“Knowest Thou the Condescension of God”

Bryan Richards

This unusual phrase, "condescension of God," deserves some comment. It does not appear anywhere in the scriptures with the exception of 1 Nephi 11. In English, to condescend is a commonly used verb, but as a noun, it is rarely seen. In the context of this scripture, it means Jehovah's voluntary surrender of his exalted status as a pre-mortal God to be born into mortality in the most humble of circumstances. The Dictionary defines condescension as the "'voluntary descent from one's rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.' President Ezra Taft Benson taught, 'It means to descend or come down from an exalted position to a place of inferior station.' " (Ensign, Dec. 2001, 18). Before being born of Mary, he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After the virgin birth, he was seen as the carpenter's son.

"The condescension of God" is referred to again with reference to the baptism of Christ (v. 26-27). In this instance it means Christ's condescension to submit to an ordinance designed for sinners. He does it not because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is in need of baptism, but to fulfill all righteousness, according to the will of the Father.

Gordon B. Hinckley

"'Knowest thou the condescension of God?' ("#1 Ne. 11:161 Ne. 11:16.) I suppose none of us can fully understand that—how the great Jehovah should come among men, born in a manger in a vassal state, among a people who would hate him." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 285 - 286.)

Elder Richard C. Edgley

"From his magnificent throne, Jesus Christ, the God of this world, all-knowledgeable and all-powerful, descended. Indeed, it is sobering to ponder that He alone would come down from this glorified throne to face the most extreme humiliation and suffering that mortality could inflict.
"President Benson stated, 'When the great God of the universe condescended to be born of a mortal woman, He submitted Himself to the infirmities of mortality to 'suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death' (Mosiah 3:7).
"…It is at the extremity of His suffering, His greatest condescension, that we witness the majesty of His mission. It was at this time of His greatest humiliation and lowest state that He gave greatest glory to His Father in Heaven and then signaled the completion of His mission by simply uttering the words 'Father, it is finished, thy will is done' (JST, Matt. 27:50). Indeed, He had descended to fulfill His Father's will.
"…And so the angel said to Nephi, 'Knowest thou the condescension of God?' (1 Ne. 11:16). I believe we know something of His condescension—as God the Creator, Redeemer, Exemplar. For instance, we know:
"So what does this mean for us? Our understanding of Christ's condescension should take us beyond our feelings of awe and deep gratitude. As members of His Church, being called to represent Him and testify of Him, our great opportunity is to try to emulate Him." (Ensign, Dec. 2001, 18-20)