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Naming Rights to the Book of Mormon

November 27, 2018 by Ryan

The following is a private letter to Hank Smith.

Dear Hank from Utah,

I recently listened to your talk on CD titled “Scripture Power.” At the end, the gravelly-voiced guy from Covenant Communications said that the author would like to hear from his listeners. So if you don’t like what I have to say, remember that it’s his fault!

At the end of your talk, you presented a theory that Mormon named The Book of Mormon after the place called Mormon.

Recognizing that I am not an authority on this topic, and knowing that the correct answer to this particular question ultimately does not matter to our eternal salvation, I respectfully disagree with your philosophy and wish to present my own counter-claim.

First, let me recap what I understand your position to be. You quoted the following verse in support of your opinion.

And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever.

The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 18:30

Your conclusion was that the prophet Mormon named “The Book of Mormon” after this place which he had a great reverence for.

It is worthwhile to wonder why Mormon made such a big deal over, and wrote such a clumsily worded musing about the place of Mormon. In 3 Nephi 5:12, he let readers know that he was named after the place. It would be easy to conclude that being named after a place would plant a tender love for the scene in the Prophet Mormon’s sentimental heart.

With that, I could almost go along with your theory about the naming of The Book of Mormon. Except that Mormon wrote something else that convinces me otherwise.

I look to a passage in the Book of Helaman, which was also a moment when Mormon interrupted his narrative with commentary, to show that (I believe) Mormon intended for the overall book to be known as “The Book of Nephi.”

And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi. Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written.

The Book of Mormon, Helaman 2:13-14

In this verse, Mormon clearly makes a distinction between discussing a small section he was abridging (“the end of the book of Helaman”) and the total tome (“the end of the book of Nephi”). If I am reading this right, if Mormon had gotten his way with naming rights we would today be trying to undo from our vocabulary the “Nephi Tabernacle Choir” and looking for a replacement URL for the website “nephi.org”

Perhaps supporting this, when Ammaron gave Mormon charge of the plates, he called the sacred engravings “the plates of Nephi” (Mormon 1:4).

Therefore, I hold my opinion that the book was supposed to have been named “The Book of Nephi,” but probably Moroni called the book after his father’s name instead.

Of course, it is entirely possible that we are both wrong. Mormon or Moroni may have wanted the publication named after Mormon’s father and Moroni’s Grandfather, Mormon (Mormon 1:5). He is only mentioned briefly, but he must have been an exceedingly strong and mighty man to have carried his eleven-year-old son all the way to Zarahemla! I get exhausted carrying my six-year-old up the stairs at my house. (See Mormon 1:6 and smile)

At any rate, again, the name of the book is not important in the overall scheme of things (though it is fun to contemplate now and again). The message of the book is what counts. Thank you for your work to impart that message to the world.

Your brother in Christ,

Ryan from Utah


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