- How Long Did It Take to Translate the Book of Mormon?
- The Original Book of Mormon Transcript
- Colophons in the Book of Mormon
- Two Figurines From the Belleza and Sanchez Collection
- Textual Consistency
- Lehi's Council Vision and the Mysteries of God
- The Book of Mormon and the Heavenly Book Motif
- Old World Languages in the New World
- Columbus: By Faith or Reason?
- The Plain and Precious Parts
- Nephi's Bows and Arrows
- Lodestone and the Liahona
- Lehi's Trail and Nahom Revisited
- Winds and Currents: A Look at Nephi's Ocean Crossing
- Did Lehi Land in Chile?
- Statutes, Judgments, Ordinances, and Commandments
- Kingship and Temple in 2 Nephi 5-10
- Jacob's Ten Commandments
- What Did Charles Anthon Really Say?
- Textual Criticism of the Book of Mormon
- Parallelism, Merismus, and Difrasismo
- View of the Hebrews: "An Unparallel"
- No, Sir, That's Not History!
- Seven Tribes: An Aspect of Lehi's Legacy
- Antenantiosis in the Book of Mormon
- Once More: The Horse
- Lost Arts
- What Was a "Mosiah"?
- Ancient Europeans in America?
- "Latest Discoveries"
- The Ideology of Kingship in Mosiah 1-6
- "This Day"
- Benjamin's Speech: A Classic Ancient Farewell Address
- The Coronation of Kings
- "O Man, Remember, and Perish Not" (Mosiah 4:30)
- Barley in Ancient America
- Decorative Iron in Early Israel
- Abinadi and Pentecost
- Dancing Maidens and the Fifteenth of Av
- New Information about Mulek, Son of the King
- Four Quarters
- Three Accounts of Alma's Conversion
- Joseph Smith: "Author and Proprietor"
- The Law of Mosiah
- Possible "Silk" and "Linen" in the Book of Mormon
- Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon
- Antithetical Parallelism in the Book of Mormon
- The Land of Jerusalem: The Place of Jesus' Birth
- The Nephite Calendar in Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman
- The Destruction of Ammonihah and the Law of Apostate Cities
- Ammon and Cutting Off the Arms of Enemies
- Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Nephite Language
- "A Day and a Half's Journey for a Nephite"
- Exemption from Military Duty
- Synagogues in the Book of Mormon
- The Sons of the Passover
- Conference on Warfare in the Book of Mormon
- "Holy War" in the Book of Mormon and the Ancient Near East
- Symbolic Action as Prophetic Curse
- New Year's Celebrations
- Concrete Evidence for the Book of Mormon
- Mesoamericans in Pre-Spanish South America
- Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian North America
- Wordprints and the Book of Mormon
- "Secret Combinations"
- Chiasmus in Helaman 6:7-13
- Chiasmus in Mesoamerican Texts
- Nephi's Garden and Chief Market
- Was Helaman 7-8 An Allegorical Funeral Sermon?
- The Case of an Unobserved Murder
- Mormon's Agenda
- Thieves and Robbers
- The Execution of Zemnarihah
- The Sermon at the Temple
- The Gospel as Taught by Nephite Prophets
- Getting Things Strai[gh]t
- Prophecy Among the Maya
- The Survivor and the Will to Bear Witness
- Mormon and Moroni as Authors and Abridgers
- Number 24
- The "Golden" Plates
- Hebrew and Uto-Aztecan: Possible Linguistic Connections
- Words and Phrases
- Our Nephite Sacrament Prayers
- Climactic Forms in the Book of Mormon
Antithetical Parallelism in the Book of Mormon
The writers of ancient scripture often contrasted one idea in one line or stanza with an opposite or antithetical idea in a parallel line or stanza. Proverbs 13:9 records an example of antithetical parallelism:
The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.
Notice that the contrasted elements (righteous/wicked) are not simple contradictions but opposite aspects of the same idea. The Book of Mormon contains many fine examples of antithetical parallelisms. Alma, in his great discourse to the saints of Zarahemla, utilized this poetic form. His words are brief yet conclusive:
Whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil. (Alma 5:40)
Note the italicized antonyms. Two words epitomize the perfect contrast, “good” and “evil,” and two beings are also considered opposite extremes. Alma’s method of contrast establishes this opposition in the plainest of terms.
A second example of extended antithetical parallelism is found in Alma 9:28:
If they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.
In the first strophe the words “righteous,” “salvation,” “deliverance,” and “Jesus Christ” stand in direct contrast to the terms of the second strophe—”evil,” “damnation,” “captivation,” and “devil.” Both strophes begin with an “if” statement, immediately followed by the results that come from righteousness or evil. The sides are clearly drawn between good and evil.
Antithetical parallelism not only contrasts two ideas, but also connects them. The meaning of the contrasted items separates them clearly, but the parallelistic format joins them so that the reader must consider them together. One purpose of this poetic form is thus to allow, or even force, the reader to make a mental comparison, and often a choice, between two diametrically opposed but related ideas. Whether consciously or intuitively, the reader sees in antithetical parallelism a unique reciprocity, as well as a strong contrast between the two elements.
Another Book of Mormon verse illustrates the principle again, where Alma speaks to his son Helaman:
Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:21)
In this verse Alma obviously intends by phrasing the issue in this bold way to push his son to side mentally with and feel an affinity with righteousness rather than with evil. In such a teaching situation, antithetical parallelism has the ability to produce an emotional response in the original audience and also in subsequent readers that leads them to follow the teachings.
Comparison between two terms has always been an accepted tool of rhetoricians to invoke the reader’s involvement. As Aristotle wrote, “This kind of style is pleasing, because contraries are easily understood and even more so when placed side by side, and also because antithesis resembles a syllogism; for refutation is a bringing together of contraries.”1
Recognizing this antithetical parallel structure can help us see more clearly the issues that writers of the Book of Mormon wanted us to focus on. Appreciating the connections and contrasts between the ideas that they felt were most important may lead us to feel as they felt and act as they admonish us to act.
Based on research by Donald W. Parry, September 1990. Further work on this topic was presented by Parry at the Book of Mormon Symposium at Brigham Young University, February 1991, in a paper titled “Teaching in Black and White: Antithetic Structure in the Book of Alma—Its Form and Function.”
1. Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, trans. J. H. Freese (London: Heinemann, 1967), III, 9, 7-10.