Priesthood in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon stresses the importance of priesthood authority in establishing the church and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The priesthood has existed for eternity and has several titles, including the “holy order of God” or “the order of the Son.” Prophets before the days of Abraham were ordained after this order, and no doubt its inclusion in the Book of Mormon was to lay the groundwork for the subsequent priesthood-based organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The following is a list of references that highlight the doctrine of the priesthood as contained in the Book of Mormon.

  1. MANY BEAR THE TITLE OF HIGH PRIEST or PRIEST

“And they began to establish the church more fully; yea, and many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the church of God; yea, they were baptized by the hand of Alma, who had been consecrated the high priest over the people of the church, by the hand of his father Alma” (Alma 4:4)

he ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God, to preside and watch over the church” (Alma 6:1)

“Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God…” (Alma 13:10)

“Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken…” (Alma 13:14)

“But behold, they were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people” (Alma 30:20)

2. THOSE WHO ARE HIGH PRIESTS ARE CONSECRATED, CALLED, OR ORDAINED

“I, Alma, having been consecrated by my father, Alma, to be a high priest over the church of God, he having power and authority from God to do these things, behold, I say unto you that he began to establish a church in the land which was in the borders of Nephi; yea, the land which was called the land of Mormon; yea, and he did baptize his brethren in the waters of Mormon” (Alma 5:3)

For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come” (Alma 5:44)

“And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land” (Alma 5:49)

“according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called…” (Alma 6:8)

“And he began to teach the people in the land of Melek according to the holy order of God, by which he had been called; and he began to teach the people throughout all the land of Melek” (Alma 8:4)

“And I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people” (Alma 13:1)

“I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi” (2 Nephi 6:2)

“Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God…” (Alma 13:16)

“Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified” (Alma 13:11)

3. ORDINATION INTO THE HOLY ORDER IS GIVEN BY LAYING ON OF HANDS

“he ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God, to preside and watch over the church” (Alma 6:1)

4. CHURCHES ARE ESTABLISHED BY ORDAINING PRIESTS, ELDERS, ETC.

“And now it came to pass that Alma returned from the land of Gideon, after having taught the people of Gideon many things which cannot be written, having established the order of the church, according as he had before done in the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 8:1)

“Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city, and from one house of worship to another, establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers throughout the land among the Lamanites…” (Alma 23:4)

“Yea, and that same God did establish his church among them; yea, and that same God hath called me by a holy calling, to preach the word unto this people, and hath given me much success, in the which my joy is full” (Alma 29:13)

5. THE HOLY ORDER EXISTED FOREVER and THE HOLY ORDER IS IN SIMILITUDE OF JESUS CHRIST

“And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son…” (Alma 13:2)

“This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years…” (Alma 13:7)

“being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end…” (Alma 13:8)

“Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years…” (Alma 13:9)

“Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God…” (Alma 13:16)

“Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come to them” (Helaman 8:18)

6. PRIESTHOOD IS RECEIVED BY FAITH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND FOREORDINATION

“But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God…” (Alma 13:18)

“And this is the manner after which they were ordained–being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God…are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such” (Alma 13:3)

“Behold it was by faith that they of old were called after the holy order of God” (Ether 12:10)

7. AUTHORITY MUST BE GIVEN IN ORDER TO BAPTIZE AND GIVE THE HOLY GHOST

“And the lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize” (3 Nephi 11:22)

Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” (3 Nephi 11:25)

“And the multitude heard not the words which he spake, therefore they did not bear record; but the disciples bare recored that he gave them power to give the Holy Ghost. And I will show unto you hereafter that this record is true” (3 Nephi 18:37)

7. ADDITIONAL BOOK OF MORMON REFERENCES

“And thus in the commencement of the ninth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, Alma delivered up the judgment seat to Nephihah, and confined himself to the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to the testimony of the world, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy” (Alma 4:20)

“who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit…” (Alma 5:54)

