Feast upon the Word Blog

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The Name By Which We are Called

Posted by NathanG on November 4, 2008


During the days of darkness on the American continent, Christ speaks to the people at two different times.  During the second recorded address to the people, Christ gives the often discussed plea of “How oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens” repeated three times with past, somewhat present, and future tense, as well as statements about people fallen in the Nephite cities, fallen in Jerusalem, and those who are spared. 


Interesting as his plea is, I have never considered the way he addresses these people.  (3 Nephi 10:4-6)


4 O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.

5 And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.

6 O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose


Throughout the Book of Mormon we get entrenched in thinking of the people as Nephites and Lamanites with a few variations along the way.  A more significant name is picked up along the way, perhaps beginning at the time of King Benjamin when he calls them children of Christ, but definitely during the wars with Captain Moroni when they are called Christians.  When Christ speaks, however, he uses neither name to address these people, but he calls them by the house of Israel. 


Why?  When he comes again, what name will he be calling his people by?  Will it be Mormons?  Christians?  Jews?  Will he call again by the house of Israel?  Will we understand why he might call us by the house of Israel?


The last verse of his address to these people is:

7 But if not, O house of Israel, the places of your dwellings shall become desolate until the time of the fulfilling of the covenant to your fathers.


So what is the importance of this name?  Or is there any importance to how he addressed these people?  How will we be called?

6 Responses to “The Name By Which We are Called”

  1. Jeremy said

    To me there are 2 schools of thought. One, we will likely be called Israel upon the Lord’s return. This is because Israel is symbolic of God’s people. Plus we have numerous latter-day commentary indicating that those who are to receive exaltation will either be from the lineage of Israel, or adopted thereto. Simply put, the blessings of Abraham do not flow through “Christians”, per se, since anyone who professes Christ may be termed a Christian. Instead, the blessings of Abraham, as we learn in the temple, flow through our Israelite lineage.

    Two, John’s Revelation makes clear that the righteous (not just 144,000 high priests – which is symbolic of the #12 [God’s Family] multiplied by 12,000) will be sealed in their foreheads with God’s name. In other words, the righteous will be called by God’s name, and God will claim them as his. A similar re-naming occurred with with King Benjamin’s people when they made similar covenants that we do in modern-day temples.

    I tend to lean towards the first school of thought, however, since the world at large probably won’t understand the second. Hopefully those with a testimony in this Church DO understand why Christ may call us by Israel.

  2. robf said

    The whole purpose of the Book of Mormon is to help fulfill the covenants made to the fathers…be they Abraham, Israel, Lehi, Nephi, etc. They cannot be made perfect without their descendants, and the descendants can’t be made perfect without remembering and taking part of the covenants. And the Gentiles are to take the covenant back to these scattered people.

    The Book of Mormon is not a “how to get back to God in ten easy steps” type of book. It is a mustard seed. Planted in the ground by the ancients, growing up now through the Church, making it possible for the angels (who are the ancestors) to come roost in the branches of the Church and help save their descendants.

    Thanks for pointing out how even the divine role of Christ is somehow subsumed into this plan of salvation through covenants.

    This Book of Mormon just amazes me at every step!

  3. NathanG said

    When I first thought about the house of Israel in these verses my thoughts were basically summed up by Jeremy’s first thought. It would be a call to the covenant people.

    A few days later with Joe’s post on JS Lesson 21 discussing a terrestrial verses celestial interpretation of scriptures, a stake conference devoted to the temple, and reading 3 Nephi 27, I think there’s more to the story (not that I assume my thoughts or understanding on the matter are complete).

    Perhaps the call to the people of Nephi as the house of Israel was to remind them they are part of the covenant people. Perhaps they had forgotten they were part of the covenant, or were not fulfilling the covenenat. Perhaps they were a terrestrial. They were the more righteous part of the people, but they were told in verse 6 (chapter 10) “how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose”.

