How Do Book of Mormon Prophets Use the Title “Savior?”

The word “Savior” only appears twelve times in the Book of Mormon. This is surprising to me, since “Christ” appears 396 times, “Jesus” appears 188 times, and “Redeemer” appears 41 times. (I used the “simple searches” function on the University of Michigan website to obtain these numbers.)

I don’t know why the word doesn’t appear more frequently, but I decided to spend some time today with those twelve passages. I found three main principles associated with this title of Jesus Christ:

“The Savior of the World”

After studying the brass plates, and after sharing with his family a dream he had experienced, Lehi taught them that, 600 years later, “the Lord God” would “raise up” a “prophet” among the Jewish people, echoing a prophecy of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19). He told his family that this prophet would be “a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world” (1 Nephi 10:4).

Shortly afterward, Lehi’s son Nephi experienced an expansive vision in which he was taught about the life of Jesus Christ, the subsequent publication of the Bible, and later, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. An angel taught him that the Book of Mormon and the Bible together would “make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40).

Nearly 500 years later, an angel told King Benjamin that the time would come when “the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (Mosiah 3:20).

So the first principle associated with the title “Savior” in the Book of Mormon is this:

The atonement of Jesus Christ is universal. He is the Savior of everyone.

“Savior and Redeemer”

Isaiah prophesied that, when the children of Israel are delivered from captivity, the event will be so miraculous that everyone in the world would know that “I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26). This verse is quoted twice in the Book of Mormon, once by Nephi and once by his brother Jacob (1 Nephi 21:26, 2 Nephi 6:18).

Nephi elaborates on this passage, prophesying that the Lord in the last days will “make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations” by bringing “his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.” So the restoration of the gospel and the gathering of Israel is the great event prophesied by Isaiah. The children of Israel will come “out of captivity,” will be gathered “to the lands of their inheritance,” and will “be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness.” As this miraculous restoration occurs, “they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel” (1 Nephi 22:11-12).

The second principle I learned today is this:

Jesus Christ saves people by revealing His gospel to them and by entering into a covenant relationship with them.

“Our Lord and Savior”

In order to trust someone to help us, we need to know that they are both capable and willing to do so. Some of the titles of Jesus Christ emphasize His power (Lord of Hosts, Mighty One of Jacob, Lord Omnipotent), while others emphasize His willingness to help us (Savior, Redeemer, Mediator). In some of the passages in the Book of Mormon, the word “Lord,” which reminds me of the supremacy of Jesus Christ, is paired with the word “Savior,” which reminds me of His readiness and even His eagerness to help us. Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni all pair these titles (2 Nephi 31:13, Mormon 3:14, Mormon 8:6).

The Apostle Peter also uses the phrase “our Lord and Saviour” (or “the Lord and Saviour”) four times in his second epistle (2 Peter 1:11, 2 Peter 2:20, 2 Peter 3:2, 18).

In a brief editorial note, Mormon uses a variant of the phrase, saying, “I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem,… and that he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls” (3 Nephi 5:20).

The third principle I learned from my study today was this:

Jesus Christ is both willing and able to save me.

Today, I will remember these three uses of the word “Savior” in the Book of Mormon. I will remember that His salvation is universal: available to all of God’s children. I will remember that He makes this salvation available by revealing the gospel to God’s children and entering into covenants with them. I will remember that He has the power to save us, and that He is willing and even eager to do so.

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What Does It Mean for Jesus to Be Our “Redeemer?”

To redeem something is to repurchase it, to buy back something we have given away or sold. When applied to a person, the word implies rescue from captivity or bondage. (See “redeem,” Webster’s Dictionary, 1828.)

Isaiah uses the imagery of redemption to remind us that we don’t deserve the relief we receive from God. “To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you?” the Lord asks Israel. “Yea, to whom have I sold you?” And then He answers, “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves” (Isaiah 50:1, 2 Nephi 7:1). Sin is bondage. When we choose to do wrong, our subsequent freedom is restricted by the consequences of those choices. (See John 8:33-34, D&C 84:49-51.)

In the following verse, God wonders aloud why Israel, having sold themselves into captivity, doesn’t want to accept His redemption: “[Why], when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?” (Isaiah 50:2, 2 Nephi 7:2). Two chapters later, the Lord reassures the people that He is willing to repurchase them even though they cannot repay Him: “Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money” (Isaiah 52:3, 3 Nephi 20:38).

In the Old Testament, the word “redeemer” is a translation of the word go’el (גּוֹאֵ֔ל), which signifies a close relative who helps you when you are in trouble. In the Book of Ruth, the term is translated as “near kinsman,” meaning a person who has a familial obligation to rescue you from a difficult situation (Ruth 3:9, 12, Ruth 4:14).

