05 June 2006

And it came to pass

Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon (BoM) will notice that the phrase "and it came to pass" is used way too often. Mark Twain had this to say about it:
The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures.... Whenever he found his speech growing too modern -- which was about every sentence or two -- he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet. Roughing It, Chapter 16

The phrase is also, of course, frequently found in the King James Version of the Bible, which is no doubt why Joseph Smith used it in the BoM; it just sounds so darned biblical. The trouble is that he liked it so much that he got carried away with it. Here's a summary of the occurrences of "it came to pass" in the Bible and the BoM.

Bible BoM
it came to pass 452 1424

The phrase occurs more than three times as often in the BoM as in the Bible. That doesn't seem so bad until you look at the size of the two books. The Bible is nearly five times as big as the BoM. Here's how the comparison looks when size is taken into account.

Bible BoM
it came to pass 452 1424
number of verses 31,102 6553
Occurrences per 100 verses 1.45 21.7

So "it came to pass" is found in more than 20% of the BoM's verses -- 15 times as often as in the Bible! But, actually, it's a bit worse than that. The original 1830 edition of the BoM had even more uses of "and it came to pass." But since I can't find a searchable version of the 1830 edition, I can't quantify it for you.

Of course all of this can be explained. Brant A. Gardner in Meridian Magazine tells us that there's a good reason for all the and-it-came-to-passes; Joseph Smith used this phrase to mark the beginning of paragraphs. It's just that simple.

Still it seems strange that he would have had 30 paragraphs in the 39 verses of 1 Nephi 16. I guess the original translation didn't have any punctuation, but still 30 paragraphs in 45 or so sentences seems a bit excessive.

And if the and-it-came-to-passes were used to mark new paragraphs, why do some verses have more than one. Here's Alma 47:11, for example:

And it came to pass that when Lehonti received the message he durst not go down to the foot of the mount. And it came to pass that Amalickiah sent again the second time, desiring him to come down. And it came to pass that Lehonti would not; and he sent again the third time.

Did Joseph Smith really think there should be three paragraphs in this verse?

No, it looks to me like Mark Twain had it exactly right. Joseph Smith thought the and-it-came-to-passes made it sound like scripture, and it would make his rather short book a bit longer. So he couldn't resist.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now it came to pass that Steve had stumbled upon a rock and skinned his knee. It came to pass that he cursed the rock, yea the rock was silent. For behold it came to pass that Steve cherished the rock for it had held him in place, and it shall come to pass that Steve will wonder the rock a sign; yea, it came to pass that he realized it was just a rock, thrown away from a nearby hillside. It came to pass that Steve could not blame the rock, yea not forgive it for the folly it has played, for Behold it came to pass that it was just a rock. And it came to pass, as spot emac it dna.

Spencer said...

are you all mad? read the book of mormon. its true

Neil said...

And it came to pass that Joseph Smith made the entire thing up, making error after error so that he left a trail of bread crumbs laughably easy to follow.

And it came to pass that all who did follow the man and his fraud did not seem to use basic common sense when all of his prophesies did *not* come to pass, but bought the nonsense hook, line and sinker, even the ones he duped out of money in failed banking schemes.

And it came to pass that while even Bible skeptics could travel to Jerusalem or Galilee or Bethlehem or Athens, not even LDS could locate the Hill Cumorah, even though thousands are supposed to have perished there in great wars.

Jack said...

I dont know why the writers of the book of mormon (Nephi, Alma, Mormon, Moroni, and others) used the phrase "it came to pass" so many times. But that seems to matter very little, that same kind of thing happens in our day and age all the time. with Words such as "like" and "you know what I mean", people use them all the time.

If your having such a hard time with the Book of Mormon or how it was translated, by which was done under the direction of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Then you should ask your selfs do i beleave in Christ and if you do then read the Book of Mormon its about Christ, his teachings, his church, and his followers.

I have read the Book of Mormon. I have pondered its contents, I prayed to God, our father in heaven in the name of Christ with faith that I would recive (ask and it shall be given you, matthew 7:7 the Bible) and he did answer me. I invite all to do the same as I because it is true or it is not true and you need to ask God the only one you know for sure wont lie.

