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Welch, John W. (John Woodland)

 Person

Biographical History

John Welch (1946-) discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon.

On Friday, August 4, 1967, while serving in the LDS South German Mission, Elder John W. Welch and his mission companion attended a lecture in the Catholic Priesterseminar during which the lecturer made use of chiasmus in the Gospel of Matthew. He also referred to the recently published book by Paul Gaechter, Die Literarische Kunst im Matthäus Evangelium, which Welch immediately went and purchased at the Pustet Bookstore only a few doors down the Gestandtenstrasse from where the missionaries had their apartment. Thus began his 40 years of collecting, analyzing, corresponding, publishing, and speaking about chiasmus as it appears in a wide range of literary contexts, especially in the Book of Mormon.

Welch's discovery of chiasmus in Mosiah 5:10-12 and 3:18-19 occurred early in the morning on Wednesday, August 16, 1967, and the following Friday he wrote his weekly letter home to his parents excitedly reporting the discovery. That letter, along with several other letters soon written by Welch to such people as his mentor at BYU, Academic Vice President Robert K. Thomas, and Paul Gaechter, then an elderly Jesuit in Innsbruck, commenced his writing on this subject. Most of his correspondence, notes, and several drafts of articles and his master's thesis were kept in various files, boxes, folders and stacks, some more organized than others. He made no attempt to consolidate or systematize these papers and working files, which were regularly consulted, utilized and drawn upon.

Welch returned from his mission in Germany in 1968 to attend Brigham Young University (BYU) for two years, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in 1970. His article, "Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon" was written in the fall of 1968, submitted to BYU Studies in the winter of 1969, and published in the autumn issue of BYU Studies, 1969. His master's thesis on Chiasmus in the Old Testament, Ugaritic literature, Greek and Latin texts, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon, was completed in 1970. This work contributed significantly to his admission to Oxford University to study Greek philosophy and to his being named a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.

At Oxford, Welch corresponded often with Robert F. Smith and discussed chiasmus with several Oxford scholars, but his graduate seminars and weekly tutorials left little time for much attention to this subject. He was invited by the New Era in 1971 to submit an article on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, which appeared in the February issue in 1972. From 1972 to 1975, Welch attended Duke Law School, where he also attended classes at the Duke Divinity School. It was at this time that he submitted an article on chiasmus in Ugaritic for publication in Ugaritforschungen, some research for which had been conducted at the Los Angeles Public Library while he worked as a paralegal in 1972 before entering law school. During these years in North Carolina, he communicated with several people at Brigham Young University and elsewhere, often regarding unpersuasive proposals to extend or apply the concept of chiasmus in various ways.

From 1975 to 1980, Welch practiced law with O'Melveny and Meyers in Los Angeles, during which time he continued corresponding with Robert F. Smith and also with Yehuda Radday at the Technion in Haifa, bringing together a group of scholars who contributed the volume, Chiasmus in Antiquity, which Welch edited in 1978 and saw it through to publication in 1981, published by Gerstenberg Press in Hildesheim, Germany.

In 1979, Welch organized the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in Los Angeles as a California tax-exempt corporation, and in July, 1980, he accepted an invitation initiated by Dean Rex E. Lee to become a member of the faculty of the young J. Reuben Clark School of Law at Brigham Young University. The FARMS organization, newsletter, and publications spawned a dramatic upsurge in visibility, exposure and communications regarding chiasmus. Reprints, preliminary reports, video tapes, lectures, and bibliographic work commenced, generating several waves of letters, exploratory contributions, and critiques. These items were processed and evaluated by Welch as much as possible, but during these years Welch was also teaching full-time at the Law School, presiding over FARMS, serving as a bishop of a BYU singles ward, working as the general editor of the collected works of Hugh Nibley, fulfilling an appointment as Director of Special Projects in the BYU Religious Studies Center, while being the father of four growing children. While certain projects such as chiasmus in Alma 36 and in King Benjamin's speech received considerable attention at this time, many items in this collection were simply gathered as they happened to come across his desk, receiving little immediate attention.

In the 1980s, the chiasmus bibliography project was started as an outgrowth of the bibliography published in Chiasmus in Antiquity, which Welch and Robert Smith had previously produced. Much of the continuing bibliographic work was accomplished by DeeAnn Hofer and Daniel McKinley under Welch's supervision. As the bibliography grew, files of copies of pages or sections from articles and books that mentioned chiasmus were collected and put in file folders that were labeled by cutting out entries from the chiasmus bibliography. These files were updated from time to time, especially in the late 1990s, when research assistants at FARMS attempted to be more comprehensive in the collection of materials for the chiasmus archive.

From 1988 to 1991, Welch served as one of the editors of Macmillan's Encyclopedia of Mormonism, while continuing to work at the Law School. The encyclopedia involved additional contacts regarding chiasmus, particularly the article on Book of Mormon Literature by Richard Rust. During this time, Welch presented and published an article on chiasmus in biblical legal texts in the Jewish Law Annual.

From 1991 to 2007, Welch served as editor-in-chief of BYU Studies. During this time he also remained on the board of trustees for the Foundation of Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, continued to give various firesides, published a number of books and articles through FARMS, taught Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Law in the Law School, and associated with several members of the Society of Biblical Literature. All of these contacts continued to generate correspondence and materials regarding chiasmus. Notably, during these years, the Chiasmus Bibliography was published by FARMS, Chiasmus in Antiquity was reprinted, a lengthy section on King Benjamin's use of chiasmus and parallelism was included in the FARMS volume on King Benjamin's speech, articles on criteria for identifying the presence of chiasmus and answering the questions, "What does the presence of chiasmus in a text prove?" and "How much was known about chiasmus in 1829?" were produced in connection with FARMS projects. One article written by Edwards and Edwards, regarding the statistical measurement of the probability of extended chiasmus occurring by chance, was published in BYU Studies.

