Evidence #311 | February 15, 2022

Repeated Conjunctions

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The Book of Mormon’s repeated use of conjunctions mirrors biblical usage in several ways, while also departing from some prescriptive tendencies in early 19th-century grammar.

Conjunctions in English Writing

English Grammar books near Joseph Smith’s time period sometimes directed readers to avoid unnecessary repetitions when writing.1 In several ways, this applied to the use of conjunctions, such as and, but, and or. In a series of rules regarding commas, a grammar book from 1799 repeatedly indicates that in lists of three or more items, the items should be separated by commas rather than conjunctions (except between the last two items in the list). Here are several examples provided in the text:2

  • “The husband, wife, and children were gone.”3
  • “They took away their furniture, clothes, and stock in trade.”4
  • “David was a brave, wise, and pious man.”5
  • “A man fearing, serving, and loving his Creator.”6
  • She was happy in being loved, esteemed, and respected.”7

In other words, “husband, wife, and children” was apparently seen as preferrable over “husband and wife and children.” Similarly, “brave, wise, and pious” was better than “brave and wise and pious.” Unless there was some rhetorical advantage for including additional conjunctions, they were to be avoided.

The excessive use of conjunctions to begin sentences was also sometimes frowned upon. In 1818 one grammarian criticized a sample of writing because on four occasions in the same paragraph it introduced an independent clause with the word and.8 Another 19th-century author similarly advised against beginning a sentence with and, noting that this “is frequently done in the translation of the Scriptures, where we have verse after verse commencing with and; but it is not authorized by good modern usage.”9

Repeated Conjunctions in the Bible

The use of conjunctions found in the King James Bible significantly departs from these guidelines. Items in lengthy lists are frequently separated by multiple conjunctions rather than just commas, and sentences often begin with the word and. This begins right out of the gate in the first chapter of Genesis, where 48 out of its 52 sentences or independent clauses (approximately 92%) begin with a conjunction. Here are some examples from Genesis 1:1–5:

  • And the earth was without form, and void;
  • and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
  • And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
  • And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
  • And God saw the light, that it was good:
  • and God divided the light from the darkness.
  • And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
  • And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And here are some examples in this same chapter of lists with repeated conjunctions:

  • “let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (v. 14)
  • “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind” (v. 24)
  • “and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing” (v. 26)
  • “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (v. 28)

This style of usage continues throughout many books of the Bible. For instance, Joshua 7:24 reads:

  • And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

As explained by Hebrew scholar Donald Parry, “The many ands are widespread in the Hebrew Bible, although they are not always translated in the King James Version and other English translations. Perhaps translators find the many ands repetitious or redundant and prefer to ignore many or most of them.”10 Biblical lists also often include other conjunctions—such as or, neither, and nor—as can be seen in the following examples:

  • thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)
  • If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? (Haggai 2:12)
  • Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. (Luke 9:3)

Repeated Conjunctions in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon exhibits the same tendencies towards the inclusion and repetition of conjunctions. Especially in historical narratives, conjunctions are used extensively to begin sentences, as seen in the book’s frequent phrase “And it came to pass.”11 Here is an example from 1 Nephi 13:1–6 of back-to-back sentences (or independent clauses) beginning with a conjunction:

  • And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
  • And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms.
  • And the angel said unto me: What beholdest thou?
  • And I said: I behold many nations and kingdoms.
  • And he said unto me: These are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
  • And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church.
  • And the angel said unto me …
  • And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church;
  • and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.

And here are some lists from the same chapter that repeatedly include the conjunction between each item:

  • “And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing” (v. 7)
  • “Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots” (v. 8)

As shown in the following examples, or, nor, and neither are also frequently included between each item in a list:

  • “… that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity (Mosiah29:14)
  • neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them” (Alma 23:2)
  • “that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness” (Alma 23:3)
  • “Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner?” (3 Nephi 17:7)


It is impossible to know precisely what Joseph Smith’s personal linguistic patterns were in 1829 or how familiar he was with the Bible’s grammatical tendencies. What seems clear is that the Book of Mormon’s use of conjunctions—its prevalent use of and to begin sentences and its frequent inclusion of conjunctions between each item in lists—to some extent mirrors biblical patterns. These patterns, which went against some grammatical standards in the early 19th century are consistent with the Book of Mormon’s claimed Hebrew literary origins.

Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007).

Donald W. Parry, “Hebraisms and Other Ancient Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 155–189.

Donald W. Parry, “Why is the phrase ‘and it came to pass’ so prevalent in the Book of Mormon?Ensign, December, 1992, online at churchofjesuschrist.org.

Robert F. Smith, “‘It Came to Pass’ in the Bible and the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Preliminary Report (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1980), 1–11.

  • 1 As one prominent text from the late 18th century explains, “Repetition is a Figure which gracefully and emphatically repeats either the same Word, or the same Sense in different Words. Care is to be taken that we run not into insipid Tautology, nor affect a trifling Sound and Chime of insignificant Words.” Ann Fisher, A New Grammar with Exercises of Bad English (London: Printed for A. Millar, W. Law, and R. Cater; and for Wilson and Spence, York, 1789), 191.
  • 2 Bolds are added for each item in the following list, as well as throughout the rest of this evidence summary.
  • 3 Jane Gardiner, The Young Ladies English Grammar (York: Thomas Wilson and Robert Spence, 1799), 94.
  • 4 Gardiner, The Young Ladies English Grammar, 94.
  • 5 Gardiner, The Young Ladies English Grammar, 95.
  • 6 Gardiner, The Young Ladies English Grammar, 97.
  • 7 Gardiner, The Young Ladies English Grammar, 97.
  • 8 The grammarian derisively noted that “never was this poor conjunction so worked before, except, perhaps, in some narrative of a little girl to her mother.” William Cobett, A Grammar of the English Language in a Series of Letters (New York, NY: A. S. Barnes & Company, 1818), 255.
  • 9 George Payn Quackenbos, Advanced Course of Composition and Rhetoric (New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1854), 88.
  • 10 Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007), xxxvi.
  • 11 As Mark Twain once quipped, if Joseph Smith had just left out that phrase, the Book of Mormon “would have been only a pamphlet.” Mark Twain, Roughing It (Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1901), 133. Yet variants of this phrase are actually used with similar frequency in both the Bible and Book of Mormon, when the results are standardized by genre. See Donald W. Parry, “Why is the phrase ‘and it came to pass’ so prevalent in the Book of Mormon?Ensign, December, 1992, online at churchofjesuschrist.org; Robert F. Smith, “‘It Came to Pass’ in the Bible and the Book of Mormon,” FARMS Preliminary Report (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1980), 1–11.
Literary Features
Repeated Conjunctions
Book of Mormon

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