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What Are the “I AM” Statements of Jesus in the Book of Mormon?

No such study has previously been undertaken.

The Book of Mormon contains a unique literary witness of the Savior. While the Gospel of John is known for “I AM” statements of Jesus (like “I am the Bread of Life” or “I am the Door”), the Book of Mormon also has similar divine declarations. In some cases, they line up neatly with the Old Testament and New Testament. In others, they represent unique titles for Jesus Christ found only in Restoration scripture. In this interview, Joshua Matson expounds on the first-ever published study of I AM statements of Jesus in the Book of Mormon.


Learn more in Joshua Matson’s chapter about I AM statements of Jesus in the book, “I Glory in My Jesus: Understanding Christ in the Book of Mormon.”


What are “I am” statements by Jesus?

Scholars of the New Testament have long recognized that there is something distinct about the Gospel of John and the way in which the author emphasizes sacral statements by the Savior that begin with εγω ειμι (Ι AM).

Beginning in the early twentieth century, biblical scholars worked in earnest to not only identify I AM statements recorded in the Gospel of John, but also to explain their origin and ancient context. Initial scholarly works focused on the Hebrew Bible as the primary source for this utilization, connecting the phrase to Moses’ experience with Jehovah in Exodus 3:14–15 and the divine name’s (יהוה) connection to the verb “to be” (היה).

These studies sought to connect Jesus’ self-revelation statements to his identifying himself as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. Other scholars quickly pointed out that there was a broader cultural milieu in the Ancient Near East in which I AM statements represented a speaking style of the divine that was pronounced by the deities of the people of various cultures throughout the region, including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Iranians.

In the mid-twentieth century, scholars returned to the Hebrew Bible to find additional Jewish context for the I AM statements in texts such as Deuteronomy (32:39) and Isaiah (41:4; 48:12). As scholars uncovered additional texts from the Ancient Near East, they found similarities to the I AM statements in utterances by Akkadian and Sumerian deities, further emphasizing a broader context of the phrases utilization.

Taken together, I AM statements are part of the ancient near eastern religious traditions that seek to add divine authority to statements made by deity.

The Gospel of John has a unique literary structure which includes several I AM statements of Jesus.

In general, I AM statements have been identified in two forms:

  1. Absolute. I AM statements that emphasize the deities identity (who they are), and
  2. Metaphorical. I AM statements that emphasize the deeds of the deity (what they do).

What led you to write an article about “I am” statements by Jesus in the Book of Mormon?

My academic training in religion and biblical studies has afforded me the opportunity to study numerous approaches by scholars who have asked questions of the biblical text. When I began to work with the Book of Mormon as a scholar, I determined that it would be productive to ask questions of the Book of Mormon text that scholars have been asking of the biblical text for decades.

As such, I set out to explore the “I AM” statements made by Jesus in the Book of Mormon. Within a few days I had carefully researched the Book of Mormon and identified a plethora of such statements, made by him as both the Pre-Mortal Jehovah and as the Resurrected Messiah that fit the criteria established by biblical scholars.

However, when I had finished my initial catalog of statements, I panicked thinking that this had to have been done somewhere else. I hurriedly reviewed the various commentaries on the Book of Mormon to see how scholars engaged with the verses that contained “I AM” statements, and while there were occasional references to the Old Testament origins and New Testament utilizations of these statements, there was no reference to a systematic study of them throughout the Book of Mormon.

In a last ditch effort to identify a potential source for this scholarship, I called Dr. Bob Millet and asked him where I should turn to see the scholarship on the topic. Upon hearing my proposed study, he let out a brief laugh—which I interpreted as a failure on my part to do my due diligence in my literature review. But he quickly assured me that no such study had been undertaken to his knowledge and that I should pursue it.


What was your research process?

To identify the I AM statements of the Savior in the Book of Mormon, I did a basic search of the Book of Mormon text utilizing the University of Michigan’s searchable Book of Mormon. This resource allows for a more accurate search of the Book of Mormon text when searching for multiple words together, like I AM.

Once I had identified all of the I AM statements in the text, I put each phrase through a two step evaluation. First, an “I am” statement had to have been spoken by or attributed directly to Jesus Christ. If the I AM statement was metaphorical, it must conform to the formula structure seen in the New Testament metaphorical statements that have been determined by New Testament scholarship.

Jehovah will be who he desires to be.

If the I AM statement was absolute it must contain a title by which the Savior would be recognized by an ancient audience, which included titles for deity found in the Old Testament or among cultures in the Ancient Near East with which the earliest authors of the Book of Mormon would have been familiar.

