Keller, Roger R., “Book of Mormon Authors: Their Words and Messages (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1996), 59–81.

The word Earth poses some interesting problems for a word study. It is a word which virtually all authors in the Book of Mormon use, with the exceptions of Enos, Mosiah, and Zeniff. Amulek, Captain Moroni, and Helaman each use the word only once, and therefore little can be said with any certainty about their understanding of the word. However, all the other authors use it at a rate of once or more per thousand words of their text. The Lord in the heavens uses the word Earth the most with a use ratio of 3.32 per thousand words of his text. Next in use frequency would be the Lord in Isaiah (3.01), Isaiah (2.94), Samuel (2.92), and the Father (2.74).

Authors with use ratios below 2.00 are Lehi (1.91), Moroni 2 (1.87), Nephi 2 (1.80), Ammon (1.75), Nephi 1 (1.73), Jesus (1.45), the Angel (1.44), Benjamin (1.42), Mormon (1.29—he also has the most numerical uses of the word), Abinadi (1.07), and Jacob (1.06). Finally, those below 1.00 but who still have a useful number of occurrences of the word Earth are Alma 2 (0.94) and Zenos (0.70).

As one first looks at the various ways the word Earth is used, no clear-cut lines seem to exist between the authors, except for Mormon, who has a different usage from everyone else. However, as one begins to read the various passages where the word appears and to group the usages into common categories, some distinctions begin to surface.

The categories that seem useful in distinguishing the ways in which the various authors used the word Earth are “God’s acts,” “Globe,” “Inhabitants,” “Ground,” “Land,” and “Values.” The first category refers to the earth as the realm which God created or in which he acts. “Globe” denotes the place where humans dwell, and “Inhabitants” recognizes the earth as the place where humans act or are acted upon, either by God or by one another. “Ground” indicates that Earth may simply refer to the material upon which we walk. The last two categories are very small, with “Land” referring to a geographic region and “Values” indicating the “ways of the world.” Figure 1 shows the various categories from a percentage standpoint, in the order in which I will discuss them.

Figure 1


Without Mormon

With Mormon

God’s acts





















Mormon is excluded in the first column of figure 1 because his use of Earth is so different from the way the others use it. Inclusion of his statistics warps the use percentages of the other writers. In the second column of figure 1, one can see the dramatic shift in the percentages when Mormon’s usage is included. Thus, Earth in the Book of Mormon will be explored under the above categories, with Mormon’s uniqueness being highlighted.

God’s Acts

The dominant emphasis in this category is on God as Creator. God created the earth, and having created it he also rules over it. His ruling may reflect either mercy or judgment. In figure 2 we can see the distribution by author of the various meanings of Earth in this category.


The most common emphasis among the authors in figure 2 is that God created the earth. It is worth noting, however, that two dominant authors in the Book of Mormon, Alma 2 and Mormon, have no references to God’s activity in relation to the earth, except to note that God or an angel (in Alma’s case) may shake the earth.

God as Creator


Lehi speaks of God as Creator without relating this role to other attributes of God. Thus he indicates that those who fall away from the truth, having once experienced God’s blessings and having a knowledge of God as Creator, will suffer God’s judgments (2 Nephi 1:10). Further, if there were no God there would be no earth, for there could have been no creation (2 Nephi 2:13). Finally, Lehi affirms that God created all things in the heavens and on the earth (2 Nephi 2:14).

Moroni 2

Similarly, Moroni 2 asserts that God is Creator of the earth (Mormon 9:11, 17) as well as humankind, which is made from the dust of the earth (Mormon 9:17—Earth here meaning “ground”). In addition, he notes that through faith, Saints can cause the earth (“ground”) to tremble by the power of God’s word (Mormon 8:24)


Some writers tie God’s creative activity to his other attributes, particularly his mercy or his ruling power. Ammon, for example, asks king Lamoni whether he believes that God created the heavens and the earth (Alma 18:28); after they clarify who God is, Lamoni affirms his belief that God did in fact create the earth. Later, Ammon affirms to his brothers that the mercy of this same God is over all the earth (Alma 26:37).


King Benjamin states that God is Creator (Mosiah 4:9) and ties him as Creator with his divine attributes of wisdom, power, mercy, and justice, all of which are exercised both in heaven and on earth (Mosiah 4:9; 5:15).


For Jacob, God—the Creator of the earth and humankind (Jacob 2:5; 4:8–9)—is also the God who is able to command his creation and have power within it (Jacob 4:9; 7:14).

The Lord in Isaiah

The Lord in Isaiah affirms that God is the Creator of the earth (2 Nephi 8:13, 16). Consequently, his purposes will be fulfilled on the earth (2 Nephi 24:26).

