Language of the Lord

Chiasma are not readily apparent to readers of the scriptures who are untrained in their identification. In fact, chiasmus as a literary from was virtually unknown to Bible scholars when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored through Joseph Smith. It is obvious that Joseph was unaware of the form when he recorded the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants, yet those revelations contain over 220 chiasma - many of them complex and sophisticated. They comprise over one third of the total book.

In Language of the Lord, Clay Gorton makes a powerful case that chiasma are a characteristic of the speech pattern of the Lord, and that their existence in the Doctrine and Covenants is strong evidence that those scriptures constitute divine revelation.

The book is a significant contribution to D&C scholarship. It defines eight distinct types of chiastic structures, compares chiasma in the Doctrine and Covenants with those in the Book of Mormon, and presents detailed analyses of the extensive chiastic forms in D&C sections 11 and 76. Then, entire chapters are devoted to each of the various types of D&C chiasma, complete with easy-to-read diagrams and explanations of every D&C chiastic instance. The Bibliography on chiastic structure is the most extensive reference list on the topic in print worldwide.

Language of the Lord is an essential tool for scripture study - one which deserves a place in the basic library of every LDS gospel scholar. It also constitutes a powerful challenge to anti-Mormon critics, who must now provide a rational explanation for the existence of the 225 identified D&C chiasma if they deny the divine origin of the Doctrine and Covenants.


Extensive effort has been spent identifying specific literary forms used in the Bible. E. W. Bullinger, who has written the definitive work on the subject, has identified, named and given examples of 217 distinct figures of speech used in the Bible. He affirms that such figures of speech are of inspired origin, and are employed by Deity as sign posts to draw the reader's attention to the particular force of specific passages. Of the chiasmus he states, "This is by far the most stately and dignified presentation of a subject; and is always used in the most solemn and important portions of the Scriptures." He cites Bengel as stating that "it's employment is never without some use; vis., in perceiving the ornament and in observing the force of the language; in understanding the true and full sense; in making clear the sound interpretation; in demonstrating the tone and neat analysis of the sacred text."

Chiastic Form Unknown to Joseph Smith

Although the chiastic form had been identified and used by the ancients in various cultures as a literary artifact, it was virtually unknown at the time of Joseph Smith. Of over 500 literature references to the chiasmus which have been identified, only three were published prior to 1828, when the first revelations published in the Doctrine and Covenants were received; and only four more references appeared prior to the prophet's martyrdom in 1844. The three papers published prior to 1828 were all London publications, although the four published between 1833 and 1836 were published in New York and Philadelphia. None of these publications were primers on the chiasmus, but were studies of the Holy Scriptures that made mention of the chiasmus as a literary structure in the scriptures. It is impossible that Joseph Smith could have gained from these publications sophistication in the employment of the chiasmus in the revelations he recorded even if the publications were at his disposal, which undoubtedly they were not. There were only 22 more publications on the subject in the next 100 years.

Chiasmus - A Compelling Evidence of the Divine Origin of the Doctrine and Covenants

Since Joseph Smith was without doubt unaware of the chiastic structure as a literary form, discovery of its use in the revelations that he recorded represents yet another compelling evidence of the authenticity and divine origin of the Doctrine and Covenants. Two hundred twenty-five chiastic structures have been identified in the Doctrine and Covenants, representing over one third of the total volume of the test, and perhaps set it apart, with the exception of the Bible, as the scriptural volume containing the very highest density of chiastic structures.

This writing makes a case for the divine origin of the chiastic form in the Doctrine and Covenants and in the Book of Mormon, and concurs with Bullinger's thesis in reference to the Bible that such literary forms are inspired by the Holy Spirit, "and the Spirit that inspired the words in the Book must inspire its truth in our hearts, for they can and must be 'spiritually discerned'" (Cor. 2:1-14).