This final criterion does not mean that an absolute “I am” statement had to have a biblical parallel, but instead required that the title emphasized by the “I am” would be recognizable to an ancient Jewish audience.

Once I finished this process, I had identified 53 I AM statements in the Book of Mormon that were pronounced by Jesus Christ. I then took these statements and situated them within their chronological context. This consisted of four categories metaphorical and absolute I AM statements made by the pre-mortal Jehovah and metaphorical and absolute I AM statements made by the resurrected Messiah.

It’s the ultimate I AM statement.

Once these statements were organized, I compared them to I AM statements in the Old Testament for the pre-mortal Jehovah and the New Testament for the resurrected Jesus Christ.

From this process, I found that the Book of Mormon preserved I AM statements that aligned with their chronological counterpart in amazing ways. The pre-mortal Jehovah statements by and large looked like the statements we see in the Old Testament and the resurrected Messiah statements looked like those in the New Testament. While there were numerous parallels between these texts, I also identified 21 I AM statements that are unique to the Book of Mormon—and those statements formed the basis of my study.


Your article looks for Old Testament roots. How do you interpret “I am that I am”?

This statement made by the pre-mortal Jehovah to Moses during his theophany and recorded in Exodus 3:14–15 has been a subject of debate among scholars for centuries. As can be seen from the Latter-day Saint King James edition of the Bible, translators struggled to identify which word in phrase represents the I AM—and which represents the divine name.

To rectify this conundrum, the text reads I AM THAT I AM, in all capital letters which is a representation of the divine name in both parts. I do not think that there is a perfect English translation of this phrase that would satisfy the meaning being conveyed by both the linguistic and cultural context, but I have always been drawn to the idea that instead of being concerned with the best translation, we should concern ourselves with the emphasis of what the text is trying to convey—namely that Jehovah will be who he desires to be.

The context of the situation elutes a type of confidence that comes from self-awareness, something that Moses is struggling with in this experience—but which Jehovah has.

When we view the statement within this broader context, we find that Jehovah is certain of not only who he is, but what he will do, and that is the very purpose for both the absolute and metaphorical I AM statements. So, I interpret this statement as the ultimate I AM statement that both identifies who Jehovah is and what he does.

Dr. Joshua M. Matson discusses I AM statements of Jesus in the Book of Mormon at the 2024 Sperry Symposium.

How many “I am” statements of Jesus are there in the New Testament?

Most people are familiar with the seven metaphorical I AM statements made by the Savior as recorded in the Gospel of John’s Book of Signs (John 1–11), but in total the New Testament preserves 34 I AM statements made by the Savior, 17 Absolute I AM statements and 17 metaphorical I AM statements.

To identify these I AM statements, I utilized the same methodology described above, but I had the added advantage of being able to compare my findings with those of other New Testament scholars.

This collection of I AM statements provides helpful insights to understand the way in which the Savior viewed himself and how he wanted to describe his divine works, usually through symbolic representation (ie I AM the bread of life [John 6:48] or I AM the true vine [John 15:1]).

The 17 Absolute I AM statements in the New Testament appear in the Synoptic Gospels (2x in Matthew [with one added in Joseph Smith-Matthew], 2x in Mark, 1 occurrence in Luke), the Gospel of John (8x), and the Acts of the Apostles (3x). The 17 metaphorical I AM statements in the New Testament appear in the Gospel of John (12x), the Acts of the Apostles (1x), and the book of Revelation (4x).

The Gospel of John has been the focal point for scholars of the New Testament interested in the I AM statements, with 20 of the 34 I AM statements being recorded in that gospel alone.

When compared with the Book of Mormon, seven of the Absolute I AM statements from the New Testament appear in verses that are chronologically after the events of the New Testament:

  • 3 Nephi 9:15//John 20:31
  • 3 Nephi 9:15//John 14:10
  • 3 Nephi 11:10//Acts 9:5, 22:8, 26:15
  • 3 Nephi 28:10//John 5:19
  • Ether 4:12//John 5:19).

Five of the Metaphorical I AM statements from the New Testament appear in a similar chronology:

  • 3 Nephi 9:18//Rev. 22:13
  • 3 Nephi 11:11//John 8:12
  • 3 Nephi 12:17//Matthew 5:17
  • 3 Nephi 15:9//John 8:12
  • Ether 4:12//John 9:5.

How many are in the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon preserves I AM statements in the chronology of both the pre-mortal Jehovah of the Old Testament and the resurrected Jesus Christ of the New Testament. So, in identifying these statements I have delineated between absolute and metaphorical I AM statements in their chronological context.