The Lord

The Lord heightens his role as Creator (Mosiah 8:13; 3 Nephi 9:15) by asserting that he is father of the earth (Ether 4:7) and thus has the right to rule over it (2 Nephi 29:7). That rule may even include the right to command the earth (“ground”) to shake (Ether 4:9).

Nephi I

Nephi 1 likewise identifies the Lord as Creator of the earth (1 Nephi 17:36) and Jesus as the father of the earth (2 Nephi 25:12) who rules over it. Thus the earth may be identified as the Lord’s footstool (1 Nephi 17:39), and the earth (“ground”) may shake at the sound of the Lord’s voice (1 Nephi 17:45).

Samuel and Abinadi

Like Nephi 1, Samuel identifies Jesus as the father of the earth (Helaman 14:12). A similar situation appears with Abinadi, who identifies the Father and the Son as one God who is the father of heaven and earth (Mosiah 15:4). This is the same God who will come down among the earth’s inhabitants (Mosiah 13:34). [1]

God as Ruler


Jesus stresses that God rules over the earth, first making clear that he himself is the God of the whole earth (3 Nephi 11:14). However, in other places where he notes the ruling power of God, it seems to be the Father to whom he refers. When he tells his hearers not to swear by the earth, because it is God’s footstool (3 Nephi 12:35), he appears to have the Father in mind as God. This is further supported when Jesus first teaches the Nephites to pray and to ask that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (3 Nephi 13:10). He also indicates that he will strengthen his people with whom the Father has covenanted, and that he, Jesus, will see that all things are consecrated to the Lord, i.e., to the Father (3 Nephi 20:19).

The Angel

The Angel makes one reference to God’s lordship when he states that the Bible and the Book of Mormon will come together as one common witness to God, for there is only one God of the earth (1 Nephi 13:41). The implication is that although there may be two records, they will both bear witness of the same things, for they reflect the work of one God.


Finally, Isaiah has a strong sense of God’s presence in the world. God’s glory is in the world (2 Nephi 16:3). The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord in the millennium (2 Nephi 21:9), and God has done things which the inhabitants of the earth comprehend (2 Nephi 22:5). He is therefore God of the whole world (3 Nephi 22:5), but this means that he may in judgment smite the earth with his word (2 Nephi 21:4) and cause it to shake terribly (2 Nephi 12:19, 21).

In summary, God is the one who has created the earth and who rules over it. He rules in both mercy and justice. In his wrath, God may shake the earth to its very foundations. It should be noted in closing that Mormon has not been discussed in this section, largely because he makes no reference to God’s creative activity or his rulership, except to mention that God’s power can shake the earth. Mormon will be discussed as a separate category later in this chapter.

The Earth as the Globe

When Mormon is not included in the percentages, reference to the Earth as the globe is the largest category into which the use of the word Earth falls among the authors under consideration. Even with the inclusion of Mormon, this category still contains a significant percentage of the uses of Earth. Without the inclusion of Mormon, 91.3 percent of all uses of Earth in this category seem to refer to this planet or globe upon which people live and upon which God acts in relation to his people. Thus we see God acting upon, or people living on, the “face of the earth,” people scattered to the “ends of the earth,”the “four corners of the earth,” the “four parts of the earth,” and the “four quarters of the earth.” The distribution may be seen in figure 3.

Figure 3: Earth—Globe

Table of figure 3

From figure 3 it can be seen that there are both similarities and differences among the authors when Earth is considered to be the “globe.” Several use the expression “the ends of the earth,” while others use the phrase “the face of the earth” in either a positive or a negative context. Several authors also refer to the earth as a “planet.” In addition, there is a scattering of individual expressions.

Face of the Earth

The phrase most commonly used in conjunction with Earth is “the face of.” It is interesting that in two out of three instances there is a negative or threatening context with the phrase. Various writers, i.e., Alma 2, the Lord, Mormon, Moroni 2, Nephi 1, and Nephi 2, use the phrase. [2]

Alma 2

Alma 2 uses “face of the earth” predominantly in negative contexts. As he preaches to the people of Zarahemla, he asks whether they can imagine God inviting them to come to him because of their works of righteousness upon the face of the earth (Alma 5:16—positive context), or whether they imagine that they can lie to God about their works (Alma 5:17—negative context). While preaching in Ammonihah, Alma 2 reminds the people that if it had not been for God’s patience, they would have been “cut off from the face of the earth” (Alma 9:11) long ago, and that if they do not repent now, they will be cut off (Alma 9:12, 24). It was precisely for their failure to repent that the Jaredites were destroyed (Alma 37:22). Finally, Adam and Eve were cut off from the tree of life and were thereby destined to suffer death or to “be cut off from the face of the earth” (Alma 42:6). On a more positive note, Alma 2 declares that angels have issued to all those scattered abroad a call to repentance in preparation for Christ’s coming (Alma 13:22). And Alma 2 wishes that he could declare repentance and redemption to all so that there might be no more sorrow on the earth (Alma 29:2).

