“Both of the Father and of the Son”

Brant Gardner

The terminology in this verse is significant. The Nephites understood that God was Yahweh and that Yahweh would literally come to this earth as the Messiah. (See “Excursus: The Nephite Understanding of God,” following 1 Nephi 11.) This verse continues to demonstrate that theme and understanding. Nephi is praying to God, and God responds with the very personal “I.” Nephi speaks to and is spoken to by Yahweh, his God. James E. Talmage discusses this identification of Yahweh as the premortal Christ:

We claim scriptural authority for the assertion that Jesus Christ was and is God the Creator, the God who revealed Himself to Adam, Enoch, and all the antediluvial patriarchs and prophets down to Noah; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Israel as a united people, and the God of Ephraim and Judah after the disruption of the Hebrew nation; the God who made Himself known to the prophets from Moses to Malachi; the God of the Old Testament record; and the God of the Nephites. We affirm that Jesus Christ was and is Jehovah, the Eternal One.
The scriptures specify three personages in the Godhead: (1) God the Eternal Father, (2) His Son Jesus Christ, and (3) the Holy Ghost. These constitute the Holy Trinity, comprising three physically separate and distinct individuals, who together constitute the presiding council of the heavens. At least two of these appear as directing participants in the work of creation; this fact is instanced by the plurality expressed in Genesis: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” ; and later, in the course of consultation concerning Adam’s act of transgression, “the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us. “From the words of Moses, as revealed anew in the present dispensation, we learn more fully of the Gods who were actively engaged in the creation of this earth: “And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Then, further, with regard to the condition of Adam after the fall: “I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten: Behold, the man is become as one of us.” In the account of the creation recorded by Abraham, “the Gods” are repeatedly mentioned.
As heretofore shown in another connection, the Father operated in the work of creation through the Son, who thus became the executive through whom the will, commandment, or word of the Father was put into effect. It is with incisive appropriateness therefore, that the Son, Jesus Christ, is designated by the Apostle John as the Word; or as declared by the Father “the word of my power.” The part taken by Jesus Christ in the creation, a part so prominent as to justify our calling Him the Creator, is set forth in many scriptures. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers in this wise distinctively to the Father and the Son as separate though associated Beings: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” Paul is even more explicit in his letter to the Colossians, wherein, speaking of Jesus the Son, he says: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” And here let be repeated the testimony of John, that by the Word, who was with God, and who was God even in the beginning, all things were made; “and without him was not anything made that was made.”
That the Christ who was to come was in reality God the Creator was revealed in plainness to the prophets on the western hemisphere. Samuel, the converted Lamanite, in preaching to the unbelieving Nephites justified his testimony as follows: “And also that ye might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things, from the beginning; and that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name.”

Part of this passage’s difficulty is the phrase “to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh.” The idea that Yahweh is both Father and Son is behind this passage and is clearly confirmed in other Book of Mormon texts. From the earliest writer to the one of the last, we find the same concept:

And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? (1 Ne. 11:21)
Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man. (Morm. 9:12)

It is the combination of this Book of Mormon description of Yahweh as Father and Son that provides the context for the difficult phrasing in this passage. When Yahweh says, “the Father because of me,” he is declaring his heavenly relationship to humanity. He is our father in the sense of his guardianship over all of the natural and adopted branches of Israel. He is our father in the same way that he is the “father of heaven and earth,” a term exclusive to the Book of Mormon. (See commentary accompanying Mosiah 3:8.) As explained in “Excursus: The Nephite Understanding of God” (following 1 Nephi 11), when the context indicates a relationship between Yahweh in heaven and human beings on earth, Yahweh is properly described as our Father. Similarly, when the context is exclusively in the heavens, Yahweh is properly the Son of the Most High God.

Because the context in 3 Nephi clearly crosses the boundary between heaven and earth, Yahweh explains that he is also the Son “because of my flesh.” This somewhat cryptic phrase is actually a very apt definition of a different meaning based on a shift of context. Accompanying the physical change in location from heaven to earth is a change in how Yahweh describes himself.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5