The Book of Mormon records the pre-mortal Jehovah making 26 I AM statements (with some of those statements being used multiple times). Of those 26 I AM statements, 7 are absolute (2 are unique to the Book of Mormon) and 9 are metaphorical (3 are unique to the Book of Mormon).

The resurrected Jesus Christ makes 28 I AM statements (again with some being repeated multiple times), 7 are absolute (2 unique to the Book of Mormon) and 13 are metaphorical (3 unique to the Book of Mormon).

A total of 10 unique I AM statements appear in the Book of Mormon that do not have parallels in either the Old Testament when focusing on the words of the pre-mortal Jehovah, or the New Testament when discussing the resurrected Jesus Christ.


Jesus says, “I am a God of miracles” in 2 Nephi. What’s the connection with 3 Nephi?

The metaphorical I AM statement of “I am a God of miracles” in 2 Nephi 27:23 is one of the unique Book of Mormon I AM statements. This addition to the collection of I AM statements uttered by the Savior throughout the standard works connects to 3 Nephi through a prophecy made by King Benjamin in Mosiah 3.

Here in his famous sermon, King Benjamin declares:

The Lord Omnipotent who reigneth … shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf t o hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

Mosiah 3:5

While one could easily point to numerous stories from the Savior’s mortal ministry in the ancient world as a fulfillment of this prophecy, we should keep in mind that King Benjamin is directing his remarks to an audience in the ancient Americas whose posterity would see the fulfillment of such promises.

It has an added level of intrigue.

In 3 Nephi 17, the resurrected Savior invites the Nephites to bring to him “any that are sick … lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner … Bring them hither and I will heal them” (3 Nephi 17:7).

Connecting these miracles to the Messiah suggests that one of the important components (of not only the Savior’s mortal life, but also his post-mortal ministry) is to heal physical ailments of those who believe on his name. I believe that this is as true today as it was in the meridian of time.


Jehovah says “I am Jesus Christ” in Ether 3:14. Is that anachronistic?

One of the primary arguments made by antagonists about titles of the Savior in the Book of Mormon is the reference to Jesus Christ in Ether 3:14 and the title Christ in 2 Nephi 10:7.

As an example of a unique absolute I AM statement in the Book of Mormon, these are of particular worth in showing that the pre-mortal Jehovah was aware of his title and earthly name.

The title of Christ, revealed to Jacob by an angel and spoken directly to the brother of Jared by the pre-mortal Jehovah, is an anglicized form of the Greek word christos that is used no less than 51 times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament as an equivalent to the Hebrew maschiach meaning “to anoint” or “the anointed one.”

Additionally, the title of “the anointed one” is utilized by the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In a scroll entitled 11QMelchizedek (11Q13), we read of an “anointed one of the spirit” (11Q13 2:18) that is connected with a prophecy in Daniel 9:26—perhaps as an indication of an explicit prophecy connecting the coming Messiah as the anointed one circulating among Jewish communities in the late Second Temple period.

In the context of Jacob and the brother of Jared, it is likely that the pre-mortal Jehovah employed the title of “anointed one” in the language that would have been familiar to them. We assume that for Jacob this would have been the Hebrew maschiach and we can only make hypothetical guesses as to the title in the language spoken by Jared and those that traveled with him, meaning the presence of the title of Christ is synonymous with “anointed one.”

The Book of Mormon has an added level of intrigue however as there is also the possibility that whichever title was pronounced to Jacob and the brother of Jared was translated by Mormon and Moroni to read in a way that would be familiar to a later audience who was aware of the Savior proclaiming himself as Jesus Christ in 3 Nephi 11:10.

Simply put, we cannot say for certain why the term Christ appears, but there is ample evidence to show that the title is not anachronistic.


What is the connection between biblical anointing and the name “Jesus Christ”?

The title Christ is an anglicized form of the Greek word christos that is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament as an equivalent to the Hebrew maschiach meaning “to anoint” or “the anointed one.” This title is rooted in the Old Testament description of the act of anointing high priests and kings as part of their ascension to leadership within the community.

Such a recognition actually blurs the lines of the I AM statement of “I AM Christ” as proclaimed in 2 Nephi 10:7 because it functions both as an absolute I AM statement (I AM the Christ [anointed one]) and as a metaphorical I AM statement (I AM the one who is anointed to save).


What did Jesus likely mean when he said, “I am the Father and the Son”?

The absolute I AM statement found in Ether 3:14, “I am the Father and the Son,” includes further identities of Jehovah that do not have an Old Testament parallel.

