God, Mormon

Father’s Day and Naming the Book of Mormon

Why is the Book of Mormon called the Book of Mormon? Why not the Book of Moroni or Newest Testament or some other name?

[Newest Testament = joke]

As he writes, Mormon calls his writings “my record” several times, not only in his self-titled book near the end of the full Book of Mormon but in other places as he compiles the Nephite and Lamanite history.

The portion he calls his own consists of about 2/3 of the book. The other third is split between the writings of Nephi, other prophets, and Mormon’s son, Moroni.

We learn from Moroni that Mormon has died in battle and that the book remains unfinished. I think the case could easily be made for Moroni to have given the book another name. He could have also named it after himself.

Why? It is Moroni who finished his father, Mormon’s, small “b” book of Mormon, writing the last two chapters (8 & 9) to wrap it up.

After doing so, he goes on to insert a condensed history of the Jaredite civilization in the remaining space, something that I’m sure required meticulous attention to detail. Moroni finishes with ten chapters of concluding thoughts bearing his own name to round out the overall book that Nephi began 1,000 years before his time.

That wasn’t all Moroni contributed to the Book of Mormon. For a period of at least 36 years, Moroni’s mission was to lug around the heavy, metallic record without getting caught by blood-thirsty enemies who wished extinction upon his race. He finally managed to find a good location for the record along with several other heavy items.

One thousand four hundred years later as a glorified angel “sent from the presence of God” (v.33), Moroni played the principal role of instructing a young Joseph Smith on his latter-day mission, with specific guidance on how to retrieve the same record Moroni had buried as a mortal.

So the question becomes, was it Mormon who named the book after himself, or did his son, Moroni, name it after his father?

The often skipped-over Title Page of the Book of Mormon offers clues that Moroni named the book after his father. See an analysis of that theory by BYU’s Maxwell Institute here.

If true, the significance of Moroni naming the book after his father demonstrates an act of selflessness, love, devotion, and honor. All available evidence points to Moroni naming the great work, “The Book of Mormon.”

I would take it a step further by saying that Moroni’s naming the Book of Mormon is yet another witness of the book’s divinity. If concocting an epic fictional tale of multiple civilizations chronicled by multiple writers, Joseph Smith could have named the book anything he wanted.

If claiming to write the history of the ancestors of Native Americans, he could have copied known tribal names instead of the very non-Native American sounding name, “Mormon” or “Moroni.”

If claiming to write about a visitation of the Savior in the New World after his resurrection in Jerusalem, it would have been easier to say that Jesus appeared to him to tell him about the ancient record.

But no, Joseph Smith claims that the resurrected angel Moroni appeared to him to introduce him to the buried record. This makes it seem as if Moroni was one of the most prominent of all the characters in the book.

I believe it would have made more sense for Joseph Smith to have claimed an angelic visitation from Mormon rather than Moroni, or to name the book after Moroni if he stuck to the Moroni visitation claim.

Out of all the things we learn from the Book of Mormon, it is this small and significant detail that fits so comfortably with the Gospel and the purposes of the restored Priesthood of bringing families together. A devoted son endures great hardship for nearly four decades after his father’s death, in order to honor his father’s magnum opus, the purpose of which is to bring all living and those who have passed on, to Christ. Then Moroni finishes his father’s work by writing the Title Page, where he names the great record after his father.

For me, there is something deeply moving about the naming of the book.

After three distinct visitations in one night to young Joseph, Moroni’s fourth appearance the following morning strikes on the father-son theme again when he commands Joseph to tell his father of the visit. Joseph then states:

“I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger.” Joseph Smith – History 1:50

Interestingly, in each of four visits on this occasion, Moroni states: “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” Moroni was uniquely qualified to instruct Joseph of this sweet truth, having turned his heart to his father, very selflessly, in mortality.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bear the name of his father when we are called, “Mormons.” I have a feeling Moroni would have it no other way.