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Publication TypeEncyclopedia Entry
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsGalbraith, David B., and D. Kelly Ogden
Secondary AuthorsLudlow, Daniel H.
Secondary TitleEncyclopedia of Mormonism
Place PublishedNew York
KeywordsJesus Christ; Messiah; Savior
Citation Key590

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Messiah is a Hebrew term signifying "anointed one." The Greek equivalent is christos, whence the name Christ. Jesus, the divinely given name of the Savior (Matt. 1:21), derives from the Hebrew Yeshua or Yehoshua (or Joshua, as it commonly appears in English), from a root meaning "to save." With other Christians, Latter-day Saints agree that implicit in the name Jesus Christ lies the doctrine that he is the Messiah, the Anointed One who saves.

Like the New Testament, the Book of Mormon clearly identifies Jesus as the Messiah (1 Ne. 10:4-17; 2 Ne. 25:16-20; Hel. 8:13-17). It also declares that a knowledge of the Messiah existed "from the beginning of the world" (1 Ne. 12:18; Mosiah 13:33-35) and prophesies details of his life and mission. For example, the Messiah would appear in a body (1 Ne. 15:13), his name would be Jesus Christ (2 Ne. 25:19; Mosiah 3:8), and he would be baptized as an example of obedience (2 Ne. 31:4-9). Moreover, signs would attend his birth, death, and resurrection (2 Ne. 26:3; Hel. 14:2-8, 20-28). In this connection, he would be slain and rise from the dead, bringing to pass the resurrection (1 Ne. 10:11; 2 Ne. 2:8). At the last day, he is to appear in power and glory (2 Ne. 6:14), to reign as king and lawgiver (D&C 45:59; 1 Tim. 6:14-15). [See also Jesus Christ, Names and Titles of.]


Messiah: Messianic Concept and Hope


It is LDS doctrine that a knowledge of the role of Jesus Christ as the Messiah has been on the earth from the beginning. God taught Adam and Eve about the Messiah who would redeem mankind. Called "Only Begotten" and "Son of Man," even his name Jesus Christ was revealed (Moses 5:7-11;6:52-57) These are, of course, the anglicized words meaning "Savior Anointed." God also taught Enoch that the "Messiah, the King of Zion" would die on a cross (Moses 7:53-55).

From other sources it is evident that Hebrew people clearly believed in a redeemer, though characterizations varied. The Bible refers to him through imagery such as "the shepherd, the stone of Israel" (Gen. 49:24), the "tried stone" or "sure foundation" (Isa. 28:16), the "stem of Jesse" and "Branch" (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 33:15-16). He is also called Redeemer, Holy One of Israel, Savior, Lord of Hosts, the First and Last (Isa. 43:1-15;44:6), and even a servant (Isa. 42:1;49:3;50:10;52:13).

Because biblical prophecy uses the imagery of royalty, some believed that at his first coming the Messiah would save them from political bondage. Jacob foresaw that Shiloh would come, to whom people would gather (Gen. 49:10). Moses prophesied, "There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Num. 24:17). Isaiah envisioned a child born, "and the government shall be upon his shoulder…. Of the increase of…peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom" (Isa. 9:6-7). Micah recorded that from Bethlehem "shall he come forth…to be ruler in Israel" (Micah 5:2). Jeremiah saw that "a King shall reign…and shall execute judgment and justice" (Jer. 23:5). However, such royal prophecies of a king and ruler would find fulfillment in the Messiah's eternal, rather than his mortal, role.

The prophets planted seeds of belief in a Messiah, seeds that would flower during later periods. The dead sea scrolls reveal a hope in two Messiahs who would lead a religious revival. Judas Maccabeus' example (d. 160 B.C.), overthrowing the Greeks and reestablishing Jewish independence, spawned hope during the early Roman period (63 B.C.-A.D. 70) that a Messiah would deliver the Jewish nation. Although royalty and battle imagery in the Bible was interpreted to mean political deliverance, those images referred to spiritual salvation. Said Jesus, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

The title Messiah (Hebrew mashiah; Greek christos ) means "anointed one." Among ancient Israelites, persons set apart for God's work were anointed with oil, including prophets, priests, and kings. Jesus, citing a messianic prophecy from Isaiah (61:1), told hearers in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel,…to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives" (Luke 4:18).

Isaiah described the "servant" as one who would be smitten (Isa. 50:6), even "wounded for our transgressions,…bruised for our iniquities," and yet "make intercession for the transgressors" (53:3-5, 12). Zechariah added that he would be wounded in the house of his friends (Zech. 12:10;13:6-7). New Testament authors also understood that Jesus was to suffer before entering his glory (e.g., Luke 24:26; Acts 3:18).

Throughout his ministry Jesus clearly understood his messiahship (cf. 3 Ne. 15:20-23). For instance, when the Samaritan woman acknowledged, "I know that Messias cometh," Jesus responded, "I that speak unto thee am he" (John 4:25-26). Peter declared, "Thou art the Christ [Messiah]" (Matt. 16:16); and Andrew, Peter's brother, announced, "We have found the Messias" (John 1:41). Even devils are reported to have said, "Thou art Christ the Son of God" (e.g., Luke 4:41).

The biblical portrayal of a mortal Messiah reviled rather than ruling, rejected rather than reigning, is amplified in the Book of Mormon. As its modern subtitle indicates, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, or Jesus the Messiah. Book of Mormon writers taught that all prophets spoke concerning the Messiah (Jacob 7:11; Mosiah 13:33). In approximately 600 B.C., Lehi taught that "redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah…. Behold he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin…that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead" (2 Ne. 2:6-10).

Nephi 1 wrote that since all are in a fallen state, they must rely on the Messiah, the Redeemer. He learned that the Son of God was willing to come as the Messiah, preach the gospel, serve as an example of righteous living, and be slain for the sins of all (1 Ne. 10:4-6, 11;11:26-33;19:9; 2 Ne. 25:11-19;31:9-16).

King Benjamin described how Jesus Christ would come from heaven to dwell in a mortal body, "working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick…[and casting] out devils," suffering temptation and fatigue. Even blood would come "from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people." Saying that he was only a man and that "he hath a devil, [they] shall scourge him, and shall crucify him" (Mosiah 3:5-10).

Alma 2 said of the Messiah's ministry, "He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities…that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12).

More than five centuries before Christ's birth, Jacob wrote, "For this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us" (Jacob 4:4).


McConkie, Bruce R. The Promised Messiah. Salt Lake City, 1978.