gospel of Jesus Christ, Book of Mormon, merismus


This study extends previous work that identifies three inclusios in the Book of Mormon, each of which presents the same definition of the doctrine or gospel of Jesus Christ. But none of the three definitions is presented in the way modern readers might expect. Rather, each offers a series of statements focusing on different actions or events that are related to each other as parts of the way that leads to eternal life. On first reading, they could easily seem disconnected or even contradictory. But as these earlier studies demonstrate, when all these statements and their repeated elements are examined cumulatively, a well-defined account of this gospel emerges. The process by which men and women can come unto Christ and be saved is clear and includes six essential elements. The picture of the whole is almost never fully articulated in one statement. Instead, we find a series of partial statements of this gospel—each of which is designed to add detail and complexity. The analysis of 2 Nephi 31 yielded insights about the Book of Mormon’s six-part conception of the gospel of Jesus Christ that apply readily to the other two inclusios, and, as will be shown below, to the rest of the book. The 1991 study presented preliminary evidence that this pattern of presentation exemplifies the rhetorical pattern of merismus, particularly as it occurs in the Bible. In this paper, I will show that this same meristic approach to defining or describing the gospel occurs not only in these three definitional passages, but that it permeates the entire text of the Book of Mormon. From Nephi in the beginning to Mormon and Moroni at the end, hundreds of references to the gospel occur in meristic form. This paper argues that the rhetorical device of merismus may provide the most helpful explanation of how these passages work together to convey and reinforce a single message. The paper then briefly compares this finding with New Testament texts and their characterization of the gospel.

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Working Paper

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science

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Full Professor

Handout #1.pdf (229 kB)
Handout #2.pdf (300 kB)
Handout #3.pdf (260 kB)