Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Condescension of God- 1 Nephi 11

When Nephi asked the Lord to “behold the things which his father saw” he was given a panoramic view of the condescension of God.   
This is what he saw:
  1. A virgin.
  2. The Virgin carried away in the Spirit.
  3. The Virgin bearing a child in her arms.
  4. An Angel testifying that the child is the Son of the Eternal Father.
  5. The Son of God going forth among the people, and many worshiping Him.
  6. The Prophet who should prepare the way for the Redeemer of the World.
  7. The Lamb of God baptized by that prophet.
  8. The Heavens open after His baptism; the Holy Ghost come out of heaven and abide on Him in the form of a dove.
  9. The Lamb of God going forth ministering to the people in power and great glory.
  10. This group of people casting Him out from among them.
  11. Twelve others start to follow Him.
  12. The Heavens open once again and angels descend upon the people and minister unto them.
  13. The Lamb of God healing the sick and casting out unclean spirits.
  14. The Lamb of God being taken by the people and judged of the world.
  15. He was then lifted up upon the cross, and slain for the sins of the world.
  16. After his death, multitudes of the earth fighting against the apostles of the Lamb.
  17. The house of Israel gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
  18. Destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
All of the above information was important for Nephi to be shown because it had not happened yet.  He was viewing it in the perspective of a future event that would take place; a future event that would be central to the salvation of not only his posterity but the whole human family. It was information given to help his people understand who Jesus Christ is and how he would Atone for the world.  It provided a way for his posterity to recognize Him when he did come the first time.

For us, the perspective is different.  We look backward to the events that took place in the past.  We see this information as a fulfillment of divine prophecy.  We view it as another testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and his life and ministry.  It is given for us to recognize that He did come and Atone for us.

Both perspectives are given to enhance our faith.  Nephi had faith that it would happen, and we have faith that it did happen.  That faith, when nourished, moves us to action.  It gives us the power to apply whatever necessary means in our life to press forward with hope of an Eternal place with our Father.  It sustains us through trials, and motivates us to change when change is needed.  It allows us to repent and come closer to our Father, thorough the merits of Jesus Christ, and our own efforts.  

I am grateful for the perspective that Nephi shared with me, the latter-day reader of his record.  I love him for the faith he had, and that he expressed continually.  But most of all, I love Nephi because he knew how important his record would be for me. 

He knows this because he was shown it in this vision….as it continues....

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Baptism of Jesus- 1 Nephi 11

I picture the vision the Lord showed to Nephi as literally a Technicolor view of the importance of the Atonement, and the central part it plays in the salvation of literally all mankind, and how we must apply it in our lives.  

First Nephi was shown how Christ came to earth, as the Son of the Eternal Father, through the process of the virgin birth.  (Sidebar: It is interesting to note that the term “virgin” was also a term used to describe the wife of a prophet.) The birth however is just the beginning of what Nephi is shown regarding Christ.  The vision continues to reveal the life that the Savior would lead in an effort to help him, and us, better understand the role Christ played in the redemption of the world.

The next event in the life of Christ that Nephi is taught about through this glorious vision was the important step Christ would take to show us the way to gain entrance into the kingdom of His Father.  This step was that of baptism, and most importantly the correct process of entering into a covenant  with the Father by way of baptism.   He was shown that Christ was baptized by immersion, by one who had authority to do so.  He was also shown that the baptism was incomplete without the ratifying effect of the Holy Ghost. 

Both Lehi and Nephi were very specific in recording that the baptism of Christ was an event which was testified of by many of the prophets of old, and that one having authority would perform the task,  for me, Isaiah is one that comes to mind.  Isaiah recorded the exact wording used by John the Baptist as he preached about the coming of the Savior.

Isaiah 40: 3¶The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

I also find it interesting that Lehi was very specific in noticing that the prophet John would be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy because of the exactness in the wording he used.

1 Nephi 10: 7 And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—
 8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

In the record of John in the New Testament this exact scene is played out one more time as the priests and Levites pressed John to know who he actually was.

John1: 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

The Joseph Smith Translation of this verse even adds more clarity to John’s words.

John 1: 27 John answered them, saying; I baptize with water, but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
 28 He it is of whom I bear record. He is that prophet, even Elias, who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose, or whose place I am not able to fill; for he shall baptize, not only with water, but with fire, and with the Holy Ghost.
 29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and said; Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!
 30 And John bare record of him unto the people, saying, This is he of whom I said; After me cometh a man who is preferred before me; for he was before me, and I knew him, and that he should be made manifest to Israel; therefore am I come baptizing with water.

Finally Nephi bears record of this event in his own words.

1 Nephi 11: 26 And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
 27 And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.

What a great blessing it is that we are given these testimonies of the baptism of Jesus Christ. We are taught the manner in which we should be baptized, after the example set by our Savior, including the need of the proper authority required to administer the ordinance.  In a time when the ordinance of baptism is under question in every way, these visions shared with us from Nephi  and Lehi solidify the process so clearly, and fulfills the law of witnesses in testifying of the necessity of it.

Later Mormon will add his testimony as well.

Mormon 7:10 And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen.

Christ condescended to be baptized because of obedience to the commands of His Father, how on earth is it possible that we can progress without doing the same?