King Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s use of the phrase “Great God”

The Use of the Phrase “Great God” by the Lamanite King, Anti-Nephi-Lehi.

Some have tried to support the authenticity of the Book of Mormon by using word-print analysis to show that multiple authors were involved in the writing of the Book of Mormon. This can be analyzed statistically by identifying patterns in word choice that are unique to individual characters in the Book of Mormon. While I do not have the capacity to reproduce such studies and the methods of examining word patterns can vary (which produce contradicting results), I would still like to provide an example of unique phrasing in a certain section of the Book of Mormon that may provide some little support to the idea that characters in the Book of Mormon have their own unique word choice that would be difficult to fake.

When Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah go to serve as missionaries to the Lamanites, they meet with two kings: King Lamoni, and the father of King Lamoni. When Ammon and Aaron teach these kings about the gospel, they ask the kings if they believe in God. They do not know exactly what it means to believe in God, but they respond that they know what it means to believe in the “Great Spirit.”

Here are some examples of King Lamoni, a Lamanite, using the phrase “Great Spirit”:

a. “Behold, is not this the Great Spirit who doth send such great punishments upon this people?” (Alma 18:2)

b. “Now I know that it is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives…Now this is the Great Spirit of whom our fathers have spoken.” (Alma 18:4).

c. “Now this was the tradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a Great Spirit.” (Alma 18:5).

1. The Lamanites clearly refer to their creator as “The Great Spirit.” The Nephites, however, do not identify their creator as “The Great God.” The following is taken from an exchange between Ammon and King Lamoni:

  • “Believest thou that there is a God?” (Alma 18:24)
  • “And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.” (Alma 18:25)
  • “And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?” (Alma 18:26)

2. This phrase is also used by the father of King Lamoni, who is the king over all the Lamanites:

  • “And Aaron answered him and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And the king said: I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God…” (Alma 22:7)
  • “And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?” (Alma 22:9)
  • “And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things…” (Alma 22:10)

3. It is unusual for the Nephites to refer to God the Father as “The Great God.” It is used, however, by King Anti-Nephi-Lehi: The Nephites have many names for God the Father, but rarely do they ever refer to him as “The Great God.” However, the King Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the brother of King Lamoni and heir to his father’s kingdom, when suggesting the people make a covenant to never again take up their weapons of war, addresses the people while combining what seems to be their understanding of “The Great Spirit” and “God” by referring to their creator as “The Great God.” This is a fairly unique phrase in the Book of Mormon (though it is used on several occasions in the Bible) that is most likely used because of the Lamanite’s linguistic and cultural history of referring to their creator as “The Great Spirit”. The following are portions of King Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s address to his people, with the phrase “great God” highlighted for emphasis. To avoid being selective in the information I am presenting in my observation, I have also highlighted where in Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s address he simply says “my God” instead of “great God.” The following is taken from Alma 24:7-16:

  • “I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren…” (7)
  • “And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit…” (8)
  • “And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins.” (9)
  • “And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these tings…”
    (10)
  • “and to get God to take them away from our hearts…to repent sufficiently before God…” (11)
  • “my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains…” (12)
  • “they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God…” (13)
  • “And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us…” (14)
  • “Oh, how merciful is our God!” (15)
  • “Let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God…” (15)
  • “behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved.” (16)

4. Some issues with my analysis

There are some issues with my analysis. First and foremost, the King Anti-Nephi-Lehi does not use “great God” exclusively, but uses “our God” many times in his address, which is a common phrase in all scriptures.

Second, the phrase “great God” is found in both the Old and New Testament. For example: “For the Lord is a great God…” (Psalms 95:3)/ “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God…” (Deuteronomy 10:17)/ “The great God that formed all things…” (Proverbs 26:10)/ “and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:13)/ “gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God…” (Revelation 19:17). However, what does not make these verses problematic is that in the Book of Mormon specifically there is little use of the phrase with the exception of Helaman 12:8 (“at the command of our great and everlasting God“), Helaman 13:18 (“saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God“), and Moroni 10:34 (“the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah…”), which examples are significantly different stylistically from the address of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. In addition, it may be worth noting that Mormon uses “great and everlasting God” in the chapter directly preceding the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, who states “our great and true God.” It is possible that Mormon was motivated to use the relatively unique phrase of “great and everlasting God” after reading the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, who may have described God as “great” in prophecies that were not included in the Book of Mormon (since Mormon states he did not include many prophecies from Samuel).

The fact that “great God” is found in several passages of the Bible but is only found in King Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s address shortly after the Lamanite’s conversion strongly suggests that the author did not simply pick and choose the names of God from the Bible at random, but that characters in the Book of Mormon have historical and cultural bases for using specific names of God.

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