Can you comment on the differentiation of the text of each book written in the Book of Mormon?

Posted on May 8, 2008 at 5:20 pm


Follow Gramps:

Print Friendly

Dear Gramps,
Can you comment on the differentiation of the text of each book written in the Book of Mormon? Since each book was pretty much written by a different person, their writing styles should be somewhat different than the other writers. Can you also comment on the common phrase: “And it came to pass…”? That phrase seems to have been a common introduction among ancient prophets.
Tyler, from Gilbert, Arizona

Dear Tyler,
I’m sorry that I am not able to comment on the different grammatical styles of each of the Book of Mormon authors, although I am sure that there are those linguists that can do just that. Authors signatures are related to the frequency and placement of non-informational words in the text, such as articles, conjunctions and other connecting words.
With respect to the phrase, “and it came to pass,” it is used in the Book of Mormon on the average of once in every four verses, for a total of 1123 times. “It came to pass,” both with and without the conjunction “and,” is used 1153 times. In the book of Genesis, by comparison, “and it came to pass” is used only 63 times, and in the book of Exodus it is used only 22 times. “And it shall come to pass” is used in Genesis 66 times, and in Exodus 29 times. But the Book of Mormon was written in Egyptian, not Hebrew. Dr. Hugh Nibley avers that the phrase “and it came to pass” is really an Egyptian expression and is used frequently in the Egyptian language.
One particular language differentiator between Book of Mormon authors is the use of the corrective “or.” When either the first person writer or the abridger made a ‘stylographical’ error in inscribing on the gold plates in Egyptian hieroglyphs he corrected himself by using the term, “or” and repeating the phrase in a corrected form. Perhaps the most blatantly obvious example of this form of correction is found in Alma 24:19—

And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.

The abridger, Mormon, probably thinking ahead, wrote weapons of peace when he intended to write weapons of war, and chose this practical means to make the correction. This form of correction is used in the Book of Mormon 72 times, and the phrase, or rather, is used 11 times. Amplified phrase corrections are used six times. An example of an amplified phrase correction is—

For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels (1 Ne.19:7) .

The frequency of the use of the corrective ‘or’ can be quite revealing when comparing its use by different authors and in different segments of the Book of Mormon. First, the frequency of use in different segments of the Book of Mormon—
Comparing the Small Plates to the Large Plates– The Small Plates contain the actual writings of various authors, while the Large Plates are an abridgement by Mormon. One would expect a higher error frequency in an abridgement than in a first person account, and that is exactly what we observe. The Small Plates contain 1598 verses and we find one ‘or’ correction in every 319 verses. While the Large Plates, with a total of 4476 verses, has one correction for every 59 verses–a correction frequency in the Large Plates 5.4 times greater than in the Small Plates, consistent with expectations. Comparing the error frequency of the first person writers, Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni (Jarom wrote only 14 verses, so we will not consider him.), we find the following. Nephi, who wrote 918 verses, made only three ‘or’ corrections, for a correction rate of 306 verses per correction, and Jacob, who wrote 266 verses, had no ‘or’ corrections. Moroni wrote a total of 216 first person verses with no ‘or’ corrections, while Mormon, who wrote 412 first person verses, had 5 such corrections, for a rate of 82 verses per correction. This is quite consistent with expectations as Mormon wrote essentially with a sword in one hand and a stylus in the other. He was at the battle front for most of his life, while Moroni undoubtedly wrote most of his material in solitude, with time on his hands. We would expect, as we observe, a higher degree of accuracy from him than from any of the other writers. Now, comparing the abridgement verses written by Mormon and Moroni, we find Mormon, who abridged 3902 verses, had a corrected error rate of 55 verses per correction, while Moroni, who wrote 354 abridgement verses, had only one ‘or’ correction, for a correction rate of 354 verses per correction. Thus Mormon’s error correction rate was 6.4 times that of Moroni–again perfectly consistent with expectations.

Article Name
Can you comment on the differentiation of the text of each book written in the Book of Mormon? - Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine
Since each book was pretty much written by a different person, their writing styles should be somewhat different than the other writers. Can you also comment on the common phrase: “And it came to pass…”?

Follow Gramps:

Why did God need Jesus to atone for our sins?

August 31, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, With all of God’s knowledge and power, why did he need Jesus to atone and sacrifice for our sins? Sherlene   Answer Hello Sherlene, In teachings (more)

Why did we have the Civil War?

August 30, 2014 5:00 am

Question Gramps, Why did we have the American Civil War and what does it mean as said in DC 87? Will those people be saved due to fighting (more)

Did Joseph Smith use a hat during the translation of the Book of Mormon?

August 29, 2014 5:00 am

Question Gramps, There was a question about Joseph’s stone and hat but you never mentioned either. What is this about a hat? I was taught that the seer (more)

Did Adam and Eve get baptized?

August 28, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, I have what I think is a simple question.  Were Adam and Eve baptized?  If not, why? Kalola   Answer Kalola, We read about Adam’s baptism (more)

Is it okay to swear during a play?

August 27, 2014 5:00 am

Question Gramps, I used to go to my brother’s plays and he would have to swear in them.  Is that bad and will he get punished? Also what (more)

Why do my prayers seem to hit the ceiling due to my depression?

August 26, 2014 7:00 am

Question Hi Gramps, I have been suffering from depression and anxiety most of my life.  I don’t know if the Lord will remove it in this life or (more)

Was the celestial kingdom empty before the LDS church was restored?

August 25, 2014 12:34 pm

Question Hi Gramps,I understand the three levels of Heaven. If non-Mormons cannot enter the celestial kingdom, does that mean that it was empty of spirits before The Book (more)

Why are the words Christ and church used in the Book of Mormon?

August 24, 2014 7:17 am

Question Hi Gramps! My husband and I have recently started reading the book of Mormon. I would like to know why in Alma the word Christ and Church (more)

Are there degrees of Priesthood power?

August 23, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, Are their degrees of priesthood power?  The Savior said that if we had the faith as a grain of a mustard seed that we could move (more)

Why do we use Old English when saying prayers?

August 22, 2014 8:50 am

Question Gramps, Why do we use old English when we say prayers?  Also, how do we do it correctly?  Words like “Canst” “Wilt” and similar conjugations can be (more)

Should the talents we have be freewill offerings to build up the Kingdom?

August 21, 2014 6:48 am

Question Dear Gramps, Many of the hymns we have in the LDS hymnal have copyright restrictions, which prevent us from fully utilizing the material as we would sometimes (more)

Did the Lehites have knowledge of telestial and terrestrial states?

August 20, 2014 8:36 am

Question Hi Gramps,  I understand that there are different levels of kingdoms, as explained in D&C 76, but how come the Book of Mormon sounds so polarized between (more)