I know the Book of mormon is true and is more proof that Jesus lived that he is the Christ the bible is the word of God.

Neil said...

I do know why "And it came to pass" is in the BoM so many times.

Because the book was written by a single author. The plain and obvious truth stands there like an elephant standing in your living room, but you choose to ignore it.

You're right, in our *day and age* people say "like" and "you know what I mean", but fifty years ago they didn't, and in fifty years from now they will have other common terms and phrases. The dead giveaway for the BoM is that it is supposed to have been written over multiple generations by different authors but contains repetitive themes, repetitive phrases, and repetitive events.

You have the same arguments that every Mormon has, but you completely fail to address the book's foremost problem: Authenticity.

Even Bible skeptics can go to Jerusalem or Damascus or Bethlehem. Atheists can stand on the shore of the sea of Galilee and visit hundreds of locations mentioned in the Bible. The Jews are real people, as are the Greeks, the Romans, the Corinthians. These are real people in real places with a real history.

Now let's look at the BoM.
Not one single solitary person, place or event unique to the BoM is mentioned anywhere other than the BoM.
Now read that again.
This means that no place, person or event that the BoM alone speaks of has a single shred of evidence to confirm it as reality. No writings, inscriptions or any oral tradition can substantiate the book you hold as scripture. None.

The Book of Mormon was *not* translated under the direction of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith put his head in a hat and read words on a stone. This is mentioned by Cowdery I believe.
The 'translation' was done one word at a time. No margin for error. Gift and power of God.
But the book has undergone thousands of changes since the 1830 edition. So much for being 'the most correct book ever written'.

No, the book is a fraud. Plain and simple. Mormons are now even questioning the location of Comorah because guess what, they can't find so much as an arrow head despite the supposed millions who fought and died there. And the church owns the property.

I know the Book of Mormon is not true and that Joseph Smith is not a true prophet. I know because having prayed and read, I received firm confirmation that the Mormon church is not true and that Smith is a false prophet Jesus warned about, deceiving many (about 12 million right now).

dsheffman said...

Neil. I appreciate your clarity and assertiveness. I also feel it necessary to reveal the holes in your argument to allow other people to see how impossible it is to prove or disprove with validity of the Book of Mormon with words and scientific evidences.

By your logic of trends in speech, Genesis, 1 Kings, Joshua, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Nehemiah, Exodus, Judges, Jeremiah, Judges, and 2 Chronicles were all written by the same author. The truth is, the authors of these books had access to scripture that came before them and they wrote in the same pattern. Why would the Book of Mormon prophets have acted any different?

Second, one of the greatest aspect of the Bible is that many of the sites can be visited. Wouldn't it be great if we knew a tenth of the names of the cities and knew the cultures of Asia, Polynesia, Australia, Micronesia, Africa, and all the other forgotten languages and cultures from the time period of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem all the way to just after the time of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sad truth is that we don’t. So then, by your logic, unless the Book of Mormon was from some place in Europe (i.e., where we have a record of more than a small fraction of the cities and the cultures of the specified time period) then we have reason to doubt that it ever happened. Reasonably, from a historical perspective I must agree. So again we are back at square one. And, if it had occurred in Europe, then where would we be. Well just as you said, Atheists can go to biblical locations and it does not prove to them that the bible is true, so why are we speaking of this as an evidence of the Book of Mormon being false?...I don't know.

3rd, I think it is silly to assert that the mode of translation could have anything to do with its validity. Did God not cure Israelites that looked upon the serpent in the wilderness, and did God not cure Naaman because he washing in the filthy river Jordan 7 times. As we all know God works in simple and mysterious ways.

In conclusion (“In conclusion” a commonly used phrase that transcends multiple generations to signify the last thought of a written piece) the Book of Mormon cannot be proven through words nor evidences. And if you are looking for some semblance of evidence, read the book and ask yourself if you yourself with more than the 2nd grade education that Joseph Smith had, could write something similar to what he wrote. And when that doesn’t work, pray about it and ask if it is true. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. Everyone has this God given right.
Even Neil prayed about it.

dsheffman said...

