A personal highlight for me during the “Chiasmus Jubilee” at Brigham Young University on Aug. 16 was the privilege of presenting a new “festschrift” volume to honor my friend John "Jack" W. Welch. Welch is the incredibly productive discoverer of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.
Published by the Interpreter Foundation, “‘To Seek the Law of the Lord’: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch” contains essays by a number of scholars covering a wide variety of subjects, and I am one of the co-editors with Paul Hoskisson, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU.
The volume opens with a preface by James Rasband, who currently serves as the academic vice president of BYU. Following an introduction by its co-editors and some “biographical highlights,” Stephen Robinson contributes a “personal reminiscence” going back to his childhood days with Welch in Junior Sunday School and Primary near Los Angeles. At the end of the book comes a “selected bibliography” of Welch’s publications, compiled by Stephen Smoot.
Between those opening and closing sections is a feast of contemporary faithful Latter-day Saint scholarship.
Kevin Barney, for example, contributes a substantial essay on baptism for the dead and 1 Corinthians 15:29. John Gee discusses the theme of divine judgment in the gospel of John. Andrew Skinner contributes an interesting chapter on “Medieval Christian Views of Hebrew as the Language of Magic.”
Appropriately, in a volume dedicated to someone who has played a pivotal role in Book of Mormon scholarship for decades as an author, editor and organizer, the “keystone of Mormonism” receives substantial attention:
Hoskisson examines a “possible poetic wordplay” in the Book of Mormon, Steven Olsen discusses the book’s handling of “the covenant of Christ’s Gospel,” Noel Reynolds proposes the book of 2 Nephi as a case study of the “chiastic structuring of large texts,” Stephen Ricks considers some of the proper names that occur in Nephi’s small plates, Robert Smith looks at “poesy and prosody” in the Book of Mormon, and David Seely looks at the idea of “a prophet like Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) in the Book of Mormon, the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Royal Skousen argues that the term “pleasing bar of God” at Jacob 6:13 and Moroni 10:34 of our current English editions of the Book of Mormon should be amended to read “pleading bar.”
Record-keeping, of course, is a major subtheme in the Book of Mormon, so the article by Richard Turley Jr. and Stephen Smoot, “Record-Keeping Technology among God’s People in Ancient and Modern Times,” which considers both the past and the future of the divinely mandated keeping of sacred records, also fits neatly into this volume.
Likewise appropriate in a volume honoring a scholar who has contributed enormously to several quite distinct academic fields is its range. Three articles in the book focus, for example, on the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Donald Parry looks at textual variants in the “Great Isaiah Scroll” found at Qumran. Kent Jackson analyzes “The Visions of Moses and Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” an article by John Tvedtnes treats the ancient motif of the “Tree of Life,” and Dana Pike examines the support given by Jeremiah 1:5 to the doctrine of the premortal existence of the human soul.
Several of the articles might be viewed as wholly or in part theological. Jeffrey Bradshaw, for example, writes of “Faith, Hope and Charity: The ‘Three Principal Rounds of the Ladder of Heavenly Ascent.” James Faulconer reflects on the significance of divine embodiment and “The Transcendence of Flesh, Divine and Human.” Robert Millet provides a Latter-day Saint perspective on the theology of C.S. Lewis, and Daniel Peterson explores similarities and differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity on the nature of the Trinity. Louis Midgley brings decades of relevant teaching and reflection to bear on “Tocqueville on New Prophets and the Tyranny of Public Opinion.”
“‘To Seek the Law of the Lord’: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch” is available in a softcover print-on-demand format through Amazon.com: . (Those ordering the book might consider using AmazonSmile, a charitable giving program from Amazon.com that will donate 0.5 percent of the purchase price to a charity of your choice — at absolutely no cost to you.)
After a decent (but as yet undetermined) interval has passed, the Interpreter Foundation will post the contents of the volume online at mormoninterpreter.com.
Full disclosure: I am the chairman and president of the Interpreter Foundation and one of the two co-editors of “‘To Seek the Law of the Lord’: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch.”