As I consider the philosophers, scholars and clerics who have debated for centuries over the nature of God, I marvel at the clarity that has been given the world by the power of revelation from God. When Joseph Smith saw Christ standing on the right hand of the Father, centuries of error and confusion were corrected in a flash. And we receive more powerful information about the physical nature of God and Christ in the Book of Mormon as well, where the Resurrected Christ showed himself to people on this continent anciently, and the saw and touched Him, and could feel that He was a real, tangible Being with flesh and bone. But what of Jesus Christ before His birth in Jerusalem? Did He exist, and if so, what form did He have? The Book of Mormon provides the answer in the Book of Ether, chapter 3, where the brother of Jared not long after the Tower of Babel has a majestic encounter the Lord. Following commandments from the Lord, he and his group have constructed ships of some kind that are closed vessels to permit them to cross the ocean and to survive temporary submersion by the monstrous waves that they would encounter. They’ve been given directions on how to bring fresh air into the vessels, but he is troubled by the thought of making the crossing largely in darkness. Thus, he has gone to the Lord in prayer requesting that the Lord use His power to cause some clear glassy stones to glow and act as lights for the journey. And thus, after laying down his case to the Lord, he makes his request and receives a fascinating response:
 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.
 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
 And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?
 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.
 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.
 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.
 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him.
As the Bible explains, we are created in the image of God – in the physical image of God the Father, and in the image of the spirit body of Christ (now spirit clothed with resurrected flesh and bone).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, existed before He was born and worked with the Father to create this earth and to guide mankind through revelation to His prophets. God and Christ are one God – but not one incorporeal Being. They are two real, tangible Beings who are one in heart, mind, will, and purpose. We believe in their unity, but we differ with Trinitarians about the nature of the unity. In John 17, when Christ prays that Christians might be one even as He and the Father are one, we can only conclude that He was asking us to be one in heart, not to be one in body. But such clear concepts were clouded after centuries of Hellenizing Christianity to better conform with the demands of Greek philosophy. How grateful I am that such clouds have been blown away with the fresh breeze of revelation in the Book of Mormon and the revelations to Joseph Smith.
26 thoughts on “Ether 3: An Ancient Prophet Saw the Spirit Body of Jesus Christ”
It’s so sad that the basic truth of Genesis 1:26-27 was lost so quickly in the first few hundred years of Christianity. Of course it means the physical image – that’s what the Hebrew word means, that what Gen. 5 requires when it then says that Seth was in the image of Adam, etc. Christ is the express image of the Father (Heb. 1:3). A separate Being, the Son – naturally looks like the Father.
Even the lineage in Luke works its way back to Seth and Adam and states quite clearly that Adam was “the son of God.”
The thing I wish for more than anything is for people to understand that they truly are the family of God… the same species. Only then can they recieve the blessings in their fullness.
I’ve said it before, that when you apply the doctrines of Mormonism when you read the Bible, it all makes sense and falls into place. You no longer find your mind trying to wrench things around to fit the teachings of men. What a relief! And what a blessing!
I like your blog! I am new to the Blogging thing but am working on a project I invite you (and anyone else who would like to) to participate in. It is in response to Pres Henry B Eyring’s talk given last Oct in General Conference. Check it out!
If we could admit to ourselves that the whole first account was fraudulent, as to why Joseph observing the “pillar of light above the brightness of the sun”, and or then after seeing the Glory of God, did not fear, as any reasonable person would have concluded had been a sane reaction to the incident, and similar to other biblical accounts described by his patriarchs, then we would no longer need to defend the theophany. Scripture declares:
So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
Joseph’s story of the first account concludes with “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.” Now me personally, being fearful, have yet to throw myself on my back to the ground. So one must reason by what measure Joseph arrived on his back looking up into heaven from kneeling on the ground in prayer . The next sentence “When the light had departed, I had no strength”. Did Joseph’s strength fail him because of the presence of God?
In Daniel 10, which I think Joseph remembered to dream up his story, Daniel makes a similar statement: “no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength.”