    Near the end of the recorded ministry of Christ among the Nephites they are asking what name they should name the church. Here we have a more familiar answer of all things should be done in Christ’s name.

    So what is different now? The people are now converted and if not at the moment of chapter 27 will soon be living a celestial life. So do we need to be living the celestial to be called by the name of Christ (it is the celestial that belong to the church of the Firstborn)? Are we called by a name other than by Christ if we are anything less than celestial?

    If this is the case, at what point do we get to be called by the name of Christ? At baptism we take upon ourselves Christ’s name? Is this sufficient to then be called by his name? Or is baptism just the gate that will lead us to the point where we can be called by Christ’s name? Is there a difference between the taking upon us Christ’s name and the name that was given to Benjamin’s people (children of Christ) (although they were also ovenanting to take upon them the name of Christ) Is this really fulfilled by making and keeping temple covenents? A phrase that was repeated several times at our stake conference is that we come unto Christ through the temple (or something like unto that), so is it the temple that really matters?

    King Benjamin’s address has been likened to an endowment here. Is Christ’s visit to the America’s somewhat like an endowment? Is the invitation to come unto Christ not simply an invitation to be baptized, but to come into his presence through the temple? What about other illustrations of coming unto Christ in the Book of Mormon? When do we really partake of the fruit of the tree of life in Lehi’s vision? Is it through the temple ordinances? If so, then how much sadder that people would partake and then be led astray by the mockings of those in the great and spacious building. How about Moroni’s invitation at the end of the Book of Mormon to come unto Christ?

    How will we be called when he comes again? How are we called now?

  4. joespencer said


    I very much like the questions you’re raising here. I wonder if the Epistle to the Romans doesn’t come to the aid here: Paul takes as his task (especially in chapters 9-11, perhaps) to show that there is no distinction between Israel and (true) Christianity. That is, you could say that they are called by both names.

    But I wonder how we might sort that out still more clearly. Is it that we are called by the name of Christ on the individual level and by Israel on the collective level? And what does it mean to take upon us either of these names? I find that in Third Nephi especially, the idea of taking on us the name of Christ implies a particular relationship to the Father, that we approach the Father as if we were Christ/the Son. And then throughout the same sermons, Christ constantly connects (as does Nephi earlier in the Book of Mormon) the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (with all the naming of Israel business) to the Father specifically. Is it that taking upon us the name of Christ as individuals allows us to approach the Father who will then begin to fulfill the covenants and make of so many christs a collective Israel?

    Is this why those in the terrestrial kingdom will have the presence of the Son but not of the Father? They will have taken upon them the name of Christ, but not so as to come to the Father through that name; while those who have taken upon them the name of Christ and so approached the Father will be added upon, receiving the name of Israel and so be received into the Church of the Firstborn (understanding the Firstborn here as Adam rather than as Christ)?

    Much to think about. I’ll confess that the past few weeks in Third Nephi (1) in Sunday School and (2) in reading the Book of Mormon with my daughter has got me thinking it is long past due for me to get serious work on Third Nephi done, something I have never taken up…

  5. NathanG said

    Interesting stuff to think about. Thanks for your additional thoughts. I’m curious what you mean be Church of the Firstborn as Adam rather than Christ? I was looking through the different references to church of the Firstborn in the scriptures and a few mention Christ specifically. On the other hand, I could imagine reasons why referring to Adam would be appropriate (both Adam in the garden of Eden, and something on the edge of my memory is thinking that Christ is referred to as a second Adam because he was the first resurrected), but I’m curious if you could expound a little more on that.

    “Is it that taking upon us the name of Christ as individuals allows us to approach the Father who will then begin to fulfill the covenants and make of so many christs a collective Israel?” I imagine you are using “christs” as annointed ones. This and everything with this naming business seems to have a lot of allusion to the endowment. Much to think on there.

  6. joespencer said

    The only reference that would seem to imply a direct identification between the Firstborn and Christ is D&C 93:21-22: “And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.”

    I want to look at this more closely, though.

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