“And it came to pass...” is technically the most memorable phrase in the scriptures, not for its meaning but its frequency. It is scattered throughout all the standard works, but is most popular in the Book of Mormon; Alma passes a lot of “its” in its chapters. Like every other word in the scriptures, this phrase too bears inspired meaning, but in secular linguistic terms, unfortunately most of us too often treat them as a “filled pause;” junk words meant to fill a pause in communication on the way to more meatier content.
Erudite scriptural commentaries teach us that this phrase is a style of “gospel poetry” meant to evoke a sense of time passing while a specific action or event transpires: “And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord,” or “And it came to pass that as I returned to the tent of my father,” etc. There is a good reason why that phrase occurs over 1900 times; since the beginning of time there have been many actions and events take place that testify of Christ worthy of the description “it came to pass.”
Among Heavenly Father's perfect attributes, however, is the ability to successfully convey his will to those willing to listen; his perfect mode of communication usually includes assigning more than one inspired meaning for each word or phrase available to the humble-hearted at every spiritual level. Hence, there is another side to this phrase rarely raised that is seen by the Mormon Third Eye. The verb “pass” can also mean to “successfully complete a test or examination;” In this context, it is possible that when Nephi proclaimed that “It came to pass that as I prayed unto the Lord,” he wanted readers to know that not only did he pray, but that it took some time to do it, and he was successful at it.
When our kids were very young, we started daily scripture study with picture books and short verses from the Book of Mormon. We soon arrived at that awkward but temporary phase of scripture study where the kids were intellectually capable of understanding more gospel meat but not ready for primetime reading. We passed through this transitional period by training our children to repeat “it came to pass” on command in their most pure, innocent voices whenever we encountered that phrase in our readings. It allowed them to actively participate in family scripture study before they learned to read.
Today our two little precious ones are in their early twenties and leading their own lives. My mind occasionally races back to those idyllic days decades ago when we would read slowly from the first book of Nephi, and point to my daughter just at the right moment for her to announce to the world “and it came to pass!” in her best three-year voice. Now I often wonder if they are “passing, ” or if they have “passed.” My son recently married a worthy young woman in the temple, and my daughter just informed me that she's going to start reading the Old Testament, for no other reason that she is interested in it. I think that they may have “come to pass.”
What about you? Are you finding success in your life? Have you come to pass?