I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

“Why do Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ was Jehovah of the Old Testament?”

Michael D. Rhodes, a home teacher and member of the Scout committee, Albuquerque Tenth Ward, Albuquerque New Mexico East Stake. Our knowledge that Christ is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, has support both in the Bible and in modern-day scripture. Among the strongest biblical evidence that Christ was the God of the Old Testament comes from his own statements to the Jews when he was teaching in the temple in Jerusalem: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

“Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

“Then took they up stones to cast at him.” (John 8:56–59.) Here Jesus is unequivocally telling them that he is Jehovah, the great “I Am,” as he declared in Exodus 3:14 [Ex. 3:14]. The Jews did not miss the allusion. They thought him blasphemous; that is why they “took up stones to cast at him.”

The Gospel of John also refers to Christ—“the Word”—as the Creator of all things: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

“The same was in the beginning with God.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. …

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1–3, 14.)

The Old Testament identifies the Creator as Jehovah. According to John, therefore, Jesus Christ was Jehovah in premortality.

Paul also identifies Christ as Jehovah, when he alludes to the time when the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and Moses brought water from a rock. (Jehovah is often referred to as the Rock of Israel in the Old Testament. See Deut. 31:3–4; 2 Sam. 23:3; Ps. 18:31, 46.)

“All our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; …

“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:1, 4.)

True to its purpose as a second witness of Christ, the Book of Mormon also shows Christ to be the God of the Old Testament. Nephi knew this great truth and taught it, saying:

“And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos.” (1 Ne. 19:10.)

King Benjamin taught the same principles. He stated that an angel told him that “the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases. …

“And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.” (Mosiah 3:5–8.)

When Jehovah appeared to the Brother of Jared, he said: “Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ.” (Ether 3:14.)

When he appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection, Christ himself said, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” (3 Ne. 11:14.) In 3 Nephi 15:5 [3 Ne. 15:5], he affirmed, “I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel.”

Christ’s role as the Creator is also stressed in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. God the Father, speaking to Moses, is quoted as saying, “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.” (Moses 1:33.)

In our own dispensation, even the earliest revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith teach the same principles. In 1830, for example, the Prophet received a revelation from the Lord that began, “Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins.” (D&C 29:1.) As we have already seen, “I Am” is one of the names by which Jehovah identified himself.

Christ stressed his role as Jehovah, the Creator of this world, in another revelation, recorded in 1831:

“Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. …

“I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.” (D&C 38:1, 3.)

In the marvelous vision given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple in 1836, they explicitly refer to Christ as Jehovah: “We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

“His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.” (D&C 110:2–4.)

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ is Jehovah because it is true. It was known to be true anciently, by prophets in both the Old and the New Worlds, and it has been made clear from the very beginning of our own dispensation. The Lord Jesus Christ himself has declared it unequivocally: he is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament.

Many times in prophecy, the present and past tenses are used, even though the prophecy refers to a future event. Can you explain the use of verb tenses in prophecy?

Stephen D. Ricks, associate professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages, Brigham Young University. An answer to this question can be seen in the prophet Abinadi’s defense before King Noah. (See Mosiah 12–16.) Abinadi makes several prophecies concerning the coming of the Redeemer, and in most of them he uses the future tense. However, in Mosiah 16:6, Abinadi shifts to the past tense: “And now if Christ had not come …” (Italics added here and in the following quotations.) He also explains his choice of the past tense: “speaking of things to come as though they had already come …” In other words, the future events about which Abinadi speaks are so vivid in his mind that it is as though they had already occurred.

Some Old Testament prophets make similar use of the past tense for future events. Biblical scholars E. Kautsch and A. E. Cowley note (in words that are strikingly similar to those in Mosiah 16) that the past form—referred to as the “perfect” in biblical Hebrew—is sometimes used “to express facts which are undoubtedly imminent, and therefore, in the imagination of the speaker, already accomplished. … [In] this use of the perfect … the prophet so transports himself in imagination into the future that he describes the future event as if it had been already seen or heard by him.” (Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970, pp. 312–13; see also Paul Joüon, Grammaire de l’hébreu biblique, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965, pp. 298–99.)

