Question: Book of Mormon prophets knew before the Lord’s birth that his name would be Jesus Christ. Did Old Testament prophets also know?
, assistant professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages, Brigham Young University.
The name Jesus Christ—and also shortened forms, Christ and Jesus—are mentioned on numerous occasions in the Book of Mormon prior to the Lord’s birth in the flesh. The Savior appeared to the earliest Book of Mormon prophet, the brother of Jared, in about 2200 B.C., saying: “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.)
Nephi probably learned the Savior’s name from both the brass plates (the scriptures available to him) and personal revelation “According to the words of the prophets and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ.” (2 Ne. 25:19.) Other later Book of Mormon prophets who lived before Christ’s birth—such as Jacob, King Benjamin, Alma, and Helaman—also knew and used the Lord’s name. (See Jacob 1:6; Jacob 4:4; Mosiah 3:5–11; Alma 5:44; Hel. 5:12.)
We learn in the Pearl of Great Price that many of the early Old Testament prophets also knew the name of the Savior. It was revealed to Adam that he should be baptized “in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, which is Jesus Christ.” (Moses 6:52.) Enoch prayed “in the name of thine Only Begotten, even Jesus Christ.” (Moses 7:50.) Noah, in the course of his preaching, declared: “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Moses 8:24.)
Although the Redeemer’s life, mission, suffering, and death are foretold in the Old Testament—“in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms” (Luke 24:44), he is not identified there by the name Jesus Christ. Why?
There may be a logical explanation for the name Jesus Christ appearing in the Book of Mormon but not in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the English form of the Savior’s name in Greek—the language of the New Testament. But the brass plates were apparently written in Egyptian (see Mosiah 1:3–4; also 1 Ne. 1:2–3; 1 Ne. 3:19), the Large and probably the Small Plates of Nephi in Hebrew (see Morm. 9:33), and the abridged records of Mormon and Moroni in “reformed Egyptian” (Morm. 9:32). It is not likely, therefore, that the Greek name of the Savior appeared on the records from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, as these records were largely written in “reformed Egyptian” with Hebrew forming the basis of the language. Rather, the name Jesus Christ served the Prophet as the closest equivalent of the word or words used by the ancient writers of the Book of Mormon. In translating their writings, the Prophet Joseph Smith used the name with which he and other Christians were familiar.
Even though the Greek version of the Savior’s name would not have appeared in the writings of the ancient Hebrew and American patriarchs, the Hebrew prophets did use a version of the name, and that version may have found its way into the brass plates, and from thence into the Nephite writings. Both Jesus and Christ have Hebrew equivalents. Hebrew forms of the name Jesus—Yehoshua, Yeshua, and Yeshu—are frequently found in the Old Testament, although not with reference to the Savior. (See, for example, Ex. 17:9; 1 Chr. 24:11; Ezra 2:40.) The name Joshua and Jeshua are English renderings of the Hebrew names Yehoshua and Yeshua. Jesus in English is the equivalent of the Greek rendering of Yeshua and Yeshu.
The Hebrew equivalent of the word Christ—Messiah—also appears in the Hebrew scriptures. Mashiah, which means “anointed” and which is translated as christos in the Greek, is often employed in the Old Testament with reference to the anointed high priest. (See Lev. 4:3, Lev. 5, Lev. 16, for example, where mashiah is translated “anointed.”) It is also used with reference to God’s anointed king, such as Saul and David. (See 1 Sam. 24:6; 1 Sam. 26:9, 1 Sam. 11, 1 Sam. 16, 1 Sam. 23; 2 Sam. 19:21; 2 Sam. 23:1.) The term also came to be used specifically in reference to God’s Anointed who was to come in fulfillment of prophecy. The word Messiah is itself used in the King James rendering of Daniel’s vision, where “Messiah the Prince” is referred to. (See Dan. 9:25.)
Since Nephi, who studied the brass plates, probably learned the name of Jesus Christ from “the words of the prophets” (2 Ne. 25:19), it is likely that a version of the Savior’s name—perhaps the Hebrew equivalent of Jesus the Messiah translated into Egyptian—occurred on the brass plates. These plates contained much of the information found in our Old Testament: “the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, … And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.” (1 Ne. 5:11–12.)
