What Is the Significance of the Phrase, “It Came to Pass?”

Time flies on wings of lightning;
We cannot call it back.
(“Improve the Shining Moments,” Hymns, 226) 

The phrase “it came to pass” occurs frequently in the scriptures, and particularly in the Book of Mormon:

Old Testament 387
New Testament 65
Book of Mormon 1,297
Doctrine and Covenants 5
Pearl of Great Price 54
TOTAL 1,808

What is the significance of this phrase?

When it appears in the Old Testament, it is a translation of the Hebrew word vayhi (וַיְהִ֣י), which means “to happen,” “to occur,” or “to come into existence.” The same word is translated differently in other contexts. For example, when God said, “Let there be light,” the result was “vayhi or“—”there was light,” or “light came into existence” (Genesis 1:3, interlinear Hebrew). Thus, “it came to pass” means that something which didn’t exist before now exists.

In the New Testament, the phrase is a translation of the Greek word egeneto (ἐγένετο), which means “to come into being,” “to happen,” or “to become.” This word is also translated differently in other contexts, such as: “there arose a great tempest” (“seismos megas egeneto“) (Matthew 8:24, interlinear Greek) or “there was a calm” (“egeneto galēnē“) (Luke 8:24, interlinear Greek). When this word appears, something new has happened, or something has changed.

As I’ve pondered this phrase today, I’ve had the following impression: every moment is an opportunity for creation. New things can come into existence. We can change. We can influence the world around us. Our task is to take advantage of what Neal A. Maxwell used to call “the holy present” (“Why Not Now?” General Conference, October 1974)—to create things, to make things happen, to act for ourselves and not simply to be acted upon. As each moment passes by, it escapes our control. It becomes permanent. In the words of Thomas S. Monson: “The past is behind—learn from it; the future is ahead—prepare for it; the present is here—live in it” (Thomas S. Monson, “Go For It!” General Conference, April 1989).

Today, I will remember the phrase “it came to pass.” I will strive to take advantage of each precious moment throughout the day. I will remember that, as an agent, I can create, transform, and improve things. But the currency I use for these endeavors—time—is perishable. What has “come to pass” is permanent. My opportunity is to influence the future by acting in the present.

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