When we enter a covenant relationship with God, we become “the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7). He becomes that “near kinsman” to us, who will deliver us from bondage, even bondage of our own making. No wonder that the word “Redeemer” is usually preceded in the scriptures by a possessive pronoun:

  • Nephi, Enos, Alma, and King Lamoni all speak of “my Redeemer,” echoing the words of Job and of King David (2 Nephi 11:2, Enos 1:27, Mosiah 27:30, Alma 19:13, Job 19:25Psalm 19:14).
  • Isaiah uses the phrase “thy Redeemer” on seven occasions, five of which are quoted in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 20:17, 1 Nephi 21:26, 2 Nephi 6:18, 3 Nephi 22:5,8). Additionally, Lehi reassures his son Jacob that his afflictions will turn to his good “because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer” (2 Nephi 2:3).
  • Both Nephi and Mormon refer to Jesus as “your Redeemer,” referring to a group of people (2 Nephi 31:17, Moroni 8:8).
  • Helaman urges his sons to build their foundation upon “the rock of our Redeemer” (Helaman 5:12). Pahoran also uses this phrase in his letter to Captain Moroni (Alma 61:14).
  • Additionally, the phrase “their Redeemer” appears nineteen times in the Book of Mormon.
  • Less frequently (only six times), Jesus Christ is referred to as “this Redeemer” or “the Redeemer.”

Today, I will remember the personal nature of the Savior’s redemption. I will remember that I cannot rescue myself from all of the effects my poor choices. I will be grateful that Jesus Christ is willing to serve in the role of my “near kinsman” and to repurchase me from captivity and bondage. I will be grateful not only that He is the Redeemer, but that He is my Redeemer.

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What Is the Significance of the Name “Jehovah?”

In the last verse of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni uses a name which only appears one other place in the book: Jehovah (Moroni 10:34). (The other appearance is in 2 Nephi 22:2, which is the same as Isaiah 12:2.) What is the significance of this name, and why does Moroni use it at the end of the book?

When the name Jehovah appears in the Old Testament, it is a translation of the Hebrew word יהוה, or YHVH. This name appears 6,828 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, more than seven times per chapter. The Hebrew language was historically written without vowels, and the Jewish custom was (and still is) to replace this sacred name with the word Adonai, which means “Lord.” So no one knows how the word was originally pronounced.

The King James translators honored the Jewish custom and generally translated this sacred name as “Lᴏʀᴅ” or “Gᴏᴅ,” using small capital letters. However, seven times they chose instead to render the name as “Jehovah,” a transliteration of the Hebrew name which had appeared in earlier Bible translations. (See “Jehovah,” Bible Dictionary.)

There appear to be three situations in which they used the actual name instead of a replacement:

  1. On three occasions, it is part of a place-name: Jehovah-jireh (Genesis 22:14), Jehovah-nissi (Exodus 17:15), and Jehovah-shalom (Judges 6:24).
  2. Two places in Isaiah, a shortened version of the name is followed immediately by the name itself (“YH YHVH”). Because both of those words are usually translated as “the Lᴏʀᴅ,” the King James translators chose to avoid redundancy by rendering the phrase as “the Lᴏʀᴅ JEHOVAH” (Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4).
  3. On two other occasions, the context makes clear that the name itself is critical to the meaning of the sentence:
    • God explains to Moses that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:3). Joseph Smith transformed the meaning of this verse by rendering it as a question: “I am…the Lord JEHOVAH. And was not my name known unto them?” (See footnote c.) This interpretation is consistent with the fact that God said twice to Abraham, “My name is Jehovah” (Abraham 1:16, Abraham 2:8).
    • The writer of Psalm 83 pleads with the Lord to take action against His enemies “that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18).

So why did Moroni choose to use this name at the end of his book?

No other name more clearly conveys the Savior’s premortal role:

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament…. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3) (“The Living Christ: the Testimony of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” 2000).

One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers” (Title Page). As Moroni ends his record, he urges his readers to remember what the Lord has done for people “from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things” (Moroni 10:3). Perhaps his use of this name helps him to achieve that goal. Perhaps he is reminding us that our Savior is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps he is reminding us of the role that the Savior played throughout the Old Testament and of the great things He did on behalf of the children of Israel throughout their history.

Today, I will remember that Jesus Christ is “the great Jehovah,” the God described in the Old Testament. I will remember that, long before He was born, He created this earth, He called prophets, and He worked great miracles on behalf of His people. I will remember His mercy and kindness to people who have gone before, so that I can also have confidence that He will be merciful to me as I turn to Him.

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Why Is Jesus Called “the Holy One of Israel?”

HO’LY, adjective
1. Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections… (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828).

Something that is holy is complete, unblemished, and spotless. To say that God is holy is to say that He is perfectly good. He only does what is right, never what is wrong. He is aware of evil but untainted by it. No unclean thing can dwell in His presence.