But after a careful reading of Daniel 10 one needs to begin the chapter through the continuation from Chapter 9 with Daniels revelation of the “Great War”. It isn’t from the vision of the “man dressed in linen” in Chapter 10 where Daniel declares in verse 8: “no strength remained in me”. But rather Daniel was so overwhelmed of the revelation of the “Great War” that he again declares in verse 2 and 16:
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
“My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.”
Daniel 10 should be read as such:
I was so overwhelmed with the earlier revelation of the great war that I was in mourning for three weeks. I didn’t eat, drink, or bathe. I would have run and hid myself like the other men, but no strength was left in me.” I was left there alone. A hand reached down and touched me and I trembled from hand to foot. He said fear not and get up I have come to answer your question as to what will happen to your people in the latter days.
So, my friends, if Joseph didn’t fear, and if God’s presence does not weaken the body, why did he find himself on his back? Was it like those who claim to be slain in the spirit in those pentecostal churches?
And if the first account isn’t true, then Joseph seeing two personages isn’t as well. Maybe the early church had it right all along!
Excellent Jeff! Thanks.
Anon 8:51 pm
I don’t understand your comment/question. Didn’t make sense.
I am not too quick though.
Excellent post. Thanks Jeff.
At 8:51 PM, May 04, 2008, Anonymous said…
“If we could admit to ourselves that the whole first account was fraudulent,…”
“In Daniel 10, which I think Joseph remembered to dream up his story,…”
Your same old slight of hand. If it found in the scriptures then Joseph just copyed it from the scriptures but if it is not found in the scriptures then he was just making it up and because it is not found in the scriptures then it is not scriptural and not true. Nice try. Heard it before.
“And if the first account isn’t true, then Joseph seeing two personages isn’t as well. Maybe the early church had it right all along!”
It does not matter how many people testify of the The Son sitting on the right hand of the Father in Heaven you want to distroy the concept of the truth.
9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. 11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
Anon@8:51 is welcome to share his perspective. I think he’s saying that when he encounters higher powers, he falls on his face, not on his back, and doesn’t get overwhelmed and drained, so he doubts Joseph’s story. It’s stronger than many of the arguments used against Joseph Smith. “Joseph didn’t react exactly the way I think I would have, therefore his experience never happened.” I guess we can conclude that Anon@8:51 is not Joseph Smith.
But a nice try!
The First Vision accounts we have don’t give all the little details, but if you’d read it, you might realize your criticism is not highly apt. He was already in panic and fear at moment the light descended on him, for he was under attack from an unseen agent trying to stop him from praying, an agent whose representatives today warn people not to pray about the Book of Mormon or the message of the Restoration. And when he was delivered, was he supposed to suddenly be more terrified? He was probably already on his face or back to begin with – what do you want?
It’s one thing to have an unexpected encounter with an angel – the sudden transition from the mundane to the supernatural must be something of a shock. But when you’re already in panic and despair as Joseph was while being attacked in some way from the Adversary and are then delivered, additional falling to the ground doesn’t seem merited, especially if one is already on the ground, and perhaps already on his back. Please give Joseph a break on this one!
Off topic, sorry (you can delete the comment if you want) but I wanted to point out that some site got duped by you mormoncult.org, and is promoting it nicely:
That comment does bring up one interesting observation, though — recorded visions often do seem to sap strength (at least partly) because of the terrible tragedies they immerse the viewer in.
Nephi saw the destruction of his people ca 400 AD and was also overcome:
5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall.
6 And it came to pass that after I had received strength I spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.
— 1 Nephi 15
Lehi saw the destruction of Jerusalem and was overcome:
6 And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.
7 And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.
— 1 Nephi 1
Oh, and while Lehi was in bed recovering from that first vision, he had a second where he saw God and Christ shining brighter than the sun at noonday. Quite likely he was lying flat on his back looking into heaven when it was over…
Finally, Nephi has another experience where — in spite of his sadness — his strength is sapped because of the Spirit. His boneheaded brothers mistook that for vulnerability and got zapped:
47 Behold, my soul is rent with anguish because of you, and my heart is pained; I fear lest ye shall be cast off forever. Behold, I am full of the Spirit of God, insomuch that my frame has no strength.
