Return to About Mormons home

Name of God

by Glade L. Burgon

Latter-day Saints invoke the name of God in prayers, in ordinances such as baptism, in testimony bearing, and in sermons. In certain ceremonies, they take upon themselves God's sacred name in covenantal pledges to keep his commandments. They also employ the various names of God to distinguish between members of the Godhead. Consequently, the names of God are considered very sacred and are not to be taken in a vain way or spoken in profanity.

The word from the Hebrew Bible most commonly translated "God" or "gods" is 'elohim, the plural of 'eloah or 'el which means "lofty one" or "exalted one." The plural ending -im may indicate royal loftiness as well as plurality (see Elohim).

The formal name of God in the Old Testament is "Jehovah" or "YHWH" (Hebrew yhwh), which comes from a root suggesting "I was, am, and will be forever." Some consider yhwh to be a name too sacred to be spoken; consequently, in many Bible versions, yhwh is translated "lord" (see Jehovah, Jesus Christ).

Joseph Smith's first vision and later revelations confirmed the separate identity of the Father and the Son. To distinguish them individually in some scriptures, however, is very difficult. For instance, Jesus Christ has spoken the words of the Father by divine investiture as if he were the person of the Father (cf. MFP 5:26-34; John 14:24). Jesus continually emphasized the "oneness" or unity of mind and purpose of the Godhead and set it forth as an example to disciples. The term "God," therefore, may apply equally to the Father and the Son. The prayer of Jesus to his Father after the Last Supper was that followers might be "one, even as we are" (John 17:1-26; cf. 3 Ne. 11:27, 32-36; D&C 132:12).

The principal name of the Eternal Father is not clearly stated in scripture although several names and titles appear (see God the Father: Names and Titles of God). Where identification is appropriate, Latter-day Saints have designated the Father by the exalted name-title Elohim (MFP 5:26).

The use of sacred names plays an important part in LDS worship. For example, Latter-day Saints have been instructed to address God in prayer with the title "Our Father" and to offer prayers in the name of Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:9; 3 Ne. 13:9; see Prayer). In baptismal prayers and Sacrament prayers, faithful members covenant to take upon themselves the name of Christ. The participants commit themselves to remember Christ, which means to be an example of him to the world, to love him, to have faith in him, and to walk in his way (cf. 2 Ne. 31:19-20; Mosiah 5:7-12).

Jesus Christ has specifically commanded that his Church should bear his name. He said, further, that his people will be called by that name at the last day (3 Ne. 27:1-12; Mosiah 5:7-14; D&C 115:4).

The Lord has also revealed that ordinances and blessings performed in his name by his authorized servants are binding in heaven as well as on earth (D&C 132:45-46; 128:9). Ordinances, such as baptism, marriage, and vicarious work in temples, are performed in the "name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

In modern times, as in the past, the Lord has cautioned men and women not to utter his name in vain speech (Ex. 20:7; D&C 63:60-64) nor to defile it through improper conduct (see Blasphemy; Profanity). He has directed his people to keep pledges and "keep yourselves from evil to take the name of the Lord in vain, for I am the Lord your God, even the God of your fathers" (D&C 136:21).

(See Jesus Christ, Names and Titles of.; Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About the Godhead home page)

Bibliography

Madsen, Truman G. ""Putting on the Names': A Jewish-Christian Legacy." In By Study and Also by Faith, ed. J. Lundquist and S. Ricks, Vol. 1, pp. 458-81. Salt Lake City, 1990.

Talmage, James E. AF. Salt Lake City, 1915.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Name of God

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

All About Mormons