John 3:13 — Jesus Explains that He is the Premortal Jehovah (Nicodemus part 4) — LeGrand Baker

In John’s encoded account of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus, we have a very brief but accurate description of a sode experience.{1} Jesus said,

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven (John 3:13).

The Hebrew word for “council” is sode. It means the secret decisions of the council, so sode is frequently translated as “secret” in the Old Testament. For example, Amos says,

7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret [sode] to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).

A “sode experience” is when the prophet returns to the Council in Heaven where he relearns and re-accepts the assignments he originally received there before the earth was created. It is likely that Paul was remembering his own sode experience when he wrote,

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

A complete description of a sode experience contains the following elements: The prophet is in a meeting and mentions that other members of the Council are also present. Heavenly Father sits upon his throne and presides. Jehovah conducts and makes the assignments. An ordinance is performed which gives the prophet the authority to speak the words of God. After that, the prophet returns to his own time and place in mortality to fulfill the assignment. A short, but very complete example is 1 Nephi 1:8-14 where Nephi tells about Lehi’s sode experience.

8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne [presiding], surrounded with numberless concourses of angels [other members of the Council] in the attitude of singing and praising their God [they are in a meeting].
9 And it came to pass that he saw One [Jehovah] descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.
10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.
11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first [Jehovah] came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read [Then we read Lehi’s response to the assignment] (1 Nephi 1:8-11).

The book Lehi reads contained his premortal assignment and his reading it represented an ordinance giving him the authority to teach the words of the book. (More about that below.)

In the days of Solomon’s Temple, the measure of a true prophet was that he had had a sode experience, and therefore, he could, with authority, speak the words of God.

Reports of sode experiences by the Israelite prophets are quite common in the Old Testament up until the time of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. When that happened, the Jews not only lost their Temple, but also their king, and they never again performed the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama. Consequently, at the time Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, no Jew had claimed to have had a sode experience in the past 600 years.

However, Jesus words to Nicodemus declared that he had a sode experience, had reaffirmed his premortal covenants in the Council and was, by definition, a true prophet. John tells us all that in one short sentence. Jesus said,

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven [returned to the Council to reaffirm his covenants], but he that came down from heaven [to teach the words of God], even the Son of man which is in heaven (John 3:13).

Jesus tells Nicodemus that not only did he attend the Council, but that he conducted its affairs is Jehovah, “the Son of man which is in heaven.”

In his writings, John keeps sacred things sacred. He tells the initiated just enough that they can know what this conversation was about—and leaves it to them to fill in the blanks. But to the reader who does not have “ears to hear,” John says almost nothing.

That simple sentence, as John reports it, lets us know that Jesus told Nicodemus a great deal about his own premortal Self. Indeed, he may have told him almost everything.

At the premortal Council in Heaven, the prophets (and probably also each of us) received and accepted assignments to be fulfilled in a specific time and place in mortality. For the ancient Israelites, their temple drama was a generic review of those assignments. During the drama they learned where they came from, how they came to be here, what they were to do while they were here, and how to go home again. For us, as we study that ancient drama, our patriarchal blessings, and what we are taught by the Holy Ghost about what is in the scriptures and what our prophets say, augments the generic drama to make it very personal.

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The following are excerpts from the prophets’ descriptions of their sode experiences. I have chosen to quote the part about their receiving authority to speak God’s words. The ordinances are described differently, but as far as I can tell, they represent the same thing. Lehi read the words of a book. John ate a book. Isaiah had a “hot coal” placed on his lips to make his mouth clean. Ezekiel ate a scroll. The Lord touched Jeremiah’s mouth with his hand and said, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”

About himself, John records,

7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.
11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings (Revelation 10:7 – 11).

Isaiah chapter 6 is widely recognized as the most complete account of a sode experience in the Old Testament. However, there are places that are difficult to understand. All of those difficulties are cleared up in the brass plates version that is found in 2 Nephi 16.

1 In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me.
9 And he said: Go and tell this people—Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed, but they perceived not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.
11 Then said I: Lord, how long? And he said: Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate;
12 And the Lord have removed men far away, for there shall be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13 But yet there shall be a tenth, and they shall return, and shall be eaten, as a teil––tree, and as an oak whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves; so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof (2 Nephi 16:1-13. See Isaiah 6:1-13).

In the first several chapters of Ezekiel he recalls his sode experience. This is the part where he received the authority to speak God’s words.

1 Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.
2 So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
4 And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them (Ezekiel 3:1 – 4).

Jeremiah also takes several chapters to describe his sode experience. It begins with the Lord telling him,

5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

Later, God gives him the authority to speak his words.

7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant (Jeremiah 1:7 – 10).

It was also Jeremiah to whom the Lord explained that false prophets were those who had not had a sode experience and therefore did not have the authority to speak in God’s behalf.

18 For who hath stood in the counsel [sode] of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
19 Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
21 I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my counsel [sode], and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings (Jeremiah 23:18-22)

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FOOTNOTE

{1} In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, Stephen and I discuss that prophet call in the chapter called “Sode Experience—Returning to the Council in Heaven.” In the first edition it is on pages 195-209. In the paperback edition (the one that is in PDF on this website under “published books) it is on pages 139-48.

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