Ether 3:6, 13-16 – ‘the body of my spirit’ – LeGrand Baker

Ether 3:6, 13-16

6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear. …

13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. 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.
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.
16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh (Ether 3:6, 13-16).

The story of the brother of Jared is wonderful, not only because it answers some very important questions, but also because it asks questions that are equally important. Sometimes questions are more stimulating than answers. That is because answers often invite us to stop wondering, but questions encourage us to think, and thus to expand the wonderment.

The very important answer we get from this account is that the Savior’s spirit body looked just like his physical body, and by extension, like his resurrected body also. That information is vital to us because it is the underlying premise upon which we build our entire concept of the premortal spirit world. The creation accounts say that we were created in the image of God, {1} but none are as explicit as what Jehovah said to the brother of Jared:

16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.

With the clarity of that answer about what spirit bodies look like, comes other questions about one’s ultimate origin — about the origin of our individuality — our intelligence that gave the spirit body its personality, and its power to think and to make meaningful choices.

The most authoritative statement about the relationship of our intelligence with our premortal and mortal bodies was written by Elder B. H. Roberts in 1907. I used the word “authoritative” because when it was first published in the Improvement Era it included this editorial note:

Elder Roberts submitted the following paper to the First Presidency and a number of the Twelve Apostles, none of whom found anything objectionable in it, or contrary to the revealed word of God, and therefore favor its publication.—EDITORS. (Improvement Era, April, 1907)

The next year, Elder Roberts wrote the second in a series of priesthood lesson manuals for the Seventies quorums to use during their weekly meetings.{2} The first lesson of that manual was adapted from the Improvement Era article and included the same editorial note that said this was approved by “the First Presidency and a number of the Twelve Apostles.”

I am quoting it here because I believe the information it contains is necessary for one to understand the nature on one’s own eternal Self.

The Nature of Intelligencies: There is in that complex thing we call man, an intelligent entity, uncreated, self existent, indestructible, He—for that entity is a person; because, as we shall see, he is possessed of powers that go with personality only, hence that entity is “he,” not “it,”—he is eternal as God is; co-existent, in fact, with God; of the same kind of substance or essence with deity, though confessedly inferior in degree of intelligence and power to God. One must needs think that the name of this eternal entity—what God calls him—conveys to the mind some idea of his nature. He is called an “intelligence;” and this I believe is descriptive of him. That is, intelligence is the entity’s chief characteristic. If this be a true deduction, then the entity must be self-conscious, and “others—conscious,” that is, he must have the power to distinguish himself from other things—the “me” from the “not me.” He must have the power of deliberation, by which he sets over one thing against another; with power also to form a judgment that this or that is a better thing or state than this or that. Also there goes with this idea of intelligence a power of choosing one thing instead of another, one state rather than another. These powers are inseparably connected with any idea that may be formed of an intelligence. One cannot conceive of intelligence existing without these qualities any more than he can conceive of an object existing in space without dimensions. The phrase “the light of truth” [Doc. & Cov., Sec. xciii.] is given in one of the revelations as the equivalent for an “intelligence” here discussed; by which is meant to be understood, as I think, that intelligent entities perceive the truth, are conscious of the truth, they know that which is, hence “the light of truth,” “intelligence.” Let it be observed that I say nothing as to the mode of the existence of these intelligences, beyond the fact of their eternity. But of their form, or the manner of their subsistence nothing, so far as I know, has been revealed, and hence we are without means of knowing anything about the modes of their existence beyond the fact of it, and the essential qualities they possess, which already have been pointed out.

The intelligent entity inhabiting a spirit-body make up the spiritual personage. It is this spirit life we have so often thought about, and sang about. In this state of existence occurred the spirit’s “primeval childhood;” here spirits were “nurtured” near the side of the heavenly Father, in his “high and glorious place;” thence spirits were sent to earth to unite spirit-elements with earth-elements—in some way essential to a fulness of glory and happiness (Doc. & Cov. Sec. xciii: 32-35)—and to learn the lessons earth-life had to teach. The half awakened recollections of the human mind may be chiefly engaged with scenes, incidents and impressions of that spirit life; but that does not argue the non-existence of the uncreated intelligences who preceded the begotten spiritual personage as so plainly set forth in the revelations of God.

The difference, then, between “spirits” and “intelligencies,” as here used, is this: Spirits are uncreated intelligencies inhabiting spiritual bodies; while “intelligencies,” pure and simple, are intelligent entities, but unembodied in either spirit bodies or bodies of flesh and bone. They are uncreated, self-existent entities, possessed of “self-consciousness,” and “other-consciousness”— they are conscious of the “me” and the “not me”; they possess powers of discrimination, (without which the term “intelligence” would be a solecism) they discern between the evil and the good; between the “good” and “the better.” They possess “will” or “freedom,”— within certain limits at least— the power to determine upon a given course of conduct, as against any other course of conduct. This intelligence “can think his own thoughts, act wisely or foolishly, do right or wrong.” To accredit an “intelligence” with fewer or less important powers than these, would be to discredit him as an “intelligence” altogether. {3}

Later, Elder Roberts clarified further the characteristics of those intelligences that are called “noble and great” in Abraham 3:22. He wrote:

Do these higher intelligences of the stellar universe and planetary systems have so developed in themselves the quality of love that makes it possible to think of them as being willing to sacrifice themselves—to empty themselves in sacrifice to bring to pass the welfare of others whom they may esteem to be the undeveloped intelligences of the universe? And may they not be capable of giving the last full measure of sacrifice to bring to pass the higher development of the “lowly” when no other means of uplift can be serviceable? Is the great truth operative among these untold millions of intelligences that greater love hath no intelligence for another than this, that he would give his life in the service of kindred intelligences when no other means of helpfulness is possible? {4}

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FOOTNOTES

{1} Even the creation accounts vary in how they say it: Genesis 1:27; Genesis 1:27; Hebrews 1:1-3; Alma 22:12; Ether 3:15; D&C 20:18; Moses 2:27; Moses 6:8-9; Abraham 4:27.

{2} In those days each stake had a quorum of Seventies, and the Seventies in each ward met together as a group to have a lesson, just as each stake now has a quorum of High Priests who meet in their individual ward groups.

It is another testimony to me, that Joseph was a true prophet, that the organization he described in D&C 107 was for the Church in our time when the quorums of Seventy actually have the responsibilities the Prophet said they should have. Before the church was big enough to need Seventies who were General Authorities, it had local Seventies quorums in each stake. These Seventy had the responsibility to help with missionary work. For example, my father was ordained a Seventy when he left to go on his mission in 1930, and I was ordained a Seventy while I was in grad school when I was called to be a stake missionary. It took more than a hundred years after the Church was first organized before its worldwide population grew so large that it needed General Authorities who were permanently stationed in many places. When the Church grew large enough to have that need, all the local stake Seventies were ordained High Priests, and the General Authority Seventies were organized to become what the Prophet had envisioned they should be way back in 1835.

{3} B. H. Roberts, Seventy’s Course in Theology, Second Year [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907-1912], part 1, lesson 1, p, 8-11.
These manuals were originally printed in five different volumes, but have since been reprinted . This reference is to a reprint.

{4} B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994), 98.

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