Evidence #177 | April 5, 2021

Names of Christ

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Scripture Central

Abstract

When viewed collectively, the names for Christ in the Book of Mormon provide evidence of the text’s complexity, realistic doctrinal developments, multiple authorship, and ancient origins.

The Book of Mormon contains at least 100 different name-titles for Jesus Christ, ranging alphabetically from Almighty to Wonderful.1 This variety on its own is impressive, especially considering that these names are interspersed throughout such a lengthy text.

Also significant is the way that specific authors used names for Jesus that were especially appropriate or meaningful for their own time periods and ministries. In his study of this topic, John W. Welch developed the following chart, showing the variety and concentration of name usage by primary Book of Mormon authors:2

Image via https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/names-used-christ-major-book-mormon-authors.

After providing further analysis for each author’s usage of the names of Christ, Welch made the following observations:3

1. These testimonies are true to life. They are corroborated by the credentials of authentic personal experience and complex individual diversity. They make sense historically, and they emerge distinctly even from widely scattered primary sources within individual authors.

2. The testimonies become linguistically more definite as time progresses. Lehi at first spoke of Jesus being “Messiah,” “prophet,” “a Savior” (1 Nephi 10:4; emphasis added) or “this Redeemer” (1 Nephi 10:5; emphasis added), but this designation soon crystallized in Nephi’s abridgment as “the Messiah” (1 Nephi 10:7, 9–10; emphasis added). It is also evident that Lehi was not explicit at first about the meaning of the “redemption” of this Messiah. Was it to be a spiritual redemption in the next life, or a physical redemption of the land now or later? This question was raised at least twice by Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 15:31; 22:1) and finally answered by Nephi: it would be both (see 1 Nephi 22:3).

3. The record often indicates when and how important details about Christ were revealed. The name of “Christ,” for example, was told to Jacob by an angel; the name of “Jesus Christ” was revealed to Nephi; the extended name, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning,” was first given to the people by King Benjamin to distinguish them above all people led by the Lord. Nephite knowledge of Christ, like all other facets of revealed knowledge, grew “line upon line” (2 Nephi 28:30).

4. As times and conditions changed, some words used in describing Christ dropped out of the Nephite texts, whereas others became more frequent in usage. Words such as “Messiah,” “Lamb of God,” and “Holy One of Israel” were used often by Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob but rarely by later Book of Mormon writers. The earlier writers tend to connect the Lord more with Israel than do the later authors.

5. The earlier Book of Mormon writers use greater variety in their names for Christ than do the later writers. In the early texts, more forms of expression were used and greater variety exists in their formulations. Of the sixty-seven names researched in this study, Lehi used fifteen, Nephi used thirty-two, and Jacob, nineteen. Nephite religious speech was evidently more varied in the earlier generations when the revelations were new. As Nephite religious practices and culture became more established, standardized forms and conventions of discourse evidently prevailed.

6. Significantly different names for Christ are used by the various writers of the Book of Mormon. Of the sixty-seven names, thirty-seven are used by only one of the ten prophets under examination. That is further evidence of the multiple authorship of the ancient records underlying the Book of Mormon.

7. The names used for Christ in the Book of Mormon are important conveyors of meaning, content, and power. Names in antiquity typically conveyed meaning. They bespoke the character, individuality, and qualities of the person. Knowing and personally taking upon oneself the name of God was a sacred and vital function in ancient Israel and in the Book of Mormon: In the Old Testament, Jehovah said, “And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27), and in the Book of Mormon King Benjamin proclaims, “There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh” (Mosiah 5:8). From the profiles left in their written words, it is evident that these prophets bore the name of Christ personally upon their hearts and souls.

Conclusion

Thus, when viewed collectively, the names for Christ in the Book of Mormon provide evidence of the text’s complexity, realistic doctrinal developments, multiple authorship, and ancient origins (where names were held to be both meaningful and sacred). 

John W. Welch, “Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon,” in A Book of Mormon Treasury (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2003), 316–342.

John W. Welch and J. Gregory Welch, “Names Used for Christ by Major Book of Mormon Authors,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 44.

Susan Easton Black, Finding Christ Through the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1987), 16–18.

Susan Ward Easton, “Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, July 1978, online at archive.bookofmormoncentral.org. 

  • 1 See Susan Easton Black, Finding Christ Through the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1987), 16–18; Susan Ward Easton, “Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, July 1978, online at archive.bookofmormoncentral.org. 
  • 2 John W. Welch and J. Gregory Welch, “Names Used for Christ by Major Book of Mormon Authors,” in Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 44.
  • 3 John W. Welch, “Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon,” in A Book of Mormon Treasury (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2003), 338–339; printed previously in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon, ed. Bruce A. Van Orden and Brent L. Top (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992). For a preliminary version of this research, see John W. Welch, “Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon” (FARMS Preliminary Reports, 1994).
Complexity
Doctrine
Names of Christ
Book of Mormon

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