The Name ‘Anti’ in the Book of Mormon

The Name ‘Anti’ in the Book of Mormon
by Stephen L. Carr
(with comments from BMAF members at the end of the article)

The usage of the names, Anti-Nephi-Lehi and Anti-Nephi-Lehies has provoked considerable discussion among LDS Book of Mormon scholars and lay members alike. Anti-Nephi-Lehi was the name given to the son of the chief Lamanite king in the greater land of Nephi after his conversion to the true gospel. His previous name is unknown in the Book of Mormon. (The father king then died and this newly renamed son became king.) This was done, apparently, in honor of the conversion of many of the subjects of both the son and the father to the gospel as taught by Ammon and his brother Nephite missionaries and a few other companions. Subsequently, all the converts of the father (whose name is also unknown) and, presumably, the son, as well as the converts of Ammon and king Lamoni, who was king (and brother to Anti- Nephi-Lehi) over the local land of Ishmael of the greater land of Nephi, became known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.

The question naturally arises – Why should the word ‘Anti,’ meaning ‘against’ or ‘opposed to,’ be used to describe the converts to the Nephite church, when, in the words of Ammon, the converts loved the Nephite missionaries and would certainly have no cause to be against them in any way (Alma 26:31)? (The 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary, to which Joseph Smith may have had access, defines ‘anti’ as “a preposition signifying against, opposite, contrary, or in place of.”) The only places in the Book of Mormon where ‘anti’ is not used as a name of a person, city, land, or piece of Nephite currency, but is used as we know it to mean ‘against’ or ‘opposed to’ are when references to ‘anti-Christ’ are used to denote those individuals who are against or opposed to the Nephite church, its prophets and leaders, and, ultimately, against the Savior Jesus Christ and all He teaches, exemplifies, and stands for.

This subject has engendered some interest in the past. The following extract is by Richard Dilworth Rust of Brigham Young University and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS):

  Acceptance of Nephi and Lehi as fathers to the Lamanites is exemplified in King Lamoni's father. He has his people take upon themselves (and also gives to Lamoni's brother) the name of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, which could be interpreted to mean "in imitation of Nephi and Lehi." The prefix anti- means "against, facing, or opposite"—as is a reflection in a mirror. While it can have the negative meaning of a false imitation, anti- can also indicate a similarity or likeness. In
this positive sense of being a reflection, Anti in Anti-Nephi-Lehi might well have signified the converted Lamanites' desire to be like the prophet-fathers Nephi and Lehi. In what must have been a similar intent, Helaman named his sons Nephi and Lehi so they would remember their "first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem" (Helaman
5:6). (“Their Fathers” – Letters and Autobiography, From Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon, chapter 6, Richard Dilworth Rust, Maxwell Institute.)

Cynthia L. Hallen, writing in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, published by FARMS, (The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship of BYU) further states: "Finally, the terms Anti-Nephi-Lehi and Anti-Nephi-Lehies in Book of Mormon headings are interesting in two ways: the meaning of the prefix Anti and the omission of the expected -ite suffix for naming a group of people.

Royal Skousen has documented insightful evidence for understanding these forms, and the following discussion is based on his observations.

  In the Book of Mormon the morpheme Anti is probably not the Greek anti (except in cases like anti-Christ in Alma 30). Instead, consider the many Book of Mormon names or words that involve Anti: Ani-Anti, Antiomno, antion, Antionah, Antiparah, Antipas, Antipus. So the Anti- Nephi-Lehies were probably not Lehies who were against Nephi, nor were
they a people trying to distinguish themselves from the other Nephites. Alma 27:27 in the original manuscript reads “and they were numbered among the people of Nephi & also numbered among the people which were of the Church of God.” The first occurrence of the word "numbered" was accidentally dropped by Oliver Cowdery when he copied the text from the original manuscript into the printer's manuscript. Also, the use of Anti-Nephi-Lehis is found in the early printings of the 1953 RLDS edition. Later printings have Anti-Nephi-Lehies, as with all other printed editions. In every occurrence of the name, in every edition of the Book of Mormon but one, the form is Anti-Nephi-Lehi or -Lehies,
not Lehites. In the last heading of the original manuscript, Oliver Cowdery wrote “AntiNephiLehites.” The use of the -ite morpheme was probably a mistake. By analogy to the forms Nephite and Lamanite, readers might expect the -ite form, but there is no evidence to support that transcription. “What’s in a Word,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 10/2, pages 62-65, by Cynthia L. Hallen.

