You can read 1 Nephi 11:21-23 here.
Context and General Information
- Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
- The Angel witnesses of Christ, and then asks if Nephi understands the meaning of the tree that he saw.
- Nephi understands – it is the love of God. It is the most desirable above all things.
- The angel teaches – it is also the most joyous.
The Most Desirable
It’s interesting – the Spirit asked Nephi what he desired, and Nephi answered, to see what his father saw. When Nephi saw the tree that his father saw, the Spirit again asked Nephi what he desired. This time, Nephi responded that he wanted to know the meaning of the tree.
The Spirit answered Nephi by showing him a vision – of the coming of Christ. Nephi saw the virgin Mary. He saw Mary holding a baby in her arms. Then the Spirit asked Nephi:
“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” – 1 Nephi 11:21
I know that I have been writing about this a lot, and it might seem redundant, but follow me for a second because it will help me to get pretty clear:
One – Nephi sees the tree of life.
Then, to help Nephi understand what the tree of life means, Nephi sees:
- The city of Jerusalem.
- The city of Nazareth.
- A fair virgin. (When Nephi sees the angel, the Spirit asks Nephi if he knows the condescension of God. Nephi does not. The angel doesn’t really explain the condescension of God yet, but the angel does explain to Nephi that this virgin is the mother of the son of God.)
- The virgin is holding a baby in her arms.
After this, the angel asks:
“Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” – 1 Nephi 11:21
From this little series of things that Nephi sees, somehow he is able to understand. He answers the Spirit:
“And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. – 1 Nephi 11:22, emphasis added
The tree of life represents the love of God. This love sheds itself abroad in the hearts of all of us. And it is the most desirable above all things.
This is really standing out to me. The love of God is the most desirable above all things.
Things I desire:
- to be in shape
- to go to the beach
- a romantic getaway with my husband
- success and happiness for my children
- to show my gratitude for the people that have been such a major support to me in my life
- to learn to speak Italian fluently
I hate to admit this, but the love of God wasn’t on my short list. Yet it is the most desirable above all things.
After Nephi stated the meaning of the tree of life, the Spirit adds:
“And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” – 1 Nephi 11:23
Not only is the love of God the most desirable above all things, it is also the most joyous.
I need to amend my list. When asked, what do you desire? I want my answer to be “the love of God.”
What is the Love of God
Well, I guess I could sit here and try to write something about “the Love of God” and what I think it is, but I’m not going to. Instead, let’s study a short scripture chain.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
When I think of God’s love for us, I can’t help but think of John 3:16. It’s really a beautiful scripture and a beautiful truth. God sent us His only Son to be a sacrifice for sin and death because He loves us. That is the only motive of our Heavenly Father. His work and His glory is our immortality and eternal life. This work stems out of His love. In order to accomplish His work (which comes from His love), He has given His Son to perform an Atonement for us.
This is our ultimate hope. Do we really understand the plight we would be in without a Savior? Do we understand that without the Savior there is no hope for light or life? Without a Savior, every single day would be a day closer to never-ending death.
All of those things on my list would be meaningless if after this world, I was just miserable and dead anyway. I would gladly give up any of my other desires for a way back to Heavenly Father and eternal life and joy.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39
Another thing about the Love of God – nothing can separate us from this love! It has conquered all. It never fails. The Lord can’t force His love on us. He does give it to us, but we have to receive it.
If we remember Lehi’s dream, that tree – the love of God – was available to all, but they had to choose to partake.
It is a nice reminder – this love will overcome tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, height, depth, or any creature.
I don’t think that this means if we have the love of God in our lives, then life will be hunky dory. It doesn’t mean that with Christ, we will not experience tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, height, depth, or any creature. No – we still may have to experience some of these challenges in life.
But we can have hope because these challenges don’t have the power to separate us from the love of God. Truly it is the most desirable.
