“What does Ether 3:15 imply about Adam and other earlier prophets who walked and talked with God?” Ensign, Apr. 1974, 18–19
Jeffrey R. Holland, manager, Melchizedek Priesthood MIA The scriptures clearly indicate that the Lord appeared to Adam (see Moses 3; Moses 4) and to Enoch (see Moses 7) prior to the time he appeared to the brother of Jared. However, Adam walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, and that must be considered an atypical circumstance by any standard. So Adam’s was a special case in which the virtues attributed to the brother of Jared (belief, faith, knowledge, etc.) were not yet fully operative.
But that still leaves Enoch and the other prophets who lived before Babel. Let me suggest some possible meanings for the Lord’s declaration to the brother of Jared.
Perhaps the Lord never revealed his complete bodily image to any prophet before the brother of Jared. It might be one thing to speak with the Lord “face to face,” as Enoch did, but it would be quite another to have the veil lifted and hear the premortal Jesus say, “… this body, which ye now behold, is 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 3:16.)
Perhaps this was the first time Jehovah had said to a prophet, “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.” (Ether 3:14.) Surely this “showed” Jehovah to be much more than was traditionally understood.
Perhaps there is specialized meaning in the word “man” as it is used in the line, “… never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast …” (Ether 3:15.) Maybe man, as man, will never see God as the brother of Jared did. Paul said, “… things of God knoweth no man, but by the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11), and the Lord said in this dispensation, “For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God. Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind” (D&C 67:11–12).
Perhaps no prophet before the brother of Jared has ever, by the sheer impact of his faith alone, burst through the veil without invitation. In that sense, the Lord would be saying, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner—.” The Lord himself 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.” (Ether 3:13.)
When the brother of Jared confessed he had seen the finger of the Lord, the premortal Jesus said, “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast. … Sawest thou more than this?” (Ether 3:9.) The record goes on to explain that because of the magnitude of his faith, the brother of Jared “could not be kept from within the veil” (Ether 3:20) and “the Lord could not withhold anything from him” (Ether 3:26). Perhaps this was the first prophet whose faith was so compelling he simply could not be restrained from entering into the presence of God.
These possibilities have been suggested in answer to the question posed. But for me, a different query comes to mind when reading the brother of Jared’s experience. It is the question of our own faith, our own belief. What “perfect knowledge of God” may be at our fingertips? To you and me directly the Lord declared, “… in that day that they shall exercise faith in me … even as the Brother of Jared did, that they may be sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations. …” (Ether 4:7.)