The Love of God – 1 Nephi 11:12-22

You can read 1 Nephi 11:13-22 here.

After hearing his father relate the vision of the tree of life, Nephi had a great desire to really understand what his father’s dream meant. Nephi spent time pondering and praying, and then had his own vision of his father’s dream that helped him to understand it.

Nephi aches to understand what the meaning of the tree of life is. An angel is showing him the meaning of Lehi’s dream, and the first thing that is addressed is the meaning of the tree.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the angel asks what Nephi wants to know. Nephi says he wants to know what the interpretation of the tree of life is. And this is the response:

“And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.” – 1 Nephi 11:12-13

So – the angel departs from Nephi’s presence, and then Nephi sees a vision. He sees Jerusalem and other cities. He sees Nazareth. In Nazareth, he sees a virgin.

What does this have to do with the Savior or the tree of life? Well, let’s read on.

“And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” – 1 Nephi 11:14-15

The angel returns again and asks Nephi what he saw. What was it that Nephi saw? Well, he recognized that he saw a virgin who was beautiful and fair. He saw Mary.

I have no idea how Nephi understood that Mary was a virgin. Maybe it was an impression. Maybe it was something based on a cultural understanding that I have no knowledge of. … Okay, so I did a quick internet search, and found this: “How did Nephi know Mary was a virgin? A few verses later, the angel calls her as such, but Mary may have been wearing the veil of a virgin or the double sash, plainly indicating her status to Nephi (See Mary and Elisabeth by S. Kent Brown, 13).” (See here.)

So – he knew that she was a virgin. And he describes this virgin as

  • exceedingly fair and white
  • Most beautiful and fair above all other virgins

By the way – notice what Nephi said about the tree:

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” – 1 Nephi 11:8

This tree sounds a lot like Nephi’s description of Mary. The tree is beautiful – exceeding of all beauty. It was whiter than the driven snow. The tree is what bears the fruit and Mary is the woman who bore the Savior.

I’ve never really noticed this before, and I can’t say that I figured this out on my own. I read an article here that clued me into this connection.

Now, I know that this really is about the Savior. And that is what this dream is about, too. After all Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree.

So – in understanding this vision of his father’s the angel of the Lord shows Nephi Mary. Then he asks Nephi a critical question. We read the question and Nephi’s response:

“And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:16-17

Here, the angel is starting to help Nephi understand the meaning of the tree by asking a simple question. The angel asks if Nephi knows the condescension of God.

Nephi admits that he doesn’t, but he prefaces his lack of understanding with something he does know – that God loves his children.

(Side note: I love this. We don’t need to know everything. Nor should we have blind faith. Though Nephi didn’t know everything about God, he knew that God loved him – that God is a trustworthy, loving father).

The angel continues:

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.” – 1 Nephi 11:18-20

The angel explains that the virgin Nephi saw was indeed Mary – the mother of our Savior. Nephi didn’t see her for a bit, and then he sees her again – still a virgin – bearing her child in her arms.

mary-joseph-with-baby-jesus-39533-gallery

The Nativity, by Ted Henninger

Bearing fruit.

And now, the angel announces:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!…” – 1 Nephi 11:21

This little baby in the virgin’s arms – is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the World. Nephi saw this and understood it. We read:

“…Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

22 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 11:21-22

Nephi saw this virgin and her son and recognized that He was the fulfillment of the prophecies of his father and other prophets. Though John hadn’t yet written his scripture (See John 3:16), Nephi understood that this baby was the embodiment of the Love that God had for our world. Nephi saw and understood all of this when he saw Mary hold the baby in her arms.

I can’t help but think of another experience recorded in scripture:

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” – Luke 2:25-33

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine – how did Nephi understand that the baby that Mary held was the Savior of the world. I mean, later on, Nephi learns more about the Savior’s life, but he “got it” before seeing all of that. It is only after seeing Mary hold the baby Jesus in his arms that he understands that the tree of life that his father saw was the love of God – the most desirable of all things (and, as the angel mentions, the most joyous to the soul). How did he understand this?

