1 Nephi 11:1-5 To Receive Revelation
Nephi shows us an exemplary pattern as we seek knowledge and guidance: 1) He desires to know, 2) he believes the Lord could and would teach him, 3) he ponders in his heart, and 4) he asks. (See also 1 Nephi 15:11.)
1 Nephi 11:11-12, 14 “Look!” and “Behold!”
The Spirit in Nephi’s vision is also called “the Spirit of the Lord” (verse 11), but from verse 14 on he is referred to as “the angel.” In chapters 11-14 the Spirit repeatedly instructs Nephi to look and to behold. As he does, more and more truths unfold. What can it mean to us to more diligently “look” and “behold” the things of God?
1 Nephi 11:6-21 Jesus and His Mother
In verses 6-11, the Spirit helps Nephi understand that the tree is the central figure in his father’s dream and that it points to Christ. After seeing the tree’s “beauty” and “whiteness” (in verse 8), Nephi next sees Jerusalem, then Nazareth, then a virgin. This is Mary, and she is described as being “fair and white” and “beautiful and fair,” as was the tree (see verses 8, 13, 15). Does Mary represent a form of the tree of life? Like the tree, she bears fruit, and her fruit—like the fruit of the tree in Lehi’s dream—is the Savior (see verses 18-21).
1 Nephi 11:16-17 The Condescension of God
The angel asks Nephi, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (verse 16). Nephi did not know, so he humbly yet beautifully stated, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (verse 17). This is another example for us: “What to do when we don’t understand?” When struggling with any questions we may have, we may well adopt the attitude, “I don’t know everything, but I know God loves me.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “‘The condescension of God,’ of which the scriptures speak, means that the Immortal Father — the glorified, exalted, enthroned ruler of the universe — came down from his station of dominion and power to become the Father of a Son who would be born of Mary, ‘after the manner of the flesh.’” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 1984; 111.) Regarding the “manner” of Jesus’s conception, it would be speculative and unwise to claim anything beyond this.
1 Nephi 11:18-22 The Love of God
As the angel teaches Nephi more about the tree and its interpretation, he shows Nephi the Son of God (verse 18) and the child of Mary (verse 20). To make things even more clear, the angel declares, “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (verse 21). Nephi replies, “Yea, it is the love of God” (verse 22). Why didn’t Nephi say, “It is Christ”? Did he miss the point? In truth, Nephi was perfectly correct, for the Savior Himself declared in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (see also 1 Nephi 11:25). And the greatest manifestation of God’s love for the world was to send His Son. Nephi then calls this love of God “the most desirable above all things” (verse 22), just as his father Lehi had described the fruit in 1 Nephi 8:10, 12, 15.
1 Nephi 11:24-25; 15:23-24 Jesus is Everything
Now the vision expands: Nephi sees the mortal ministry of the Savior, and in verse 24 he sees “many fall down at his feet and worship him.” This is the same reaction as those in 1 Nephi 8:30 who, when arriving at the tree (or the presence of Jesus), “fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” Additionally, the angel teaches Nephi that the rod of iron is “the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life, which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (verse 25). So we may now conclude the following:
- The tree and the fruit = the love of God = Jesus
- The rod of iron = the word of God = Jesus (15:23-24; see also John 1:1, 14)
- The strait and narrow path = Jesus (see John 14:6; 2 Nephi 9:41; 31:19, 21)
- The fountain of living waters = the tree of life = the love of God = Jesus (see John 3:16; 4:10-14)
Thus, Jesus is everything! He is the path, the help along the path, and the glorious destination and reward. The Primary children have it right—the answer is always “Jesus.”
1 Nephi 11:36; 12:16-18; 15:21-24, 26-29, 36 The Arduous Journey to the Tree
What additional interpretations of Lehi’s dream do we gain from these verses?
- 11:36; 12:18 The great and spacious building = ______________________________
- 12:16; 15:26-29 The river or fountain of filthy water = _____________________________
- 12:17 The mists of darkness = ______________________________
- 15:23-24 The rod of iron = ______________________________
- 15:21-22, 36 The tree = ______________________________
In what ways do you see yourself in the dream/vision of the tree of life? What teachings from these chapters help you along the path to the tree? How can you progress further in your quest to return to the presence of the Lord?
1 Nephi 13:1-9, 26-29; 14:10-13 The Church of the Devil
Consider the characteristics of those who comprise the “great and abominable church”:
- They are found in many nations and kingdoms and are the most abominable above all (13:1-5).
- They slay, torture, bind, yoke, bring into captivity, and destroy the saints of God (13:5, 9).
- The devil is their founder (13:6; 14:10).
- They amass gold, silver, and other riches; support harlots, and seek the praise of the world (13:7-9).
- They have taken from the Bible many plain and precious parts and many covenants (13:26, 28-29).
- They seek to pervert the ways of the Lord and to blind people’s eyes and harden their hearts (13:27).
- They cause many to stumble and thus Satan gains great power over them (13:29).
- They have dominion among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people; fighting against God (14:11-13).
- Their wickedness limits the numbers in the church of the Lamb of God to a “few” (14:12).
How does it help us to know about those who fight against God and His saints?
1 Nephi 13:12-20, 34-42; 14:3, 17; 15:18-19 The Church of the Lamb
By contrast, consider the Lord’s work to overpower the work of the adversary and to bless His children on earth:
- The Lord inspired the establishment of a latter-day nation, in preparation for the Restoration (13:12-19).
- He brought forth the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other scriptures, thus restoring the “plain and precious parts” of His gospel which had been taken away (13:20, 34-39).
- His scriptures will continue to convince many of His true gospel and make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people that Jesus is the Savior of the world, and that “all men must come unto Him” (13:39-40).
- He will “manifest himself unto all nations” (13:42).
- He protects His saints from temptations and the “fiery darts of the adversary” (15:23-24).
- He empowers His saints, will destroy the work of the devil, and fulfill all his covenants (14:3, 14, 17; 15:18-19).
In what ways do you see the Lord carrying out His work throughout the world today? How do you see Him working in your own life?
1 Nephi 15:1-11, 25 A Self-fulfilling Attitude
After his glorious and extensive vision, Nephi once again must deal with the unbelief of his brothers. They were “disputing” (verses 2, 6), “hard in their hearts” (verses 3, 4, 10, 11), and would not “look unto the Lord as they ought” (verse 3). Naturally, Nephi asks them, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” (verse 8). Their response is both stunning and telling: “We have not, for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (verse 9).
They are saying this to the wrong person! Nephi has just witnessed one of the most profound, sweeping visions ever recorded. Additionally, the brothers’ attitude is self-fulfilling, for one who will not humbly turn to God and seek wisdom will never receive it! Nephi can only reply, “How is it that ye will perish?” (verse 10).