Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Greg Welch on Chiasmus

Greg Welch, son of John W. (Jack) and Jeannie Welch, has just posted an excellent YouTube video entitled "The Amazing True Story of How Chiasmus was Discovered in The Book of Mormon." I highly recommend this production which runs for 10 minutes and 9 seconds. Greg has included a number of engaging visuals that I have never seen before in any previous presentation.

The story of this modern-day miracle deserves to be widely known. Some details that resonate with me:
  • Jack served in the South German Mission under Pres. Orville C. Gunther (1912 - 2007). Gunther was my Bishop in the American Fork 12th Ward when he received his call to be a Mission President. Six years after returning from Germany, Orville and Betha Gunther began serving as President and Matron of the Provo Temple. Gunther for many years was Chairman of the Bank of American Fork. His autobiography entitled Ideals and Sacred Things, self-published in 2000, occupies an honored place in my library. Jack was in the missionary choir that sang at Gunther's funeral. Pres. Thomas S. Monson, for whom Germany is a very special place, was the concluding speaker at the funeral.
  • Jack's reviewer for his landmark 1969 BYU Studies article entitled "Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon" was Truman G. Madsen. Jack did not find this out until he had been General Editor of BYU Studies for many years. 
  • Jack's second LDS-oriented publication on chiasmus was in the February, 1972 New Era edited by Brian Kelly. Kelly was the one who first introduced me to the discovery. He was the instructor in the American Fork 12th Ward Elder's Quorum I attended before I moved to Provo to begin my freshman year at BYU. Kelly came into quorum meeting one Sunday waving a copy of BYU Studies and announcing, "You won't believe what's in the Book of Mormon."
  • The copy of the German Das Buch Mormon that Jack was reading on the morning of August 16, 1967 had an image of Izapa Stela 5 on the dust jacket. Orville Gunther explained to me that the German saints love scientific and scholarly approaches to the Book of Mormon. The most avid followers of FARMS publications outside the US during the 1980's and '90's were in Germany. One day Jack was in the Minneapolis airport. A German brother approached him, "Are you brother Welch?" When Jack responded affirmatively, the man proceeded to tell him about the LDS group in Chemnitz (formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt) who had shared their copies of the precious FARMS Newsletter in a kind of lending library. Jack asked how FARMS materials got past the East German censors. "We believe they saw 'FARMS' on the masthead and assumed it was an agricultural publication." Story told by John W. Welch at the inaugural Book of Mormon Central staff meeting on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 in Springville, Utah.     
The day after I returned home from my mission to Peru in December, 1974, I visited Orville Gunther at his home near what is now the Mount Timpanogos Temple. The American Fork 12th Ward had been divided during my absence and we were both now members of the American Fork 14th Ward. He recounted the story of Jack's discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon from his perspective as Mission President. He then suggested I visit with a very erudite man - John L. Sorenson - who had just built a new home in the 14th Ward. John welcomed me cordially and we discussed the Book of Mormon for a couple of hours. The modern era of Book of Mormon studies began in 1980 when John L. Sorenson and John W. Welch began to collaborate under the FARMS aegis. I was the FARMS business manager in those early days.

This is off-topic, but I can't resist telling another story. I shared this with Jack and the Book of Mormon Central employees at our aforementioned staff meeting. One of Pres. Monson's cherished stories is about the General Handbook of Instructions. At Spencer W. Kimball's suggestion, then Elder Monson memorized large portions of the newly-updated Handbook, traveled into East Germany, and proceeded to type up a copy from memory for the Saints behind the Iron Curtain to use. It was forbidden at the time for the Church to send literature directly into the German Democratic Republic. After he was about 30 pages into his arduous task, Elder Monson stood up to stretch. He noticed a copy of the recently-printed Handbook in German on the shelf in the room. Heidi S. Swinton in her biography of Thomas S. Monson entitled To the Rescue concludes her retelling of the story "How a Handbook came to be in East Germany, no one would say." I know exactly how the Handbook got into the then-Communist country. Orville Gunther told me all about it with an impish grin on his face. After he was released as Mission President, Orville (with Betha frequently accompanying him) made a number of trips into East Germany. A wealthy man with a passion for fine machinery, he went to the Mercedes Benz factory in Stuttgart and had them build him a custom vehicle with a false floor. He loaded the car with copies of the German Book of Mormon, lesson manuals, and other important works including the Handbook. When he came to the border, Gunther chatted up the guards and suggested they take his car for a spin. They drove crummy little Trabants if they had a car at all, so Gunther's invitation was irresistible.
Postcard from Berlin showing East German Trabant (Trabi) Autos 
After each guard had his turn behind the wheel of the Benz, they waved Orville on through without inspecting his vehicle. Gunther pulled this stunt several times with the same results, supplying a number of East German branches with precious Church literature.