Source:Echoes:Ch7:9:Prophetic speech formulas

Prophetic Speech Formulas

Prophetic Speech Formulas

In Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World, biblical scholar David E. Aune sets forth the various formulaic expressions that characterize prophetic speech in the Old Testament.18 Often employed at the beginning of a prophetic speech, prophecy, or reve-lation, these expressions serve to formally introduce vital, sacred utterances and to announce that the Lord is the source behind them. The Book of Mormon prophets used the same formulas in their prophetic discourse. The formulas are as follows:

  • The messenger formula—"Thus saith the Lord . . ." (e.g., Amos 1:3,6:{{{4}}}). The purpose of the expression, found thirty-nine times in the Book of Mormon (e.g., 1 Nephi 20:17; Mosiah 3:24; Alma 8:17), is to indicate the origin of the revelation. The revelation is directed to the messenger (i.e., a prophet) from the Lord himself.
  • The proclamation formula—"Hear the word of the Lord . . ." (e.g., 1 Kings 22:19; Amos 7:16; Isaiah 49:1). The declaration is an emphatic summons to hear God's word. Book of Mormon instances of this formula include "hearken to the word of the Lord" (Jacob 2:27), "hear the words of Jesus" (3 Nephi 30:1), and "hearken unto the words which the Lord saith" (Helaman 13:21).
  • The oath formula—"The Lord God hath sworn . . ." (e.g., Amos 4:2; 8:7) or "as the Lord liveth" (e.g., Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13). This formula presents an oath. The phrase As the Lord liveth is found in 1 Nephi 3:15 and 4:32 and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon.
  • The revelation formula—"The word of the Lord came to . . ." (e.g., 1 Samuel 15:10; Zechariah 7:1). This expression indicates the origin of the message and the authority of the speaker. Of the Lamanite prophet Samuel, the Book of Mormon states, "Behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him" (Helaman 13:3; see also vv. 13:5,7; Jacob 2:11; Alma 43:24).
It is not by chance that the Book of Mormon contains these formulas, and a writer who wished to imitate the Bible would likely have overlooked them, employed them in improper contexts, or failed to integrate them into the text in a natural manner.[1]


  1. Donald W. Parry, "Hebraisms and Other Ancient Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon," 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 7, references silently removed—consult original for citations.