The Lord

When one turns to the words of the Lord, it is discovered that he promises to destroy from off the face of the earth those who do not repent among king Noah’s people (Mosiah 12:8), among the Jaredites (Alma 37:25), and among the Nephites (Mormon 3:15). In a more positive vein, he promises the brother of Jared that he will raise up a great nation from him on the face of the earth (Ether 1:43).

Moroni 2

Moroni 2’s use of “the face of the earth” is uniformly in negative contexts, with one exception in which he notes that rain came upon the land when the Jaredites, at one stage of their existence, finally repented (Ether 9:35). Otherwise, he states that at the time of the great tower, people were scattered on the face of the earth (Ether 1:33). Later, the Jaredites were dying because there was no rain (Ether 9:30), and there would be great destruction among them in the days of Shiblom and Ethem if they did not change their ways (Ether 11:6–7, 12). In addition, in the days of Cohor, none of his sons or daughters on the face of the earth repented (Ether 13:17). Finally, the Book of Mormon would appear in a day when great pollutions covered the earth (Mormon 8:31).


In two instances, Mormon notes that people were scattered on the face of the earth: the first use concerns the time of the great tower (Mosiah 28:17), the second concerns the scattered remnant of Israel (3 Nephi 5:24). In another place Mormon states that Jesus explained to the people of Bountiful the entirety of human history from its beginnings until his future return to the earth in glory (3 Nephi 26:3). Finally, Mormon tells us that the three Nephites ministered upon the face of the earth (3 Nephi 28:16).

Nephi 1

The majority of Nephi 1 ‘s uses of “face o f in negative contexts result from his concern for scattered Israel. Thus Israel is like an olive tree whose branches are scattered across the earth (1 Nephi 10:12), for the Lord promised that he would scatter it (1 Nephi 10:13). The Book of Mormon comes to Jews who are also scattered (1 Nephi 13:39). However, the power of God descends upon the scattered covenant people (1 Nephi 14:14) when they confront the great and abominable church which has adherents all over the earth (1 Nephi 14:13). More positively, in Lehi’s first recorded vision the twelve who descended with the Savior traveled across the earth (1 Nephi 1:11). Later, Nephi 1 sees that though the church of the Lamb is small, its dominion still covers the earth (1 Nephi 14:12).

Nephi 2

Nephi 2 uses “face o f once in relation to the globe, when he tells the Nephites that their lands will be taken from them and that they will be destroyed from off the earth unless they repent (Helaman 7:28).

In summary, “face of the earth” is used numerous times by various authors, often in the context of people being scattered upon or removed from the earth. However, promises are given to those scattered or errant peoples which can give them hope.

Ends of the Earth

A significant number of authors use phrases other than “face of to stress that things will happen across the earth. These phrases are “ends of,” “four corners of,” “four parts of,” and “four quarters of.”

Alma 2 wishes he were an angel so that he could proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Alma 29:17). In the Isaiah passages, Jacob shall be gathered from the ends (2 Nephi 24:2) and the four corners (2 Nephi 21:12) of the earth, and the whole world shall see God’s salvation (Mosiah 12:24; 3 Nephi 16:20). Jesus commands his disciples to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth (3 Nephi 11:41), quotes Isaiah as saying that the whole earth will see the Father’s salvation (3 Nephi 20:35), and commands all the ends of the earth to repent (3 Nephi 27:20).

The Lord in Isaiah commands Israel to proclaim to the ends of the earth that God has redeemed Jacob (1 Nephi 20:20) and that the Messiah will be God’s salvation to all the earth (1 Nephi 21:6). Similarly, the Lord commands the ends of the earth to repent (3 Nephi 9:22; Ether 4:18; Moroni 7:34) and to come to him (2 Nephi 26:25). Also, his words will go across the earth for a standard to Israel (2 Nephi 29:2), and the Lord will confirm his own words (Mormon 9:25). In addition, from the four quarters and the four parts of the earth, Israel will be gathered (1 Nephi 19:16; 2 Nephi 10:8).

