As explained last week, some of the evidences for a "tight control" Book of Mormon translation comes from the fact that several sentences that sounded ungrammatical in the first printing actually make perfect grammatical sense in Hebrew.

It should be remembered that it wasn't until 1835 — five years after the Book of Mormon was published — before Joseph began to study Hebrew and it was decades later before LDS scholars first noticed the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon.

LDS scholars currently recognize a variety of Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon. These include cognates, compound prepositions, subordinate clauses, relative clauses, extrapositional nouns and pronouns, interchangeable prepositions, comparisons, naming coventions, colophons, parallelism, merismus, and difrasismo, antenantiosis, epanalepsis, antithetical parallels, climatic forms, enallage, and more.

For the sake of space I'll focus on four examples in this article.


In the Book of Mormon and in Hebrew, conjunctions are used much more frequently. For example, in a list in English, one might write, "nuts, bolts, nails, screws, and staples." In Hebrew a conjunction, such as "and," is usually used before each item. The Book of Mormon contains many such examples: "in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores." (2 Nephi 5:15.)

The frequent use of not only "and" but the more lengthy "and it came to pass" has been the target of ridicule since the Book of Mormon was published. Mark Twain teased that this expression occurs so many times, if it were taken out of the book there would be nothing left to "come to pass." In ancient languages that had no punctuation — like Hebrew and Egyptian — "it came to pass" and similar monotonous phrases, are grammatical necessities and cannot be omitted.

Construct State

Another interesting Book of Mormon Hebraism involves the construct state wherein the word "of" (although it does not exist in Hebrew) must be added to a descriptive relationship between two nouns in a literal translation. Book of Mormon examples include: "altar of stones" (1 Nephi 2:7) instead of "stone altar," "plates of brass" (1 Nephi 3:3) and never "brass plates," "words of plainness" (Jacob 4:14) rather than "plain words," "skin of blackness" (2 Nephi 5:21) instead of "black skin," "vapor of darkness" (1 Nephi 12:5) instead of "dark vapor," "rod of iron" (1 Nephi 8:19) and never "iron rod," "daughters of Ishmael," "house of Laban," and the list goes on and on. (Ibid., 79.)

Rent Garment

On page 351 of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon we find this unusual expression:

"And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice..."

For clarification and to improve the grammar, the current edition reads: "written upon the rent part" (Alma 46:19). While the language in the first instance is ungrammatical (as the critics have been quick to point out) it is interesting to note that in Hebrew the word "rent" derives from a word that is both a verb and a noun, just as is we find in the Book of Mormon.

Conditional Sentence

Once LDS scholars pointed out that the Book of Mormon contained authentic Hebraisms, critics were quick to claim that Joseph inadvertently — and coincidently — included Hebraisms because he mimicked the language of the Bible. Drs. Royal Skousen and Daniel Peterson, however, have recently noted the odd, and foreign — yet authentically ancient Hebrew — "if/and conditional sentence." In the original Book of Mormon manuscript, dictated by Joseph and recorded by Oliver, we find the following examples from the printer's manuscript of what is now Helaman Chapter 12:

...yea and if he saith unto the earth move and it is moved....
...yea if he say unto the earth thou shalt go back that it lengthen out the day for many hours and it is done....
...and behold also if he saith unto the waters of the great deep be thou dried up and it is done....

These phrases were modified in later printings to sound more grammatically correct in English. As Peterson points out, neither he, nor Skousen, have been able (thus far) to find any nineteenth-century English example of the "if/and conditional sentence." It exists in biblical Hebrew, but not in the English translations of the Bible published in Joseph's lifetime, and is an interesting evidence of an underlying Hebrew text in the Book of Mormon.