48 And now it came to pass that when I had spoken these words they were angry with me, and were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea; and as they came forth to lay their hands upon me I spake unto them, saying: In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him.
— 1 Ne 17
Maybe, just maybe, it’s possible for a visionary to lose their strength for both reasons. It’s not like they’re mutually incompatible or something. Either that or Joseph was really hung up on that passage in Daniel and wanted to cover all his bases 😉
This man’s argument against Joseph Smith’s first vision reminds me of an incident with a non-member almost 30 years ago. We were discussing baptism for the dead. He admitted he didn’t know for sure what Paul was talking about in I Cor. But he knew for sure that Mormons had it all wrong. It would appear Mormons are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. In my current employement I work with a few rather rabid anti-Mormons. But unlike 30 years we have the internet. So I will dig up some pretty good pro-Mormon stuff (plug for Jeff) and show it to them. Their response is the same, they don’t care what the evidence shows. We’re wrong 100% of the time. But at least now I understand why we have to be wrong. Because the minute they concede to us on one point they may have to concede on others. And before you know it they would be forced by the shear weight of the evidence and logic to concede the Mormon church just might be what it claims to be.
ps – My comment last week about tattoos was just meant to stir the pot. I really thing for the most part tattoos are not a very good idea.
He ended up on his back?!?!?!
Well, that tears it. I think I’ve lost my testimony!
(Sorry Jeff, that anon post just seems to be begging for a sarcastic response)
lol that guy is posting a link to mormoncult.org and he seems a little anti. Thats hilarious.
anons 8:51 comment made no sense to me. What a trivial detail that has no bearing.
Recorded visions often do seem to sap strength in the BOM. Can somebody find in the Bible either in a vision or in a theophany where the experience had sapped the person(s)strength?
The words “Do not fear,” are commonly heard in Scripture from the mouth of God, a prophet, or an angel (Genesis 26:24; 46:3; Exodus 14:13; Numbers 21:34; Deuteronomy 1:21; 3:2; 7:18; 20:1; 31:8; Joshua 8:1; 10:8; 11:6; Isaiah 7:4; 10:24; 41:10; Daniel 10:12; Luke 1:13, 30; Revelation 1:17). I do not know why God did not also comfort Joseph in the same way. I guess he could have, but leaving him there lying on his back?
Mormoncult.org – LOLOL
And poor Joseph left on his back. I’m just all afretting over these issues. I bet it will even keep me awake for an extra minute tonight…
while I giggle myself to sleep. 🙂
“For a few days I wanted to hide from everyone except my dog, and then I realized that even he had a system of worship, because he worshipped me. So I sold him and took up cats instead.” rofl
After reading all the different accounts of the first vision, it seems that Joseph was still on his knees praying when the pillar of light brighter than the sun gradually descended from above the tree tops. He was encouraged when the light did not burn the treetops for he might be able to endure it. I would have been running like a gazelle.
You wrote, “and or then after seeing the Glory of God, did not fear, as any reasonable person would have concluded had been a sane reaction to the incident, and similar to other biblical accounts described by his patriarchs…”
There is a scriptural reference in the Bible where someone saw both the Father and the Son and there is no indication that he was afraid. In fact, quite the contrary seems to be evident. Ironically, if anyone had a right to look or be afraid, I would think that Stephen while he was being stoned to death would have that right:
54 ¶ When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the fright hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
(New Testament | Acts 7:54 – 60)
Dan and Wendy – in vs 55 you typed, “fright hand of God”… lol
Considering the topic I think that’s really funny. I make typos all the time, so I’m not being mean, just pointing out a funny slip of the hand. 🙂
Did those who were stoning Stephen also see the theophany?
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
“Was Stephen calling on God or Lord Jesus”?
He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Jayleenb – Considering the topic, I thought this one was pretty funny as well. Or is it?
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
Anon – you make zero sense. Your argument is incredibly weak. I’m often surprised at how hard some people work to find any scrap to malign Joseph Smith or the Church with. Reminds me a lot of the Pharisees.
They were so locked into what they were looking for (cuz it had to be the way THEY thought it would be and all according to the Scriptures donchta know) they didn’t even recognize Jesus and only sought to destroy Him.