I suppose it is the same way that Simeon understood that the newborn babe in the temple was the consolation of Israel, salvation, light, and glory. It is because the Holy Ghost was upon Him.

Simeon saw the tiny infant Jesus and saw the “fruit of the tree” – most desirable and joyous of all things.

And, Nephi, though in a vision 600 years prior to Simeon’s experience, saw the same thing.

We don’t need to have lists of proofs and experiences to know the Savior. (By the way, they are there). We don’t need to have a rational explanation of the greatest joy and love this world has ever known. We simply need the Holy Ghost to bear witness to us that it is true.

Our world as a whole, and our individual lives, have eternal hope, meaning, and joy – all because a fair, young virgin chose to be the Lord’s handmaid and bore the Savior into this world.

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3 Symbols of Christ – Part Three: The Tree of Life – 1 Nephi 11:25

You can read 1 Nephi 11:25 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • Nephi had just learned the meaning of the tree of life, was shown the Savior coming to the earth and people worshipping Him. Now, he is seeing the vision of the tree of life again – the rod of iron, the fountain of living waters, and the tree of life.
015 Tree of LIfe

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

So – a few days ago, I already wrote a little bit about the tree of life=the Love of God here. And this love that God has for us – is Christ and His infinite Atonement. (Think John 3:16

So – I’m not really going to write about that. Not because I already have written about it, but because I keep thinking of another tree of life. In Alma, we read:

“28Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” – Alma 32:28-43

At this point, I’m not quite sure what we’ll learn or what it will do with Christ=the tree of life; however, the scripture won’t get out of my head, so I think that it is a little nudge worth following.

Context

First of all, in this scripture block, Alma is among the Zoramites – preaching the gospel. In particular, he is teaching a group of poor people who had been cast out of their synagogues by the rich Zoramites.

Alma has been teaching the people about faith and has even challenged them to “experiment” on his words. He then speaks what was quoted above – a wonderful metaphor and illustration of faith.

One – What is this seed?

Okay, so before we even begin talking about planting the seed, maybe we should ask “What seed is this?” and “Where did we get the seed?”

In this instance, Alma is telling the people what kind of message/seed He offers. He is preaching the gospel to them. It isn’t a seed that they found on the ground – that could possibly grow to be either an oak tree or maybe something noxious like poison ivy. This isn’t an unknown seed from an unknown place.

Essentially, Alma is a gardener who is offering them a seed and telling them exactly what to expect: eternal life. Unlike the vision of Lehi’s and Nephi’s, the people do not see the tree of life from afar off and then press forward to partake. Here, they have a seed of the fruit. They simply need to plant, nourish, and then partake.

Two – Plant the Seed

Once it has been determined what kind of seed this is, it’s good to plant it. Do we know if it is a good seed? Not quite yet. We have been assured that it is good, but it is still in seed form.

However, we have a little bit of faith, and we make the decision to plant this seed. As Alma teaches, this seed is planted in our hearts. And then, after planted, it should begin to swell and sprout.

Have you ever planted a seed? I have. This is such a remarkable metaphor because it is so easy to envision. I’ve done little experiments with kids – prepping a seed and watching it swell, sprout, and begin to grow. It seems like a miracle.

And when we see that seed starting to grow – what do we feel? Well, literally and also spiritually, we feel joy. This is working! The seed is good!

Though we haven’t partaken of the fruit that this seed will one day produce, it is so easy to get excited and even fantasize about that day where we will have not only have one or two fruits, but hundreds.

So – we plant the seed. And it starts to grow.

Three – The Need for Constant Nourishment

Alma teaches a lot about faith – how after the seed has been planted, we can determine if the seed is good or not. (As an aside: I really love this. What risk is there in trying out the gospel? There is no risk in exercising a little faith, reading the Book of Mormon and Bible, or praying. Try it out. If it’s good, then cool! Who wouldn’t want something good in their lives? If it isn’t good, then just cast it out. No harm done.)