“That ye may walk blameless before him, that ye may walk after the holy order of God, after which ye have been received” (Alma 7:22)

“And after he had eaten and was filled he said unto Amulek: I am Alma, and am the high priest over the church of God throughout the land” (Alma 8:23)

“Now we shall say no more concerning their preaching, except that they preached the word, and the truth, according to the spirit of prophecy and revelation; and they preached after the holy order of God by which they were called” (Alma 43:2)

The Vision of the Tree of Life: Comparing the Bible and Koran (Part 1)

PART I:  THE IRON ROD

The image of the iron rod is found in several passages of the Bible. It has been described as a rod used to discipline and punish the wicked, as well as a shepherd’s rod to guide a flock. Though it is used in a variety of contexts in the Bible, it’s use in Lehi’s and Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life is mostly unique, and yet consistent with Biblical metaphors. In addition, the Lehi’s and Nephi’s vision bears a striking similarity to a specific passage of the Koran. The following commentary and references are meant to reveal the complexity, uniqueness, and consistency of the vision of the Tree of Life, which can be found in 1 Nephi 8 and 1 Nephi 11-14.

In the Book of Mormon, both Nephi and Lehi are given a vision in which they see a tree that bears fruit, and a rod of iron that leads along a straight path toward the tree. A mist of darkness covers the land and the only way to reach the tree and eat its fruit is to cling to the rod of iron. Those who do not hold to the rod of iron, are lost and drowned in a river. Lehi states “And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood” (1 Nephi 8:20-21).

A few chapters later, Nephi desires to see the same vision. His account gives additional information in the form of visions of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. Nephi’s father, Lehi, does not give his children the exact meaning of the symbolism in his vision, but Nephi is able to ascertain the meaning of Lehi’s dream with his additional visions. Nephi identifies the meaning of the rod of iron after seeing a vision of Jesus Christ on the earth:

I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him. And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters…” (1 Nephi 11:24-25).

Interestingly, Nephi is able to understand that the rod of iron represents the word of God after seeing the Savior’s ministry. The source of Nephi’s understanding can be found in various passages of the Bible. For example, when the Book of Mormon quotes Isaiah’s messianic prophecies, he states:

a) “And the Lord is near, and he justifieth me. Who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? Let him come near me, and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth.” (2 Nephi 7:8)

b) “And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (2 Nephi 30:9)

Since Nephi knew the revelations of Isaiah very well, upon seeing the Savior in his vision, he immediately knew that Christ was synonymous with the Word of God, which would proceed out of his mouth. This metaphor is further solidified by John when he stated:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Other metaphorical allusions to the rod of iron can be found in the Old and New Testaments. Conjuring similar imagery to Lehi’s vision, Psalm 23:3-4 uses the metaphor of the Lord guiding his people along righteous paths with his rod:

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3-4)

It is most likely that in this context the rod refers to a rod used by a shepherd to guide his flock, as suggested in the following passage:

O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt” (Psalm 74:1-2)

These passages from Psalms are similar to the vision given to Lehi and Nephi, but is greatly expanded. It is important to reiterate once again that even though the same metaphor is being employed, its presentation in the vision of the tree of life and other references in the Bible is entirely unique. In addition to Biblical references in the vision of the tree of life, it may be enlightening to look at other middle-eastern religious texts for possible cultural origins of the vision. For example, the Koran describes Islam as being a “cord” that the followers must hold on to, as found in the following passage:

And hold ye fast by the cord of God, all of you, and break not loose from it; and remember God’s goodness towards you, how that when ye were enemies, He united your hearts, and by his favour ye became brethren.” (Sura 3:98)

In describing the meaning of their father’s vision to his brothers, Nephi similarly states:

And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree? And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:23-24)

Commentary on the Koran in the 1838 edition of the book “The Koran: Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohommed” states:

Literally, Hold fast by the cord of God. That is, secure yourselves by adhering to Islam, which is here metaphorically expressed by a cord, because it is as sure a means of saving those who profess it from perishing hereafter, as holding by a rope is to prevent one’s falling into a well, or other like place. It is said that Mohammed used, for the same reason, to call the Koran Habl Allah al Matin, i. e. The sure cord of God.” (p. 44)

In the Book of Mormon vision of the tree of life we have a synthesis of two separate metaphors. Jesus Christ, who is the word of God and whose words are likened to a rod of iron, and the “cord of God” of the Koran, which is seen as saving those who hold on to it. Those in Lehi’s vision, who do not grasp to the rod of iron, much like the “cord” described in the commentary of the Koran, are drowned in a river of water.

Doctrinal/Content Similarities: The Koran and The Book of Mormon (Final)

1. The Prophet is a mortal man.

“Say: I am only a man like you. It is revealed to me that your God is one God: go straight then to Him, and implore his pardon. And woe to those who join gods with God” (Sura 41:5)

“I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind…” (Mosiah 2:10-11)

2. In the last days, the heavens will be rolled up like a scroll.

“The great terror shall not trouble them; and the angel shall meet them with, ‘This is your day which ye were promised.’ On that day we will roll up the heaven as one rolleth up written scrolls. As we made the first creation, so will we bring it forth again. This promise bindeth us; verily, we will perform it.” (Sura 21:103-104)

“And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways? Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?” (Mormon 5:22-23).

 3. Do not create sects. There should be one united religion.

“And truly this your religion is the one religion; and I am your Lord: therefore fear me. But men have rent their great concern, one among another, into sects; every party rejoicing in that which is there own; Wherefore leave them till a certain time, in their depths of error.” (Sura 23:54-56)

“And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21).

“And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.” (2 Nephi 28:3)

5. God fulfills his promises.

“It is the promise of God: To his promise God will not be untrue: but most men know it not.” (Sura 30:5)

“For I will fulfill my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh…” (2 Nephi 10:17)

6. Prophets do not ask for money for their preaching.

“Say: I ask not any wage from you: keep it for yourselves: my wage is from God alone. And He is witness over all things!” (Sura 34:46)

“And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?” (Alma 30:34)

7. Angels surround God’s throne, singing his praises.

“And thou shalt see the Angels circling around the Throne with praises of their Lord: and judgment shall be pronounced between them with equity: and it shall be said, ‘Glory be to God the Lord of the Worlds.'” (Sura 39:76)

“And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.” (1 Nephi 1:8).

Unique Language of the Prophet Zenos

The prophet Nephi recounts the prophecies of several prophets whose words are said to be written on the plates of brass but are not contained in the Bible. Such prophets mentioned in the Book of Mormon but not found in the Bible include Zenock, Neum, and Zenos (1 Nephi 19:10). The prophet Zenos is the most quoted of all the prophets whose words are contained exclusively on the plates of brass. It is unknown when the prophet Zenos was supposed to have existed, except that we know he existed before 600 A.D., when Lehi and his family departed from the land of Jerusalem.

If the prophet Zenos existed before Lehi left Jerusalem, and his words were written according to the traditions and language of the Jews, then it would make sense for his language to be somewhat unique compared to the rest of the Book of Mormon. For instance, a casual reader will notice a stark difference in the style of Isaiah’s prophecies quoted in the Book of Mormon compared to the words of Nephi, Jacob, or Mormon. These differences may be the result of the Nephites writing in a language other than Hebrew (assuming Zenos wrote in Hebrew), the natural change of language over the progression of time, or simply the difference in style between authors. Differences in the language used by the prophet Zenos compared to other Book of Mormon prophets are almost as apparent as the differences as between Isaiah and Book of Mormon Prophets.