Correction: By your logic of trends in speech, Genesis, 1 Kings, Joshua, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Nehemiah, Exodus, Judges, Jeremiah, Judges, and 2 Chronicles were all written by the same author. "Each one of these books uses "and it came to pass" multiple times. The truth is, the authors of these books had access to scripture that came before them and they wrote in the same pattern. Why would the Book of Mormon prophets have acted any different?

Michael said...

If anyone reads the KJV version of the Bible they will notice “And it came to pass” used very frequently as mentioned above in both sides of the debate. However, if we take a look at other Versions of the Bible we will notice that “And it came to Pass” is either not or very rarely used because the phrase was commonly used by the original translators of the KJV since they were translating it into the English of their time which is known as, “Early Modern English”. Here are several examples of other modern translations not or rarely using “And it came to Pass”:
New Living Translation: (0 Times)
English Standard Version: (3 Times, 5 “Came to Pass”, No AND or IT, all three instances do not start a verse like the KJV)
New American Standard Bible: (0 Times, 3 “It Came to Pass”, No AND)
New International Version: (0 Times, 2 “Came to Pass”)
Amplified Bible: (3 Times, 2 “So It Came To Pass”, 4 “Came to Pass”)

It is obvious from above that the only reason that “And It Came to Pass” was used often in the KJV is because of the English grammar of the time frame (early 1600s). It is now obvious from modern translation of the Bible from Greek, Hebrew and Ancient Manuscripts that we now have more “Modern English” rendering of the original texts. Thus, this proves that Joseph was highly influenced by the KJV [By obvious quoting of Isaiah (Sometimes even verbatim of the KJV), Malachi, and Matthew and by un-attributed quotes from the NT, Genesis, Exodus, Job, Micah, Hosea, and Psalms] since it was the only translation of the Bible available in English at the time of Joseph Smith and/or he stole material from the text from Solomon’s Spalding’s “The Manuscript” or from Ethan Smith’s (no relation to Joseph) “View of the Hebrews”. For my last point the Book of Mormon makes the EXACT SAME KJV translations errors for example: “Isaiah 9:1 should read 'honor' in the place of 'grievously afflict'. The Book of Mormon makes the same mistake.”(Source: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/curt_heuvel/bom_bible.html). I suggest that everyone who reads this read the following source above ^^^^^^^^^^^^^. It has some interesting points and is a good read.

softleyfamily said...

Did you know that for hundreds of years the prevailing thought was that the earth was the center of the universe. This geocentric view was fact to those who lived at the time and I'm sure many went confidently to their graves believing in their great wisdom. It is really pointless to use our current understanding of ancient civilizations as irrevocable fact or fiction judgment. Those who cite evidences of the Book of Mormon being untrue because it doesn't align with our current data are naive. What makes you think our current understanding is right? Aristotle was a bright guy and yet he was a geocentrist. We are not at the zenith of human knowledge so why pin your arguments on "facts" that can very possibly be disproven once you are dead and gone. I'd hate to think that my legacy was convincing people of something I ultimately ended up being wrong about because I refused to acknowledge that I didn't know everything.

maklelan said...

There are several errors in your assessment. To begin with, "it came to pass" is a rather literal translation of the Hebrew phrase wayehi. That phrase is not always translated the same way in the KJV, especially where it sounds redundant. It actually appears almost 800 times in the Hebrew Bible, which is not quite 1/3 of 1300. In addition, it only appears in narrative, not in poetry. Since the Hebrew Bible is largely poetry, and the Book of Mormon is almost never poetry, the frequency is in no way aberrant.

You say the word is used for new paragraphs, but that's untrue. It is used in many places every time a new sentence begins, and sometimes multiple times in a sentence. For instance, it appears three times in Gen 39:2, twice in 39:5, in 39:6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, and 21. This is only three paragraphs in modern translations of the chapter, but fifteen uses of the phrase. That's almost twice as frequent as Alma 47:11.

Mark Twain did not have it right, and neither do you. If anything, Joseph Smith's composition is closer to ancient Hebrew literary standards than to the KJV.

attractivejeremy said...