Anyway – Alma teaches a lot about faith here, and in a way I’m kind of tempted to just gloss over it. I want to get to the tree! Of course, if the tree symbolizes Christ, then faith is a crucial part of the process! We must have faith in Christ if we ever want to partake of His fruit – salvation through the Atonement He performed. All of this being said, we’ll still skim over “faith.” Obviously, it will be studied further in the future.

So – if we have determined the seed is good, does this mean that we will reap immediately? No, of course not. The seed is only a seedling. Then it must be nourished, watered, protected. Even after a year or so, it is still only a sapling.

These things take time.

Orange trees – for example, take about 7 years to produce fruit if they are planted from seed. If we plant the tree, and we don’t get fruit immediately, we shouldn’t ignore the tree. Instead, we must remain patient – patiently watering, nurturing, as this tree grows little by little.

I understand the temptation. Planting a seed and watching it sprout – that’s exciting. It’s like magic. One day you have this little seed that looks like a rock or a spec, and then within a week or so, it is swelling to the point it will burst. Another week or so, and you see a greenish sprout. It’s alive! This little thing that looked like a rock or fleck of dirt is actually alive. It can’t be replicated by humans. No artificial intelligence that we have created shows a hundredth of the intelligence of a little seed! It’s so exciting.

After planting the seed, though a little less exciting than the original sprouting of the seed stage, the young seedling stage is pretty exciting still! This plant begins as a stalk. Then you get a leaf. Maybe another leaf. And the seedling grows by inches seemingly overnight. You have a real, measurable idea of the progress and “goodness” of the seed. Nourishing the seed is rewarding because you can see the results of your work almost immediately!

Then the seedling reaches sapling stage.

Things slow down. Sure, a lot is happening still, but it’s happening on a cellular level. It is harder and harder to see the growth and progress of the seed because it just isn’t as dramatic. Watering, fertilizing, weeding. It all gets so booooooorrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnng!

I’ve killed so many plants at this stage of the game. And, stupidly, I’ve even blamed the plant! Stupid plant, it just stopped growing! (Nevermind that I stopped nourishing it!)

Alma teaches:

“But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.” – Alma 32:38-40

Have you stopped nourishing your seed of faith? Have you stopped reading your scriptures, saying your prayers, serving others, recommitting yourself to God through your covenants? If so, then you’ve stopped nourishing that faith. We can’t get upset with the tree if we are the ones setting it up for death and failure. We know that the sun will rise the next morning. We know that if our seedling isn’t well watered and protected, then that sun will just zap it.

We must nourish the seed.

I know that I listed all of the basic “Sunday school” answers for nourishing the seed. And I’m thinking about that. They really are so important. Think of the different times of the year. There are times when watering, nourishing, and protecting your sapling isn’t quite as critical. There are times when life is more nourishing. Maybe we can get by on less intense “nourishment.”

Then there are other times in our lives: dry seasons – hot and prone to wildfire. There are predators such as hungry deer. We might find that we need to do more – pray a little harder, study a little deeper, and focus more on our covenants. We will find that though we are watering every single day, we are still getting parched quickly.

It’s good to recognize that these times and seasons are merely times and seasons. A hot summer doesn’t mean that our seed isn’t good. It means that our seed needs more nourishment! A series of trials doesn’t mean that the seed planted in our hearts isn’t good! Instead, it means that we need to give our seedling a little bit more nourishment until the trials start to “cool down.”

Okay. This post is so wayyyy long. I need to go on. I’m sorry. I need to shorten up my blog posts.

Partake of the Fruit And the Symbolism of Christ

Finally, after diligent and faithful nourishment, we can partake of the tree that we have grown in our hearts.

