Evidence #313 | February 22, 2022

Chiasmus in 2 Nephi 1:5–7

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Scripture Central


The chiasm in 2 Nephi 1:5–7 is strong on several fronts, especially in the original text of the Book of Mormon, which provides a precise key-word match that isn’t found in modern editions.

It doesn’t take long in Lehi’s final recorded address to his people before he utilizes chiasmus to enhance his message. In 2 Nephi 1:5–7 we read:1

Structural Analysis

Sections A and A* pair the term “afflictions” with the concept of being “brought down into captivity.” While not directly synonymous, these elements are conceptually linked (“captivity” inherently involves various types of “afflictions”) and often go hand in hand in the Book of Mormon.2

Sections B and B* concentrate on the theme of “land.” In section B, Lehi states that the Lord has given his people “a land of promise,” which he describes further as “a land which is choice” and a land of “inheritance.” Section B* adds “land of liberty” to the list. The word “land” is found in other sections, but only B and B* emphasize the land’s ennobling attributes. The extra descriptions of the land in B make that section longer and therefore asymmetrical when compared to B*. Asymmetry is less of a problem, however, when the content in the longer section focuses solely on the shared theme or element that is binding the sections together (as it does in this case). The extra information in B, therefore, does little to disrupt its plausible association with B*.

Sections C and C* feature repeated terms and synonymous phrases embedded in a similar sentence structure (color coded for easier identification):The result is a three-part element: (1) the term “consecrated” paired with (2) the phrase “this land,”3 followed in each case by (3) the phrase “unto X.” From the context, it is clear the objects in this last phrase are synonymous (Lehi and his children were directly led to the land by the Lord). Importantly, the term “consecrated” in C is only found in the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Modern editions, due to a scribal error in the printer’s manuscript, render it as “covenanted.” The chiastic pairing in the original text is therefore stronger.4

Sections D and D* possess a compound element. The first part involves the following phrases featuring a mix of antithetical and synonymous ideas (color coded for easier identification):The second part is the 6-word phrase “by the hand of the Lord” which is repeated verbatim. It seems exceedingly unlikely that both phrases would appear together by chance in corresponding sections.

Sections E and E* pair the phrase “Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy” with “according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me.” These phrases share the synonymous pronouns (“I, Lehi” and “me”). They also connect the word “prophesy” with the phrase “workings of the Spirit.” Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit and is repeatedly discussed in conjunction with the term “Spirit” throughout the Book of Mormon (on nearly 30 occasions).5 It seems appropriate, therefore, that they are paired at the center of the chiasm, emphasizing the prophetic/spiritual nature of Lehi’s declaration.


Overall, the 5-layer chiasm in 2 Nephi 1:5–7 is on solid ground.6 Each of the proposed parallel elements are valid, and a couple of them (C/C* and D/D*) are exceptionally strong. It doesn’t seem coincidental that instead of featuring the word “covenanted” (as found in modern editions), the original text of section C has “consecrated”—providing a precise parallel match with “consecrated” in C*.

One other feature is worthy of attention. Not only is Lehi’s prophecy in these passages given as a chiasm, but a notable reaffirmation and fulfillment of this prophecy—given in Helaman 6:7–13—is likewise an impressive chiasm.7 Whether that pairing was intentional or not, these related chiastic structures offer remarkable evidence of the Book of Mormon’s literary complexity and Hebrew origins.8

Book of Mormon Central, “What Can We Learn from 10 of the Best Chiasms in the Book of Mormon? Part 1 (2 Nephi 25:26),” KnoWhy 349 (August 7, 2017). 

Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007).

John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982), 33–52.

2 Nephi 1:5–7

2 Nephi 1:5–7

Literary Features
Chiasmus in 2 Nephi 1:5–7
Book of Mormon

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