Source:Echoes:Ch2:17:Alma as male name

Alma a male semitic name, not a female Latinate one

Alma a male semitic name, not a female Latinate one

[T]wo male characters named Alma appear in the Book of Mormon. And, of course, this seems to run counter to what we might have expected: If Joseph Smith knew the name Alma at all from his environment, it is highly likely that he would have known it as a Latinate woman's name rather than as a masculine one. (Many will recognize the Latin phrase alma mater, which means "beneficent mother.") Recent documentary finds demonstrate, however, that Alma also occurs as a Semitic masculine personal name in the ancient Near East—just as it does in the Book of Mormon. How did Joseph know this? How could he have learned it? Quite simply, so far as modern scholarship has been able to determine, he could not have known it from any source existing in his frontier American environment.

The Book of Mormon's use of Alma as a man's name has occasioned considerable amusement among uninformed critics of the book. [1]


  1. Daniel C. Peterson, "Not Joseph's, and Not Modern," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 2, references silently removed—consult original for citations.