Alma teaches:

“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” – Alma 32:42

Finally, I’m getting to the original point. (Although the journey is cool, right?!) When we partake of the fruit that came from the tree we planted in our hearts, it isn’t just any old ordinary fruit. It is most precious, sweet above all that is sweet,…” Once we have partaken of it, we will be filled and will not hunger nor will we thirst. Sound familiar?

Christ – His Gospel, His Doctrine – is the seed that we plant in our hearts. It is what will swell, will develop into a sapling, and then will mature into a productive tree. We will never partake if we don’t take that first step – to simply try it out. To plant the seed of our faith in Him in our hearts.

A relationship with Christ takes work, diligence, patience, and constant nourishment. It sounds like a lot of work, but notice what He offers us: “and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” (High fiber fruit, sounds like).

***
I don’t know if I did a good job of relating the tree of life to being a symbol of Christ. But it doesn’t matter. I feel really hopeful. I know that today my scripture study was the nourishment I needed as I keep tending to my sapling of faith. I look forward to one day plucking of the fruit of this tree that I’m nurturing. I know that it is good. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is the way. He is the living water. And His offering is the fruit we will partake for everlasting life. I know that as I tend the tree, I’m nourished! I’m strengthened. I’m filled with hope. I know that soon, I’ll be able to pluck fruit from the tree, and taste the sweetness that I’ve desired for so long.

Oh – and one last thing. I wonder, have I tasted the fruit before? Maybe I have? Interesting comparison – a tree. It produces fruit for a season. When the season is over, and the fruit is gone, does this mean that the tree is bad and useless? No! Does this mean that I’m not “partaking of the fruit” anymore because it isn’t actively producing fruit? No. We can bottle it up and store fruit during the dormant season. We can keep nourishing that tree, and it will keep producing season after season…something to think about.

Not sure if this is applicable, but it’s helping me right now. I hope it does, too. Nourish the word in your heart so that it will be able to nourish you.

The Faithful Group – 1 Nephi 8:30, 33

Here is today’s reading:

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

…AND… 

“And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.” – 1 Nephi 8:33

I know that you just read this, but I find that I really learn better when I take a second to really summarize what is happening.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi’s Dream, continued.
  • Lehi sees other multitudes pressing forward.
  • This group catches hold of the iron rod and presses forward continually holding fast.
  • This group finally makes it to the tree of life, and they partake of the fruit.
  • Though this group was also being mocked by the people in the great and spacious building, they don’t give any heed to the jeers.

Dragon Fruit

The Faithful Group

So – we are reading about the final group of people in Lehi’s dream. Those who partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and they remain faithful and loyal to it.

Often, I find myself comparing this group with the group of people that partook of the tree of life and then were ashamed.

And then I wonder why and how? I mean, they both start on the path to the tree of life. Neither of them are like the multitudes that ignore the tree of life altogether. They seem to have so much in common for so long. Both groups even succeed! They both partake of the fruit! Yet the success is short lived with one and enduring with the other.

Even though they both seem to have so much in common, there are a few nuanced differences.

Continually Holding Fast

Okay, so I just utilized my favorite scripture study resource (other than the scriptures)…the dictionary. Here is what we read about fast. Note – this is the first entry for the word fast

Fast – Adjective
a : firmly fixed

  • roots fast in the ground
b : tightly shut

  • the drawers were fast
c : adhering firmly

  • The boards were fast a few hours after being glued together.
d : not easily freed : stuck 

  • a ball fast in the mouth of the cannon
e : stable 

  • movable items were made fast to the deck

Firmly fixed, tightly shut, adhering firmly. This is how the final group of people we read about are described. They aren’t clinging to the rod, they are fixed to the rod.

What a difference this connotation makes!

The group that rejects the fruit were using the rod, but there was a hint of fear in how they proceeded. This faithful group, however, held fast. They adhered firmly, and were fixated on their goal rather than the world around them.

This group pressed their way forward in faith, rather than fear. In my mind, when we move forward with faith, it is closely related to creation. They had the vision in their minds – the fruit of the tree of life, then faithfully they moved forward. They wanted to create a future for themselves based on the vision they had.

