In 1967, an ancient form of Hebrew poetry, called “chiasmus,” was discovered by a young Mormon missionary named John Welch, while he was serving in Germany. When Hugh Nibley learned of the discovery, he told Welch, “Young man, I think you have made the first significant discovery to come out of the BYU.” In this episode of Religion Today that originally aired on July 22, 2012, Martin Tanner talks with FARMS founder John Welch about what chiasmus is, how he discovered it in the Book of Mormon and some of the implications of that discovery.
John W. Welch is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, where teaches courses on tax exempt organizations, ancient laws in the Bible and Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith and the law. He was educated at Brigham Young University with a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Classical Languages. He served a mission in South Germany (during which he discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon), studied Greek philosophy at Oxford University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, earned his law degree at Duke University, and practiced law in the Los Angeles firm of O’Melveny and Myers.
He is well known as the founder of FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) and since 1991 he has served as the editor-in-chief of BYU Studies Quarterly. He also was a Director of Special Projects for the BYU Religious Studies Center, the general editor of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, a member of the board of editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and on the steering committee of the Biblical Law Section of the Society of Biblical Literature.
A number of his recent publications presenting striking discoveries concerning Joseph Smith and the law, the Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Trial of Jesus, King Benjamin’s speech, the Book of Mormon as a handbook of Church administration, and the nature and roles of evidence in law, science, and the nurturing of faith.
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