Moroni 2 tells us that whatever one asks in the name of Christ will be granted, and that this is a promise given to the ends of the earth (Mormon 9:21). He states that the Lord showed the ends of the earth to the brother of Jared (Ether 3:25) and that those washed in the blood of the Lamb will be gathered from the four quarters of the earth (Ether 13:11). Moroni 2 himself speaks to the ends of the earth (Moroni 10:24). In a similar way, Mormon writes to the ends of the earth (Mormon 3:18) and desires that he could persuade all to repent (Mormon 3:22). He also has concern for scattered Israel, for it will ultimately be gathered from the four quarters of the earth (3 Nephi 5:24,26). Nephi 1 also notes this gathering which will occur from the four quarters of the earth (1 Nephi 22:25), and summons his brethren, the Jews, the House of Israel, and the ends of the earth to accept Christ (2 Nephi 33:10,13).

Planet Earth


In a number of instances, it appears that the authors are referring to the earth as a planet. One of the clearest references occurs in Mormon’s writing. In Helaman 12, Mormon discusses the power of God and how various things respond to His commands; God has created people (Helaman 12:6), the dust of the earth moves at his command (Helaman 12:8), hills and mountains tremble and break up, and the earth shakes at the sound of his voice (Helaman 12:9–12). Then Mormon reports the following:

Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved. Yea, if he say unto the earth—Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours—it is done; And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun. (Helaman 12:13–15).

Clearly, Mormon is talking about the earth as a planet which moves around the sun. Other instances in his writing where the idea of a planet seems to be in view are Nehor’s acknowledgment of guilt which occurred “between the heavens and the earth” (Alma 1:15), Jesus’ garments becoming whiter than anything on earth (3 Nephi 19:25), the earth being wrapped up as a scroll and passing away (3 Nephi 26:3; Mormon 5:23), and the power of the Holy Ghost remaining as long as the earth stands (Moroni 7:36).

Nephi 1

Nephi 1 uses Earth to mean “planet” proportionately more than Mormon. God’s power can cause the earth to pass away (1 Nephi 17:46). Joseph’s seed will never pass away as long as the earth shall stand (2 Nephi 25:21–22). The sealed portion of the Book of Mormon will reveal everything to people down to the end of the earth (2 Nephi 27:11). Also, God will bring about a restoration of his people upon the earth (2 Nephi 30:8), nothing is sealed on the earth except it be loosed (2 Nephi 30:17), and what God’s servants seal on earth shall be brought against persons at the last judgment (2 Nephi 33:15). Nephi 1 uses Earth with a slightly different but closely related meaning to that of “planet” when he says that the whore of all the earth had dominion over the earth (1 Nephi 14:11), that the Lord will “judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth” (2 Nephi 30:9), and that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:15). Clearly, the last two instances are quotations from Isaiah, but even so, in all three verses Earth seems to mean people, human enterprises, or values that are found on the face of the planet.


When Moroni 2 refers to the earth as a planet, it is either in the context of the earth passing away (Mormon 9:2; Ether 13:8) or of a new earth coming into being (Ether 13:9). Twice the Lord refers to the earth standing in contrast to heaven (Mosiah 12:36; 13:12), and in Isaiah he refers to the earth as that which will pass away or be destroyed (2 Nephi 8:6; 23:13). Alma 2 uses Earth once to have this same meaning (Alma 5:16).

In this section, we have sought those uses of Earth which clearly refer, without other connotations, to the globe which revolves around the sun. It is this latter definition which is of interest here. And as has been seen, Mormon, Nephi 1, Moroni 2, the Lord, and the Lord in Isaiah clearly use Earth in this sense.


There are five miscellaneous uses of the word Earth meaning “globe” in a general sense. The earth witnesses to God’s existence (Alma 2—Alma 30:44), is at rest (Isaiah—2 Nephi 24:7), should be joyful (Lord in Isaiah—1 Nephi 21:13), and was sworn by (Moroni—Ether 8:14). Finally, Jesus tells people not to lay up treasures upon the earth (3 Nephi 13:19).

In summary, various writers refer to the earth in a sense that can be defined as the “globe.” People live and events occur on the face of it, to its ends, and in its four parts, quarters, and corners. In some instances, Earth may even refer to the planet earth which revolves around the sun.

Inhabitants of the Earth

Some authors clearly refer to the people who live on the earth, but the usages are quite disparate and individual, as figure 4 demonstrates.

Table of figure 4

As can be seen, one finds few repetitions of words which identify the earth’s inhabitants, even within the same author. The most used phrase is “inhabitants of the earth,” but even so it is only used six times: twice by Lehi, twice by the Lord, once by Moroni 2, and once by Nephi 1. Thus we will see a blend of usages in this section.

