In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
April 4, 2010 16 Comments
Mormons end virtually every public sermon, testimony, lesson, prayer, etc. with these words. Why? A number of scriptural justifications could be offered. But I’m more interested in the sermon angle. After sitting through the Saturday conference sessions, I wondered when this tradition started in Utah Mormonism. It doesn’t seem to be shared by other Joseph Smith-based faith traditions, at least that I can see with a cursory review. It was not used regularly as a sermon tag line in Nauvoo. And believe me, I’ve looked at that. (But see Joseph’s blessing ending on April 13, 1843 for example.)
So, I won’t be terribly thorough here, but I was curious about Church Presidents and their habits in this regard.
In Utah, Brigham Young often used a wrap up like “God bless you. Amen.” I couldn’t find a sermon by him with the post title ending.
During John Taylor’s tenure, we see it (the post title) rather often from him. In fact he used the phrase in the body of his addresses quite often. Like “I tell you in the name of Jesus,” or “I tell you in the name of Israel’s God,” etc. His last public address uses his favorite variant: “in the name of Jesus, amen.” It was usually associated with a blessing or an implicit prayer. (What I will call the prayer and blessing endings.)
Wilford Woodruff did not end his addresses as a matter of course with these words, but occasionally closed his speeches with “this is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (The prayer ending.)
At an address in Springville, Utah in March 1889, he used the Brigham Young sign-off. At the April conference, he just said, “Amen” to close. He also went back to a standard of his, “which may God grant, for Christ’s sake. Amen.” on a number of occasions.
Lorenzo Snow frequently just said “Amen” at the terminus. Also he used the Woodruff, “this is my prayer,” ending. He also used the Brigham wrap-up, and that is the way he closed his last public sermon.
Joseph F. Smith closed his first sermon as church president with the “this is my prayer . . . ” thing and he uses it frequently thereafter. He does go back to the Young version: “God bless you, amen.” on occasion. He never seems to get into the rote, “in the name of . . . ” ending.
Heber J. Grant closed one of his early sermons as president with the standard, “is my prayer, in the name . . .” On other occasions it appears that he just finished a sentence and took his seat without a closing salutation at all. When he used the “prayer” ending, he occasionally expanded it with something like “I pray for the blessings of the Lord to abide with all Israel, and I do it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.” He seems never to have closed a speech with the presently ubiquitous “In the name . . .” alone. It was always a prayer closure at the end of the address.
George Albert Smith used the prayer ending too, but also began to close with phrases like, “I bear you that witness in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
David O. McKay started his administration with a speech closed with the prayer ending: “God bless his memory and bring comfort to your souls today and always, you choice children and members of an illustrious family, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” In 1963 he used “With all the power the Lord has given his servants, I bless you, and pray that you will go forth with the spirit of service, honoring his name now and forever, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” A slight variation. But by far his most universal close was the prayer version: “I pray in the name . . . “
Joseph Fielding Smith used the prayer ending in his first address as president. But he used the George Albert Smith testimony ending that April too. He used the prayer ending most often and this included his final address.
Harold B. Lee used the prayer wind-up but also used variants of this: “I plead with you, my brethren, and leave with you ny blessing, and bear you my witness this night, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.” A testimony + blessing. His last address used the testimony ending: “I know with a certainty that defies all doubt that this is his work, that he is guiding us and directing us today, as he has done in every dispensation of the gospel, and I say that with all the humility of my soul, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Spencer Kimball’s first address used the testimony form, but by 1974 he is just wrapping up with the flat. “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” He of course continues with the prayer form, testimony form and blessing form, but he uses the flat form with some frequency.
Ezra Taft Benson begins his administration using the essentially the flat form. He continues to use that, but also he uses the prayer form with some frequency and uses the testimony form as well.
Howard W. Hunter uses the prayer form, but also the flat form.
Gordon B. Hinckley seems to have used all forms with no particular preference.
And there you have it. The flat form we seem to hear most often in church settings seems to come into use more frequently with the Kimball administration.
Happy Easter and enjoy the rest of conference.