Of 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.