A phrase used liberally throughout the Book of Mormon refers to people “hardening their hearts” against God and his commandments. This phrase is used consistently and with more frequency in the Book of Mormon compared to the rest of the Bible (this was discovered by searching “hard heart(s),” “harden(ing) heart(s)” in the scriptures section of lds.org/scriptures, which revealed 62 instances of the phrase in the Book of Mormon, 28 instances in the Old Testament, and 6 in the New Testament. It should be noted that these results are dependent upon the accuracy of the websites search engine). Below are some examples of the phrase in the Book of Mormon:

  • “Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned” (Alma 12:10).
  • “Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.” (1 Nephi 14:6).
  • “And I did cry unto this people, but it was in vain; and they did not realize that it was the Lord that had spared them, and granted unto them a chance for repentance. And behold they did harden their hearts against the Lord their God.” (Mormon 3:3)

The phrase is also common in the Bible, with the phrase appearing in both the Old and New Testaments, as found in the following examples:

  • “And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.” (Exodus 7:14)
  • “And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said.” (Exodus 7:22)
  • “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.” (Exodus 10:20)
  • “Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?” (1 Samuel 6:6)

What is interesting is that when Nephi quotes Zenos prophesying about the gathering of Israel and the crucifixion of Christ, Zenos does not use the phrase “harden their hearts” when describing the wickedness of the House of Israel (1 Nephi 19:13-15). Instead, he uses the phrase “turn their hearts aside” or “turn aside their hearts against.” Below are examples of the writings of Zenos taken from 1 Nephi 19:

  • “they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel.” (1 Nephi 19:13)
  • “And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish…” (1 Nephi 19:14)
  • “Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet, that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel, then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers.” (1 Nephi 19:15).

This phrase is unique to this particular section of the Book of Mormon. According to a “lds.org/scripture” search and my personal reading, never is the phrase “turn their hearts aside” or similar renditions used in the Book of Mormon. It should also be noted that Nephi uses the phrase “harden their hearts” two chapters before quoting Zenos (1 Nephi 17:42), and three chapters afterward (1 Nephi 22:5). Similar renditions of the phrase “turn their hearts aside“, however, are found in the Old Testament (but not the New Testament, with exception of the phrase “have turned aside unto vain jangling” in 1 Timothy 1:6 and “for some are already turned aside after Satan” in 1 Timothy 5:15), such as in the following examples:

  • “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them” (Deuteronomy 11:16)
  • “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:20)
  • “And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart…” (1 Samuel 12:20)
  • “That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:20)
  • “And the Lord said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.” (Deuteronomy 9:12)

If Zenos existed before 600 A.D., then it would make sense he would use language similar to those who wrote in the Old Testament. It also makes sense that if Zenos did exist, that his language would differ somewhat from the language of other Book of Mormon prophets. What makes this information significant is that it is entirely unique to Zenos in the Book of Mormon, and accurately reflects the language used in the times in which he would have written his prophecies.

(SIDE NOTE) While I am not sure of its significance, here is some additional information on the phrase “turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” The following is a common phrase used in the Old Testament which is not found in the New Testament nor anywhere else in the Book of Mormon, except in Alma 24 (please remember that all of this information is based on the accuracy of the “lds.org/scripture” search engine):

  • “Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword” (Alma 24:23)
  • “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2)
  • “And Abner said to him, Turn thee aside to thy right hand or to thy left, and lay thee hold on one of the young men, and take thee his armour. But Asahel would not turn aside from following of him.” (2 Samuel 2:21)
  • “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 23:6)
  • “And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh.” (1 Samuel 6:12)
  • “That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:20)

King Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s use of the phrase “Great God”

The Use of the Phrase “Great God” by the Lamanite King, Anti-Nephi-Lehi.

Some have tried to support the authenticity of the Book of Mormon by using word-print analysis to show that multiple authors were involved in the writing of the Book of Mormon. This can be analyzed statistically by identifying patterns in word choice that are unique to individual characters in the Book of Mormon. While I do not have the capacity to reproduce such studies and the methods of examining word patterns can vary (which produce contradicting results), I would still like to provide an example of unique phrasing in a certain section of the Book of Mormon that may provide some little support to the idea that characters in the Book of Mormon have their own unique word choice that would be difficult to fake.

When Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah go to serve as missionaries to the Lamanites, they meet with two kings: King Lamoni, and the father of King Lamoni. When Ammon and Aaron teach these kings about the gospel, they ask the kings if they believe in God. They do not know exactly what it means to believe in God, but they respond that they know what it means to believe in the “Great Spirit.”

Here are some examples of King Lamoni, a Lamanite, using the phrase “Great Spirit”:

a. “Behold, is not this the Great Spirit who doth send such great punishments upon this people?” (Alma 18:2)

b. “Now I know that it is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives…Now this is the Great Spirit of whom our fathers have spoken.” (Alma 18:4).

c. “Now this was the tradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a Great Spirit.” (Alma 18:5).

1. The Lamanites clearly refer to their creator as “The Great Spirit.” The Nephites, however, do not identify their creator as “The Great God.” The following is taken from an exchange between Ammon and King Lamoni:

  • “Believest thou that there is a God?” (Alma 18:24)
  • “And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.” (Alma 18:25)
  • “And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?” (Alma 18:26)

2. This phrase is also used by the father of King Lamoni, who is the king over all the Lamanites:

  • “And Aaron answered him and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And the king said: I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God…” (Alma 22:7)
  • “And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?” (Alma 22:9)
  • “And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things…” (Alma 22:10)

3. It is unusual for the Nephites to refer to God the Father as “The Great God.” It is used, however, by King Anti-Nephi-Lehi: The Nephites have many names for God the Father, but rarely do they ever refer to him as “The Great God.” However, the King Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the brother of King Lamoni and heir to his father’s kingdom, when suggesting the people make a covenant to never again take up their weapons of war, addresses the people while combining what seems to be their understanding of “The Great Spirit” and “God” by referring to their creator as “The Great God.” This is a fairly unique phrase in the Book of Mormon (though it is used on several occasions in the Bible) that is most likely used because of the Lamanite’s linguistic and cultural history of referring to their creator as “The Great Spirit”. The following are portions of King Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s address to his people, with the phrase “great God” highlighted for emphasis. To avoid being selective in the information I am presenting in my observation, I have also highlighted where in Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s address he simply says “my God” instead of “great God.” The following is taken from Alma 24:7-16:

  • “I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren…” (7)
  • “And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit…” (8)
  • “And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins.” (9)
  • “And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these tings…”
    (10)
  • “and to get God to take them away from our hearts…to repent sufficiently before God…” (11)
  • “my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains…” (12)
  • “they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God…” (13)
  • “And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us…” (14)
  • “Oh, how merciful is our God!” (15)
  • “Let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God…” (15)
  • “behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.” (16)

4. Some issues with my analysis

There are some issues with my analysis. First and foremost, the King Anti-Nephi-Lehi does not use “great God” exclusively, but uses “our God” many times in his address, which is a common phrase in all scriptures.

Second, the phrase “great God” is found in both the Old and New Testament. For example: “For the Lord is a great God…” (Psalms 95:3)/ “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God…” (Deuteronomy 10:17)/ “The great God that formed all things…” (Proverbs 26:10)/ “and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13)/ “gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God…” (Revelation 19:17). However, what does not make these verses problematic is that in the Book of Mormon specifically there is little use of the phrase with the exception of Helaman 12:8 (“at the command of our great and everlasting God“), Helaman 13:18 (“saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God“), and Moroni 10:34 (“the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah…”), which examples are significantly different stylistically from the address of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. In addition, it may be worth noting that Mormon uses “great and everlasting God” in the chapter directly preceding the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, who states “our great and true God.” It is possible that Mormon was motivated to use the relatively unique phrase of “great and everlasting God” after reading the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, who may have described God as “great” in prophecies that were not included in the Book of Mormon (since Mormon states he did not include many prophecies from Samuel).

