Invoking the name of the Lord is common in Mormon parlance. Whether prayer, testimony or discourse, terminating one’s words with the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” or a variation thereof is standard practice. This practice as currently employed is, however, a relatively recent innovation in the Mormon tradition.
Almost three years ago and on business trip I reviewed discourses from 1852 to 1970 and cataloged the occurrences of the now ubiquitous benediction (1). The result was a group of frequencies for various usages. I categorized them quaternarily:
In this usage, the orator invokes the Lord’s name as a conclusion to a blessing (e.g., “I bless you all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” JD 8:39). There were only 16 instances of blessings being used to terminate a discourse in the references searched.
This usage is synonymous to prayer. From the 1850’s on, a minority of discourses were terminated in supplication to the Lord. This practice gained in popularity until the 1940’s, when almost all discourses were in this way terminated. Examples of usage include: “I pray that God may enlighten our minds, guide our feet in the way of truth, and save us in his kingdom, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” JD 8:6; “May God help us to live the life of a Saint and finally save us in his kingdom, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” JD 21:91; and “God help us to treasure this testimony, I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” Conference Report, April 1920 pg. 83.
Closing a discourse with a testimony or witness started at the turn of the century, but did not become common until the late 1910’s. An Example of such usage is, “I bear this testimony humbly, in the fear of God, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” (Conference Report 1920, pg. 46.)
Starting in the 1950’s, authorities terminated their discourses with “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” or by sticking the incomplete sentence: “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen” at the end of the talk.
I found that the vast majority of 19th century Mormon discourses were not terminated by invoking the name of Jesus Christ. Normally a discourse would be terminated by the utterance of “amen,” without the qualifying appellation (e.g., “God bless you all. Amen.” JD 10:32), or without any amen at all. However, invoking the Lords name became more popular with time and by the 1940’s all talks were closed in supplication. Below is time-line of notable occurrences in the history of this usage.
1853 – (2) Parley P. Pratt issues a discourse at the temple grounds in which he terminates in the orphan usage. As this is the only usage for the next 67 years, I tend to think this was a transcription error.
1857 – (3) Heber C. Kimball curses the leaders of the US government in the name of the lord. This is the only instance of “cursing” I found in my query.
1858? – (4) Orson Hyde has the first recorded concluding testimony. This does not happen again until the turn of the century.
1900 – (5) William H. Smart delivers the next closing testimony.
1920 – two uses of the orphan (only one other in the next 33 years).
1953 – (6) Bruce R. McConkie is the first to consistently use it as the orphan, but in doing so, he uses, “In the name of Jesus Christ.” as a sentence in and of itself. He continues to be the only one for the next five years to use it as the orphan (however, from there it grows in popularity until the end of the observed period).
The following are graphical representation of that study I did 3 years ago. I recognize that in reporting frequency, not percentage occurrences the data is difficult to compare between years. Even though it was a ton of work, I decided to go through every discourse given from 1853 to the present and quantify all occurrences for a percentile analysis. After making it through seven years of discourses, I got caught up in other, more compelling, research projects. Still, I have included the data for those seven years in the third graph.
- The data comes from searching electronic copies (Gospel Link 2001) of:
Journal of Discourse 1-26 (1853-1886)
Collected Discourses 1-5 (1886-1898)
April General Conference Reports (1898-1915, 1917, 1918, 1920-49, 1951, 1953-70)
June 1919 General Conference Report
I did not have 1916, 1950 or 1952 Conference Reports on the computer I traveled with. I limited the query to one conference per year, because I’m lazy and tabulated all this by hand. Results are from querying the aforementioned references to find instances of “in the name of Jesus Christ” and “amen” that occur in the same paragraph. Consequently some variations of the closure (e.g., in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen, etc.) were not tabulated.
- But remember, O ye Saints of the Most High! remember that the enemy is on the alert. That old serpent and his angels, who have ruled this lower world, with few exceptions, for so many ages, will not tamely, and without a struggle, submit to have the kingdom, and seat of government, and sanctuary of our God, again erected on our planet, no more to be thrown down or subdued, till every square yard of the vast dominion shall be reconquered by its rightful owners. No! From the moment the ground was broken for this Temple, those inspired by him [Satan] have commenced to rage; and he will continue to stir up his servants to anger against that which is good, but, if we are faithful, the victory is ours, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Parley P. Pratt, JD 2:47)
- Did I ever wrong them, a man or woman of them, out of a dime? No; but I have fed thousands where I never received a dime. Poor rotten curses! And the President of the United States, inasmuch as he has turned against us and will take a course to persist in pleasing the ungodly curses that are howling around him for the destruction of this people, he shall be cursed, in the name of Israel’s God, and he shall not rule over this nation, because they are my brethren; but they have cast me out and cast you out; and I curse him and all his coadjutors in his cursed deeds, in the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the Holy Priesthood; and all Israel shall say amen. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 5:34)
- This is my testimony, and the testimony of the living God through his Apostle to all connected in the name of Jesus Christ; and the Spirit beareth record. Amen. (Elder Orson Hyde, JD 7:53)
- The spirit bore witness to us that that word was from God and that it was not of man. I do not feel that I have power to take up your valuable time this morning, but I did want to bear this testimony unto you, and I do it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (William H. Smart, Conference Report, April 1900, Third Day—Morning Session, 50)
- There is no greater gift that a person can earn and enjoy for himself, in mortality, than the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gift is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead, and which gift is actually enjoyed only on condition of individual righteousness.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report, April 1953, Second Day—Morning Meeting, 76)