2 Nephi 4:25 – LeGrand Baker – “the wings of his Spirit”
2 Nephi 4:25
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.
I wish to comment on only two ideas. First that the great sin which weighs down Nephi’s soul is that he got angry with his brothers when they tried to murder him. That fact tells one a great deal about the fine-tuned sensitivity of Nephi’s soul, but it also tells one about the erosive power of the sin of being angry. I recall the story, that once when the Prophet was translating the Book of Mormon, he and Emma had a tizzy. The Spirit withdrew and Joseph could not continue to translate until he had gone out into the woods to apologize to the Lord, then returned to the house to apologize to Emma. Anger is addictive because it gives one an adrenalin high and gives the angry person a false sense of superiority. People who get angry frequently become chemically dependent on that artificial high and emotionally dependent on the sense of power. Anger is a cancer which destroys its host from within, often so subtly that the host thinks it is both normal and healthy, until it has had time to mature and is ready to strike its devastating, sometimes deadly blow.
The second idea upon which I wish to comment is the phrase, ‘the wings of his Spirit,’ in the verse, “And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.” These wings are both real and symbolic.
The cherubim who surround the celestial throne of God are described as having wings (sometimes called wings like the wings of an eagle), by Isaiah (ch. 6), Ezekiel (ch. 1), Daniel (ch. 7), and John (Rev. 4). But, we are told by the Prophet Joseph that “their wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc.” (D&C 77:4)
Similarly, there were cherubim whose wings overreached the throne of God in the Tabernacle of Moses, which throne was the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 25:20). Then, later, when Solomon built his temple, he constructed a huge throne in the Holy of Holies. There, cheribums with a wingspan of about 16 feet (1 Kings 6:24) spread those wings over a golden throne; and over whomever sat upon that throne; and over the Ark of the Covenant, which now served as the throne’s footstool.
Only the king who had been anointed a son of God, and thereby also adopted as a legitimate heir of God, could sit upon this earthly representation of the heavenly throne. Therefore, sitting upon the throne, under the wings of the cherubim represented not only priesthood power and temporal majesty, but also security and peace, as is expressed in the 63rd psalm, “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” (Psalm 63:7. See also Psalms 17:8, 36:7, 57:1, 61:4, 91:4.)
Because the throne and its overshadowing wings were symbolic of priesthood and kingship, they were also symbolic of the invitation to receive the gift of eternal life. The Saviour used that symbolism repeatedly, as a lament for those who would not accept the invitation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37, see also Luke 13:34, 3 Nephi 10:4-6, D&C 43:24)
And also as a promise to those how would accept that invitation:
Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer. (D&C 29:2, see also 10:65) (The phrase “mighty prayer” has an obvious significance in this enthronement context.)
Thus, the symbolism of those enthroning wings is the same as the symbolism of the powerful wings of the celestial cherubim upon whose power, God himself may ride.”And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. (Psalms 18:10 and 2 Samuel 22:11)” And upon whose wings he invites his children to ride also. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)”
So Nephi’s statement resounds with the clarity of the ancient enthronement ordinances, is a testimony of the validity of those ordinances, and a representative form and pattern of their fulfilment. He wrote,
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. (2 Nephi 4:25)
The wings have a further and expected symbolism, which is an extension of the ones mentioned so far. They also represent the association of enthronement and peace. “But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall.” That, as Nephi adds, “all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. (3 Nephi 25:2 and 2 Ne. 25:13)