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Sign of the Dove

by Robert L. Marrott

All four Gospel writers indicate that at the baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, John 1:31-33, reads: "And John bare record, saying: When he was baptized of me, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him; for he who sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me: Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (see also JST Matt. 3:45-46).

The Holy Ghost is a spirit person in the form of man (D&C 130:22) and does not transform himself into a dove or any other form. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: "The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage [a man], and is in the form of a personage [a man]. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign [symbol or representation] of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence" (TPJS, p. 276). The dove was a supernatural sign given to John to witness the identity of the messiah. Some non-LDS scholars have entertained differing opinions as to whether or not a real dove was present. Joseph Smith's explanation leads toward a conclusion that the dove was not literally present (see Jesus Christ: Baptism).

Other references to the sign of the dove are 1 Nephi 11:27; 2 Nephi 31:8 and Doctrine and Covenants 93:15. The Book of Abraham states that to Abraham also was revealed "the sign of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove" (Facsimile 2, Fig. 7).

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

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Dove, Sign of

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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