Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Condescension of God

The word "condescension", according to Miriam Webster Dictionary, means "Voluntary descent from one's rank or dignity in relations with an inferior." Usually in our culture today, we use the word "condescend" with regard to someone who thinks they are superior, but whom we view as on the same level as ourselves. But in the Book of Mormon, the word "condescension" is used as is described by Miriam Webster, to refer to one of superior rank who did lower Himself to our level.

The prophet Nephi was shown in vision, by an angel, the future birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. The angel said to him, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" (1 Nephi 11:16). Nephi replied, "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (v.17) He was then shown that the very God of heaven and earth would be born in to mortality. He also saw that He would go forth with great power and glory, and that He would heal the sick, and cast out unclean spirits. Nephi recorded, "32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. 33 And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. " (1 Nephi 11:32,33) He also saw the subsequent resurrection of the Savior, and His visit to the Americas.

The prophet Alma also was shown the future birth of the Savior some 80 or so years before His birth. He recorded what was told him by the Spirit: "10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me." Alma 7 10-13

Both of these prophets was shown that the Lord Jesus Christ would come to earth and suffer at the hands of "inferiors", and live in lowly station, in order to provide the atonement for us all.

In speaking about this condescension, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught,

"Here we have a glorious thing. Here we have exalted, noble beings on a plane and status so far above our present circumstance that we have no way of comprehending their dominion and glory, and we have one of them, God our Eternal Father, through the condescension and infinite love and mercy that he has for us, stepping down from his noble status and becoming the Father of a Son after the manner of the flesh. We have that Son being born, that Son who was his firstborn in the spirit, who had like power and omnipotence with the Father. We have each of them performing a work that there is no way for us to understand as far as magnitude and glory and importance is concerned.
Now the greatest and most important single thing there is in all eternity—the thing that transcends all others since the time of the creation of man and of the worlds—is the fact of the atoning sacrifice of Christ the Lord. He came into the world to live and to die—to live the perfect life and be the pattern, the similitude, the prototype for all men, and to crown his ministry in death, in the working out of the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice. And by virtue of this atonement, all things pertaining to life and immortality, to existence, to glory and salvation, to honor and rewards hereafter, all things are given full force and efficacy and virtue. The Atonement is the central thing in the whole gospel system. The Prophet said that all other things pertaining to our religion are only appendages to it. ... And so here we have a doctrine of the Divine Sonship. We have one man out of all eternity—one man among the infinite hosts of the spirit children of God our Father—who is born into the world, inheriting from an immortal exalted Father the power of immortality and inheriting, on the other hand, from a mortal woman—the best and most gracious and most noble mortal woman without question—inheriting from her the power of mortality. Now the power of immortality is the power to live. It is the power to elect to continue to live. The power of mortality is the power to die. And so here is one being who had a dual nature, who could elect to live or elect to die; and having made the election in accordance with the plan of the Father, having elected to separate body and spirit, then by the power of the Father, which is the power of immortality, he could elect to live again. As a consequence we have the redemption from death, the ransom from the grave; we have immortality for him and for us and for all men." Bruce R. McConkie, “Behold the Condescension of God,” New Era, Dec 1984, 35

Our Savior condescended to come to Earth and live among us. He not only suffered at the hands of mortals, but died at the hands of mortals. But He rose again the third day, and offers salvation to us all. Bishop Richard C. Edgley taught,

"In the 34th chapter of Alma, Amulek testifies of the need for the Son of God to personally come down to perform the Atonement according to the great plan of the Eternal God. He explains that the Atonement must be “a great and last sacrifice,” not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast or fowl as was customary (see Alma 34:9–10). It had to be infinite, covering all transgression, all suffering, and it had to be eternal—applying to all mankind from the infinite beginning to the endless end. No, it could not be a sacrifice of man, beast, or fowl. It had to be a sacrifice of a God, even God the Creator, God the Redeemer. He had to condescend from godhood to mortality, and in mortality to sacrificial lamb. His gift of redemption, through His condescension, necessitated His suffering, exquisite pain, and humiliation." Richard C. Edgley, “‘The Condescension of God’,” Ensign, Dec 2001, 16

At this Christmas time, I am eternally grateful for the offering that our Savior has given to us. I am thankful for His sacrifice, willingly given. I am thankful that this free gift is available to all mankind. This is the true message of the Christmas season.

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