I know that in my life, if I have a vision and it is based on faith – of who I want to be or accomplish, then I have more tenacity to accomplish it. Not only that, but the experience – both on the path and then the accomplishment –  is more enjoyable. It is an act of creation that was based in faith. Rather than a set of reactions based on fear.

We are agents to act, rather than be acted upon. When we have faith, when we are holding fast to the rod and pressing forward, then we are creating our lives and using our agency to create the best life possible.

One last thing, because I know that I probably need to flesh this out more, and I’m not going to do that now…They didn’t create this on their own. They created while holding fast to the Iron Rod. They understood their interdependence on the Lord. They trusted in him despite mists of darkness and the loud yells of those in the great and spacious building.

And they reap eternal joy.

We Heeded Them Not

This is the other difference between the two groups. This faithful group didn’t listen to the people in the great and spacious building. And why would they?!

I think that it goes back to this ability for them to exercise agency. They lived in a faithful, rather than reactive, state. Instead of hearing the scoffing and mocking of those in the great and spacious building, and responding with fear, this group is unemotional and capable of making a smart decision.

Think about it. What do the people in the great and spacious building know about the fruit? Nothing! Why would they mock it? Why do they care so much? If the great and spacious building is so great and spacious, why are they making a point to spend their time deriding others? Go in and enjoy your building, people!

The faithful who had partaken of the fruit were exposed to the jeers. They heard the mocking. But they didn’t listen. They didn’t “heed.” They faithfully endured so much to partake of the fruit of the tree. When they finally made it to the tree of life, they fell down. It wasn’t easy. But they were filled with joy, and they were confident in their choices and abilities. The jeers didn’t mean anything to them because they knew better.

Here’s a dumb example, but it might illustrate my point
I know someone who hates guacamole. (Impossible, I know). I don’t think that this person, we’ll call her Guaca has ever tried guacamole. It would be one thing if it didn’t agree with her. I would understand if she had given it a fair chance, and then decided Nah…It’s not for me.

But that’s not the case. She doesn’t like it, and she loves to mock it at any opportunity. “Yuckamole!” Is what she calls it.

Do you know my response?

Oh well. Who cares. MORE FOR ME!!!!!!!!! HAHA. I guess the “more for me” response is probably not Christlike. But it doesn’t matter to me that she won’t eat. I shrug my shoulders like, “Wow. You’re missing out.” But I’m not shamed into giving up that green goodness. No way. Not one single iota.

Now – this example (I know that some of you reading this will be familiar with this personal example) is harmless. I know that the guacamole hater is a good person, sincere, and kind. I know that the guacamole hater would never want to keep me from that which gives me joy in my life. So, maybe I shouldn’t even use the example.

I just want to illustrate what might have been the process for those who had partaken of the fruit. The mocking, the jeers, the opinions didn’t faze them because they had actually eaten the fruit and they knew better.

Of course, all of this is a display of their choice to live in a faith-model rather than fear-model. No amount of external pressure would sway them from the truth – that the tree of life was the most desirable, sweet, joyful fruit that they had ever eaten.

I feel like there is a lot of rambling in this post. I’m sorry.

Personal Application

Eat more guacamole. hahaha. Just kidding.

In seriousness, I know that there are times when I let my fears get the best of me. I am afraid of looking stupid, hurting people, failing, being wrong. When I let these fears into my heart, they start to control me. I might tend to “cling” to the rod rather than press forward.

If, instead, I choose to have faith and trust in God, that it doesn’t matter what other people say or think – it only matters what God says or thinks, then I will be able to partake of that fruit. It will be sweet. I will have the discernment to recognize it’s sweetness and desirability, and I will not heed those who try to sway me from my decision.

The Great and Spacious Building – 1 Nephi 8:26-27, 31-34

You can read 1 Nephi 8:26-27, 33-34 here.

