THE MEANING OF THE NAME “MORMON”
By David Lamb
Source: “Articles from the Zarahemla Record”; Zarahemla Research Foundation
Tradition has taught us over many years that the Book of Mormon was so named for Mormon, the main abridger. While this is a logical assumption, it does raise an interesting question. Why would God’s holy word be named after a man? The Holy Scriptures were not named after any one author nor was the Doctrine and Covenants called the “Book of Joseph Smith.” Why then would the Book of Mormon be the exception to the rule and bear the name of a man?
In Mormon 1:5 Mormon identifies his lineage. He states that he is a descendant of Nephi and that his father’s name was Mormon. However, he does not state that he was named after his father and this should not be assumed. In fact, he tells us in Third Nephi 5:12 that he was not named after his father, but rather he was named after the land in which a great event took place—the restoration of Christ’s covenant people, Christ’s church.
“And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon,
The land in the which Alma did establish the church among this people:
Yea, the first church which was established among them after their transgression.”
Mormon was not named after his father; he was named after the land of Mormon. He had been taught about his heritage by his parents and understood the sacred significance associated with the name Mormon. No doubt his father also bore the name Mormon for the same reason. In Third Nephi 5:12 he give us a clear indication that the name Mormon is symbolically synonymous with the restoration of the covenant which took place in the land of Mormon by Alma and his people.
A study of the title page of the Book of Mormon tells us its main purpose is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the house of Israel. This adds weight to the understanding that the name Mormon was always associated with the place of the restoration of the covenant to the Nephites. In fact, the name Mormon became synonymous with the concept of restoring the covenants.
In light of this understanding, the Book of Mormon is not named for a man. It is named for the place where the covenant was restored. Symbolically, the Book of Mormon bears the name “Book of the Restoration of the Covenant.” Is it any wonder that God used this book to spearhead the Restoration Movement of the 1820s and 1830s? The purpose of the book is stated on the title page, “that they may know the covenants of the Lord,” is confirmed even in the title.