Question: Why did Jesus say “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created” to the Brother of Jared, when Enoch and others had already seen Jehovah face to face?

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Question: Why did Jesus say “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created” to the Brother of Jared, when Enoch and others had already seen Jehovah face to face?

We know that at least Adam and Enoch had already seen or walked with God or Jehovah by the time that He showed himself to the Brother of Jared

In Ether 3:15, the premortal Jesus Christ is speaking to the Brother of Jared:

15 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.

However we know that at least Adam and Enoch had already seen or walked with God or Jehovah by this time. Adam’s experience is described in D&C 107:53-54

53 Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

54 And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

Enoch’s experience is described in Moses 7:4

4 And I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face; and he said unto me: Look, and I will show unto thee the world for the space of many generations.

The key words here that provide multiple interpretations are: “myself”, “showed” and “man”

So what was unique about the Brother of Jared’s experience which would explain the phrase “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created”. The key words here that provide multiple interpretations are: “myself”, “showed” and “man”.

Interpretation 1: “Myself” refers to the true identity of Jesus Christ

Kent P Jackson said:

The uniqueness of this situation lies in the fact that Jehovah appeared to Mahonri Moriancumer in his role as Jesus Christ--rather than as the Father. Never before, as far as we can tell from the scriptures, had Jesus Christ shown himself unto man. (And, interestingly, nowhere else in the scriptures do we have a clear example of Jehovah appearing as Jesus until his coming in the flesh.) As Moroni reported, "Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus" (Ether 3:20). To the brother of Jared, Christ revealed his complete nature: God who would become Man--Jehovah, the Father, who would become Jesus, the Son.

Perhaps the unprecedented nature of this appearance is a reason why the Lord commanded that the account not be made known in the world until after his mortal ministry (Ether 3:21). [1]

This is supported by verse 14 in Ether 3:

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.

Interpretation 2: “Showed” means fully showing his spirit body

President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

I have always considered Ether 3:15 to mean that the Savior stood before the Brother of Jared plainly, distinctly, and showed him his whole body and explained to him that he was a spirit. In his appearance to Adam and Enoch, he had not made himself manifest in such a familiar way. His appearances to earlier prophets had not been with that same fulness.

The scriptural accounts of talking face to face and of walking with God should not be interpreted in the sense that the Savior stood before those prophets and revealed his whole person. That he may have done so at later periods in the cases of Abraham and Moses is possible, but he had not done so in that fulness in the antediluvian days. For the Brother of Jared he removed the veil completely. He had never showed himself to man before in the manner and way he did to that prophet. [2]

Interpretation 3: “Man” refers to the unbelieving man

Jeffrey R. Holland said:

"One possibility is...that the reference to 'man' is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege. "Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same 'fulness,' that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ's nature and being…

"A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared's faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, 'Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.' As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, '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. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.' (v. 9,15) Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God's bidding.

"That appears to be Moroni's understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, 'Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.' (v. 19)" [3]


Notes

  1. Kent P. Jackson. 1990. "Never Have I Showed Myself unto Man": A Suggestion for Understanding Ether 3:15a. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mormonismi.net/kirjoitukset/byu_jumala.shtml. [Accessed 6 December 2016].
  2. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56), 1:37
  3. Christ And The New Covenant, p. 21-23