merismus, Book of Mormon, gospel


This study is an extension of previously published work that identifies three inclusios in the Book of Mormon, each of which presents the same six-element definition of the doctrine or gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the six elements are not presented as a straightforward list, but rather in a series of smaller combinations intended to gradually deepen and extend the reader’s understanding of each one and of its role in the larger gospel process. This mode of presentation makes something else clear: Whenever some pair or selection from these six elements is mentioned, the entire set is implicitly invoked. Each is an essential part of the way, and there is no shorter way. Only two elements are explicitly stated when Nephi quotes the Father as saying, ‘he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved’ (2 Nephi 31:15), but the reader knows that four other elements—faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism of water and of the Holy Ghost—are necessarily implied.

In this paper it will be argued that the biblical rhetorical device of merismus, in which parts of a known list are mentioned as a way to invoke the entire list in the reader’s mind, provides the best explanation for this rhetorical approach. Seventy-nine passages, each of which includes a reference to salvation, are shown to be two-, three-, or four-element merisms for the six-element gospel formula. The persistent use in the Book of Mormon of this rhetorical technique for presenting the gospel does not seem to have a New Testament counterpart.

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Book Chapter

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pre-publication draft




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science

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Full Professor