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Did the Nephites ‘surprise’ the omniscient Savior?

Posted by Kerry on December 21, 2007

Is the Savior omniscient? Absolutely. No doubt about it. Understanding that this is the case, my question is about an event that took place when the Savior visited the Nephites post-resurrection.

The first day of His visit was coming to an end. In chapter 17 of 3rd Nephi, He stated:

Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold, my time is at handnow I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel.”

It appears that the Savior’s intent was to leave immediately. But that is not what happened:

“…when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.”

It appears to me that the Savior changed his mind. Instead of leaving like he intended, it appears like the Nephites’ reaction ‘surprised’ him, and he decided to stay longer to bless the children, heal the sick, etc. By ‘surprise’, I mean that there was information presented to him that he did not expect, and hence he changed his mind. In fact he remains with the Nephites for what appears to be a number of hours: (1) he blesses lots of children, (2) heals their sick, (3) presents the sacrament, (4) gives them the Melchizedek Priesthood, and more…..all before leaving.

Let me state upfront that I am not trying to say that the Savior was fallible, that he was not omniscient, that he was not a full-fledged god, etc. Of course he was and is un-fallible, he is omniscient, and he was and is God.

Maybe the issue is that I do not fully understand the definition or state of omniscience. Can the definition of omniscience be liberal enough to accept that an omniscient being can still be presented with information that he/she did not initially expect or know? With information that might even surprise him/her?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

3 Responses to “Did the Nephites ‘surprise’ the omniscient Savior?”

  1. Andrew said

    Great observation. To me, omniscience means Jesus is CAPABLE of knowing/perceiving everything. However, that does not necessarily mean that he is choosing to focus on everything he perceives all at the same time.

    We humans are the same way. We perceive much more than we are consciously focusing on at any given time. Our minds block out several of our perceptions and thoughts while we choose to focus on others. For example, think about how many things you are perceiving at the same time the next time you turn a corner in your car. You are perceiving your car’s speed, calculating the angle you need to turn to avoid hitting the curb, calculating the amount of force and degree of turn you need to apply to the steering wheel, calculating the amount of force you need to apply to the brake pedal to slow down to a proper speed, you’re turning on your turn signal, maybe down-shifting gears, etc. And while you’re perceiving all of this, you’re probably not even consciously aware of all those perceptions because you’re probably choosing to listen to what the talk show host is saying on your radio, or what the person is saying on the other end of the cell phone. So that’s an example of how you can be capable of perceiving many things simultaneously, but in any given moment you may choosing to focus on some perceptions rather than others.

    So I guess that’s the way for me to understand those scriptures. If Jesus had wanted to look into the future and predict the Nephites’ expectations or reactions, he could have done so. Jesus may be capable of perceiving everything (including persons’ reactions in the future), but he may not be choosing not to focus on all of those perceptions at the same time because he is choosing to just focus on the immediate moment with them.

    Omniscience is a great topic. Omnipotence is another one we should cover in the future.

  2. Horebite said

    Interesting question. I don’t have an answer, but I wanted to point out that there are other examples of similar situations. The common thread is that Jesus changes his mind after appearing to learn more information. Here’s an example from the New Testament (lest anyone use your example to bash the Book of Mormon):


  3. Kerry K. said

    Thanks for pointing that out Horebite. I have to imagine that there are more examples…something to keep an eye out for when reading the scriptures.

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