Tuesday, July 5, 2011

And you thought prepositions weren’t important!

In the following verse, prepositions play a large part in expressing God’s abilities and involvement in creation.
He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever. (D&C 88:41)
My first instinct running across this verse lately was to list it and chart it.

All things are:
• before him
• round about him

He is:
• above all things
• in all things
• through all things
• round about all things

All things are:
• by him
• of him

Just right off, I notice it is in a rough chiasmus—two in front, four in the middle, and two in back. The middle, which is meant to have the greatest emphasis, is about God, of course.

The numbers are interesting too; a total of four things about “all things” in relation to God, and a total of four things about God’s involvement in “all things.” Four is significant too, since it conveys the concept of totality and “all things everywhere.” (Think “the four winds” and “the four directions” and “the four seasons.”)

I suppose that I must point out that my observation about the numbers and chiasmus could also be seen as a bit of a simplification, since the end of the verse before it and the beginning of the verse also have “him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. He comprehendeth all things. (D&C 88:40-41).. So perhaps it is better to spend analysis time on the prepositions.

In case you didn’t notice, verse 41 is thick with prepositions, so it behooves us to try to understand how God uses those prepositions to communicate about Himself. For those of you who are not grammatically inclined, a very easy way to find a preposition is to think of them as a POSITION in relation to something else, like say, a squirrel in relation to a log. The squirrel goes THROUGH the log, AROUND the log, OVER the log, UNDER the log, FROM the log, TO the log, BY the log… (Very active squirrel, you see.) (And for all you grammatically-inclined people who are cursing me right now, yes, I am simplifying it a bit, but you have to start somewhere.) Back to the verse.

The prepositions show both sides of the God/everything relationship—all things relative to God, God relative to all things. So here’s where I had to pull out a dictionary and start looking up prepositions.

All things are:
  • before him—in sight of, in front of (and in this case, not older than)
  • round about him—encircle, on all sides. (It seems God is in the thick of things.)
  • by him—close to, by means of
  • of him—indicating possession (Possession by God is easier to see if you remove the “are” from the whole phrase)
He is:
  • above all things—at a higher position (progression?)
  • in all things—part of, involved with, working for (things have part of His attributes)
  • through all things—from one opening side to the other, the extent of “in”, (perhaps indicating how all things support Him in His work)
  • round about all things—surrounding (protective?) (obviously unseen by us)

I learned a lot from this. I also noticed that several of these phrases seem paradoxical. For instance, how can all things be “round about God” and God be “round about all things”? Or how can God be “in all things” and “round about all things”? I don’t know. But there is one thing that I know—when something seems paradoxical, it means one of two things: something is not right, or something is missing from my understanding.

But let’s cut to the practical now. How might it influence us if we know this? It seems to me that it suggests that our bodies are temples, that the earth itself is a temple, that we belong to God, that God may be anywhere at anytime, that He acts through us, that life is a sacred thing, and ultimately all things will be for our good. It makes me want to be a part of all that sacredness and do nothing to destroy it.

What does it suggest to you?


Jocelyn Christensen said...

Ooh, I thought you were going to point out the "HIM" as the most significant thing...that God has gender. Great points!