John W. Welch (1946 - ) discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon and founded the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). John W. Welch was born in 1946. In 1967, while serving in the LDS South German Mission, Welch and his companion attended a lecture in the Catholic Priesterseminar which talked about the use of chiasmus in the Gospel of Matthew. Two weeks later, he discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon and began to correspond with family members and scholars on the subject. In 1968, when he returned from his mission, he attended BYU for two years, earning a B.A. and M.A. in 1970. He attended Oxford as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow after that, and then attended Duke Law School from 1972 to 1975. He began working for the law firm O’Melveny and Meyers in Los Angeles in 1975 and worked until 1980, all the while corresponding with scholars about chiasmus studies. In 1979, he organized the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in Los Angeles, and in July 1980 he accepted a job offer to teach at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. He continued to work with FARMS and BYU, furthering the historiography and knowledge of chiasmus. From 1988 to 1991, he served as an editor of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and from 1991 to 2007 he was the editor-in-chief of BYU Studies. Today, he still researches chiasmus and works on the Joseph Smith Papers project.

He is married to the former Jeannie Sutton, and they have four children and sixteen grandchildren.

Citation

Wikipedia, May 11, 2011 (first identified Chiasmus; graduated from Duke in 1972; teaches at J. Reuben Clark Law School)

Found in 97 Collections and/or Records:

John W. Welch correspondence, 1967-2011

 Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 6
Scope and Contents Contains correspondence regarding John Welch's research on chiasmus. Includes letters, faxes, and emails from scholars, readers, class members, and publishers to and from Welch. Dated 1967-2011.
Dates: 1967-2011

John W. Welch incoming correspondence, 1967-2011

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 6 Sub-Series 1
Scope and Contents Contains John W. Welch's incoming correspondence. In this collection of correspondence, it contains emails and letters on chiasms both in scripture and in antiquity, outlines for scriptural works such as the Psalms, bibliographies, conference handouts, and additional references to chiasms. Materials dated 1967-2011.
Dates: 1967-2011

John W. Welch miscellaneous chiasmus studies, 1809-2010

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 7 Sub-Series 14
Scope and Contents Contains documentation on John W. Welsh's miscellaneous chiasmus studies. Included in these documents are notes from other organizations (including universities and book dealers) about the usage of chiasms, articles published by organizations such as FARMS, and various notes taken by Robert F. Smith pertaining to topics surrounding the scriptures and their usage of chiasms. Materials dated 1809-2010.
Dates: 1809-2010

John W. Welch other chiasmus studies, 1834-2010

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 7 Sub-Series 13
Scope and Contents Contains documentation on John W. Welch's other chiasmus studies. Included in these documents are the usages of chiasms in architecture, Mormon culture, WordPerfect documents, and Hamlet. It also includes such documents arguing against chiasms and the potential fallacies of the literary tool. Materials dated 1834-2010.
Dates: 1834-2010

John W. Welch outgoing correspondence, 1967-2011

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 6 Sub-Series 2
Scope and Contents Contains a collection of John W. Welch's outgoing correspondence. Included in this collections are emails and letters pertaining to the creation of the Scripture Language program at BYU, chiastic structures found in recent talks including Dallin H. Oaks' 1993 General Conference talk, the potential usage of chiasms as a means to help the missionary effort throughout the world, chiastic structures in Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal works, chiastic structures within the Book of Mormon, the role of...
Dates: 1967-2011

John W. Welch research materials on 1 Corinthians, 1931-1976

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 3 Sub-Series 8
Scope and Contents Contains John W. Welch's research materials of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. Included with these materials are analyses of the literary structure of the book (particularly the chiasms found in 1st Corinthians 13). Materials dated 1931-1976.
Dates: 1931-1976

John W. Welch research materials on 1 John, 2010

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 3 Sub-Series 17
Scope and Contents Contains John W. Welch's research materials on John's first epistle. Included with these materials are correspondence between Welch and Lou Mertes concering their research project on the epistle and the chiastic structure found in 1st John 1:1-5:12. Materials dated 2010.
Dates: 2010

John W. Welch research materials on 1 Kings, 1967-1985

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 2 Sub-Series 11
Scope and Contents Contains John W. Welch's research materials on the book of 1st Kings. Included with these materials are analyses of the literary structure of the book in various passages including the narrative of Jeroboam, the narrative of Solomon (in both 1st Kings and in Chronicles), and the general chiasmic structure of the book. Materials dated 1967-1985.
Dates: 1967-1985

John W. Welch research materials on 1 Nephi, 1968-2004

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 1 Sub-Series 2
Scope and Contents Includes John W. Welch's research materials of 1st Nephi, the first book of "The Book of Mormon." Materials include articles pertaining to the chiasms found in 1st Nephi, 1st Nephi's similarities to the book of Isaiah in the Bible, and an outline of Nephi's life. Materials dated 1968-2004.
Dates: 1968-2004

John W. Welch research materials on 1 Peter, 1989-2007

 Sub-Series
Identifier: MSS 3776 Series 3 Sub-Series 16
Scope and Contents Includes John W. Welch's research materials on Peter's first epistle. Included with these materials is an analysis of the spirit world in 1st Peter 3:18-4:6 and Andrew M. Mbuvi's article "Temple, exile and identity in 1 Peter." Materials dated 1989-2007.
Dates: 1989-2007