Context and General Information

  • We are still reading about Lehi’s Dream.
  • Lehi looks around and sees a great and spacious building – it is suspended in the air, high above the earth.
  • The great and spacious building is filled with people. They are dressed well and they are mocking those who were partaking of the fruit.
  • There was a great multitude who entered into the great and spacious building. After they entered, they too pointed a finger of scorn at others.
  • Whoever heeded the people in the great and spacious building fell away.

The Great and Spacious Building

The next group of people we read about in Lehi’s ream are those who are in the great and spacious building.

I think that it is important to note that the great and spacious building is great and spacious. How does that sound? Well, to me it sounds kind of nice. It’s big. It’s high above the air. It isn’t some run-down shack. It is attractive.

In Lehi’s dream, he saw this building, and he saw many, many people who were either inside of it or trying to get to it.

Again – back to the idea of it’s attraction. We read:

“And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.” – 1 Nephi 8:31

A few days ago, we studied about the fruit of the tree of life (see here). We learned that it was sweet, desirable, and it filled Lehi’s soul with joy.

But since then, we’ve read about people who partook of the fruit and then left it. (See here.)

And now – we are reading about people who don’t even look at the fruit with any kind of desire. They aren’t making a move toward the tree of life. Instead, they are feeling their way towards the building.

It was attractive.

What’s so attractive about it? Well, we read:

“And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine;…” – 1 Nephi 8:27

The people, their manner of dress – it is fine. This appeals to the raccoon in all of us–to the natural man. Who doesn’t like pretty, glittery things?

Then, Nephi continues:

“…and they were in the attitude of mockingand pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:27

I think that this plays to another human foible – our pride. Okay. that might seem obvious, but hopefully we can think about this in a new light.

If you are familiar with the Book of Mormon, then you know that the great and spacious building (and the people inside) represent the pride of the world. But what is interesting to me is that they will employ their pride and ours to beckon others to come to them.

Maybe it would help if we compare the tree of life and the great and spacious building.

Tree of Life

  • Beautiful – natural beauty. I think that most people who would behold it would want it – especially when they are in a dark and dreary world.
  • God-made – this is a tree. It is not a man-made edifice. Not only that, but this is unique. It shines from within. The fruit, themselves, are white. It is celestial in its appearance. This is offered to us by God.
  • Persuasion – Lehi does beckon his family to come. How does he do this? Well, he tells us:

    “And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:15

    Lehi doesn’t use manipulation or embarrassment to persuade people to come and partake. He simply bears testimony of its desirability. It’s a charitable method of persuasion.

The Great and Spacious Building

  • Attractive – Though it isn’t described exactly in this account, we know that the people inside of the great and spacious building are dressed in a manner that is “exceedingly fine.” They are attractive. Their clothes are attractive. And, in my opinion, the building is also probably attractive. It’s great and spacious. I think that this building would appeal to all of us, most likely.

    That being said, it doesn’t seem to be natural beauty – in contrast with the dark and dreary world. Attractive, yes, but also lackluster. This shouldn’t be hard to imagine. There are so many glittery-shiny-attractive things in this world, but, like the great and spacious building, they have no integrity.

    And speaking of integrity, we know for a fact that the great and spacious building had no integrity:

    “…and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” – 1 Nephi 8:26

    When you think of a building, with integrity, you think of its infrastructure. If you have been reading this blog, then you will know that one of my favorite scripture study tools is the dictionary. The definitions of integrity:

    1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
    2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
    3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

    The earthquake may have damaged the building’s structural integrity.Miriam-Webster.com

    Notice the second and third definitions especially. This great and spacious building – is in the air! It is not on a foundation. Where is its structural support or beams? It has no integrity. It might look nice on the outside, but with even the slightest threat it will fall.

    Would you want to be in a great and spacious building that had no support? The facade is great, talk about curb appeal! Inside there are granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Who cares about the foundation and structure? We figured we’d spend money on an indoor pool instead.

