This is the third and probably the last of my reports on the “Chiasmus Jubilee” that was held on Wednesday night at Brigham Young University, culminating a two-day academic conference on campus devoted to the subject of chiasmus in the scriptures and other ancient texts. The previous two were
I offer, below, a text of the remarks that I offered at the “Jubilee,” introducing our newly-published anthology of essays honoring Jack Welch:
A number of us had long realized that we needed to produce a volume in honor of Jack Welch. And when we realized that the fiftieth anniversary of his discovery, in Regensburg, of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, we realized that we needed to get very serious about it. The book arrived in Utah Valley at around 2:00 PM this afternoon
[Remarks from Dr. Shirley Ricks, the volume’s production editor.]
In appearing here tonight, I represent the Interpreter Foundation, the publisher of this book. I also represent my co-editor, Professor Paul Hoskisson, who is away with his wife, Quina, serving a mission at the Washington DC Temple. And I’m here on behalf of all of those who have contributed to the volume—six of whom participated in the chiasmus conference that’s just ending. I express our gratitude to them, and to Allen Wyatt and Shirley Ricks, who accepted my invitation to step in and help and who brought the project to a timely completion. (Very timely.) And this effort couldn’t have been completed without generous support from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation.
It’s with affection and admiration that we dedicate this volume to a great scholar, John W. Welch, a polymath who is known to his many friends as “Jack.” We’re honored to honor a man who has contributed prodigiously, as author and editor and organizer, to a growing body of rigorous, faithful Latter-day Saint scholarship.
The topics treated in the book range from chiasmus and Book of Mormon proper names to heavenly ascents, Trinitarian theology, C.S. Lewis, baptism for the dead, textual criticism, Alexis de Tocqueville, and, in a nod to Jack’s legal interests, the trial of Jesus.
Volumes such as this, which celebrate the life and career of an esteemed colleague, are typically described with the German term Festschrift, a word that denotes not only festive celebration but esteem, respect, and gratitude for contributions that deserve to be honored. We deliberately use the word in describing this book, intending to express precisely those sentiments.
Given his background in the law, his deep commitment both to Church service and to the scriptures and doctrines of the Restoration, and his interests and training in ancient history and languages, Jack has exemplified the injunction in Ezra 7:10 “to seek the law of the Lord.” Hence the title of this volume.
In this age of electronic publication, and given Interpreter’s focus on online distribution, we’ve printed a limited number of copies in hardcover and will shortly make the book more widely available in paperback via print-on-demand. Soon, too, the twenty-five articles in the volume will be published online at the Interpreter website.
Our goal was to keep the project a secret and to spring the book on Jack tonight as a surprise. But I always knew that this was a vain hope. Nothing escapes Jack. He knows everything.
Jack Welch’s unique academic career has had enormous impact on scholarship regarding both Latter-day Saint scripture and Latter-day Saint history, as well as on a large audience. It has also deeply affected the many who have had the privilege of working with him. I still vividly remember the first time I met Jack, introduced to him after a presentation that he’d given in BYU’s Varsity Theater many years ago by our mutual friend and future BYU colleague, Stephen Ricks, my former missionary companion.
Jack’s establishment of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, fondly known for many productive years as FARMS; his involvement, now, with Book of Mormon Central; his work on Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism; his long tenure as the editor of BYU Studies; to say nothing of his work at the J. Reuben Clark Law School and his involvement with the study of biblical law—any one of these (and many more besides) would have represented a major contribution. And I haven’t even mentioned his own astonishingly and enviably prolific personal scholarship.
I believe that Jack was raised up to establish FARMS and, thus, to inspire what are now its successors. A professor of law who specializes in tax-exempt organizations? With formal training in ancient languages and powerful interests in religious history and the study of scripture? Such a person doesn’t come along every day.
Those of us who’ve watched Jack over many years of extraordinarily rich productivity have sometimes wondered whether he ever sleeps. We’ve benefited enormously from his work, and we wish him many more years of energy, good health, and remarkable insight.
Posted from St. George, Utah