An Easter egg is a fun hidden feature or message. You get an Easter egg when you type DO A BARREL ROLL in the Google search box. There are Easter eggs hidden in the Book of Mormon, too. Who knew?
If you think the Google barrel roll is a good trick, wait until you see Mormon use a chiasm to transform a few years of Nephite history into the Book of Mormon’s Prescription for escaping the Pride Cycle and securing national peace and prosperity. Read this if you dare (Alma 62:39-52):
And thus ended the thirty and first year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and thus they had had wars, and bloodsheds, and famine, and affliction, for the space of many years. And there had been murders, and contentions, and dissensions, and all manner of iniquity among the people of Nephi; nevertheless for the righteous’ sake, yea, because of the prayers of the righteous, they were spared. But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility. And it came to pass that after Moroni had fortified those parts of the land which were most exposed to the Lamanites, until they were sufficiently strong, he returned to the city of Zarahemla; and also Helaman returned to the place of his inheritance; and there was once more peace established among the people of Nephi. And Moroni yielded up the command of his armies into the hands of his son, whose name was Moronihah; and he retired to his own house that he might spend the remainder of his days in peace. And Pahoran did return to his judgment-seat; and Helaman did take upon him again to preach unto the people the word of God; for because of so many wars and contentions it had become expedient that a regulation should be made again in the church. Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth, and did declare the word of God with much power unto the convincing of many people of their wickedness, which did cause them to repent of their sins and to be baptized unto the Lord their God. And it came to pass that they did establish again the church of God, throughout all the land. Yea, and regulations were made concerning the law. And their judges, and their chief judges were chosen. And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began to grow exceedingly rich. But notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him. Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies. And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land. And it came to pass that all these things were done. And Helaman died, in the thirty and fifth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
It’s a nice story, isn’t it? Did you catch the six points Mormon is trying to make? If not, try reading it as a chiasm. A chiasm is a form of poetry in which a sequence of words or ideas is repeated in reverse order. Jesus gives both a definition and an example of a chiasm in Matthew 19:30:
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
This small chiasm is in the form ABCCBA. Chiasms are often more complex, encompassing entire paragraphs or even books. Mormon’s account of the Nephites’ transition to peace appears to have been written as a large chiasm. (Notice that element E’ is itself a chiasm.)
With this chiasm, Mormon takes a few years of Nephite history and turns them into a 6-step prescription for establishing and preserving national peace and prosperity. The two dates in level A frame the chiasm. Level B contrasts the horrors of war and wickedness with the blessings of peace and prosperity. The remainder of the chiasm tells how to obtain and preserve the aforementioned peace and prosperity:
- Prayer. Pray to end war (C) and to preserve peace (C’).
- Humility. Be humble during hard times (D) as well as during times of prosperity (D’)
- Strength and Security. Base national strength and security on military defensive fortification (E) and economic growth (E’).
- Civilian Rule. Restore (F) and staff (F’) civil government.
- Rule of Law. Base the government of both church (G) and nation (G’) on uniform law and regulation.
- Righteousness. Establish righteousness by religious preaching (H) and institutions (H’).
Although it is last in the list above, righteousness is at the center of the chiasm, suggesting that Mormon considers it to be especially important. All of these principles could have been teased out of the text even if it were not in chiastic form. What the chiasm does, however, is highlight these 6 points in a classical Hebrew manner. Who would have guessed that just below the surface of Nephite war history you could find a Hebrew-style peace essay?