Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Man Descending Out of Heaven- 1 Nephi 11

Now that we have identified the participants in the experience which Nephi recalls, from my previous post, we can move on  to make some interesting discoveries concerning what Nephi is taught through the experience.

First, it is important to focus on the dialog between the Spirit of the Lord and Nephi.

Initially the Spirit of the Lord wanted to know exactly what Nephi desired.  Nephi responded with his desire to behold the things his father saw.  Next the Spirit of the Lord proposed a question:

1 Nephi 11:4 And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?

It is interesting to me of all the things Lehi saw, the Spirit of the Lord focused solely on the tree.  That should be a big attention grabber for us too.  It is after Nephi explains that he believes all the words of his father that the Spirit of the Lord rejoices and gives the promise to Nephi that he will behold the things that he desired because of his belief in the Son of the most high God.  Perhaps the tree has something to do with that?

What happens next is of utmost importance in understanding  what is really taking place between the Spirit of the Lord and Nephi.  The Spirit of the Lord tells Nephi that he will be given a sign.

Look for what the sign is:
1 Nephi 11:7 And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.

Notice that He shows Nephi the exact process by which he will understand the things he will be shown.  He is told that “this thing” will be given for a sign.  The “thing” is actually a three step process.

  • 1) Nephi will see a tree.  It will be the same tree his father saw that had the fruit his father tasted.
  • 2) Nephi will see a man descend out of Heaven. He will actually witness him doing this.
  • 3) Nephi will “bear record” that the man who descended was the Son of God.
Immediately we are told that the Spirit of the Lord instructs him to “look”.   
Notice what he sees:
1 Nephi 11:8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
 9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

The first part of the sign is given.  Nephi sees the tree. The Spirit of the Lord persists in asking what Nephi desires, to which he replies, “to know the interpretation thereof.”

The next part of the sign, seeing a man descend out of Heaven, is recorded with an interesting twist. Nephi records it as almost an aside. 
Look for the man that descends:
1 Nephi 11:11 And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.
 12 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

Remember they were on an “exceedingly high mountain”.  This leads me to believe that they are looking down at what Nephi saw next. Could this be the “man descending out of heaven”? 
But… where did he go? 
1 Nephi 11:13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

Now for the third part of the sign, Nephi will “bear witness” that the man is the Son of God.

1 Nephi 11:14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
 15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
 16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
 17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
 18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
 19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
 20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
 21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!

The sign had occurred exactly as the Spirit of the Lord said it would.  Nephi saw the tree, he saw “the man” descend, and he witnesses that “the man is the son of God.”  The man came as a baby, born of a virgin.

It might surprise you what the Angel asks Nephi next….


Shelli said...

Interesting. I always thought of this chapter as the Spirit of the Lord being the Holy Ghost, not Jesus Christ in his spirit body. I'll have to reread this with a new perspective.

In The Doghouse said...

Hi Shelli,
Always pray about what you read from everyone. That being said, there is NEVER a time in all recorded scripture that the Holy Ghost appears in the form of a man that we are told of. Please let me know of one, if I am wrong. Things are always given in patterns. It would seem inconsistent for this to be the Holy Ghost as it fits no other pattern given.

The sign of the Holy Ghost is the dove. That is not to say he is in the form of a dove, but he makes his presence known by the sign of a dove.

The sign of the spirit is the body, as the brother of Jared was taught.

I am also aware that McConkie and Smith produced commentaries in which they said that they believed this to be the Holy Ghost, but I still believe the pattern is not there.

Michaela Stephens said...

I think you've got something fabulous here. It actually makes it so that the sign makes a lot more sense. Nephi sees the Lord's spirit body descend from heaven, he talks to him, and then he sees the Lord be born and grow up on earth and sees that He looks the same and does all the great things He does.. and what greater sign could he have that it is the Son of God?

Thanks for this. I had to reread it several times, but I got it.