“The Condescension of God”

D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner

Nephi envisioned six centuries ahead of his time, seeing Jerusalem in Judea and Nazareth in Galilee. In Nazareth he saw a most beautiful young Jewish girl, a virgin, who had never known intimately a mortal man (see also Alma 7:10).

Many Saints skip over the question in verse 16, viewing it as an interruption to the flow of the text, often because they don’t know what condescension means. Condescension derives from Latin words meaning “to descend or come down to be with.”

Nephi teaches here the marvelous doctrine of the condescension of God. Verses 16–21 speak of God the Father, a resurrected, exalted, glorified Being, who condescended to sire a Son in this world with a mortal woman, Mary (to “sire” means to beget or procreate). There is nothing figurative about the paternity of Jesus Christ; he is literally the Son of an immortal Man and a mortal woman. Jesus Christ, the premortal Jehovah, the Firstborn of all the Father’s spirit children, thus became the Only Begotten in the flesh—that is, the only mortal Son whom the Father ever had in this world.

This is a fundamental doctrine of true Christianity. The Jews do not believe God (Elohim) would have a Son; the Muslims do not believe God (Allah) would have a Son in this world; and many Christians these days likewise deny the Savior’s unique birth. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Divine Sonship of Christ is the foundation of our religion. With his unique parentage, he literally had power over life and death. He said: “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17–18). He could, and did, give his life and take it up again, providing the way for all of us to be resurrected.

Verse 16 speaks of God the Father condescending to sire a Son. Footnote 16a refers to the Topical Guide, “Jesus Christ, Condescension of” because that is where all passages referring to any kind of condescension are collected, but the verse is specifically referring to the condescension of the Father, as evidenced by the next verse recording Nephi’s comment, “I know that he loveth his children.”

Verse 26 speaks of God the Son, who created worlds without number, then condescended to the manger in Bethlehem. He not only descended to our condition but also descended below it (D&C 88:6; 122:8).

President Ezra Taft Benson wrote: “The most fundamental doctrine of true Christianity is the divine birth of the child Jesus. This doctrine is not generally comprehended by the world. The paternity of Jesus Christ is one of the ‘mysteries of godliness’ comprehended only by the spiritually minded… .

“ … The testimonies of appointed witnesses leave no question as to the paternity of Jesus Christ. God was the Father of Jesus’ mortal tabernacle, and Mary, a mortal woman, was His mother. He is therefore the only person born who rightfully deserves the title ‘the Only Begotten Son of God.’ …

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!” 26

“He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Ne. 11:20.)” 27

Verse by Verse: The Book of Mormon: Vol. 1