Maklelan, it's too bad that Joseph Smith claimed the book of mormon was translated from "Reformed Egyptian" and not from Hebrew.

Mormons should really just stick to the blind faith thing. In that setting, you don't have to submit to the rules of basic God-given logic and reason.

danielomcclellan said...

attractivejeremy-

"Reformed Egyptian" is represented in the Book of Mormon as a combining of Hebrew and Egyptian. The most likely combination, based on textual discoveries of the 20th century, would be the Egyptian script and Hebrew grammar and syntax. This is supported by the Anthon Transcript, which shows great similarity to a number of Demotic characters.

featurephoto said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTtq62XQ4jw

well worth watching! unfortunately they don't cover his use of 'and it came to pass'... but it clears up most of everything else.

danielomcclellan said...

A friend of mine has published a nice review of that video. You can find it here:

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=18&num=1&id=598

Kerry Brown said...

I was watching an interesting show on NOVA about the evolution of our understanding of the Maya language.. This may be of interest to anyone reading this blog.
Apparently "And then it happened" was a very common glyph "phrase" in the Maya form of writing. Particularly when recounting a historical narrative...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3506_mayacode.html

Chevassus said...

You can view (page by page) then entire 1830 version of the Book of Mormon on:

http://www.inephi.com/Search.htm

Have fun!

Latvija13 said...

I find it interesting how people can mold their beliefs support pretty much anything. Mormons say that have proof that their book is true and perfect. Many Christians say their book is 100 percent true and perfect. Thousands of books have been written about both books and yet there simply is no real evidence that the Hebrew bible is anything but an attempt to make the Hebrew culture more important in ancient history than it actually was. The book of Mormon has no real substantial evidence even with all of the Mormon scholars saying otherwise. There is a burden of proof that Jews and Christians (including Mormons) have not addressed.

Donald said...

.....You show that you don't have a knowledge of how early literature was written and I also suspect you have not read the entire book. Before 1700, paragraphs were not used. This expression was used to show a different subject or moving into another area of thought. When they inserted paragraphs after 1700, they could have left it out when the made paragraphs, but since Joseph was a true prophet of God, he left it in as he should have been and this further authenticates the Book of Mormon. I also found the expression in one of the Mayan carvings.
.....A Jewish scholar who translated the Book of Mormon into Hebrew, said that the phrase was used perfectly in the Book of Mormon and if it had been left out, as you say it should have been, and the book would not have been accurate.
.....The phrase left in shows one more time that the unlearned Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God, and not someone who made it up or used it without reason and had it written in just as it should have been and not because he liked to use it because it was in the Bible.
.....The Bible scholars also left it out quite a few times when it should have been left there also to show a change in events or thought.
.....I suggest you read the book and then you ask God if with a "sincere heart" if the Book of Mormon is the "word of God" I know if you ask really wanting to know for sure, He will tell you it is.

Unknown said...

Spent the last 15 days reading that book. Asked God if it was true. He said no.

thaumkid said...

I've read the Book of Mormon a couple dozen times. It most emphatically is not true history. Read the Book of Mormon, and then read the New Testament and find out how much it depends on the New Testament language and ideas.

Then learn about the historical-critical method and find out the ways in which the New Testament is deficient, and realize that Mormonism is subject to many failures because of its dependence on certain corrupt New Testament texts, which were never written by apostles nor inspired, but somehow make themselves part of Mormonism's core.

Andy said...

Actually I would expect most of the book of mormon to have lingual similarities running through it as it is purported to be compiled and abridged by one man. No, not Joseph Smith. It was the man the book was named for; Mormon. It it didn't have these 'catch phrases' running throughout it would actually be harder to believe that the book had been edited by one person. You will also notice that Ether and Moroni, two books in the book of mormon that did not have Mormon as their editor have significantly changed tonal structures.

Raewyn said...

Smith borrowed heavily from the bible. He also wrote about horses in the americas hundreds of years before they actually arrived with the Europeans. History, science and common sense will tell anyone who's not brainwashed that Joseph Smith MADE IT ALL UP.