Abinadi states that all the ends of the earth will see salvation (Mosiah 15:31). The Father says that Abraham’s seed will bless the kindreds of the earth (3 Nephi 20:25, 27) and that when the Gentiles shall be lifted up in pride above all the peoples of the earth, the fullness of the gospel will be taken from them (3 Nephi 16:10). Isaiah sees trouble and anguish on the earth (2 Nephi 28:22), states that God will deal justly with the meek of the earth (2 Nephi 21:4), indicates that those “chief ones” who are dead will be raised up at the time of the restoration of Israel (2 Nephi 24:9), and mocks Lucifer who once made the people of the earth tremble (2 Nephi 24:16).

Jacob refers to the Jews as the only nation on earth that would crucify its God (2 Nephi 10:3). Jesus calls those who follow him the salt of the earth (3 Nephi 12:12–13) and promises that remnants of Israel which are scattered on the earth will be gathered (3 Nephi 16:4–5; 20:13). Likewise, the Lord in Isaiah is concerned with the gathering of scattered Israel (1 Nephi 21:8; 2 Nephi 20:14). In other places in the Book of Mormon, the Lord affirms that the kindreds of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham (1 Nephi 15:18; 22:9), that the Jews, when they believe in Jesus, will be restored in the flesh to their lands (2 Nephi 10:7), that those inhabitants of the earth who repent will not be destroyed (2 Nephi 28:17; 3 Nephi 9:2), that Nephi 2 has been given the sealing power to smite the earth with famine and pestilence (Helaman 10:6–7), and that the inhabitants of the city of Jacob were destroyed because their wickedness was greater than that of the whole earth (3 Nephi 9:9).

Lehi asserts that God’s power is over all the inhabitants of the earth (1 Nephi 1:14), that the family of the earth arose from Adam and Eve (2 Nephi 2:20), and that the gospel must be proclaimed to the inhabitants of the earth (2 Nephi 2:8). He also says, “I go the way of all the earth,” meaning that he must die (2 Nephi 1:14). The only way Mormon uses Earth, with reference to its inhabitants, is in this last sense in which Lehi uses it, i.e., with reference to death. Mormon uses it in this way four times (Mosiah 1:9; Alma 1:1; 62:37; Helaman 1:2). The only other person with this usage is Mormon’s son, Moroni, when he tells us that Corom died (Ether 10:17). Yet whereas Mormon says that people go “the way of all the earth,”[3] Moroni 2 notes that Corom “did pass away, even like unto the rest of the earth.” Moroni 2 speaks one other time of the inhabitants of the earth when he says that the Lord showed them to the brother of Jared (Ether 3:25).

Finally, Nephi 1 saw the “multitudes of the earth” who were gathered to fight against the apostles and who went into the great and spacious building (1 Nephi 11:34–35), as well as the multitudes of Nephites and Lamanites who were gathered to fight one another (1 Nephi 12:13–15). Among the kindreds of the nations, Nephi 1 saw wars and rumors of wars (1 Nephi 14:15) but noted that the kindreds could be blessed if the Lord bared his arm (1 Nephi 22:10). In a similar vein, Gentiles and Jews alike will one day be wicked upon all the lands of the earth (2 Nephi 27:1), and the day will come when the Lord will visit the inhabitants of the earth in judgment (2 Nephi 28:16).

Thus, as indicated at the beginning of this section, there are several ways in which the authors talk about the inhabitants of the earth. There seems to be no particular pattern, but there are rather highly individualistic ways of saying much the same things about the peoples of the earth. An interesting anomaly is Mormon, who is not interested in speaking of the world’s inhabitants with the word Earth, except that he uses the phrase “the way of all the earth” to indicate the death of people.

The Earth as the “Ground”

Among the various authors, there are a few scattered references to the earth meaning the “ground,” either as that to which people relate in some way, [4] i.e., they fall on it, sit on it, etc., or as that stuff of which the earth is composed and which may bear fruit, be smitten, bear seeds, etc. We see this distribution in figures 5 and 6.

Table of figure 5

Table of figure 6

As can be seen from figures 5 and 6, the majority of authors have only marginal interest in the earth as ground, with one exception—Mormon. A total of 71.4 percent of all Mormon’s uses of Earth refer to the ground. Therefore, we will examine the occurrences of earth meaning “ground” in all authors except Mormon, and then we will examine the way in which he uses the word.

