Evidence #187 | April 26, 2021

Hand of God

Post contributed by


Scripture Central


References to the hand or arm of God in the Book of Mormon realistically converge with and also diverge from their usage in the Bible.

The Book of Mormon contains many references to the hand or arm of God. This imagery commonly depicts God’s divine intervention or providence in conjunction with topics such as the Creation, migrations of people, judgment, deliverance, and mercy.1 According to David Seely,

Often the hand imagery should be understood symbolically. Still, the Book of Mormon reminds us that the Lord really does have a hand, providing a material basis so that our minds can grasp and interpret these metaphors. God has the ability and intention to intervene actively and concretely in the affairs of mortal men if he so chooses, even to the point of taking literal action with his hand.2

Wording Similar to Biblical Passages

As for specific wording and context, some of the imagery’s usage in the Book of Mormon is the same or closely analogous to its presence in the Bible. This takes place in passages where the Book of Mormon quotes the Bible, but it occurs in non-quotations as well.

For instance, Enos hoped that the Lord would preserve a record of his people “even if it so be by the power of his holy arm” (Enos 1:13). While the specific wording and context isn’t precisely the same as is found in Isaiah 52:10 (cf. 1 Nephi 22:10–11), each passage involves the Lord bringing comfort through the promise of salvation, made possible through “his holy arm”:3

Isaiah 52:9–10

Enos 1:13, 17

9 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.


10 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.


13 And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him—that if it should so be, that my people, the Nephites, should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed, and the Lamanites should not be destroyed, that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites; even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation


17 And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest.

Such textual similarities suggest that Book of Mormon authors were likely aware of the way hand/arm imagery was used in specific biblical passages, and then utilized the same image for their own purposes.

Wording Modified from Biblical Passages

In other situations, the specific wording of the divine-hand imagery in the Book of Mormon is different from the Bible, but still closely related, suggesting that it “developed from Bible phrasing.”4 For example, on several occasions, the Bible rhetorically asks if the Lord’s hand will be shortened, as in Isaiah 50:2: “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?”

Analogous to this question, Nephi twice used the opposite imagery (of the Lord’s arm being lengthened) in reference to the Lord’s power to save: “For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 28:32).

Wounded Hand of Christ. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

While this specific phrase doesn’t occur in the Bible, the fact that lengthen is the precise opposite of shorten suggests that Nephi “intended this image to be the reverse of the shortened hand.”5 Interestingly, this same symbolism is present in an Ugaritic text (“El’s hand is lengthened like the Sea’s”),6 suggesting to Seely that “perhaps Nephi was using a phrase that already existed in related Semitic cultures but happened not to make it into the Old Testament.”7

Wording Unique to the Book of Mormon

Finally, some of the divine-hand imagery in the Book of Mormon appears to be unique, at least when compared to relevant ancient texts. One example can be seen in the phrase “arm of mercy,” which appears eight times in the Book of Mormon.8 Other passages include various descriptions of the embrace of Jesus Christ. Concerning the Lord, Lehi described being “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15). Similar imagery shows up at the conclusion of the Book of Mormon. After the destruction of his people, Mormon lamented, “O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Mormon 6:17).

Jesus Teaching in the Western Hemisphere (Jesus Christ Visits the Americas), by John Scott. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

While this imagery may not be found in the Bible, Hugh Nibley has noted that one of the primary meanings of the word atonement (when stemming from Semitic origins) is that of “encircling or surrounding.”9 According to Seely, “This means that the embrace imagery in the Book of Mormon is a continuation or variant of a Near Eastern way of speaking.”10 In what seems to be an intentional contrast, Satan is also described in the Book of Mormon as “encircling” mortals. Except he uses chains or bands that are figurative of death and hell (Alma 5:7; 26:15).11


Not only does the Book of Mormon use specific types of divine-hand imagery that are found in the Bible, but the overall rate of usage is surprisingly similar in both texts, showing up every 3.4 pages on average.12 This suggests that whoever authored the Book of Mormon was well-versed in this biblical symbolism. At the same time, the presence of modified and unique divine-hand imagery is expected, considering that the Nephite authors would most likely have developed their own literary traditions during the nearly thousand years that they dwelled in the Americas. Overall, the Book of Mormon’s divine-hand imagery demonstrates its internal doctrinal continuity, as well as consistency with its claimed Israelite origins.

Book of Mormon Central, “Why is the Lord’s Hand ‘Stretched Out Still’?  (2 Nephi 19:12),” KnoWhy 49 (March 8, 2016).

John Gee, “A Different Way of Seeing the Hand of the Lord,” Religious Educator 16, no. 2 (2015): 113–126.

David Rolph Seely, “The Image of the Hand of God in the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament,” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon: Insights You May Have Missed Before, ed. John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1991), 140–150.

Hand of God
Book of Mormon

© 2024 Scripture Central: A Non-Profit Organization. All rights reserved. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-5294264