In 1999 someone posed the following question to me:
This evening our family read the following verse in our family scripture study: “. . . the people of Nephi were exceedingly rejoiced, . . .” (Alma 45:1).
Even our young ones went, “Huh! What kind of English is that?”
So what’s up with that? Is it a typo? A printer’s error? An obscure usage of the verb “to rejoice”?
My (edited) response follows:
I initially wondered whether “the people of Nephi were exceedingly rejoiced” in Alma 45:1 might possibly be a Hebraism. Now that I’m home and have a chance to check my trusty books, I don’t think so. The normal verb for “to rejoice,” gil, does not occur in the passive so far as I can see.
Of your three options, I would pick C, an obscure usage of the verb “to rejoice.” This sounds strained to us because we generally use “rejoice” as an intransitive verb only. “Instransitive” is just a fancy grammarian’s way of saying that the verb doesn’t take an object. In this sense, the verb means “to feel joy.” We can say “Dick felt joy,” but we can’t say “Dick felt joy Jane” [punch line here] Trying to put on object on the verb doesn’t work.
Now, if the verb is truly intransitive, then a passive construction (as in our Alma passage) doesn’t work either, because the subject of a passive verb receives the action of the verb, and an intransitive verb doesn’t have any action to give. This is why the construction feels odd to us.
While I was still at work I looked “rejoice” up in my Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary (i.e., just a desk dictionary, nowhere close to unabridged), and it reported that rejoice can be used either transitively or intransitively. (I will acknowledge that in modern English I think the transitive use is fairly rare.) Such a verb is called ambitransitive, such as “I am eating” [intransitive use] and “I am eating an apple” [transitive use]. To grasp the transitive meaning of the verb rejoice, try replacing it with “give joy to” or “gladden.” Now a passive construction will make sense. The meaning is “now the people of Nephi were exceedingly gladdened.”
The OED gives a number of examples of the transitive use of “rejoice” in passive transformation, such as “You do not. . .look half so rejoiced when we meet as I do” and “The king was rejoiced at seeing him.”
Of course, an option you didn’t put on your menu is that the construction is a grammatical error. That is always a possibility in the BoM. But I’m inclined to give the text the benefit of the doubt and read it as normative, if somewhat rare, English.
(Just for fun, I checked the Easy-to-Read BoM, which renders “the Nephites were very happy.”)