People and the Ground

Alma 2 tells us that after his experience with the angel, whose voice shook the earth (Alma 36:7; 38:7), he fell to the earth (Alma 36:7, 10–11). He also wishes he could speak with a voice that would shake the earth (Alma 29:1). Ammon threatens to smite king Lamoni’s father to the earth, i.e., kill him (Alma 20:24). Benjamin tells us that people are created from the dust of the earth, that he is about to return to the earth, and that people are less than the dust (Mosiah 2:25–26). In a like manner, Jacob tells us that if there had been no Atonement, our flesh would have simply crumbled to mother earth, never to rise again (2 Nephi 9:7). Jacob also states that when the power of God came upon Sherem, Sherem fell to the earth (Jacob 7:15); after Sherem told the people that he had lied to them and to God, the power of God fell on the people, who then also fell to the earth (Jacob 7:21). This event pleased Jacob, for he knew God was working to change the people’s hearts.

In addition, the Lord in Isaiah tells Israel that in the last days kings and queens shall bow before Israel with their faces to the earth (1 Nephi 21:23; 2 Nephi 6:7). Lehi states that Adam and Eve, after being driven out of the garden, tilled the earth (2 Nephi 2:19). Nephi 1 indicates that Laban had fallen to the earth (1 Nephi 4:7), that he (Nephi) saw many cities which had tumbled to the earth (1 Nephi 12:4), and that the whore of all the earth must fall to the earth (2 Nephi 28:18). Samuel states that when the signs of Christ’s birth are given, people will fall to the earth in wonder (Helaman 14:7).

Finally, Moroni 2 is the only author, apart from Mormon, who seems to have a significant interest in using the word Earth to mean “ground.” While his interest is not as high as Mormon’s, since only 44.4 percent of his uses of Earth refer to “ground,” it is still interesting that it is father and son who differ so distinctly from all the other authors being considered in their usage of Earth.

Moroni 2 tells us that the brother of Jared fell to the ground after seeing the Lord’s spirit body (Ether 3:7), and that Coriantumr fell to the ground after his battle with Shiz (Ether 15:32). Further, people till the earth (Ether 6:13, 18; 10:25), humans were created from the dust of the earth (Mormon 9:17), and people may have such great faith that they can cause the earth to shake and prisons to fall to the earth (Mormon 8:24).

The Ground as the Essence of the Earth

The most common way in which the authors speak of the ground is when something is said to be in the ground. Ammon speaks of his Lamanite converts burying their weapons in the ground (Alma 26:32). The Lord warns that those who hide treasures in the earth will not find them again (Helaman 13:18) and later reveals that the inhabitants of Moronihah, Gilgal, and other cities have been buried in the depths of the earth (3 Nephi 9:5–6, 8). In other instances he speaks of the water under the earth (Mosiah 13:12), commands the brother of Jared to collect the seeds of the earth (Ether 1:41), and states that at his word the earth will shake (Ether 4:9).

Nephi 1 warns that those who kill the prophets and Saints shall be swallowed in the depths of the earth (2 Nephi 26:5). He also refers to earth as “dirt.” Nephi l’s people began to till the earth and plant seeds in the plowed earth (1 Nephi 18:24). He also states that were the Lord to command him to change water to earth, i.e., dirt, he could do so (INephi 17:50). Finally, he tells his brothers that God shook the earth to get their attention (1 Nephi 17:45), and in vision he sees the earth (ground) convulsing and rending (1 Nephi 12:4). Nephi 2 reports to the Lord that the Gadianton robbers have been destroyed in the land and that their secret plans are buried in the earth (Helaman 11:10). He requests also that rain fall on the face of the earth (Helaman 11:13).

Moroni 2 refers four times to the records, on which he is working, being put in the earth or being drawn from the earth (Mormon 8:4, 16, 26; Ether 4:3). One time he speaks of ore in the earth which, in the process of its being mined, resulted in heaps of earth being thrown up (Ether 10:23). Similarly, Moroni 2 tells us that the prophets in the days of Shiblom testified that unless the people changed their ways, their bones would become like heaps of earth upon the face of the land (Ether 11:6).

Authors who speak of earth as ground, but do not refer to anything being in it, are Isaiah, Lehi, Samuel, and Zenos. Isaiah speaks of caves of the earth (2 Nephi 12:19), of the fruit of the earth (2 Nephi 14:2), of waters which would not again cover the earth as in the days of Noah (3 Nephi 22:9), and of God shaking the earth (2 Nephi 12:19, 21). Lehi says that the great and spacious building was high above the earth (1 Nephi 8:26). Samuel prophesies that at the time of Jesus’ death, the earth will shake, tremble, and split (Helaman 14:21–22); Zenos predicts the same thing (1 Nephi 19:11).

