And It Came to Pass: Post #1 January 15, 2015

“And it came to pass”: Post #1 January 15, 2015 

Readers of the Book of Mormon will have noted, as did Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), how often the phrase “and it came to pass” occurs. Twain had a bit of fun at Joseph Smith’s expense when he said that if Joseph Smith had left that phrase out of the Book of Mormon, the book “would have been only a pamphlet”*.

Since I can be a literal-minded guy (when I choose) and I really like numbers, I decided to test Mr. Sam Clemens’ claim.  By word search analysis, the phrase “And it came to pass” occurs 151 times in the 531 pages of the Book of Mormon, on average a bit less than one time for every three pages.  There are another 18 occurrences of the phrase “came to pass”.  In total, there are 1,418,073 characters (with spaces) in the text of the Book of Mormon.  The phrase “And it came to pass” contains 19 characters including spaces, and the phrase “came to pass” contains 12 characters including spaces. If we multiply 151 x 19 and add it to 18 x 12 we get a total of 3,085 total characters (including spaces) used in the entire Book of Mormon to write these two phrases.  This is 0.218% of the total characters in the book, or a bit more than 1 page out of the 531 pages in the book.  If these two phrases that so amused Mr. Twain had been left out of the Book of Mormon, it certainly would not have “been only a pamphlet”.  It would be about 1.2 pages shorter.

So there, Sam.

On a more serious level, the Book of Mormon claims to be written by people with their linguistic and cultural roots in Palestine, circa 600 years before Christ, during the time of the prophet Jeremiah.  In other words, it has roots in Old Testament times, places and cultures.  The Old Testament has over 500 instances where the phrase “came to pass” is used—the New Testament uses the phrase over 100 times.

My point is that this is how the Hebrew people told their stories. The phrase “it came to pass” is always used in the context of telling a story, both in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Fast forward to the New World, where the bulk of the Book of Mormon story (Mormons believe) took place.  We don’t know exactly where the events recorded in the Book of Mormon happened, but a lot of evidence points toward Central America, in the Mayan heartland.  In the written Mayan story of the creation and in the records of their dynasties (the reigns of their kings), as recorded on their stone stelae, a particular glyph is used very, very often.  The glyph is translated (not by Mormons) as meaning “and then it happened”… which could certainly be rendered equally well as “and it came to pass”.   (For an interesting account of how the Mayan language was deciphered, you can watch “Breaking the Maya Code” on Netflix. This particular glyph and its translation are discussed at around 1 hour and 27 minutes into the film.  It is an enjoyable and interesting movie to watch.)

This may be just a coincidence, but it is interesting nonetheless, at least to me.  Joseph could have left the phrase out, saved 1.2 pages of text, and perhaps have avoided some of Mr. Twain’s sarcasm. But if he really did translate the record of a people with Hebrew linguistic roots, the phrase should occur. It does indeed occur with considerable (even annoying?) frequency in the Book of Mormon…and in the Mayan records.

Oh that clever kid, Joseph Smith.  He got that one right.

Well, I told you this post was going to be on the light side. The next post is going to be quite a bit heavier.

*See “Roughing It” Chapter 16, pages 107-115.

Why This Blog? Hello, World…Bruce calling

Why this Blog?

January 15, 2015

I am writing this blog primarily for my children, their children and the children that will come after them.  Everyone else is also welcome to read it.  🙂

The most important question that we can ask ourselves; what has been called the “terrible question”, is this one: “Is this life all there is?”  How a person answers that question influences his every priority, thought and action.

One answer is given poetically by Omar Khayyam in the Rubaiyat (38th quatrain-First Edition- translated by Edward FitzGerald):

“One moment in annihilation’s waste, one moment of the well of life to taste, the stars are setting and the caravan starts for the dawn of nothing- Oh, make haste!”

So: living for the moment, nihilism, sensual enjoyments, followed by lights out and nothingness is one answer to the terrible question.  This life is all there is, so live it up now, we aren’t going anywhere.

But there are other answers, much more hopeful answers.  I first began to answer the terrible question for myself at the age of 16 as a result of reading and thinking deeply about the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was given to us through a modern prophet—Joseph Smith.

The answer to the terrible question “Is this all there is?” has been given through Joseph Smith and other prophets of God.  The answer is this: we are eternal beings. You and I have always existed.  In the words of Dr. Truman Madsen, “nothing is something you never were and never can be.”  We came into this mortal life out of eternity, we are here as mortals, without the memory of our past existence, and we are here being prepared for the next phase of our eternal existence.  After death we go back into eternity as eternal, individual, conscious beings with all the knowledge and experiences we have accumulated in this life.

Knowledge that there is a God, that we are eternal beings, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is a true historical record–this knowledge can come directly to each individual from God.  It came to me at age 16 and continues to come to me.  Such knowledge (what Mormons call a “testimony”) is deeply personal, and is not transferable. I can’t give anyone this knowledge, but I can testify of it and I can point out some supporting evidence.   I do testify of it.  Although my knowledge is personal, it is nonetheless real and is supported by evidence of all kinds.  In this blog, I will share a small fraction of this evidence.

In many cases, the evidence was provided through revelations given to Joseph Smith.  To explain that evidence, to explain the staggering abundance and variety of it, you have two choices.  You either have to believe that Joseph was a true prophet of God, or that he was an incredibly good guesser—an awesomely good guesser like no other guesser the world has ever seen.  He was the cleverest kid ever.  So I have entitled my blog “Oh that clever kid Joseph Smith” to highlight the dichotomy inherent in our choice between these two options: Joseph a prophet, or Joseph the world’s greatest guesser (and a complete fraud). These two options cannot be reconciled, it is either the one or the other.

The great scientist Sherlock Holmes (:)) may have summarized this evidence-gathering approach better than anyone else when he admonished Dr. Watson with these words.

“You will not apply my precept,” he said, shaking his head. “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four (Doubleday p. 111)

I think it is impossible that Joseph Smith, or anyone else, could have made so many correct “guesses”.  I am going to share some of those “guesses” with you in this blog.  Following Sherlock Holmes, if getting so many things right is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. ”

What remains is that Joseph was a true prophet of God.

I hope that careful consideration of the evidence will persuade my children, their children and the children who come after them to read and ponder the Book of Mormon for themselves, and to answer the terrible question for themselves.  I hope it will help them develop and maintain their own testimonies, their personal knowledge given to them from God, that these things are true.  I hope it will lead them toward greater happiness, as it has led me. I hope it will also persuade other people who may read this blog.

I invite and welcome feedback. I will try to address serious, respectful questions in similar serious, respectful manner.  The harder the question the better.  The harder the question the stronger the evidence required to effectively address the question.  The evidence is there.

Since I have been quite serious and sober in this opening statement, my first blog post is on the lighter side.  I hope you enjoy it.   It is entitled “And it came to pass”.