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King Follett Discourse — Macro Outline & Introduction

Macro Outline & Introduction

A — God Himself was Once as We are Now
 B — You have got to Learn How to Be Gods Yourselves

  C — You must Begin at the Bottom 
   D — The Head God called together the Gods in Grand Council

    E — Element, no Beginning, no End
     F — Man, Self-Existent
    E’ — Spirits, no Beginning, no End

   D’ — The Greatest Responsibility in this world . . . is to Seek after our Dead
  C’ — A Man is his own Tormenter and his own Condemner 

 B’ — Your Expectations and Hopes are Far Above what Man can Conceive
A’ — God dwells in Everlasting Burnings

(Click here for the entire speech outlined via the Davidic pattern. Note: The above links provide a more detailed outline of each individual macro element.)

President Joseph Smith delivered the following discourse before about twenty thousand Saints at the April conference of the Church, 1844, being the funeral sermon of Elder King Follett. The sermon was reported by Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Thomas Bullock and William Clayton. Although this discourse was first published in the Times and Seasons of August 15, 1844, the version in general use today is an “amalgamation” made in 1855 by Jonathan Grimshaw.

A special issue of Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter 1978) included a newly amalgamated text of the four major reports of the King Follett sermon prepared by Stan Larson. Where deemed appropriate, this newly amalgamated text has been included to provide additional text or clarification, and has been properly noted by brackets. Although, it is impossible to recover the exact words actually spoken that day in April of 1844, the published text in general use conforms to the rules of Davidic construction; namely:

The King Follett text is comprised of five pairs of parallel elements, i.e., macro structures, symmetrically arranged around a central “F” element, i.e., A-B-C-D-E-F-E-D-C-B-A. These larger themes impart unity to the text as a whole.

Each element exhibits a point of beginning and ending. The function of each element is to introduce an overriding theme or topic.

The text within each macro element contains additional chiasmus or parallelisms which provide cogency to its counterpart verses as a way of amplifying the theme and unlocking hidden messages.

Using Davidic Chiasmus as a template or interpretive key, the text may be analyzed according to a tri-fold exegesis inherent within Davidic construction; namely, (1) the Lord’s (Davidic) servant, (2) eschatological (last days) imagery, and (3) temple (endowment) imagery.

The text may be further analyzed by performing micro and inter-micro analysis.

The Davidic Chiasmus within the center “F” macro structure serves as the Table of Contents for the entire King Follett Sermon.

Joseph Smith’s discourse was not merely a patchwork of ideas randomly thrown together to create a handsome quilt, as it were; rather, the profundity of the message and the meticulous manner in which he wove his theological passages together, formed a “seamless garment,” most elegant in style and grace, rich in intimate detail and expression, timeless in array and splendor, and regal in flow and gate, before the eyes of all men to see and “for the angels to look upon” (D&C 62:3). As John Breck surmised concerning the “rediscovery of chiasmus,” scholars “have rightly sensed the intimate connection that exists between rhetorical form and thematic content, between the structure of the literary passage and its theological meaning.” (Breck, the Shape of Biblical Language, p. 17)

With no notes in front of him, the speech was masterfully conceived, crafted, and delivered as spontaneous as his rebuke to the prison guards at Richmond – nothing short of staggering the human imagination. In the end, the King Follett discourse plainly manifested that Joseph Smith had a prodigious memory, a remarkable capacity for style and technique, and an seemingly effortless mastery of Davidic theory – further testifying to his “noble boldness and independence of character.” (Autobiography of P.P. Pratt, p. 32) Although there are scores of indelible images in this speech, yet nothing is borrowed, nothing is imitated. He truly mastered Davidic technique without making the technique the end.

A summary of the macro elements is presented above. The full text within each section may be found by clicking on the specific macro element heading.



* Text supplied from “A Newly Amalgamated Text” by Stan Larson (BYU Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, p. 193-208). Lined out text indicates that duplication, created by (*), has been eliminated.

** Macro Analysis provided by Scott L. Vanatter. Micro Analysis provided by Jared R. Demke.

*** Text from “A Newly Amalgamated Text” by Stan Larson (BYU Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, p.193-208).

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