As a former member of the LDS church I've come into the light and seen the truth. Do some research on the early days of the church. Joseph smith was a grade A con man. The best there ever was. However, the things he did, and let others do for him, have caused generations of damaged people, heart break and perpetual misery.

Patrick Grote said...

Hi, just thought I would drop this here.

For the many people posting that you should "ask God with a true heart" and the like, you are utilizing a very simple logical fallacy.

As I understand it from my Mormon friends, this means asking God with a heart full of belief that he will answer. Or, in other words, trusting that God is there, and that he will answer you.

In order to do this, you must first concede AND BELIEVE that there is a God, therefore making the exercise redundant. It would be similar to me saying "if you simply believe in Vishnu, you will understand that Hinduism is true. All you have to do is believe."

Just thought I'd clear that up for you. In order to "ask God" if he is real, you must first concede to the argument. The assertion in no way advances the discourse, and is essentially a rhetorical concession. Feel free to continue utilizing the argument, but understand that it is intellectually dishonest.

Greg Bonney said...

I know this is an old blog post and a lot of the comments are years old, but I couldn't resist throwing my belated 2 cents in and thanking the author of this blog. I started reading the BoM on their web site and was immediately struck by the number of times it says "and it came to pass that" and decided to do an internet search to see if anybody had counted them. When Joseph Smith wrote the BoM there was not much known about ancient peoples other than what we had in the Bible. So, he had no way to know that the ancient Americans did not know how to write on metallic sheets, did not have horses, or that it would some day be possible to prove through DNA that the American Indians are not a remnant of Israel. Smith also claimed to translate the Book of Abraham from an ancient Egyptian text. Unlike the BoM, though, the Book of Abraham original Egyptian texts actually exist and have been translated by Egyptologists. Unfortunately for Mormons, the Egyptologists say they consist of prayers to Egyptian gods and have nothing to do with Abraham. There is a great documentary on this on Youtube. Frankly, many Mormons are too invested in Mormonism to admit the their prophet was a fake. However, every Christian should teach their children about this information so they can never be sucked into this false religion.

Bryan said...

Ah, good ol'e Mark Twain. The world's great authority on Ancient Hebrew-isms and Mesoamerican Codex. Oh wait, that's right, I've got him mixed up with the guy that wrote cute kids books. Although you'd probably end up with a pamphlet if you took out all "aints" and "darn fix ins" in Tom Sawyer when he started to sound too...modern? Ok, I'm giving him too much credit. Then again, anyone like you whose best critical source of the Book of Mormon died in 1910 shouldn't really be trusted either. You and Clemens are probably good for each other. But I digress.

True, true Mr Clemens, if you take out "And it came to pass," in the Book of Mormon, you might have a pamphlet, but what you wouldn't have is an authentic Mesoamerican text. Which after a 1000 yr history Mormon would have certainly been influenced by surrounding literary and written tradition.

In the early '90's, David Stuart (remember him? The youngest ever recipient of the McArthur fellowship at age 18, Mayan epigrapher, University of Texas, Austin) made a land mark discovery in the deciphering of the Mayan language while focusing on a pair of signs already believed to be deciphered. Originally "i u ti" and "u ti ya" glyphs were thought to be forward and backward date markers. He discovered that multiple glyph substitutions seen of these phrases were purely phonetic substitutions that are spelling the same word in slightly different ways: "i u ti" and "u ti ya." In Mayan, 'i ut' means, '...and then it happened," and 'utiy' means, '...and since it happened." The words that repetitiously fill Mayan hieroglyphic accounts, that prior epigraphers had viewed as mere date markers, were in fact, introducing a forward or past-tense story. And those stories, carved in stone, copper plates, gold plates (visit the Peabody museum at Harvard and see for yourself), always began with 'i ut' or 'utiy.' Why, if you scratched out all the glyphic historical records in Guatemala that begin with 'and since it happened,' and 'and then it happened that,' why, you'd be left with a pamphlet. But I guess Mr Clemens would have preferred it that way. Too bad he didn't get to them first. Maybe he would have spared us of all the laughable repetition those crazy Mayans are wasting our time with. Why maybe he'd have carved in some 'fixin' to's' and some 'aints' for us so those darn Mayans wouldn't be so offensive to his ridiculously brilliant literary mind.