Gordon C. Thomasson, also writing in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, states:

  Metonymy or metonymic naming involves “naming by association,” a metaphoric process of linking two concepts or persons together in such a way as to tell us more about the latter by means of what we already know about the former. For example, to call a potential scandal a “Watergate” is to suggest volumes in a single word. Similarly, if we call an individual a Judas or a Quisling, rather than giving his or her proper name, we can in one word convey an immense amount ofinformation about how we at least feel toward that person. Names which are specific to particular castes in India have a metonymic function, linking the individual clearly to the role they are to perform in this life. In this case, these are names which the person actually bears in real life. Other names are assigned after-the-fact.

Given the fact that in the ancient Near East a word equivalent to the word ‘anti’ could mean just what it means in English today, the name of the Lamanite crown prince, son of Lamoni's father, “Anti-Nephi- Lehi” is a perfectly appropriate throne name for what the Lamanites had stood for, prior to their conversion. Was Anti-Nephi-Lehi his real name, a ritual title, or a metonym?

I subsequently noted that the largest Nephite weights and units of measure, the antion of gold (Alma 11:19), appears in later chapters of the text of Alma, first in referring to a chief ruler of Ammonihah—one Antionah (a big man in status and self-esteem, Alma 12:20)—and later to the big-money town or pride-in-wealth city of Antionum (Alma 31:3), home of the noveau riche bourgeois Zoramites (note they take upon themselves the name of an ex-servant, Zoram). With the name of Zeezrom and the probable use of the word antion in other related contexts, I believe that we have a prima facia case for pursuing the concept of metonymic naming as a mechanism for exploringthe scriptures both for a deeper understanding of their meaning and as a possible key to some of the linguistic features of Nephite language, many of which appear to be quite ancient, such as its color vocabulary. “What's in a Name? Book of Mormon Language, Names, and [Metonymic]Naming,” Gordon C. Thomasson, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 1-27.

The only issue I would take with the concept that names or titles were given to denote some event in the lives of the participants is that the name Anti-Nephi-Lehi was not given to the son of the king over all the Lamanite lands until after the conversion of the people, who were also given the new name, Anti-Nephi-Lehies. It doesn’t seem to make sense that the new king would have been given a name for what the Lamanites had previously stood for, or that the entire group of converts would have been saddled with a name that they would seem to not be proud of anymore.

My tentative conclusion is that the name ‘Anti’ has nothing whatsoever to do with its being against or opposed to the Nephites, their culture, society, or religion. Rather, especially considering the numerous usages of ‘Anti’ in various forms throughout the Book of Mormon, I think it is a root word or name of some sort in the Nephite language with which neither Joseph Smith nor anyone since really understands, or of which possibly has even the slightest notion.

Following are a few non-Book of Mormon instances of the word or name of Anti:


Anti (mythology) was the ferryman who carried Isis to Set's island in Egyptian mythology.
Anti, or Campa, is a tribe of South American Indians.
The original meaning of ‘anti’ in Greek is not ‘against’ but rather ‘instead.’ Bill Moyers: Christian Atheist: How the PBS Icon, a Professing Christian, Has Used the Work of Atheist Mythologist Joseph Campbell to Undermine the Faith of Young Christians and MisleadMillions of Other Students; by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.

