If I could ask them one question about
the Church’s Book of Mormon, Come Follow Me, Lesson 19
For May 11-17, 2020
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Isn’t it odd the Book of Mormon is so wordy?”
Things to consider:
- From the Church’s “Come Follow Me” Book of Mormon reading this coming week:
And now it came to pass that all this was done in (Mosiah 18:30, red, strikeout formatting added to show at least part of what could easily be removed because it adds no information and seems inelegant at best).
Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever
- The Book of Mormon says its prophets wrote their records by engraving reformed Egyptian on metal plates. Think about the amount of time it would take to engrave any significant amount of text this way.
- The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob told us, “I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates” (Jacob 4:1).
- How does that compare/contrast with texting? Texting is obviously a lot easier and faster than engraving on metal plates, but consider how often many (most?) exercise brevity in texts because it seems tedious especially if you have a lot to convey. How much more care would a person take to be succinct if they were engraving their writing on metal plates?
- And, we would expect an even higher level of brevity and simplicity in the Book of Mormon than what all of this suggests because much of it is said to be abridged from the original engraved plates onto other metal plates.
- Yet the Book of Mormon is filled with verses like the one quoted above. Here are some other examples of its verbose prose:
- Then there’s the book’s ubiquitous use of the phrase “came to pass.”
Some defenders of the book speculate that perhaps the Lehites had a short expression, maybe as small as one character, to express “came to pass.” But, in the Book of Mormon, the expression usually adds no information whatsoever, so why take the time to engrave even one unnecessary character? For example,
And now (Mosiah 18:30, now with green, strikeout formatting to show more verbiage that could be removed because it adds no information).
it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever
- Consider these Book of Mormon “came to pass” stats:
|Came to pass
|Come to pass
|Cometh to pass
- That’s nearly three per page on average, and according to the Church, the current version contains fewer of these unnecessary phrases than previously. “Over the years, a few hundred deletions have also been made, primarily to improve the book grammatically. The most commonly eliminated have been the words … it came to pass (46 times)” (“Understanding Textual Changes in the Book of Mormon”).
- By comparison, the KJV of the Bible used by the LDS Church has a total of 626 of these phrases even though it is about three times as many pages as the Book of Mormon. And, I’m sure the writing methods for most of the Bible were not as easy as my typing up this page, but they were probably easier than engraving characters on metal plates.
- There are also the Isaiah passages. According to the BYU Religious Studies Center, 478 verses of Isaiah are quoted or paraphrased in the Book of Mormon. Apparently many of these are from the brass plates the Lehites brought with them to the New World.
- If Book of Mormon prophets had the brass plates, the brass plates were going to be preserved for every nation (Alma 37:3-4), and the information was and is also in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament, why not just reference it?
- What would you do if you somehow had to text the information from these Isaiah passages? Would you type it all out, or would you reference it since it is available in other sources?
- Besides, don’t most people who read the Book of Mormon either skip the major Isaiah passages or get stuck there and quit reading at that point?
- Maybe you don’t see this Book of Mormon wordiness as a problem. Regardless, next time your thumbs are aching because of a 1,000-word text marathon, consider how fortunate you are that you don’t have to engrave it on metal plates.
Some other problems I see in this lesson’s reading:
- Swords seem to be anachronistic (Mosiah 19:4 and Mosiah 22:2).
- It seems at least interesting that a king bows to his subjects (Mosiah 20:25).
- The original version of the Book of Mormon had king Benjamin taking part in the action at a point after he had already died (Mosiah 21:28).
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 19