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Condescension of God

by Byron R. Merrill

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi1 (c. 600 B.C.) was asked by an angel, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" (1 Ne. 11:16). Nephi was then shown in a vision a virgin who was to become "the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh" (verse 18). He next beheld the virgin with a child whom the angel identified as "the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father" (11:21). Then Nephi understood that the condescension of God is the ultimate manifestation of God's love through Jesus Christ (11:20-22). Such condescension denotes, first, the love of God the Father, who deigned to sire a son, born of a mortal woman, and then allow this Son to suffer temptations and pain (Mosiah 3:5-7), "be judged of the world," and be "slain for the sins of the world" (1 Ne. 11:32-33). Second, it signifies the love and willingness of God the Son (Jesus Christ) to die for mankind.

The word "condescension" implies "voluntary descent," "submission," and "performing acts which strict justice does not require." This definition is particularly applicable to Jesus in the portrayal of him by prophets who lived before his birth and who affirmed: "God himself shall come down" to make an Atonement (Mosiah 15:1); "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself…into the hands of wicked men" (1 Ne. 19:10); "the great Creator…suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh" (2 Ne. 9:5); and "he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin" (2 Ne. 2:7). "The Lord Omnipotent," said King Benjamin, "shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay" (Mosiah 3:5).

In fulfillment of these prophecies, Jesus descended from the realms of glory for the purposes of experiencing mortal infirmities that he might have mercy and compassion according to the flesh and of taking upon himself the sins, transgressions, pains, and sicknesses of men in order to satisfy the demands of justice and gain victory over death, thereby redeeming his people (Mosiah 15:8-9; Alma 7:11-13). Christ's selfless sacrifice merits profound gratitude and endearing love from all who are recipients of his supernal offering.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About the Godhead home page)


Bruce R. McConkie. "Behold the Condescension of God." New Era 14 (Dec. 1984):34-39.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Christians and Christianity

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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