Earth in Mormon

As already indicated, 71.4 percent of all Mormon’s uses ofEarth mean ground. Of those usages, 57.8 percent refer to people in relationship to the ground, and 42.2 percent refer to the ground as the essence of the earth, thus making Mormon distinctly different from all other authors with the possible exception of his son, who may have been influenced by his father’s language. We will examine Mormon under the same two categories used with the other authors.

Mormon’s dominant use is to say that people or things (such as scalps, prison walls, or buildings) fall to the earth, a statement he makes twenty-six times. [5] Related uses are that people prostrate themselves on the earth (Alma 19:17–18; 22:17; 24:21), bow down on it (Alma 46:13; 3 Nephi 1:11; 19:19, 27), rise from it (Alma 22:22; 3 Nephi 17:20), kneel on it (3 Nephi 17:14; 19:6, 16–17), and sit on it (3 Nephi 18:2). In a similar vein, people or their weapons may be smitten to the earth (Alma 20:16; 44:12; 51:20), leveled to the earth (Alma 51:17–18), or cut down to the earth (Helaman 1:24). More peaceful uses include Benjamin’s people tilling the earth (Mosiah 6:7) and comparing people to the dust of the earth (Mosiah 4:2). Mormon also states that people are not as obedient as the dust (Helaman 12:7–8). A number of things are said by Mormon to be in the earth. The weapons of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies are buried in the earth (Alma 24:17), bodies are in the earth (Alma 28:11), treasures may be in the earth (Helaman 12:18; Mormon 1:18), Saints are spared from burial in the earth (3 Nephi 10:13), and the three Nephites are thrown into pits in the earth (3 Nephi 28:20).

For Mormon, Earth also means “dirt.” The Nephites built up great banks of earth to protect their cities (Alma 48:8; 49:4, 22; 50:1–2; 53:4). But earth may also be used to destroy cities, as we see at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (3 Nephi 8:10). We also return to the earth at death (Mormon 6:15).

In addition, the surface of the earth is referred to when it is recorded that the bones of peoples were heaped upon the earth (Lamanites—Alma 2:38; 28:11; Ammonihahites—Alma 16:11) or that it rains upon the earth (Helaman 11:17). The earth (ground) is also that which shakes and is torn apart at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (3 Nephi 8:17, 19; 10:14) or that which comes back together (3 Nephi 10:10).

God’s power may be felt through natural means when he chooses to smite the earth with drought (Helaman 11:6), when others use his power to deliver themselves from the earth (3 Nephi 28:20), or when God shakes the earth to get the attention of people, either through his angel who appeared to Alma 2 and the sons of Mosiah (Mosiah 27:11, 18), or when he does it himself to open a prison (Alma 14:27; Helaman 5:27, 31–33,42), or to demonstrate his power (Helaman 12:11).

In summary, Mormon has the richest vocabulary when Earth means “ground.” In that he is unique.


Only three writers use Earth to mean a “land” or “region.” These authors are Samuel, Nephi 1, and Mormon. In each instance, the region referred to is the New World. Samuel speaks of the rocks on the face of this earth—the New World—being broken up, of cracks and fragments on the face of the whole land, and of the darkness that will cover the face of the earth (Helaman 14:21–22, 27). Nephi 1 speaks of exactly the same things because he sees them in a vision (1 Nephi 12:4–5). In addition, Samuel states that the Lamanites will be driven about on the face of the earth (Helaman 15:12). All of these passages apparently refer to the New World.

Most striking is Mormon’s use of Earth to refer to the New World, for we have already seen that he is the author who emphasizes the Church in the New World. In the present context, Mormon talks about the Nephite people spreading over the face of the earth (Mosiah 27:6; Helaman 3:8). He tells us that Alma 2 blessed the earth for the sake of the righteous (Alma 45:15). The Nephites were hunted, murdered, plundered, and driven forth upon the face of the earth (Helaman 3:16). The righteous Lamanites sought to drive the Gadianton robbers from off the face of the earth (Helaman 6:20). The Nephites “on the face of the whole earth” were astonished by the signs of Jesus’ birth (3 Nephi 1:17). Only when Earth means “New World” do these passages make any sense.

Finally, Mormon tells of the destruction that occurred at the time of Jesus’ death. The thunder shook the whole earth (3 Nephi 8:6). The face of the land was changed because of the tempests and the great quaking of the earth (3 Nephi 8:12). The face of the whole earth was deformed (3 Nephi 8:17–18). All the inhabitants “of the earth, upon all the face of this land” heard a voice pronouncing woes (3 Nephi 9:1; emphasis added). The darkness dispersed from off the land and the earth ceased to tremble (3 Nephi 10:9). Once again, the region referred to must be the New World. Thus Mormon has a New World emphasis on Earth which supports what we have observed already under his use of Church.