    Yeah, I’d pass on that, too.

    So – even though the building is highly attractive – people want to get in – it has no integrity. It’s shiny but without any actual value.

  • Man-Made – This isn’t a tree. It isn’t living. It is a man-made structure, and poorly made, too – since it has no foundation or support.

    Don’t get me wrong. I live in a man-made house. I am using man-made technology to write this blog post. I think that there are some pretty cool man-made things; however, they pale in comparison to the things that God has made – the sun, moon, stars, earth animals, plants, flowers, trees, humans…I mean, really there is no comparison.

    Yet – we do get a little distracted by the shiny man-made stuff, right? We walk right past the roses, the colts, the clouds – with our heads down staring at screens. (Maybe not all of us, I realized. I’m just talking about the human condition – to ignore the mundane no matter how miraculous it is.)

    Anyway – the building, as great as it might be, doesn’t compare to the simplest creature – let’s take the earthworm as an example – that God has created. Even though earthworms are simple, they are alive. It’s amazing.

  • Manipulation and Shame
  • This difference is striking to me. We already studied how Lehi inspired the people to come and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Now notice, in stark contrast, how the people in the great and spacious building call out to people:

    “And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.”

    “And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.” – 1 Nephi 8:27, 32

    The people of the great and spacious building – who hadn’t partaken of the fruit of the tree of life, so they had no idea what they were talking about appealed to the pride of the people to scorn them into coming to the great and spacious building.

    The people in the great and spacious building don’t have anything to offer. They aren’t promising desirable fruit – that would fill a soul with joy. No, instead, they are just spending their time tearing down the truth.

    It’s so silly. If they were really happy with their great and spacious building, then why do they worry so much about the tree of life?

    But I think that this comparison is telling. God beckons us just as Lehi did – with gentleness and testimony. Satan, on the other hands, calls out to us using tactics of fear, embarrassment and shame.

There is so much more that could be said about the Great and Spacious building and those who lived within. But for now, I’m going to end this blog post. I’m thankful for the scriptures – what they remind me and what they teach me. This example – of the tree of life in contrast to the great and spacious building – can help us to learn to see with discernment in our lives. Just because something is attractive does not mean that it is right! Through the scriptures, we learn better how to discern and how to teach our children to discern, too.

What Would You Do? – 1 Nephi 8:13-18

You can read 1 Nephi 8:13-18 here.

Context and General Information

  • This is all part of Lehi’s dream.
  • Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree of life. It was so good, he wanted his family to eat it, too.
  • Lehi looked around. He saw a river of water. At the head of the river of water, Lehi saw Sariah, Sam, and Nephi. They didn’t know where to go.
  • Lehi beckoned to them, they followed.
  • Lehi saw Laman and Lemuel, but they would not come.
DSC_0232

A pretty picture because why the heck not?

Follow the Prophet

Of course, first of all we must remember that this is a dream. It isn’t happening in real life. The Lord is speaking to Lehi.

It’s funny, after writing about dreams the other day, I have had a few dreams in the last few days that are helping me to make some decisions. We are thinking about moving, and there are some considerations we are making. I had a dream the other night that I got a text message from a pushy woman.

Just so you know – in real life, this woman is not a bad person. I don’t mean her any kind of harm. But we do have different philosophies. As I mentioned, she is quite pushy, and I know that she doesn’t agree with my choice to homeschool my children. She has made that pretty clear to me, but whatever.

So – in my dream, I got a text from her, and it was so pushy! It was driving me crazy in the dream. I forgot about it almost as soon as I woke up.

Later on in the day, my husband and I were on a walk. We were discussing some of our future plans, and then – like a flash – I was reminded of this dream that I had forgotten! I realized that it was helping to give me information in regards to our future. Was this a typical “spiritual vision?” No. But I know that the Lord will help us to better communicate with Him and understand ourselves so that we can make wise decisions in life, and sometimes that even happens through the dreams we dream.

Anyway – the point is – this is Lehi’s dream. We have to remember that.