Joe Rizoli said...

The Book of Mormon is the Satanic straight faced look right in your eyes nonsense that LDS people believe. Satan is saying , hey I bet I could write a book of nonsense, have it be missing 17 or so of pages, contain stupid terms, made up people, contradictions, historical falsehoods, unfulfilled prophecies, and even turn the leader into a sexual pervert and get millions of dumb stupid people to believe it.

Hot Sam said...

Actually, this is quite an intelligent conversation from both the Mormons and the Mormon deniers.

I attempted to read the BoM, and after the tenth "And it came to pass," I recognized that God would never inspire a holy book so incredibly fucking boring. I mean, it doesn't have to be a literary masterpiece but it must at least be engaging and inspirational.

I find many parts of the KJV incredibly boring, but just when I think I can read no more, I am enthralled by one of the many stories we learned as children. of course I was also quite intrigued by all the begatting going on but in those days, kids were your retirement plan.

I've had many Mormon friends and my ex-wife and son are Mormon. as bizarre a faith as it is, I admire their love, compassion, mutual support, independence, tenacity, and spiritual stability. if it is a delusional religion, it is one I don't mind living next door to me. I see far more insipid and dangerous secular interests that occupy the souls of men.

so be nice and let people believe their harmless fairy tales. the temperament of the nonbelievers is often far more offensive, derisive, and unneighborly.

Mormonism isn't a cult of self hatred and death like some modern social and political philosophies. I still won't waste my time reading their book, but then again I gave up on Lord of the Rings four times.

the static fanatic said...

I approached two American elders in a German city I lived near in the 90's. After a brief chat explaining that I was a practicing Catholic, one of the the elders leaned towards me and said "either WE'RE right (LDS) or YOU'RE right (Catholic)". I was totally blown away by the idea that an elder would admit to that. When bringing this up with other LDS members after the incident, I was told it was basically a fringe belief held by very few in the church. I wasn't raised to hold stringent beliefs about the differences between the sects, and who was "right", so having this idea planted in my mind really got me questioning why the LDS were so vested in dealing in that sort of absolutism.

Garry Moss said...

I conversed with a Rabbi about the Book of Mormon some time back, and he specifically addressed this point. He said that it is a phrase that seems superfluous to us, but it is not. He said that it is a hebraism that speaks to the prophetic nature of scripture, and that the phrase that is translated that way could equally be translated as "and it shall be."

monolyth42 said...

Wow, Mormon apologists are even dumber than the Christian ones, and that's pretty hard to do!

Graham Lindsay said...

Once upon a time there was a minister who needed money as he was as poor as a church mouse. He came upon an idea why dont I write a wee history of the Americas and base it on the style of the Marco Polo book I have. He thought he could possibly make a nice wee sum of money. He finished it and sent it to a publisher but alas he died before it was published. The unpublished book sat gathering dust in the publishers until another man who had a couple of freinds thought lets see if we can shake this book up a bit by adding excerpts from the Bible, a wee bit from Hamlet and we can find a man with a gift of the gab to sell the book. That gift of the gab bloke was Joseph Smith who put his name to the book and that book was none other than the Book of Mormon. Unfortunaly to these people keching of the moneyfrom this book never happened. and they used the pretence of religion to make their money.

Carlos V said...

The phrase "and it came to pass" occurs in the english translation of the book of mormon 1381 times... Apparently the Maya people, who lived in southeast Mexico and Guatemala, may have adopted the phrase "and it came to pass"Recent discoveries in the translation of the 7th century AD Maya ruins of Palenque manifest the phrase "and then it came to pass" and "it had come to pass". Recently another glyph has been interpreted as "and it shall come to pass". Even if there is proof or evidence the only way to know for sure in our hearts is through confirmation of the holy spirit.

Jairon Terrero said...

Keep in mind that the Book of Mormon is an abridgment of a much larger pool of records. "It came to pass," may very well have been used to set off paragraphs, or merely to introduce a new section being summarized.

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