“O ye that embark in the service of God,” exhorts a February 1829 revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Harmony, Pennsylvania, “see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2).
The remarkable career of John W. Welch has exemplified using mind in the service of God as well as that of anybody I know or know of. And, wonderfully, his is an energetic, insightful, creative, prolific and active mind. The LDS Church has been greatly blessed by his astonishing productivity.
Welch’s influence as a scholar of Mormonism and particularly of Mormon scripture began in 1967 with his discovery, while serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Regensburg, Germany, of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, a discovery that has permanently changed the way faithful scholars approach that book. And now, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his discovery, BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central, with co-sponsorship from Brigham Young University’s College of Religious Education, the Interpreter Foundation (of which I am the chairman) and the Maxwell Institute, will celebrate a “Chiasmus Jubilee” on the campus of Brigham Young University on Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 7–9 p.m.
Accompanying the Wednesday evening celebration, which (among other things) will feature important guest speakers, musical numbers and special presentations on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, will be a two-day conference on the subject of chiasmus, running both Aug. 15 and Aug. 16. Latter-day Saint scholars will be joined at this conference by prominent non-Mormon colleagues to consider such topics as criteria for identifying chiastic structures, the understanding of chiasmus as a tool in textual criticism, and chiasmus in the ancient Near East, the New Testament and Mesoamerica.
In connection with the scholarly conference and the “Jubilee” celebration, materials on chiasmus will be on display at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library on BYU’s campus from the beginning of August through mid-September. For the evening event on Aug. 16, items concerning the impact and aftermath of the discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, as well as progress in scholarship about chiasmus in the Bible and in other literatures, will be exhibited in BYU’s Joseph Smith Building.
While these events will be open to the general public at no charge, advance registration for them would be extremely helpful to their planners and organizers. For further information and registration forms, see bookofmormoncentral.org/events/chiasmus-day-2017.
Arriving even sooner than the chiasmus-related events at BYU, however, is the 2017 FairMormon conference, which will convene at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, Aug. 3, and Friday, Aug 4. (Further information, including instructions for registration, are available at fairmormon.org/conference/august-2017.)
As always, the 2017 FairMormon conference will offer a rich and varied smorgasbord of topics and speakers. (This year, it will also include special musical numbers.) On Aug. 3, for example, Neal Rappleye will discuss reading the Book of Mormon through the lens of “mature historical thought,” while Elizabeth Kuehn will address “Finances and Faith in the Kirtland Crisis of 1837.” They will be followed by Keith Erekson, whose title is “Witnessing the Book of Mormon: The Testimonies of Three, Eight and Millions.”
The speakers during the afternoon of Aug. 3, will be Michael Ash (“After the Manner of Their Language: The Key to Wisdom”), Matthew Bowen (“Semitic Semiotics: The Symbolic, Prophetic, and Narratological Power of Names in Ancient Scripture”), Scott Peterson (“Jesus Christ, the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever: A Restoration of Primitive Christianity”) and Scott Gordon (“Mormon Temples and Freemasonry”).
The first two speakers on Aug. 4, Ben Spackman and Ugo Perego, will discuss the related issues of interpreting the book of Genesis and what the LDS Church teaches about evolution. Janiece Johnson will then offer insights regarding the witness of women in early Mormonism.
On the afternoon of Aug. 4, Tyler Griffin will speak on the internal consistency of Book of Mormon geography, after which Brant Gardner will treat “The Book of Mormon as a Seer Stone.” Gerrit Dirkmaat’s tantalizing title is “Lost Teachings of the Prophets: Recently Uncovered Teachings of Joseph Smith and Others from the Council of Fifty Record.” He will be followed by Daniel Peterson, the final conference speaker, whose somnolent voice will anesthetize the audience regarding the question “What Difference Does It Make?” — making the end of this, the 19th annual FairMormon conference, easier for them to bear.
The month of August will be an exciting one for those who care about faithful Mormon scholarship and deeper scriptural understanding.