Jesus Christ came to earth and experienced our infirmities, including being “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  (See also Alma 7:11.)

The prophet Isaiah frequently referred to God as “the Holy One of Israel.” In the first chapter of his book, he draws a sharp contrast between the corruption of the Israelite people with the purity of their God:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment (Isaiah 1:2-4).

This title—”the Holy One of Israel”—also appears in the Book of Jeremiah and in Psalms. But the vast majority of appearances of the title in the Bible are in the Book of Isaiah.

When the title appears in the Book of Mormon, it is generally in a quotation from Isaiah or in a commentary on one of those quotations. For example, the prophet Jacob uses the title 14 times in one chapter—2 Nephi 9—which is part of a sermon based on Isaiah 50 and 51. In that chapter, he reminds us that “we must appear before the judgement-seat of the Holy One of Israel” and that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:15, 41).

Later, after quoting 13 chapters of Isaiah, Nephi identifies the Holy One of Israel as Christ, our Redeemer (2 Nephi 25:29). The holiness of Jesus makes Him the perfect judge, but it also empowers Him to purify us.

“Ye shall be holy,” God said to the ancient Israelites, “for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). We should seek to eliminate impurities from our lives in order to be more like Him. Sister Carol F. McConkie provided some practical guidance about how to keep this commandment:

If we would be holy, we must learn to sit at the feet of the Holy One of Israel and give time to holiness. Do we set aside the phone, the never-ending to-do list, and the cares of worldliness? Prayer, study, and heeding the word of God invite His cleansing and healing love into our souls. Let us take time to be holy, that we may be filled with His sacred and sanctifying Spirit. With the Holy Ghost as our guide, we will be prepared to receive the Savior in the beauty of holiness (“The Beauty of Holiness,” General Conference, April 2017).

Today, I will remember that Jesus Christ is “the Holy One of Israel.” I will be grateful that He sets the perfect example for me to follow. I will be grateful that He will be a perfect judge. And I will also be grateful that He has the power to make me holy. I will strive to follow His example of holiness by setting aside “the cares of worldliness” and giving time to sacred things, so that I can I can receive His sanctifying power in my life.

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What Is the Significance of the Title “the Lamb of God?”

Soon after leaving Jerusalem, 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Lehi prophesied that the Messiah would come to earth and would be baptized in Bethabara, on the other side of the river Jordan. He told his family that the prophet who would baptize the Messiah would recognize who He was, and would “bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world” (1 Nephi 10:4-10).

Shortly afterward, Lehi’s son Nephi prayed to see the things which his father had seen (1 Nephi 11:1-3). He experienced an elaborate vision, in which he was instructed by an angel of God. The angel showed him scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, as well as subsequent global events, explaining the scenes in terms of the mission of Jesus Christ. Throughout this vision (1 Nephi 11-14), the angel refers to the Savior 27 times as “the Lamb of God.”

At the end of Nephi’s vision, he saw a man dressed in a white robe. The angel explained to him that this man was “one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” and that his name would be John. He told Nephi that this apostle would write about the end of the world and that his words would be included in the Bible (1 Nephi 14:18-27).

The phrase “the Lamb of God” only appears twice in the Bible, both times in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In both cases, the apostle John is quoting John the Baptist as he testifies that Jesus is the Savior (John 1:29, 36).

But the term “the Lamb” appears an additional 24 times in reference to the Savior. All 24 of those occurrences are in the Revelation of St. John, the very book the angel referenced in Nephi’s vision!

What is the significance of this title?

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, God commanded them to “offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord” (Moses 5:5). They obeyed, and some time later, an angel taught them the meaning of this sacrifice: “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:7).

Generations later, the prophet Abraham led his son Isaac on a three-day journey to offer a sacrifice to God. Isaac noticed that something rather critical was missing: “My father,” he said, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:7-8). This was literally fulfilled a few moments later, as Abraham found “a ram caught in a thicket by his horns” which he was able to offer “in the stead of his son” (Genesis 22:13). But it was fulfilled more meaningfully and more completely about two thousand years later, when, in the words of the prophet Alma, “God himself [atoned] for the sins of the world” (Alma 42:15). Abraham’s words were fulfilled not only by God Himself providing a lamb, but also by God providing Himself as the Lamb.

President Thomas S. Monson compared the feelings of Abraham on that occasion with the feelings of our Heavenly Father as His Son offered Himself as the final and eternal sacrifice:

As God witnessed the suffering of Jesus, his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, and beheld his agony, there was no voice from heaven to spare the life of Jesus. There was no ram in the thicket to be offered as a substitute sacrifice. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) (“The Search for Jesus,” Ensign, December 1990).

