Use of the Term Form of a Dove

Daniel H. Ludlow

Biblical scholars disagree as to whether or not the Holy Ghost really descended in the "form of a dove" at the time of the baptism of Jesus Christ. In the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and John, the translators have used the construction "like a dove," which could mean that the Holy Ghost descended in the manner of a dove or a bird; however, the account in Luke reads, "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him." (Luke 3:22.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith has explained that these terms all mean that the Spirit descended "in the sign of the dove." His inspired statement is as follows:

The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of a dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence. (History of the Church, 5:261.)

A Companion To Your Study of The Book of Mormon