It is not clear why specific information found on the brass plates—such as the use of the Savior’s name in prophecy—was not included in the records now constituting the Old Testament. It is possible that the Lord’s name originally appeared in the writings of the prophets, but was one of the “plain and precious things taken away from the book.” (See 1 Ne. 13:28.) As the angel prophesied to Nephi, the Book of Mormon, which includes information from the brass plates, “shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them (the records of the Jews); and shall 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 Ne. 13:40.)
Whether the name Jesus Christ appears in the Old Testament or not, that scripture still remains an important witness for him. Jesus told his questioners to “Search the scriptures … they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.) The term scriptures is, with few exceptions, used in the New Testament to refer to the Old Testament. (See, for example, Luke 24:44–45.) These scriptures found their meaning and fulfillment in Jesus. (See Luke 4:21.) He was the triumphant Son of Man (compare Dan. 7:13–14; Mark 13:26), David’s son and heir (see Mark 12:35–37; Mark 15:2), the great High Priest (see Heb. 4:14).
Thus, the Bible—the Old Testament as well as the New—and the Book of Mormon stand together as witnesses of Jesus Christ, complementing, enhancing, elucidating, and confirming each other in their testimony of him.
Question: Can I be forgiven for breaking the law of chastity? If so, what must I do to obtain forgiveness?
, former bishop, stake and mission president, high priests group leader, Canyon Rim 4th Ward, Salt Lake Canyon Rim Stake
One beautiful summer evening as I sat on the porch of a lovely cabin in the mountains, I observed a little moth approach and fly around and around the porch light. It touched the hot bulb, changed course, and then, as if unable to resist, approached the bulb again and again. Finally, badly singed by repeated contacts with the hot glass, it fell to the floor, burned and helpless.
Like the moth, young people are sometimes drawn by the bright glitter of sexual attraction. And though they know better, they tamper with the heat of unholy passion until they too are badly scarred and eventually lose their God-given chastity.
If chastity is fully lost by unlawful sexual intercourse, it is a sin of great seriousness. Nevertheless, yes, it can be forgiven! There is every reason to hope and have courage, though the way is not easy and is based upon total repentance.
The word chaste is defined in the dictionary as “innocent of unlawful sexual intercourse; pure in thought and act.”
President Spencer W. Kimball has written: “The early apostles and prophets mention numerous sins. … Many of them were sexual sins—adultery, being without natural affection, lustfulness, infidelity, incontinence, filthy communications, impurity, inordinate affection, fornication. They included all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one’s thoughts and talking. Included are every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure thoughts and practices. …
“… The world may countenance premarital sex experiences, but the Lord and his Church condemn in no uncertain terms any and every sex relationship outside of marriage” (“President Kimball Speaks Out On Morality,” International Magazines, April 1981.)
Chastity is seldom lost all at once, but usually a little at a time, until “unlawful sexual intercourse” completes the series of sins leading to it. Nevertheless, it can be forgiven!
To obtain forgiveness one must reverse one’s behavior and get on the road back through total repentance that leads step by step to divine forgiveness. It is most important not to wait, but to get started. William Nevins has said: “He that waits for repentance waits for that which cannot be had as long as it is waited for. It is absurd for a man to wait for that which he himself has to do” (in Richard L. Evans Quote Book, Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1971, p. 200).
Amulek in the Book of Mormon gave his inspired counsel: “For behold this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
“… Therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
“… 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 34:32–33, 35.)
One can, indeed, wait too long to repent as did many of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. Samuel the Lamanite said of them: “But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure” (Hel. 13:38).
Get started? Of course, and now! But doing what? How does one go about obtaining forgiveness? President Spencer W. Kimball, in his great book The Miracle of Forgiveness, outlines the steps and gives the counsel which, if followed, can lead the transgressor back into full fellowship with the Lord and in the Church.
“To every forgiveness there is a condition. The [adhesive] plaster must be as wide as the sore. The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin. There must be a broken heart and a contrite spirit. There must be ‘sackcloth and ashes.’ There must be tears and genuine change of heart. There must be conviction of the sin, abandonment of the evil, confession of the error to properly constituted authorities of the Lord. There must be restitution and a confirmed, determined change of pace, direction and destination. Conditions must be controlled and companionship corrected or changed. There must be a washing of robes to get them white and there must be a new consecration and devotion to the living of all the laws of God. In short there must be an overcoming of self, of sin, and of the world” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 353).
Difficult, yes—but fully attainable, if one can see beyond the difficulties ahead to the ultimate eternal blessings to be obtained with full, sincere repentance. As we are told by the Lord: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
“Learn to do well …
“… though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:16–18).