Following is a list of all name usages of ‘Anti’ in the Book of Mormon:

Names with Anti as a prefix (all are either Nephite or Lamanite, none are Jaredite):

Anti-Nephi-Lehi – Brother of king Lamoni, who became king of the converted Lamanites when his father, king over all the Lamanites, died – Alma 24:3, 5.
Anti-Nephi-Lehies – Name given to the converted Lamanites, later called the People of Ammon when they were assigned the land of Jershon in the greater land of Zarahemla – Alma 23:4-5, 16-17; 24:1.
Antiomno – Lamanite king in land of Middoni, greater land of Nephi, friend of king Lamoni – Alma 20:4.
Antion – Gold unit of Nephite monetary exchange – Alma 11:19.
Antionah – Chief judge in the Nephite city of Ammonihah, greater land of Zarahemla – Alma 12:20.
Antionum – Nephite land near or in the east wilderness of Zarahemla, occupied by Zoramites, ca. 74 BC – Alma 31:3; 43:5, 22
Antionum – Nephite commander at battle of Cumorah, AD 385 – Mormon 6:14.
Antiparah – Nephite city in southwestern part of the greater land of Zarahemla – Alma 56:14, 31-34; 57:1-4.
Antipas – Mountain in greater land of Nephi, Lehonti is leader of Lamanite army there – Alma 47:7, 10.

Antipus – Nephite army commander, ca. 65 BC – Alma 56:9-51.
Names with Anti as a suffix (all are either Nephite or Lamanite, none are Jaredite):
Ani-Anti - Lamanite village in the land of Nephi, Nephite missionaries labor there Alma 21:11.
Manti – Nephite soldier ca. 87 BC – Alma 2:22.
Manti – Main Nephite city in local land of Manti on southern periphery of the greater land of Zarahemla – Alma 56:13 – 58:39 (intermittently).
Manti – Local Nephite land in foothills of the narrow strip of wilderness, southernmost land in greater land of Zarahemla – Alma 16:6 – 59:6 (intermittently).
Manti – Hill fairly near city of Zarahemla, Nehor put to death there Alma 1:15.
Variations of Anti, e.g., Anto, Antu, Andi, Onti:anto – (Nephite or Jaredite)
Corianton – Youngest son of Alma the younger – Alma 31:7 – 63:10 (intermittently).
Coriantor – Son of the Jaredite Moron – Ether 1:6-7; 11:18-23.
Gadianton – Leader of notorious robber band infesting both Nephite and Lamanite lands, ca. 50 BC, Helaman 2:4, 11, 13; 6:24, 26, 29.
Morianton – Jaredite king, one of few righteous kings – Ether 1:22-23; 10:9-13.
Morianton – Founder of Nephite city along eastern coast of the greater land of Zarahemla, ca. 68 BC, attempted to flee to the northlands – Alma 50:28-35.
Morianton – Nephite city on eastern seaboard of greater land of Zarahemla, between cities of Lehi and Omner – Alma 50:25 – 59:5 (intermittently)
Morianton – Localized land around city of Morianton – Alma 50:25 – 59:5.
antu – (Nephite or Jaredite)
Antum – Land in the greater land of Desolation, north of the narrow neck of land, where the hill Shim was located – Mormon 1:3.
Coriantum – Early Jaredite king – Ether 1:27-28; 9:21-24.
Coriantum – Jaredite son of Amnigaddah and father of Com – Ether 1:13-14; 10:31.
Coriantumr – Early Jaredite, son of Omer – Ether 8:4-6.
Coriantumr – Jaredite king, last Jaredite survivor – Omni 1:21; Ether 12:1-15:32 (intermittently)
Coriantumr – Apostate Nephite, commander of Lamanite army, ca. 51 BC. Hel. 1:15-32.
Irreantum – The Indian Ocean off the coast of southeastern Arabia –a1 Nephi 17:5.
Moriantum – Nephite city or land occupied by wicked Nephites – Moroni 9:9-10.
Seantum – Wicked Nephite belonging to Gadianton band, murders brother – Helaman 9:6, 26-37.
andi – (Nephite or Lamanite, probably not Jaredite)
Gadiandi – City of unknown location destroyed at the Crucifixion because of wickedness – 3 Nephi 9:8.
onti – (Nephite and Lamanite, not Jaredite)
Lehonti – Lamanite general in land of Nephi, ca. 72 BC, poisoned by Amalickiah – Alma 47:8-19.
Onti – Silver unit of Nephite monetary exchange – Alma 11:6, 13