In his dream, he, alone, had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life. What good is the joy of life if you are living it completely alone? The only “negative” of this fruit is that he hadn’t shared it with anyone yet. Lehi couldn’t bear the thought of his family missing out. He wanted them there with him – partaking of this amazingly delicious fruit.

So he beckons to them.

Sariah, Sam, and Nephi recognize him. They hear his voice and they follow him.

If we will remember, also – that we learned that Lehi had followed the Savior. So, they, too, are following the Savior through Lehi’s example.

Because of their choice to trust Lehi and follow Him, they also partake of the fruit of the tree of life.

Laman and Lemuel, on the other hand would not come. Did they recognize the voice? Did they trust it? I’m not sure, but we know that they didn’t partake of the fruit.

What would You Do?

Hopefully, if you are reading this, then the answer to this question is I would partake of the fruit.

That is my answer.

So – if this is what we intend to do, then I think that we can learn something from the example of Sariah, Nephi, and Sam.

They Heard Lehi’s Voice

When Sariah, Nephi, and Sam were standing afar off – without knowing where to go, Lehi called out to them with a loud voice.

They heard his voice.

Just think – if Sariah, Nephi, and Sam hadn’t heard the voice of Lehi, then they wouldn’t have been able to get to the tree of life.

Do we hear the voice of the prophet? The prophets speak to us in the scriptures. The prophet speaks to us twice a year in general conference. Do we hear it?

Thinking on the example of Sariah, Nephi, and Sam – maybe we can ask a question…what would have kept them from hearing Lehi. If Nephi was complaining and wailing loudly, maybe they wouldn’t have heard Lehi over the din. If they were fighting amongst themselves, then they wouldn’t have been able to hear. If they were so focused on little things in their immediate area, perhaps they wouldn’t have noticed their father calling out to them.

Are there ways that we don’t hear the prophet? Is he drowned out with our technology, news, or other distractions?

If we can’t hear, we don’t have any hope to get to the tree of life.

They Trusted Lehi’s Words

Not only did Sariah, Nephi, and Sam hear Lehi, but they trusted him. This trust caused them to take action and do what they had ben told to do.

Why did they trust him? I’m guessing that they trusted Lehi because they had enough experiences with him to know that he loved them. They had a good relationship with him.

We can’t really get that kind of personal relationship with the prophet. But, the Holy Ghost will bear testimony of the validity of the prophet’s word. So – we don’t have to trust the prophet, per se. We have to trust God.

When we trust God and we live worthy of His spirit, we will both hear the words of the prophets and trust them enough to do them.

***

So – what will you do? and how do you do that?

I will listen to the pleadings of the prophet – to come and partake of the fruit of the tree of life.

I am doing this through daily maintenance – prayers, scripture study, fasting. I am doing this through following the promptings of the Spirit that I do receive. I am doing that by seeking out the Spirit in my life and living in a way that is worthy of His constant companionship.

By the way – am I perfect at this? Of course not! There is no such thing as perfection in this, really. We need Him every single day. We won’t be done – until we’re dead, I guess.

And I want to answer these questions right now, truthfully. I know that my answers above might sound a little…immodest. But it’s important to be honest and present. For example, if I say, “I want to do this through daily prayer…” That’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t sound very committed. “Wanting” to do will get you nowhere.

When we pray and live, “with real intent.” it means that we “intend” to do something.

So – if we are listening to the Prophet “with real intent,” then we are doing something. There is no try. There is only do!!!

Are you doing what you need to do to follow the prophet to the fruit of the tree of life? Don’t answer “I want to.” Just say “yes” or “no.” If the answer is yes, then keep on keeping on. If the answer is “no,” don’t beat yourself up. Instead, objectively identify this problem, then start working on a fix for it. Instead of saying, “No…but I want too.” say, “No, but I will.”

And then, with such commitment, we can all make it to the tree of life and partake of the sweet delicious fruit!