Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day: The Names of God - Introduction

Back in 1991 I was preparing to teach a lesson about the Revelation of Saint John, also known as Apocalypsis, in the "Gospel Doctrine" adult Sunday School class. I noticed the following 35 names of God in Revelation.

  • Almighty;
  • Almighty God;
  • Alpha and Omega;
  • Amen;
  • Beginning and the ending;
  • Beginning of the creation of God;
  • Bright and morning star;
  • Faithful and True;
  • Faithful and true witness;
  • Faithful witness;
  • First and the last;
  • First begotten of the dead;
  • Hath the key of David;
  • Hath the sharp sword with two edges;
  • Holy;
  • Jesus Christ;
  • King of Kings and Lord of Lords;
  • King of saints;
  • Lamb that was slain;
  • Lion of the tribe of Juda;
  • Liveth forever and ever;
  • Liveth, and was dead;
  • Lord God omnipotent;
  • Loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood;
  • Openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth;
  • Prince of the kings of the Earth;
  • Root and the offspring of David;
  • Root of David;
  • Searcheth the reins and hearts;
  • Son of God;
  • Son of man;
  • True;
  • Was dead, and is alive;
  • Which is, and which was, and which is to come;
  • Word of God

These are not just names, but also descriptions, symbols, titles, characteristics, etc. For simplicity I'll just say "names" throughout the remainder of this article.

During the fall of 1998 I wrote several articles to help teach some Gospel Doctrine lessons about Isaiah. This got me to start noticing the many names of God in Isaiah. I started out with about 90 names on pages 595-596 of Donald W. Parry's book Understanding Isaiah (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998), and then found about 60 more with just a small amount of my own study. So before the end of 1998 I had around 155 names from just Isaiah and Revelation.

Early in 1999 it occurred to me to wonder how many other names of God are given in the rest of the Standard Works. I decided to try to come up with enough to fill every day on a calendar and give the result to my dad on Father's Day. June 18 was the deadline for mailing it off to him. By then I only had 363 names. The whole thing wasn't very well organized either. Not ready to put on a calendar. But I put it in the mail and made copies to hand out at church. The next day I found 103 more names. The day after that was Father's Day. I found 63 more names that Sunday. By July 3, 1999, I had found 40 more names, for a total of 569 entries. There are undoubtedly more, but by then my attention span had been exceeded.

I give copies of my research papers to a lot of people. I almost NEVER get any feedback from anyone. Sort of like this Blog! It has occurred to me that each person is probably supposed to go through these exercises of discovery for himself and not have it given to him like this. So perhaps I should write this stuff and then just keep it to myself? Nah...

I'm quite impressed with the scriptural descriptions of the experience called the Visions of the Eternities, which would be a good subject for one of these posts. Holy men who have those visions seem to praise and glorify God by writing down some of the multitude of names that have been revealed to them. Perhaps it could enrich our prayers to read and reflect on these.

Many verses contain more than one name. For example Christ is referred to as child, son, governor, Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6.

As you can see, governor is derived, as are several other names in the rest of this compilation. Also notice that names seem to be capitalized, while titles and symbols and so on are not. As you read down this list, try to feel the way each prophet must have felt as he recorded his marvelous visions and revelations.

How to organize these names was another problem.

Some words are used in multiple combinations: God thy glory, bread of God, bread of life, God .. of the Living, a life which is endless, and He that liveth and was dead. Do I alphabetize these by the first word, or by the most important word? Who is to say which is the most important word? My choice seems arbitrary.

Many name combinations are almost the same: God thy glory, God of glory. Do I keep them as separate names, or do I combine them? Again, what I might choose to do seems arbitrary.

Some names have multiple terms: All-wise Creator (Mosiah 29:19). I decided these should be filed with the noun, creator, and not with the adjective, wise. But God's wisdom is just as salient a characteristic as his being the creator, so this too is arbitrary.

Anyway, you'll see what I mean and probably you'll think I should have put some of the names somewhere else. I'd welcome your comments and suggestions. If you find additional names, please email me so I can add them. Thanks.

I "finished" the text version of this article on December 11, 1999. For Father's Day 2001 I translated it into Spanish. That resulted in some interesting discoveries. But they are mentioned only in the Spanish version. In 2003 I completely reorganized the English version when I converted it into a web page.

Like almost everything I do, this is a work in progress; I haven't made any changes since 2003. I've put it down and gone on to other things without ever really finishing it, and I probably won't ever go back. I have lots of projects like that.

Here's my keynote scripture for this article. By studying the names of Deity, maybe we can better follow in the steps of the Master.

2 Nephi 31:16-20 - 16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved. 17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. 18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. 19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.


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