“On the Morrow Come I into the World”

Bryan Richards

A brief digression is in order to deal with the implications of Jehovah’s communication with Nephi. A fundamental question is, “During pregnancy, when does the spirit enter the body? Is it some time after conception, or does it occur just before birth?” The interaction between Jehovah and Nephi would suggest that the Spirit does not enter the body until it is time for delivery. Indeed, it would seem to be a great waste of time for the Great Jehovah to be confined within a growing embryo, inactive in Mary’s womb for 9 months before His birth.

On the other hand, there are those who contend that the spirit enters the body shortly after conception. The scriptural example they cite is found in Luke, Mary…entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost (Lu 1:39-41). The implication is that the spirit of John the Baptist recognized the spirit of Jesus while both were still in the womb and that that was the reason that John leaped in Elisabeth’s womb. Occasionally, this argument is used as part of the argument against the practice of abortion and as a comfort to those who have been the parents of stillborn children. Maybe the timing is not important for us to know, but the passage in 3 Nephi 1:13 seems to make a compelling argument.