In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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.

16 Responses to In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

  1. J. Stapley says:

    WVS, the evidence keeps accumulating that we share similar affinities.

    I number of years ago, I started a study of the invoking the Lord’s names in sermons.

    A couple of months ago, I started a database of sermons, in order to do some more and better analyses. I finished the Journal of Discourses and most of the Collected Discourses. I’ve planned on doing the April Conferences for the balance of our history, but have gotten distracted. If you are interested, I’d be happy to send along my data.

  2. Tod Robbins says:

    Share you will please?

  3. ACH says:

    Did anyone catch the Elder who gave the opening prayer during priesthood session. Did he read the prayer? He looked up several times during the prayer and at the end said,” In the name of Jesus Christ.” No Amen given by him. It was strange!

  4. W. V. Smith says:

    I was sitting close to the pulpit, it looked like he may have just gotten anxious and turned away before he said “amen” into the mike.

  5. W. V. Smith says:

    Replayed the session. He just didn’t say amen. And he was reading off the prompters. Weird. Talk in the prayer.

  6. Chris says:

    Now I am not an historian of religion, so this is all speculation, but the ending, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen,” has been common in the Roman Catholic Church (as well as Eastern Orthodox, I believe), for centuries. The use of this, as well as the shortened version, “In the name of Jesus (Christ), amen,” was continued by the Church of England after its break, and is also common among some Protestant denominations, particularly those that split from the Church of England, like the Baptists and the Methodists. If I am not mistaken, John Taylor was raised in the C of E, and later became a Methodist minister. So it’s likely he would have been using some version of your post title before he became a Mormon. This, as well as the conversion of many other former Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, and even Catholics, would help to explain why it became so popular among Mormons.

  7. W. V. Smith says:

    I’m guessing you’re on to something there Chris. There’s no doubt that similar language was found in the heritage of many Mormons. I do note however that some Protestant critics of Mormonism have claimed that the usage in prayer is not mandated and so marks the Mormons as out of the mainstream somehow. Be that as it may, it was its use as a sermon termination that was my interest. But I suspect that, given the evolution noted in the OP, a complete canvass of the data would show it’s derived from prayer language.

  8. J. Stapley says:

    I believe it was common in prayers. Hence it’s early use in sermons if the sermon ended in supplication. Of the 162 Taylor sermons I counted, he invoked the name of Christ in the form of prayer 106 times. He ended without any invocation 53 times.

  9. David Dunton says:

    I’m 60 years old and I don’t remember a time when talks weren’t ended “in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” In fact, we were taught to do that in our 2 1/2 minutes talks in Sunday School. My regret is that youth today seem all too often to toss it off and run it together, so that it sounds something like “Isaythisn’namejeschristmen.”

  10. W. V. Smith says:

    It can become a little rote. Being in the middle-aged category myself, I’ve observed some of the same thing. Another oddity that seems to prevail in the culture is the ending of testimony or address with what seems to be the less appropriate “in the name of Thy Son, . . . .” Ok in prayer I suppose, but otherwise displays a lack of thought, perhaps. Wrong addressee. (grin)

  11. TaterTot says:

    Something that I have just run into in the last few years is people saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.” This seems very strange to me.

  12. DRK says:

    I, too, have noticed the oddity of the ending of a lesson, testimony or talk with “in the name of Thy Son,…”. I thought those were some basic things taught in Primary and SS in our youth. Granted, I don’t expect teachers to teach all things, but these were adults who I thought would know otherwise.

  13. Larry Price says:

    I’d have thought this would have been remembered from some of our lessons over the years, as it’s been mentioned off and on… but what we are talking about here is called the True Order of Prayer, the basis for what we call the Steps of Prayer. The missionaries start investigators out with four steps, but there should – by all rights – be more than that.

    Critical to the True Order of Prayer are to open our prayers ONLY to God / Heavenly Father / Our Father…, etc. NOT “Dear Lord,” as Lord refers to Christ. Some Christians feel comfortable praying to “Christ-who-is-God,” but we don’t do the Trinitarian thing, knowing them to be seperate.

    We CLOSE prayers “in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen,” for the same reason: it’s spelled out as part of the True Order of Prayer. In public prayers, the person praying represents the group, and includes them by saying, “We thank thee / We ask Thee / We say these things.” So, closing with “*I* say these things in the name…” because it slips everyone’s participation out of the group-think spirit of things, is wording properly relegated to private prayer.
    See: Russell M. Nelson, “Sweet Power of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2003, 7, and
    Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (1985), 380, for some recent teachings.

    (Hopefully, I’ll have an article published soon in the Ensign on the subject.)

  14. W. V. Smith says:

    Interesting comment, Larry. Our prayer tradition is certainly an important object of investigation. However, prayer was not the focus of the OP. Sermon endings have varied rather widely in our history, which is the point of the OP. I think a careful study of prayer formalisms would find a close linkage with nineteenth century American Protestant praxis.

  15. C. Trimblejr says:

    It is ironic that this subject was raised in our Bible Study just last night!!! We have a short Prayer Period before each B/S to invoke the Holy Spirit to help us get the knowledge and wisdom intended through the Scriptures and to share our gleanings with others.

    When in the this course, several prayers ended with citing the The Trinity!

    We had never paid particular attention to these Prayer Endings, even though most all, no I’ll say all of us in that meeting address out prayers to The Father, as instructed by Jesus, and teach our congregation the same!!! Yet I’ve heard other prayer saluations as, “Lord Jesus …”! However I can’t remember their ending.

    Most of us are in agreement with Larry, but wonder if there is a theological reference scripturally to “in the the name of the Trinity”?

    Comments welcomed!

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