The fact that “great God” is found in several passages of the Bible but is only found in King Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s address shortly after the Lamanite’s conversion strongly suggests that the author did not simply pick and choose the names of God from the Bible at random, but that characters in the Book of Mormon have historical and cultural bases for using specific names of God.

The Koran and the Book of Mormon: Similarities in Content and Doctrine (Part II)

(Disclaimer: I know little about the Muslim faith or the historical context of the Koran. This post is based on my personal reading of the Koran and the Book of Mormon.)

The following is part II of a larger list of doctrinal and content similarities between the Koran and the Book of Mormon. These similarities are not presented in any particular order and I do not attempt to make any conclusions about the significance or insignificance of the similarities.

1. The sacred book will be revealed to an uneducated man.

“Say to them: O men! Verily I am God’s apostle to you all; Whose is the kingdom of the Heavens and of the Earth! There is no God but He! He maketh alive and killeth! Therefore believe on God, and his Apostle– the unlettered Prophet– who believeth in God and his word. And follow him that ye may be guided aright.” (Sura 7:158)

“Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say; I am not learned. Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.” (2 Nephi 27:19-20)

2. God can give small armies power over large armies

“And when they had passed it, he and those who believed with him, the former said, ‘We have no strength this day against (Djalout) Goliath and his forces:’ But they who held it as certain that they must meet God, said, ‘How oft, by God’s will, hath a small host vanquished a numerous host! and God is with the steadfastly enduring.” (Sura 2:250)

“Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us? And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold, he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?” (1 Nephi 3:31-1 Nephi 4:1)

3. Believers are commanded to fast.

“O believers! a Fast is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may fear God…” (Sura 2:179)

“Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God.” (Alma 6:6)

4. Believers must be patient in their afflictions.

“Who observeth prayer, and payeth the legal alms, and who is of those who are faithful to their engagements when they have engaged in them, and patient under ills and hardships, and in time of trouble: these are they who are just, and these are they who fear the Lord.” (Sura 2:172)

“Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.” (Alma 26:27)

5. We will be judged by our works

“On a certain day shall every soul come to plead for itself, and every soul shall be repaid according to its deeds; and they shall not be wronged.” (Sura 16:112)

“And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.” (1 Nephi 15:32)

6. Give alms, but do so judiciously

“And to him who is of kin render his due, and also to the poor and to the wayfarer…But if thou turn away from them, while thou thyself seekest boons from thy Lord for which thou hopest, at least speak to them with kindly speech: and let not thy hand be tied up to the neck; nor yet open it with all openness, lest thou sit thee down in rebuke, in beggary.” (Sura 17:28-32)

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have…all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give…I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath…And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.” (Mosiah 4:19, 24-27)

7. Satan is the source of contentions

“Enjoin my servants to speak in kindly sort: Verily Satan would stir up strifes among them, for Satan is man’s avowed foe.” (Sura 17:55)

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)

8. The sacred books speak in direct language to be easy to understand

“Praise be to God, who hath sent down the Book to his servant, and hath not made it torturous, but direct; that it may warn of a grievous woe from him, and announce to the faithful who do the things that are right, that a goodly reward, wherein they shall abide for ever, awaiteth them” (Sura 18:1-2)

“For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” (2 Nephi 31:3)

The Koran and the Book of Mormon: Similarities in Content and Doctrine (Part I)

(Disclaimer: I know very little about the Muslim faith or the historical context of the Koran. This post is based on my personal reading and understanding of the Koran and the Book of Mormon.)

The following is part of a larger list of doctrinal and content similarities between the Koran and the Book of Mormon. These similarities are not presented in any particular order and I do not attempt to make any conclusions about the significance or insignificance of the similarities.

