A first child is accompanied by excitement–not to mention a deluge of unique emotions.
Dreams, fears, wonder, a newfound love, and feelings like the countless seeds of a dandelion are blown into the winds of life by that little infant, the embodiment of the visions of the future.
Millennia ago in heavenly home, a divine Father and a celestial Mother welcomed their first spirit child. Likely, much like his future mortal birth, the destiny of this first-born son was known and, to an extent only understood with the perspective of timeless godhood, his development and progression was anticipated and encouraged by loving parents who understood that this child was called to carry the burdens of the universe out of love for those for whom he would someday give his life.
The scriptures are quiet on the early spiritual development of the premortal Jesus Christ, called Jehovah in his heavenly home, in much the same way that little is spoken of Christ’s early childhood when he walked the roads of Nazareth. We are compelled to turn to the words of living scripture and to eternal principle to catch a glimpse of the eons of time before Jehovah stood forward in the premortal council to volunteer as the Savior of all mankind.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing…it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” D&C 130:20-21
The law of the harvest is eternally interconnected with the principle of agency. It follows that the growth of Jehovah from his spiritual birth through his later service as a member of the godhead was dependent upon obedience to eternal law. Indeed, we know that his obedience was both exemplary and exceptional.
“Being subject to law, and having their agency, all the spirits of men, while yet in the Eternal Presence, developed aptitudes, talents, capacities, and abilities of every sort, kind, and degree. During the long expanse of life which then was, an infinite variety of talents and abilities came into being. …
“The Lord endowed us all with agency; he gave us laws that would enable us to advance and progress and become like him; and he counseled and exhorted us to pursue the course leading to glory and exaltation. He himself was the embodiment and personification of all good things. Every desirable characteristic and trait dwelt in him in its eternal fulness. All of his obedient children started to become like him in one way or another. There was as great a variety and degree of talent and ability among us there as there is among us here. Some excelled in one way, others in another. The Firstborn excelled all of us in all things.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 1:23).
Mirroring the perfection of his Father led the Son to become ever more like the Father. Indeed, when Abraham gives us a glimpse into the premortal stature of Jehovah he says,
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God…” -Abraham 3:24
It was the faithfulness and obedience of Jehovah since the beginning that prepared him for his role as
“the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, (and) the Messiah of the New.” -The Living Christ
The Council in Heaven
The plan of the Father for the exaltation of His children was presented in the great council in heaven. As with all plans allowing growth, the possibility of failure was an essential requirement.
“…when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good. -Moses 6:55
In order to satisfy the demands of justice, allow for failure and the ensuing growth, and overcome the mortality that provides the stage for it all, Jehovah volunteered as Savior. Likely, it was apparent to more than just the Father that only Jehovah possessed the spiritual stature, priesthood power, and moral maturity that were essential requirements for a perfect life, an infinite sacrifice, and a complete victory over all darkness. In context, no other mortal has ever lived a perfect life; Jehovah not only was called to master personal perfection, but also to perfect the lifetimes of each of God’s numberless spirit children. He would experience every trial and heartache, defeat every temptation, and personally walk a perfect lifetime in the shoes of all mankind. Only after experiencing and overcoming all things could he rise above all, and then lift us up.
Voluntarily assuming a burden stretching across the universe out of a love for his Father and for us IS the character of Jehovah. From the beginning he was focused on his Father’s will and his Father’s plan.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” -Moses 1:39
The Savior’s capacity and nature to always reach out in love and service to those around him is the character of Christ.
“There would have been no atonement except for the character of Christ.” – Elder Maxwell
“Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).” -The Living Christ
Jehovah of the Old Testament
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Exodus 3:13-15
Jehovah assumed the leadership of God’s covenant people throughout the Old Testament.
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” -Isaiah 12:2
In much the same way that Jehovah was delegated the responsibility of organizing the world, Jehovah was assigned the responsibility of overseeing, under the direction of his Father, the covenant people of God.
Jehovah spoke with Moses from the burning bush.
Jehovah called to young Samuel who responded, “speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
Jehovah strengthened David as he ran towards Goliath.
Jehovah spoke with Daniel,
spared Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo,
and warned Jeremiah
Through the centuries leading up to Christ’s mortal ministry, he was the father of the faithful in type-and-shadow of the way he would soon become the father of mankind’s salvation.
Said Christ to the Nephites,
“Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.” -3 Nephi 15:5
And in declaration to the unbelieving Jews who questioned his authority,
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” -John 8:58
Coming in the meridian of time, Christ’s humble birth in a manager was unheralded by the world. Yet, Christ was the literal son of a divine Father.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” -Matt 1:23
As the literal son of God, Christ held power over death.
Yet, Christ was also the child of a mortal mother and was able to die if he chose.
Christ’s mortal growth and progression was the same as every child.
“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace.” -D&C 93:12
Yet, his personal character and obedience led him to develop righteous power and a connection with his Heavenly Father unparalleled before or since.
Following the pattern he established in the premortal life, the mortal Christ developed and matured at an unprecedented pace that enabled him to teach the learned doctors in the temple at the tender age of 12.
His mortal ministry began with calling twelve apostles and beginning to preach the gospel–just as every prophet prior had done. However, past prophets had spoken of the coming of Christ while the Son bore witness of himself, as did,
“his Father who sent (him).” -John 8:18
Christ’s ministry included essential lessons and examples for all who would come after including:
The importance of priesthood, keys, and authority,
The value of every soul,
What true love for God and fellow man looks like,
How to teach
How to lift
How to be humble
What true courage looks like,
and countless other lessons from he who was perfection personified.
However, the pinnacle of the Savior’s life came at the end as he performed the atonement for each of God’s children.
There is a reverence that enters as we speak of what the Savior did for mankind. His offering and sacrifice was so pure, so perfect, and so incredibly personal to each one of us. Whether we speak of the enabling grace, the redeeming power, or his victory over death, his atonement touches each person in every aspect of their life. It is indeed a miracle for you and a miracle for me–a miracle for each of us–that we could be so loved.
(Dedicated to His atoning sacrifice, see ‘The Grace He Proffers‘)
In the words of President Monson,
“Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He lived for us, and He died for us.” (emphasis added)
And he rose again on the third day!
That Easter Sunday as Christ rose from the tomb, it was the final cornerstone, and the perfecting, of Heavenly Father’s plan to enable the progression of His children.
Having taken a perfect immortal body, Christ will die no more. (Romans 6:9)
He now stands able to lift mankind above all things as he has already,
“descended below (them all).” -D&C 122:8
The feelings of gratitude for such a Savior and older brother were expressed well by Elder Wirthlin,
“May we understand and live in thanksgiving for the priceless gifts that come to us as sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father…
That we may always know that no matter how dark our Friday, Sunday will come is my prayer.” -Elder Wirthlin ‘Sunday Will Come’
Our Living Savior
Having ascended into heaven, Jehovah now takes his rightful place at the right hand of his Father. He is the author of your salvation and mine. His offering and sacrifice is available to every child of God willing to ask, seek, and knock.
In these latter-days, we know our Savior and of the exalting covenants available through his gospel because there IS a living prophet who holds the sacred keys of the kingdom. The gospel preached by Peter, James, and John is again proclaimed across the world that man might look to God and live.
Beginning from his spiritual birth to heavenly parents, through his ministry and sacrifice, and finally to these last days as we prepare to build Zion and welcome the triumphant Savior to the earth, Jesus Christ, the great Jehovah, is our perfect example–and even more miraculously, our true friend.
May we love and serve him as he has asked by feeding his sheep. (John 21:17)