did DELIVER them (2) (g) TRUST in God (3) (h) supported in their TRIALS, and TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS(3) (i) I KNOW this not of myself but of GOD (4) (j) BORN OF GOD (5) (k) I sought to destroy the church of God (6-9) (l) MY LIMBS were paralyzed (10) (m) Fear of being in the PRESENCE OF GOD (14-15) (n) PAINS of a damned soul (16) (o) HARROWED UP BY THE MEMORY OF SINS (17) (p) I remembered JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD (17) (p') I cried, JESUS, SON OF GOD (18) (o') HARROWED UP BY THE MEMORY OF SINS no more (19) (n') Joy as exceeding as was the PAIN (20) (m') Long to be in the PRESENCE OF GOD (22) (l') My LIMBS received their strength again (23) (k') I labored to bring souls to repentance (24) (j') BORN OF GOD (26) (i') Therefore MY KNOWLEDGE IS OF GOD (26) (h') Supported under TRIALS, TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (27) (g') TRUST in him (27) (f') He will deliver me (27) (e') As God brought our fathers out of BONDAGE and captivity (28-29) (d') Retain in REMEMBRANCE THEIR CAPTIVITY (28-29) (c') KNOW AS I DO KNOW (30) (b') KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS and ye shall PROSPER IN THE LAND (30) (a') This is according to his WORD (30).