Evidence #298 | January 17, 2022

Chiasmus in Mosiah 5:10–12

Post contributed by


Scripture Central


The chiasm in Mosiah 5:10–12 has elegant symmetry, strong correspondences between elements, unique phrases, and good statistical backing, making it one of the most impressive chiasms in the Book of Mormon.

The first chiasm discovered in the Book of Mormon is found in Mosiah 5:10–12. It was identified by John W. Welch in 1967 while he was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Regensburg, Germany.1 It also happens to be one of the most impressive chiasms in the Nephite record. As shown below, it is highly symmetrical and has tightly correlating elements:2


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.




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.




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.

One striking feature of this particular chiasm is its use of unique terms. The phrase “left hand of God” (B/B’) appears nowhere else in scripture, and the phrase “blotted out” (D/D’) is also quite rare.3 Another key factor is that some of the elements involve lengthy phrases or compound ideas. For instance, the entire phrase “I would that ye should remember” is connected with the term “name” in both C and C’. Similarly, the words “findeth”/“find” are connected with the phrase “on the left hand of God” in B and B’.

King Benjamin stretches forth his left hand as he speaks to his people. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

Such phrases, involving multiple words in the same sequential order (in contrast to just a single word), are less likely to randomly occur in corresponding sections of the chiasm. While lacking a verbatim lengthy phrase, elements A and A’ feature a distinct compound idea: the importance of being “called” by the “name” of Christ.4 The center of the chiasm presents the key word “transgression,” upon which the outer-most elements (A/A’) appropriately hinge.5

The likelihood that this chiasm was intentional is strengthened by the fact that King Benjamin uses a variety of parallelisms, including other instances of chiasmus, throughout his masterful speech.6 Thus, the chiastic arrangement in Mosiah 5:10–12 fits right in with the highly poetic nature of his discourse. Finally, it should be noted that this is one of the four statistically strongest chiasms in the Book of Mormon, showing that it is unlikely (statistically speaking) to have been produced by random chance.7


Whether due to serendipity or divine intervention, the first chiasm discovered in the Book of Mormon happens to be one of the best. The chiasm in Mosiah 5:10–12 has elegant symmetry, strong correspondences between elements, unique phrases, and good statistical backing. Further, it was delivered in the type of setting where such poetic flourishes are expected. As concluded by Welch,

[King Benjamin’s] use of chiasmus is not illogical: at the time that he delivered this famous speech, he was acting in a traditional coronation and would naturally be using the most traditional and convincing rhetoric at his command. Benjamin’s thoughts had been carefully prepared beforehand and had even been “written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice” (Mosiah 2:8). This degree of painstaking deliberation in writing was the rule, rather than the exception, among the Book of Mormon prophets. In cases such as these, chiasmus is used to give emphasis to points of special importance.8

John W. Welch, “The Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Forty Years Later,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16, no. 2 (2007): 74–87, 99.

John W. Welch, “Parallelism and Chiasmus in Benjamin’s Speech,” in King Benjamin's Speech: “They Ye May Learn Wisdom,ed. John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 373.

John W. Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4, no. 2 (1995): 1–14.  

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), 44.

Mosiah 5:10–12

Mosiah 5:10–12

Literary Features
Chiasmus in Mosiah 5:10–12
Book of Mormon

© 2024 Scripture Central: A Non-Profit Organization. All rights reserved. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-5294264