Defining ‘Added Upon’

0--AddedUponOf all the words and phrases that are common in or unique to Mormonism, added upon is perhaps the most connected with a work of literature. Though perhaps infrequently used today in Mormon vernacular (except to refer to the book Added Upon), in the past it was frequently used in discussing Mormon doctrine, and it is still used today because it appears in scripture and refers to a key concept of that doctrine, one touched on in my recent definition of the Mormon use of the word exaltation.

Unlike exaltation, however, added upon is today almost exclusively Mormon.

The first Mormon use of added upon is found in Abraham 3:26:

And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

This phrase first appeared in the official Church periodical, Times and Seasons, in March 1842, during the first publication of the Book of Abraham (canonized in 1880). In this usage, it means increased or augmented, or perhaps raised to the next level.

But what is unusual here isn’t just the meaning, but the grammatical construction. The second use of added upon in this verse isn’t unusual–glory is added on their heads–its just like other uses I’ve found going back into the 1600s. But the first use is unusual, because the prepositional verb added upon upon lacks a subject–we know that “those who keep their first estate” is the object of added upon, but what exactly will be added upon them?

Earlier, non-Mormon texts use added upon also, but usually in the conventional grammatical construction in the second use in Abraham 3:26 and with a very different meaning. The earliest use I found in Google Books comes from a 1603 document and reads:

This I have added upon occasion of Solenanders last wordes: “¦

But this use almost sounds like there is a comma between ‘added’ and ‘upon’–what was added happens on a particular occasion or event. Upon introduces a prepositional phrase “upon occasion” (or, more commonly in today’s English, on occasion) and isn’t part of the past participle added. In contrast, in the Abrahamic use added upon is a single concept, a prepositional verb describing what happens to “those who keep their first estate” or to “they who keep their second estate.”

Another, similar, non-Mormon use can be found in volume 9 of The Present State of Europe (1698), which reads (on pg 395) “Much more might be added upon this Subject”¦” which is different from the 1603 use only because the object of the preposition isn’t an event, but rather “this Subject.” Still, the usage is different both grammatically and in meaning from the first use in Abraham 3:26.

But both these uses are relatively infrequent. While added upon has been used in General Conference 172 times (out of some 24 million words), it only appears 7 times in the 400 million word Corpus of Historical American English and just twice in the 425 million word Corpus of Contemporary American English. Even so, the phrase added upon may resonate with non-Mormons still. I discovered a company in Vancouver, Washington named Added Upon (apparently a portrait photographer), and a “Success University” has apparently trademarked the term “Added Upon Lifestyle.”

Of course, it is possible that the grammatical construction in Abraham is simply meant to imply “glory,” since that is specified later in the verse. But later Mormon use has emphasized the first use in Abraham, perhaps even transforming the grammar and meaning of added upon. For example, Orson F. Whitney, in a 1913 Conference address, said:

Exaltation is salvation added upon; it is an extension of that idea or condition.

A 1921 Conference address by James Gunn McKay said:

if you have not had that, and if your testimony has not been added upon and added upon, I beseech you to”¦

And even as recently as 1986, Neal A. Maxwell said in Conference:

“¦but he who completes the journey successfully will be immeasurably added upon.

I can’t say that what role Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon might have played in all this. It would be nice to think that the novel influenced the use of the term among Mormons. But given that the vast majority of times that the phrase has been used in General Conference are either quotations of Abraham 3:26 or close paraphrases of it (just 34 of 172 uses are not quotations or close paraphrases), I suspect that the scripture is the real source of influence.

9 thoughts on “Defining ‘Added Upon’”

  1. You’re probably right to think that the Abraham 3:26 is the real source for the popularity of the term, but I think Nephi Anderson helped significantly. I ran a search of the term in the Improvement Era and found that the phrase was often used in the byline of Nephi Anderson’s short stories and essays (Nephi Anderson, author of “Added Upon”…). In fact, the phrase seems to follow his name around. Almost every time the IE makes mention of him, it is as the author of “Added Upon.” Anderson wrote a lot, so the phrase is everywhere in the IE during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

    We could probably draw a comparison between Nephi Anderson’s use of the phrase “Added Upon” with Gerald N. Lund use of “The Work and the Glory,” a paraphrase of Moses 1:39. Obviously, Lund didn’t popularize the phrase–I’m sure it was already being widely used in the church–but he certainly changed its connotations for many members of the church. Personally, I can’t read the verse in Moses without thinking of the Steeds.

  2. Th, there are the Virginia Sorensen titles:

    * The Evening and the Morning
    * A Little Lower than the Angels

    These sound like they may be from scripture (although I’m not quite sure), but I am also not sure that they have specific Mormon meaning. Perhaps the first, because of the 1st LDS periodical.

  3. I am in the final editing phase of a perhaps overlong autobiography. One chapter is titled “Added Upon” which is used in the Mormon sense. I have also identified several Hubble photos to use as a collage on the cover. (I was interested in seeing a Hubble photo on the latest version of Anderson’s novel.) For what it’s worth, the title of the book is “A Chapter from my Eternal Journey.” I see myself–and you too–on an eternal journey, from eternity to eternity.

  4. I think “Evening and Morning” do have specific Mormon uses (probably archaic now). I’m thinking of the use of the term in the early Church, including as the name of a newspaper.

    “A Little Lower Than the Angels” was also the title of a very popular and early Church movie directed at teens in the 1950s. I myself saw it many times.

    Both of these phrases are scriptural.

  5. “The Evening and the Morning” is from Genesis 1 and “A Little Lower Than The Angels” is from Psalms 8, I think. They’re both good candidates, although I don’t think Virginia Sorensen or her excellent novels resonate strongly enough in Mormon culture to have influenced the way we talk.

    Interestingly, a few years ago I read an interview (in Dialogue or Sunstone) with Virginia Sorensen from the early 1980s in which she talks about how the scripture that inspired “A Little Lower than the Angels,” and the doctrine behind it, was a major part of church teachings during her childhood, but that had changed over her lifetime. In the church, she notes, everyone used to always talk about being gods in embryo, a little lower than the angels, but that had since shifted to being more a “child of God.”

    Anyway, I think it’s interesting to think about how that title might have resonated differently for readers in 1942, because of how certain gospel principles were emphasized then, than it would today for readers in 2011.

  6. Cool.

    I guess the ‘upon’ is working here more or less as an intensifier, or as a helping adverb to make the verb intransitive?

  7. Adam, not being a grammarian or linguistics expert, I can only offer an opinion. But my take is that in the first use in Abraham 3:26, “Added Upon” is a prepositional verb. But since it is in the passive voice (“shall be added upon”), the object of the preposition “upon” is “they who keep their first estate.” (If you change the verb to an active verb, “[he] shall add upon them who keep their first estate,” you may see what I mean.)

    Off the top of my head, the uses I’ve found seem to all be the passive form (perhaps because I only searched on “added upon” and never “add upon”).

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