I have often heard people say that they want “stability” in their lives. I kind of understand this – we have been on the move a lot lately, and I don’t think that many people would describe our lives as particularly stable. However, this scripture helps to remind me that the only stable thing in this world is the Love of God. As long as we have this, then our lives have “stability” even if we move around often!
“But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” – 2 Nephi 1:15
This scripture is Lehi’s testimony. I love it because of the phrase, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” It sounds like a hug to me.
When we choose the Lord, we choose to feel his love. This is the first part of obtaining God’s Love.
“…wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing….” – 2 nephi 26:30
Notice, we have been commanded to have charity. Charity is love. It is God’s love. When we choose the Lord, and we choose His love, then we, like Lehi – will feel encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.
After this experience, we need to share that exact same love. We can’t share God’s love, charity, without first experiencing it ourselves. Lehi couldn’t share the fruit of the tree of life until after He partook.
Additionally, we won’t continue to experience God’s love unless we share it!
“Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.” – Alma 13:29
Faith, hope, and charity.
Here, Alma teaches us that we need to have the love of God always in our hearts. How do we do this? Well, we live worthy of His Spirit (we always remember Him, and do our best to keep the commandments that He has given us). Additionally, we express this same love to others.
In other words, we love others as the Lord has loved us!
One final scripture:
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” – 4 Nephi 1:15
This is what happens when we have the love of God in our hearts – both through experiencing it ourselves and through expressing it with others. The love of God will overcome differences. It will lead to peace and joy. The Nephites who dwelt in the Americas and met the Savior lived in a peaceful Zion state – without contention – because they chose the Savior, felt His love for them, and chose to cultivate this love and extend it to others.
It sounds pretty desirable. Pretty joyful.
So – what does this mean for me and my desires?
Well, maybe I can be sure that my overarching desire is the love of God. Charity. That I can be made whole through Christ.
That is my greatest desire. I work for that each day. I have felt God’s love and mercy in my life. I haven’t done anything to deserve His love, yet He loves me. I’m not always the best at being a conduit of this love for others, but I do desire to be that.
So – let’s look at the rest of the list. I think that it’s okay to have other “desires” – especially if they fit into the main framework of the desire to have the love of God in my heart.
Things I desire:
- happiness – a good desire and I understand happiness is only possible through Christ. So, if I want joy, then I’m especially motivated to obtain the love of God, too.
- Home – I think that this is a righteous desire that really fits in with the Love of God. Home is a great place to feel His love. Home is a place where I can nurture others and also be nurtured. I also feel like this is part of my purpose in life – to be a mother. To raise my children to also desire God’s love; To teach them to come unto Christ and be perfected. Home is the place, actually, that God designated for these things to happen!
- to be in shape – A good desire as well. I’ve been blessed with this physical body by my creator. I fought for this body, inherited it, and Christ died so that we can be resurrected. I need a body (in the first place) in order to be resurrected. I believe that I need to be a good steward of this blessing. So, it fits into the larger picture.
- to go to the beach – not important, but it is a good thing. It will bring me peace and joy. And when I’m at the beach, I feel closer and more connected to my Savior. Nature testifies of Christ.
- pie – haha.
- a romantic getaway with my husband – I think this is also a righteous deire that builds on the ultimate desire of the Love of God. Marriage is ordained of God. Nurturing my marriage is one of the most important things I can do on this earth.
- success and happiness for my children – good desire.
- to show my gratitude for the people that have been such a major support to me in my life – good desire. I owe so much to so many who have helped to bear my burdens and have comforted me when I’ve been in need of comfort. This is actually working with the most desirable thing – God’s love. Because if I want to have God’s love, then I need to be sharing it with others.
- to learn to speak Italian fluently – just a cool thing, but it is also a righteous desire.
None of these things rate higher than the most desirable of all things (God’s Love), but I can see that many of them will help me to obtain it. Many of these desires are part of my obtaining this great desire. I also know that if I follow the Spirit – even in regards to my desires, then I will ultimately be able to “partake of the tree of life” – that I will obtain God’s love in my heart and experience the joy that God has in store for each of us.