1. We reject Apostles and Prophets who tell us what we don’t want to hear.

“Moreover, to Moses gave we ‘the Book,’ and we raised up apostles after him; and to Jesus, son of Mary, gave we clear proofs of his mission, and strengthened him by the Holy Spirit. So oft then as an apostle cometh to you with that which your souls desire not, swell ye with pride, and treat some as imposters, and slay others?” (Sura 2:81)

“If a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of way to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.” (Helaman 13:26-27)

2. It is unjust to attack your enemy first, but you are justified to fight those who fight against you.

“And fight for the cause of God against those who fight against you: but commit not the injustice of attacking them first: God loveth not such injustice.” (Sura 2:185)

“For the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.” (Alma 43:46)

3. Do not spend your riches on the vain things of the world

“Consume not your wealth among yourselves in vain things, nor present it to judges that ye may consume a part of other men’s wealth unjustly, while you know the sin which ye commit.” (Sura 2:204)

“Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you.” (Alma 39:14)

4. The word of God is likened to a cord or rod that we must hold on to.

“And hold ye fast by the cord of God, all of you, and break not loose from it; and remember God’s goodness towards you, how that when ye were enemies, He united your hearts, and by his favour ye became brethren.” (Sura 3:98)

“And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree? And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:23-24)

5. The creations of the earth are signs of the great Creator

“He causeth the dawn to appear and hath ordained the night for rest, and the sun and the moon for computing time! The ordinance of the Mighty, the Wise! And it is He who hath ordained the stars for you that ye may be guided thereby in the darknesses of the land and of the sea! clear have we made our signs to men of knowledge.” (Sura 6:96-97)

“But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?…there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Alma 30:44)

6. You cannot wait until the judgment day to repent

“But no place of repentance shall there be for those who do evil, until, when death is close to one of them, he saith, ‘Now verily am I turned to God;’ nor to those who die unbelievers. These! we have made ready for them a grievous torment!” (Sura 4:22)

“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God…For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his…” (Alma 34:34-35)

7. God created us to be weak and desires to lighten our burdens.

“God desireth thus to turn him unto you: but they who follow their own lusts, desire that with great swerving should ye swerve! God desireth to make your burden light: for man hath been created weak.” (Sura 4:32)

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

8. All who do what is right, regardless of their status, will enter paradise. 

“But whoso doth the things that are right, whether male or female, and he or she a believer, –these shall enter Paradise, nor shall they be wronged the skin of a date stone.” (Sura 4:123)

“He inviteth them all to come unto him, and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 27:33)

9. Do not pray to be seen of men

“The hypocrites would deceive God, but He will deceive them! When they stand up for prayer, they stand carelessly, to be seen of men, and they remember God but little” (Sura 4:141)

“Do not pray as the Zoramites do, for ye have seen that they pray to be heard of men, and to be praised for their wisdom.” (Alma 38:13)

10. We must be chaste and virtuous

“And you are permitted to marry virtuous women who are believers, and virtuous women of those who have received the Scriptures before you, when you shall have provided them their portions, living chastely with them without fornication, and without taking concubines…” (Sura 5:7)

“Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Jacob 2:27-28)

11. The Koran (and the Book of Mormon) confirm previous scriptures.

“And to thee we have sent down the Book of the Koran with truth, confirmatory of previous Scriptures, and their safeguard. Judge therefore between them by what God hath sent down, and follow not their desires by deserting the truth which hath come unto thee. To every one of you have we given a rule and a beaten track.” (Sura 5:52)

“Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?…” (2 Nephi 29:8)

12. There will be a resurrection of the body

“To those only who shall lend an ear will He make answer: as for the dead, God will raise them up; then unto Him shall they return.” (Sura 6:36)

“Until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works.” (Alma 40:21)

13. Chastisement is meant to humble us. We become prideful when we are not humbled.

“Nor did we ever send a prophet to any city without afflicting its people with adversity and trouble, that haply they might humble them. Then changed we their ill for good, until they waxed wealthy, and said, ‘Of old did troubles and blessings befall our fathers:’ therefore did we seize upon them suddenly when they were unaware.” (Sura 7:92-93)

“Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields…softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One–yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.” (Helaman 12:2)