Where Did the Word “Mormon” Come From?
Around 600 B.C. many prophets were calling the citizens of Jerusalem to repentance. Among them was Jeremiah, whose record we have in the Bible. But there were others who prophesied of impending destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, if God’s people continued to corrupt true religious practices, break the commandments of God, and trample upon the rights of the poor. Among these prophets was a rather wealthy man named Lehi. Jeremiah had already been arrested (something that would happen several times), and the Lord warned Lehi that his life was in danger and to take his family and flee into the wilderness. Lehi did so, taking very little of his fortune and goods. A few days’ journey into the wilderness, the Lord commanded Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem to fetch the biblical record. This was a dangerous undertaking, but Lehi’s sons were successful. In the record, Lehi found the writings of Isaiah, his own genealogy (his descent from Joseph who was sold into Egypt), and other writings. The Lord led Lehi’s family, and a few others who had joined them, through the wilderness, and down through Arabia to the sea, where the Lord instructed them as to how to build a ship. They managed to sail to the Americas, where they established a culture based upon their religious beliefs. They lived according to the Law of Moses, but their prophets taught of Jesus Christ, who would come to Jerusalem, but who would manifest Himself to them.
The Nephites, as they called themselves after Lehi’s righteous son, added to the record they had brought with them to the Americas. The Lord intended part of it to come forth in the “last days” before the Second Coming of Christ, to restore the purity of the kingdom of God on earth, with its saving ordinances and gifts of the Spirit. Mormon, a great Nephite warrior-prophet, abridged the record and compiled it for this purpose. He said, in about 385 A.D.,
And now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them.
…I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will (Words of Mormon 1:1-2, 6-7).
Mormon was killed in the wars that finally destroyed his people, but not until he had entrusted the records to his son, Moroni, who said,
I am the son of Mormon, and my father was a descendant of Nephi. And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord; the plates thereof are of no worth, because of the commandment of the Lord. For he truly saith that no one shall have them to get gain; but the record thereof is of great worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless.
…it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God. …it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.
Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.
Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing (Mormon 8:13-14; 16; 28-32; 34-35).
It was Joseph Smith, born in 1805, who was led to the hidden plates and enabled by the gift God to translate them as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Members of The, therefore, are casually called Mormons. Mormons want their friends of other faiths to know, however, that they are sincere followers of the Lord Christ, and that they worship Him as the Creator of the Universe, their Mediator with the Father, and the Savior of Mankind. They want the world to know that the name of Christ is the only name through which we can be saved. He has restored His kingdom as at first, with the power and authority to act in His name. It is a kingdom of love and healing into which all are invited.