Thus, in Isaiah 5:13 [Isa. 5:13], which is rendered in the King James Version as “Therefore my people are gone into captivity,” the Hebrew verb translated as “are gone” is a past tense form that might also be rendered by a future tense form, as it is in the New International Version, where the scripture reads: “Therefore my people will go into exile.” In another prophecy, Isaiah 11:9 [Isa. 11:9], the past form in Hebrew of “be full” is translated as a future tense form: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Another striking example can be found in 2 Chronicles 20:37 [2 Chr. 20:37], translated in the King James Version as “Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works.” Again, the Hebrew verb translated in the King James Version as “hath broken” is a past tense but, given the prophetic context of the verse, its sense is clearly future, and it is rendered as a future tense in other versions of the Bible. (For example, in the New International Version, the verse reads, “Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” See Isa. 10:28, Isa. 19:7, and Job 5:20 for other examples.)

The scriptures also provide clear instances of prophecies that may be fulfilled at more than one time. An example can be found in Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (See also Joel 2:29–32.) After the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, Peter addressed the crowd that had gathered around, citing these verses from Joel and declaring: “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:14–16.)

The angel Moroni cited these same verses when he appeared to the young Joseph Smith in 1823, telling Joseph that the prophecy “was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be.” (JS—H 1:41.) Clearly, this prophecy from Joel was fulfilled not only at the time when Peter was speaking, but also in our own dispensation. The possibility that prophecies may have more than one fulfillment indicates the richness and relevance of the writings of the prophets.

Why is the Book of Mormon the “most correct of any book on earth”?

Donald B. Doty, bishop, Bountiful Fifty-ninth Ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake. The concept that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book in the world comes from a statement made by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth. …” (History of the Church, 4:461.)

There may be a number of reasons why that is so. Some writers have noted that since the plates of Mormon and their English translation did not suffer the many editorial changes most other scriptures experienced over the centuries as they were translated and transcribed, the Book of Mormon is closer to the source of its inspiration. Others have suggested that the translation of the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God qualifies the Book of Mormon as more correct than books produced solely by human agency.

As the author of three texts and many scientific articles on subjects relating to cardiovascular surgery, I am thoroughly familiar with the time and effort required to produce a manuscript that is factual, consistent, and error-free. I am amazed that the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed during a period of only eighty days. I am also amazed that the Prophet produced the manuscript from dictation. Dictation is a rapid way of getting ideas onto paper, but it is one of the most difficult methods of composition. Words are often repeated, phrases may be trite or redundant, and the finished product is usually unstructured; it is more conversational than readable. Yet the Book of Mormon is intense prose, filled with complex, highly developed philosophical concepts that are presented extensively, logically, and coherently.

In discussing why the Prophet called the Book of Mormon the most correct book, we need to examine Joseph Smith’s complete statement. He said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461; italics added.)

Above all other considerations, it is the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon that makes it the most correct of books. The Book of Mormon establishes better than any other book the plain and precious truths of the gospel, many of which have been lost from the Bible. As we read in 1 Nephi 13:40 [1 Ne. 13:40], “These last records … shall establish the truth of the [Bible] … and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from [it].”

I have had the opportunity to present the Book of Mormon to a good friend in Soviet Russia and another in the People’s Republic of China. The book had been translated into each’s language. Both individuals read the book, and the response was nearly identical: “The words and thoughts are so beautiful.” One need examine only a few passages from the Book of Mormon to appreciate the correctness of its doctrine.

In the Book of Mormon, the purpose of life is defined:

“This life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.” (Alma 12:24.)

The complex relationship of divine law, justice, and mercy are clarified:

“But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

“But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” (Alma 42:22–23.)

We are shown the way to judge good from evil:

“Ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

“But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil.” (Moro. 7:15–16.)

The mission of Jesus Christ is explained:

“Redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

“Behold he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:6–7.)

“This is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

“And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.” (Alma 34:14–15.)

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the visit of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people in the Americas shortly after his crucifixion and resurrection. Third Nephi contains the doctrine of the gospel as presented by the Lord himself and recorded by witnesses at the time he gave it. To the Nephites the Lord gave a discourse similar to the Sermon on the Mount, counsel on how to live a Christlike life, and instructions to Church leaders on administering the affairs of his church.

Like 3 Nephi, the entire Book of Mormon contains the plain and precious doctrines of Christ.

The prophet Alma, for example, teaches us clearly and simply the correct way to return to the presence of God. Alma advises us to be born of God and experience a mighty change of heart. He teaches us to exercise faith, to do righteous works, to have a clean heart and clean hands, to strip ourselves of pride and envy, and to persecute no one. Could there be any more correct formula for life?

Thus, it is the correctness of the doctrine contained in the text that more than anything else makes the Book of Mormon “the most correct of any book on earth.” Reading this book helps us understand the ways of the Lord and follow a pattern for life that will assure us happiness now and eternal life hereafter.