Why Do the Scriptures Use the Phrase “Your Father, Which,” Instead of “Your Father, Who?”

Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts about the meaning behind unusual words or phrases in the Book of Mormon.

Because Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon into King James English, biblical passages which appear in the Book of Mormon are often identical to the King James version of the Bible. But not always.

One significant exception appears in the Sermon on the Mount, which the Savior delivered during His mortal ministry and again during His visit to the American continent. During that sermon, the King James translators consistently use the phrase “your Father which.” In the Book of Mormon version, it is consistently rendered “your Father who:”

King James Version Book of Mormon
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 12:16).
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good (3 Nephi 12:45).
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect (3 Nephi 12:48).
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 6:1). Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 13:1).
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:4). That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly (3 Nephi 13:4).
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:6). But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (3 Nephi 13:6).
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9). After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name (3 Nephi 13:9).
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:18). That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (3 Nephi 13:18).
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him (Matthew 7:11)? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him (3 Nephi 14:11)?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21). Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 14:21).

I’m not surprised that Joseph Smith made that change. He was certainly familiar with the King James translation of those passages, but he also had firsthand knowledge of God the Father. Even though the word “which” might have been more consistent with King James usage, “who” was more consistent with his frequent reminders that our Heavenly Father is a personal God. As Joseph taught in Nauvoo, Illinois in April 1844, about two months before his death:

If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. …
“… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us” (“Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 2: “God the Eternal Father”).

Today, I will be grateful to know that my Heavenly Father created us in His image, that He looks like us, and that He wants us to come to Him. I will remember Joseph Smith’s encouragement to approach God with confidence that He is there.

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1 Response to Why Do the Scriptures Use the Phrase “Your Father, Which,” Instead of “Your Father, Who?”

  1. Aaron Roome Gmail says:

    Thanks Paul! I love how clearly the Book of Mormon teaches that God is a person, and not just an object…a fact that seems to be reinforced by the use of “who” over “which”. What a blessing to have these plain and simple truths restored.

    >

    Like

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