A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 18:
“A Light … That Can Never Be Darkened” (Mosiah 11-17)
Many members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ think immediately of the Father of our Spirits when they hear the term Father applied to a member of the Godhead. While our expectations of the term Father serve us well when we are considering the divine heritage of mankind and their place in Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for our progress and growth, it is important to realize that the term Father is sometimes applied to the second person of the Godhead as well. This is the case, for example, when Isaiah describes Christ as “the Everlasting Father, the prince of peace.” The automatic identification of the Father of Our Spirits when a member of the Godhead is called Father sometimes leads to difficulties when encountering passages that explore some of the ways in which Jesus, too, is a father to us.
In the 1900’s the first presidency issues a statement discussing Christ’s roles in which he was identified by the term Father (http://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/04/the-father-and-the-sonhttp://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/04/the-father-and-the-son). They noted several applicable senses:
- Jesus is the “Father” as Creator
- Jesus Christ the “Father” of those who abide in the gospel
- Jesus Christ the “Father” by Divine Investiture of Authority.
One passage that most requires understanding the fatherhood of Jesus Christ is found in Mosiah chapter 15. In reading some of the complex passages in this chapter it can be worthwhile to begin by asking which sense this passage is using. Which kind of fatherhood is the focus of the passage? Mosiah 14:10 answers this question for us, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Because the process of making Christ’s soul an offering for sin leads to the begetting of seed, the fatherhood in question must refer to the process by which Jesus Christ became the Father of our Salvation.
Mosiah 15:10-13 “And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed? Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God. For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed? Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.”
Mosiah 15:22-23 strengthens this identification,
“And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection; therefore they are the first resurrection. They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death.”
Based on this passage, who are his seed? Those who have heard and obeyed the words of the prophets and looked forward with faith to the redemption of Christ. The fatherhood spoken of here is clearly one of redemption and inheritance by means of the atonement. The mechanism of paternity is Christ’s bearing of the sins and transgressions of the faithful who repent. Those thus redeemed come forth in the first resurrection, and become heirs through Christ of everlasting life.
With these identifications in mind, we turn to Mosiah 15:1-5, which is the passage containing most of the difficulties,
“And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.”
Several questions often arise with regards to this passage:
- Why does it say that “God himself” shall come down among the children of men?
- How does being conceived by the power of God make him the Father?
- Why does dwelling in flesh make Him the Son?
The Book of Mormon often speaks of Jehovah, the premortal Christ as God. For example, the angel in Nephi’s vision says to Nephi, “Look and behold the condescension of God,” following which he is shown a vision of Jesus Christ. The God who condescends or comes down among His people to bring about their salvation is Jesus Christ. We are used to thinking primarily of Heavenly Father when we speak of God, but the Nephites seem to have thought more directly of Jesus Christ. An illustration of this may be seen from passages such as 3 Nephi 19 when the Nephites refer to Him as their Lord and their God, showing they regarded Him as such, and He prays to His Father on their behalf, showing that Christ is not the same as God (the father of our spirits). Thus the saying, coming from the Nephites, that “God himself shall come down among the children of men” is consistent with the Nephite identification of Jesus as God, while still a distinct person from God (the father of our spirits). It is also consistent with Isaiah’s identification of Christ as Everlasting Father, and Abinadi spends much of his discourse deeply focused on Isaiahanic themes.
We turn next to the question of how being conceived by the power of God makes Jesus the Father. We’ve established previously that Christ’s fatherhood in this passage refers to his redemptive act in behalf of those who have faith in Him and repent. So the question we must ask is how being conceived by the power of God is necessary to Christ carrying out the redemptive sacrifice on behalf of all mankind. And, indeed, there is a ready answer. Were it not for divine heritage, He could not have carried out the atoning sacrifice and brought to pass the resurrection. Because of His divine parentage, he had power over death. Thus, he may be called the father (in the redemptive sense) only because His divine parentage allowed Him to work out the redemption and bring to pass the resurrection. Thus being conceived by the power of God allows Him to be the Father of our salvation.
So we know why being conceived by the power of God makes him the Father, why does dwelling in flesh make him the Son? This may seem trivial since it is not hard to imagine calling someone a son who actually is one, but the comment about him dwelling in flesh is actually also essential. Christ has a dual heritage. He is God’s son, but he is also Mary’s son. As Mary’s son according to the flesh he has the power to die, and as God’s son he has power to take up his life again. Without the death of Christ there is no resurrection. With the death of Christ, however, not only resurrection became possible, but mercy as well. Consider what Mosiah 15:7-9 has to say on the subject
“Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father. And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—Having ascended into haven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death; taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”
The human heritage of Christ has two roles, the first to allow for the death of Christ as a necessary condition of the atonement and second after the divine heritage of Christ has made possible the resurrection, to allow Him to make intercession for men having the “bowels of mercy”. This is likewise consistent with other Book of Mormon treatments of this topic. Alma 7:12-13 states,
“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”
This is likewise consonant with the scripture in Isaiah, which Abinadi cites. Isaiah 58:11 via Mosiah 14:11 states:
“He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
Knowledge of the travails of mortality and compassion by experience come from the human heritage of Christ while the divine heritage brings power to overcome all things. Thus we have, per the writer of Hebrews, (4:15) “… not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
Through Christ, we will be resurrected and blessed with immortal physical bodies. Also through Christ, we can count on divine mercy and forgiveness standing between us and the unmitigated demand of justice; a justice which none of us are able to face or appease. But Christ brings that mercy with him into Heaven, and because of that there is a place for those who will repent and place their trust and allegiance in Jesus Christ, the Father of Our Salvation.