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Member Comments

"Just for the record, anti can also mean before-----but I don't think that meaning has application here. Because I served my mission in Central America, (1964-66) I've always had an interest in Book of Mormon terms, names of people, places and events. I have studied the word “anti” and had some thoughts that Doug asked me to comment on.

The word “anti” is used to describe high places, for example mountains in Latin America often begin with the word “anti!” Recognizing this, I remember that villagers in the Highlands of Guatemala often brag about the altitude of their village. During their many celebrations you'll see people carrying a sign naming their village, and also on the sign will be the altitude of their village in meters, next will be four or five people playing a single marimba, with two people carrying the instrument. Very pretty music when you first hear it, but it gets old really fast! I've wondered if the word anti refers to the “hillbillies” of the Book of Mormon world!

I have also suspected the word anti in the Book of Mormon is used as a  title, for example a judge, a leader, a person of high means or position. Also I've wondered if the word has anything to do with birthright, as in “first born!” My reading of the Book of Mormon suggest to me these thoughts may have some legs------

As an old man and even as a younger man, I've always had terrible penmanship. I can write something out long hand and the next day cannot read what I've written. I often write lower case “e's” that look like i's And I've wondered if the word anti was supposed to be ante as in “before”, as in antediluvial (sp), or “before” the flood. Thus "ante (before) Nephi, we are Lehies (we descended from Lehi, not Nephi)!" Which also makes sense to me. The Book of Mormon scribes did what I often did before the wonderful invention of the two fingered word processor, turn e's to i's.

These are a few of my thoughts concerning the matter, perhaps valid, perhaps not! But I sure enjoy the articles furnished by Doug and many others on this wonderful BMAF site."

The new converts suddenly rejected the errors they had been taught through the rebellion of Laman, and thus no longer wanted to be known as Lamanites.  They were, however the children of the righteous prophet Lehi, and wanted to still show with pride that special linage and heritage.  Thus the Lehi in their name.
They also wanted to show that they had not become Nephites, because they hadn't.  They had only become Christian.  They still had their own culture with their own traditions which were not all corrupt and like most peoples, I'm sure they loved them.  Thus they became the Anti-Nephi-Lehies or to make it more clear to us---Not Nephite decedents of  their beloved and righteous predecessor Lehi.


Dear BMAF,

This word was a puzzle for me for many years and was a red flag as far as The Book of Mormon was concerned.I received the following insight after much prayer and fasting.

The Word "anti" in a spiritual definition means "as good as or better than the original".

I now have peace of mind and a clearer understanding when reading this portion of The Book of Mormon.

Elder Dennis M. Moe
Independence, Missouri

Regarding the 'Anti-Nephi-Lehies' term, Dr. Rick Hauck is of the opinion that the 'anti' may be related to an old Arabic word, '

Unta' that means followers of, or religious followers of.

To me, this seems to make the most sense. If you use this or research this further, please attribute the finding to Dr. Hauck.

As I read it, antichrist refers to someone who deceives the people (3 John 7) by standing in the place of Christ or imitating Christ. This agrees with the first definition in my dictionary: "A false claimant of the attributes and characteristics of Christ." On the other hand, antitheos means "godlike" or "one resembling a god in power and beauty" in Homer.

If we apply this thinking to the name Anti-Lehi-Nephi, it makes perfect sense. These were Lamanites who wanted to live like Nephites even though they had no claim to Nephi by lineage; so, they did the next best thing and committed themselves to be "Nephite-like" by taking on this unique name.

Carr, Stephen L.