Today, I will remember and be grateful for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that He was willing to suffer and die in order to bring us back to the presence of God. I will remember the symbolism of Adam and Eve’s sacrifices and of Abraham’s sacrifice as I ponder “that great and last sacrifice,” in which the Son of God offered Himself as the Lamb of God.

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Why Is Jesus Called “the Author and the Finisher of Our Faith?”

Near the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni provides specific instructions about how to organize the church. After describing how the Savior gave power to His disciples, how those disciples ordained other people to serve as priests and teachers, and how the sacramental bread and wine were blessed, Moroni provides some practical information about how membership in the church was tracked and how meetings were run. In the middle of this description, he tells us that members of the church were “remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way” and that they relied completely on Jesus Christ, who was “the author and the finisher of their faith” (Moroni 6:4).

The Apostle Paul used this same phrase to refer to the Savior in his epistle to the Hebrews. Encouraging members of the church to “run with patience the race that is set before us,” he told them to “[look] unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” He said they should remember all that He had endured “lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

The word “author” in that passage is a translation of the Greek word archēgon (ἀρχηγός), which means a pioneering leader or a founder. Other translations of the Bible render that word as “pioneer,” “founder,” or “source.” (See Hebrews 12:2 on bible

The word “finisher” comes from the Greek word teleiōtēn (τελειωτὴν), which means “completer” or “perfecter.” It is related to the word teleios (τέλειος), which the Savior used when He commanded us to be “perfect, even as [our] Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

So, “author and finisher” means “pioneer and perfecter.” He initiated our faith by setting an example for us of a faith-filled life and by giving us power through the ordinances of the gospel. He perfects that faith by leading us through experiences which sanctify us and help us to become more like Him and like His Father. Both Paul and Moroni teach us that we can remain steady and find joy and peace through the difficulties of life by remaining focused on the Savior, who originated our faith and who will refine and complete it.

President Russell M. Nelson taught that we can experience peace and joy even as we pass through difficult times if we remain focused on Jesus Christ:

Just as the Savior offers peace that “passeth all understanding,” He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension…. His joy is constant, assuring us that our “afflictions shall be but a small moment” and be consecrated to our gain.
How, then, can we claim that joy? We can start by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” “in every thought.” We can give thanks for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve made with Him and our Heavenly Father. As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase (“Joy and Spiritual Survival,” General Conference, October 2016).

Today, I will “[look] unto Jesus,” remembering that He is “the author and the finisher of [my] faith.” I will remember how His life and teachings have sparked my faith and enabled me to have uplifting experiences in the past. I will trust that, if I rely on Him, then I will experience peace and joy even as I pass through difficult experiences. He will refine and improve my faith, so that eventually it will be perfect and complete, or in other words, finished.

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Why Is Jesus Called “Alpha and Omega?”

Four times in the book of Revelation, the Apostle John quotes Jesus as saying “I am Alpha and Omega.” Each time, the title is followed by an explanatory phrase, such as “the beginning and the end” or “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:8, 11, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:13).

Alpha (Α or α) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega (Ω or ω) is the last letter. Thus, the phrase implies completeness: Jesus Christ has existed from the beginning and will continue to exist until the end.

When Jesus Christ spoke to the inhabitants of the American continent after His death and resurrection, He used the phrase in a more specific way. He said:

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9:18-20).

As He would explain to them shortly after, He was the One who gave the law to Moses, and He was also the One who fulfilled it (3 Nephi 15:5). Thus, He was the beginning and the end of that set of religious practices which had been such an important part of their lives until that time.

Years ago, when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was serving as Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, he wrote about the meaning this title of the Savior can have for each of us:

These letters from the Greek suggest the universal role of Jesus from the beginning of the world to its end. But he ought to be Alpha and Omega in the particular as well—our personal beginning and our individual end—that model by which we shape our journey of three score years and ten, and the standard by which we measure it at its conclusion.
In every choice we make, he ought to be our point of reckoning, our charted course, our only harbor ahead. He should be for us individually what he is for all men collectively—the very brackets of existence, the compass of our privilege. We should not stray outside him. We should not want to try. I am Alpha and Omega (“Whom Say Ye That I Am?” Ensign, September 1974).

Last year, in his first talk as a new apostle, Elder Gerrit W. Gong gave the following testimony of the Savior: “He is Alpha and Omega—with us in the beginning, He is with us to the end” (“Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I am grateful for a Savior who is eternal. I am grateful that He gave the law to Moses and that He fulfilled the law of Moses. I am grateful that He created the earth and that He will still be there when it is “rolled together as a scroll” (Mormon 5:23, Mormon 9:2). I will remember that He has supported me from the beginning and that He will support me until the end—He is not only the Alpha and Omega; He is also my Alpha and Omega.

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