There are a few usages of the word Earth which occur in conjunction with words that refer to values, particularly the values of the earth as opposed to those of heaven. For example, Alma 2 tells his son Helaman that if he will do what God commands him to do, no power of earth or hell can take the sacred objects from him (Alma 37:16). Similarly, Mormon tells us that Satan could have no power over the three Nephites once a change had come upon them, that they were holy, and that the “powers of the earth could not hold them” (3 Nephi 28:39).

The three authors who were concerned about the great and abominable church (the Angel, Nephi 1, and the Lord) in the study on Church/Churches are also those who refer to it in relationship to Earth.The Angel refers to the great and abominable church as the whore of all the earth (1 Nephi 14:10) and notes that when God’s wrath is poured out on this church, then the Father will be preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants (1 Nephi 14:17). Similarly, Nephi 1 refers three times to the “whore of all the earth” which he sees in vision and which is the great and abominable church. She has dominion over the earth (1 Nephi 14:11), causes warfare among those who have followed her (1 Nephi 22:13), and must ultimately fall (2 Nephi 28:18). Finally, the Lord states that whoever fights against Zion will perish, for they are the whore of all the earth (2 Nephi 10:16).


Author Individuality

The various authors use the word Earth in many ways. There are some commonalities in that many refer to God as the Creator of the earth, use similar phrases like “face of or “ends o f the earth, and refer to the earth as the planet earth. But here the commonalities end and individualities begin. There are not enough repetitions of these individualities that one can say with certainty that such meanings are truly unique to the various authors. However, the diversity does seem to indicate a certain degree of individuality.

If we look back over the various charts included in the text above, we note that there are distinct differences among the authors when different categories are assigned to the meaning of Earth. Authors such as Alma 2, Mormon, Nephi 2, and Zenos all have meanings related to the earth as the globe, while Abinadi, Ammon, the Angel, Benjamin, the Father, Jacob, Lehi, and Samuel have no uses in this category of meaning. We see another distribution of word use when we look at the category called “Inhabitants of the Earth.” There the Father uses language that others do not.

Finally, if one looks once again at figures 5 and 6, it becomes clear how different Mormon’s uses of Earth are from those of any other author. Clearly, the writer most closely allied with Mormon is his son Moroni, but as noted above, even Moroni 2 does not use Earth to mean “ground” to the degree that Mormon does. From all that has been said above, it seems clear that Mormon uses the word Earth very differently from all other authors, including the authors he edits.

Mormon’s word use breaks down as follows:

Figure 7





God’s acts


New World


Die like others


Powers of the world


Clearly, figure 7 indicates the differences between Mormon and the other authors. As figure 1 showed, without Mormon, “Ground” was only 22.1 percent, whereas “Globe” was 35.2 percent, “God’s acts” was 20.1 percent, “Land” (equivalent to New World) was 2.5 percent, “Inhabitants of the Earth” (equivalent to “Die like others”) was 17.2 percent, and “Values” (equivalent to “Powers of the world”) was 2.9 percent. Thus, if this study has shown nothing else, it has highlighted how individualistic Mormon is when compared to his fellow authors.

Theological Implications

It is clear that Earth may refer to a variety of things. Probably the least useful theological category is “Ground.” The others, however, can give us some insights into God’s workings on the earth. First, the earth is God’s creation. He does not walk away from it but populates it with his children, with whom he constantly interacts throughout history. It is to those who live on the earth that God gives commands and extends his mercy. It is they whom he rules and ultimately destroys, if necessary, in an act of justice. Thus, this globe is no piece of space junk, aimlessly following an orbit. Rather, it is a unique creation of God designed for his children, a creation which we know he will finally bring to its full celestial glory.


[1] The one time Amu lek uses the word Earth, he identifies God as the father of it.

[2] Captain Moroni’s one use of Earth appears with the phrase “the face of and is in a negative context, i.e., he threatens to destroy Ammoron from off the face of the earth (Alma 54:12).

[3] In chapter 6, which speaks of “Land” and “Lands,” we will see that Mormon has a very individual trait, i.e., he uses expansive terminology, often speaking of “all” the land, just as he here speaks of “all” the earth.

[4] In Helaman’s one use, he rejoices when he finds that not one of his stripling warriors had fallen to the earth in battle (Alma 56:56).

[5] People: Mosiah 4:1; 27:12, 18; Alma 14:27; 18:42; 19:16–17; 27:17; 47:24; Helaman 9:3–5, 7; 3 Nephi 1:16–17; 4:8; 11:12. Things: Alma 14:27–29; 44:12; Helaman 5:27, 31; 3 Nephi 4:28; 8:14.