Return to About Mormons home
Types and Shadows of Jesus Christ
by Lenet Hadley Read
Latter-day Saints believe that many events, persons, and objects in the Old Testament and other scriptures were "types" or foreshadowings of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught, for instance, that manna had anticipated him, the true heavenly bread (John 6:30-35), and that Jonah's three days in the fish signified his death and burial (Matt. 12:38-41).
Paul affirmed that the water produced from a rock by Moses pointed to the spiritual nourishment to come through Jesus (Ex. 17:6; 1 Cor. 10:4); furthermore, he asserted that the first Adam prefigured Jesus, the second Adam, who brought life to his spiritual offspring in contrast to Adam who brought death (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:45). Similarly, the inheritances of Ishmael and Isaac foreshadowed differences between the old covenant and the new (Gal. 4:22-31).
According to Hebrews 7:15, the Messiah came "after the similitude of Melchizedek," (Hebrew, "King of Righteousness") who prefigured the roles of priest and king. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:2-17 was written to prove that Jesus was both descended from and foreshadowed by David as king over Israel. Some LDS leaders have taught that the lives of many prophets have served as types of Christ (McConkie, pp. 448-53).
Prototypes and intimations can also be found in the symbolism of ancient Israel's sacred ceremonies. For example, the scapegoat and purification rites of the Day of Atonement signify Christ's salvation wrought by suffering and death (Heb. 9:7-14). Further, the Feast of Tabernacles, with its harvest and light associations, teaches of the Messianic reign (2 Bar. 29:4-8; John 8:12).
Book of Mormon passages add impetus to the notion of scriptural types. Amulek observed that "the whole meaning of the [Mosaic] law point[ed] to that great and last sacrifice [of] the Son of God" (Alma 34:14). Moreover, Abraham's offering of Isaac was called a "similitude of God and [the sacrifice of] his Only Begotten Son" (Jacob 4:5). God showed to ancient Israel "many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows concerning [Christ's] coming" (Mosiah 3:15). The prophet Alma called the liahona a God-given compass, a "type" of Christ, who guides toward eternal life (Alma 37:38-46). In the broad sense, "all things given of God unto man, are the typifying of [Christ]" (2 Ne. 11:4).
The Pearl of Great Price also teaches that all creation bears record of Christ (Moses 6:63). This includes the sun, which points to him, the light of the world (see D&C 88:5-13). Similarly, every revealed ordinance exhibits a symbolic linkage to one element or another of Jesus' ministry. For example, just as the daily sacrifices of Jerusalem's temple foreshadowed Christ's sacrifice (Heb. 7:26-28), so Latter-day Saints see gospel ordinances as pointing to him and to the way back into his presence.
McConkie, Bruce R. The Promised Messiah, pp. 374-453. Salt Lake City, 1978.
Read, Lenet H. "Symbols of the Harvest: Old Testament Holy Days and the Lord's Ministry." Ensign (Jan. 1975):32-36.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Jesus Christ, Types and Shadows of
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
All About Mormons