These titles, alluded to in Mosiah 5:7–8, should be read as an emphasis of the nature of our relationship to Jesus Christ because of our covenants, rather than a reference to a literal fatherhood—or, as some may read this text, as a reference to physical oneness between the Father and the Son.

As D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner have observed:

When we become the children of Christ, he becomes our covenant Father, and every week we remember the sacred covenant by taking upon us the name of Christ.

D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse The Book of Mormon, Volume 1: 1 Nephi through Alma 29 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011], 322–23.

This insight, provided by the Book of Mormon, shows that the nature of the pre-mortal Jehovah is that of a loving parent to his covenant children. It is an image that is absent in the I AM statements of the Bible, but is invoked again by the resurrected Jesus Christ when he appears to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 28:10).


Are there any key differences between I AM statements made before and after Christ’s resurrection?

In completing my research on the I AM statements in the Book of Mormon, I found that the text is remarkably consistent with the utilization of the I AM statements by the pre-mortal Jehovah in the books from the Book of Mormon that correspond with the Old Testament timeline (1 Nephi–Helaman and Ether). Likewise, the utilizations of the I AM statements by the resurrected Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon chapters correspond with the New Testament (3 Nephi–Mormon and Moroni) in both type and content.

To compliment the discussion above, there are no perceived anachronistic utilizations of the I AM statements in the Book of Mormon. Those employed by the Savior to those in the New World are consistent with things he emphasized in the Old World at the time in which he gave them as recorded in the chronology of the Bible.

Additionally, the majority of the I AM statements of the pre-mortal Jehovah in the Book of Mormon are absolute statements (61%) and focus on emphasizing who he is and that he is divine. This is also seen in the Old Testament where most of the I AM statements are absolute (69%).

This tread changes however with the resurrected Jesus Christ as there is a greater utilization of metaphorical I AM statements in the Book of Mormon (53%) that emphasize what Jesus does. This trend is similarly seen in the New Testament where metaphorical I AM statements make up a larger portion than they did in the Old Testament (50%).


What can we learn from studying the I AM statements of Jesus in the Book of Mormon?

Studying the I AM statements of the Book of Mormon have helped me gain three primary insights about the Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

  1. The I AM statements of the Book of Mormon increase our understanding and vocabulary for the way in which Jesus Christ views himself and his mission. By understanding the titles that the Savior employs in the absolute I AM statements to describe who he is, I have come to know him more clearly as a divine being who has divine power. Additionally, by understanding the works that the Savior emphasizes with his metaphorical I AM statements which articulate the focus of his continued ministry, I have come to see areas in my life that I should give greater attention and effort to join him in his ongoing work.
  2. The I AM statements of the Book of Mormon ultimately help us know the Savior and have an increased resolve to be intentional in keeping the covenant to take upon ourselves the names of Christ when we partake of the Sacrament, especially the names that he utilizes to describe himself.
  3. The presence of I AM statements in the Book of Mormon helps us see that the Book of Mormon is a text of ancient date that records the voice of the Lord in a tone and context that aligns with the biblical world.

What do the I AM statements of Jesus mean to you?

One of the reasons that I love the I AM statements in all of the standard works is that they give us a lens through which we can understand and know the Savior in his own words.

Like an autobiography that gives a unique look into the life of an individual who not only lived the experiences of their life, but thought through those experiences and what they have meant to their progress through mortality, the I AM statements are the titles the Christ assigns to himself and emphasize who he is and what he does from an all knowing perspective that only he has.

For that reason, I feel that the I AM statements that are given in holy writ are a unique treasure that should be studied more fully and given more serious attention than we sometimes give them, even to the elevating of them above all other titles with which we revere his role as our Savior and Redeemer.


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About the interview participant

Joshua Matson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU. He holds a PhD in Religion from Florida State University and a Master of Arts from Trinity Western University. His research interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple Judaism, and Intertextuality in Antique Literature. He is the author of several articles, including the book chapter, “Coming to Know Christ through the “I Am” Statements in the Book of Mormon.


Further reading

I AM statements of Jesus resources

By Kurt Manwaring

Writer. History nerd. Latter-day Saint.

One reply on “What Are the “I AM” Statements of Jesus in the Book of Mormon?”

Great post! Love the insights; thanks for sharing.

I would have enjoyed seeing the 10 unique BOM “I AM” statements.

I commented this on the Times and Seasons review of your work:

To me, “I AM” embodies the centrality of Christ to all creation. He is present; He brings us to the present in the fullest sense. He is life. Everything else exists because of Him.

I increasingly view my spiritual progression less as arriving at some future state of joyful being and more as mindfully arriving or embodying the present by becoming more perfectly connected to Him.

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