1 Nephi 11:16
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things (1 Nephi 11:16-17).
“Condescension” is an interesting word. Since neither condescend nor condescension are found in the Old Testament, we cannot turn to the Hebrew to help discover its meaning. That leaves the Oxford English Dictionary as our best source. It reads:
The action, habit, or quality of condescending.
1. Voluntary abnegation for the nonce of the privileges of a superior; affability to one’s inferiors, with courteous disregard of difference of rank or position.
2. The action of descending or stooping to things unworthy. Obsolete.
3. Gracious, considerate, or submissive deference shown to another.
4. The action or fact of acceding or consenting.
Only the obsolete definition (#2) suggests a self-degradation of the helper that emphasizes the inferiority of those who are helped.
All of the other definitions suggest love and an acknowledgment of the others’s intrinsic worth—an assertion that the greater recognizes the value of the lesser. To condescend in this way is what the Savior required of his apostles when he said, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12). The Savior was even more explicit in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph, “
He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all”(D&C 50:26).
To help Nephi understand, the angel showed him that the Savior—the great Jehovah, the Father of Creation, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father —would be born into this world as the child of Mary—he would become a little, helpless baby human being. He would have a body like we have—one that gets hungry, endures fatigue, and feels pain.