The End of the Nephite/Lamanite Civilization and its Connection with Lehi’s Dream – Two: Mists of Darkness – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

Phew…long title.

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

The Mists of Darkness

After showing Nephi the destruction of his people (which wouldn’t happen for hundreds of years), the Angel explains a few of the symbols of Lehi’s dream. Of course, it is always interesting and helpful to examine the meanings of each symbol, but I’m curious – why would the Angel tell Nephi these meanings after showing him the destruction of the Nephite civilization? What do they have to do with one another.

We studied the first symbol – the fountain of filthy water here.

Today, we will investigate the second symbol – the mists of darkness.

We read:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

It’s kind of interesting. Right now, where I live, the skies are filled with smoke. Most of this smoke is filling up our valley because the west is on fire. There are fires in California and Utah. Because we are east of California, the jet stream brings all of that smoke into our valley. Here the skies are usually clear. Now, it is getting so smoky, it’s hard to breathe without drying out and coughing a little bit.

016 Smoky Skies

Smoky Skies

I can’t help but think of the smoky air when I read about the mists of darkness. It’s crazy to think about the mists of darkness – obscuring everything from view.

The Nephites literally experienced this after the death of the Savior, and before His visitation to the Americas. First there were fires, earthquakes, and tempests. Then we read:

“And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.” – 3 Nephi 8:20-23

So much destruction had come to pass that it took three days, essentially, for the dust to settle. Many people were killed during theses seismic and terrible events. Finally, after three days, the darkness lifted. We read:

“And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—” – 3 Nephi 10:12

Those who made it through the literal mists of darkness did not let go of the iron rod. They received the prophets and the words of the prophets.

***

Now, the Angel is telling Nephi about the mists of darkness while showing him the final destruction of the Nephite people – which happened about 400 years after Christ came to the Americas.

They didn’t experience a literal mist of darkness. However, the proverbial mists of darkness experienced by the Nephites were far worse. This led to their ultimate extinction.

Let’s look at the scripture in Nephi again:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

The Mists of Darkness are the Temptations of the Devil

One thing to understand is that the mists of darkness are temptations of the devil. A mist of darkness is not sin, itself. What I mean by that is – there are times when we must endure a period of darkness – just as the Nephites who lived when the Savior came to the Americas did. We may have to endure periods of “darkness” and temptations in our lives, but we don’t have to give in to them.

Also, just because we endure temptations, doesn’t mean that we are wicked. Remember, the mists of darkness simply appeared while the people traveled towards the tree of life. All of the people who were on the journey were exposed. We read:

“And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:23-24

How do we endure temptations – we need to catch a hold of the iron rod and press forward confident in God’s Word.

Paul taught:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Though we will all endure temptation during this life (even the Savior did!) experiencing temptation is not a judgment on us. Being tempted doesn’t mean we are evil – it means that we are on the path to the tree of life. The Lord has given us a way through temptations – and that is His gospel. If we will stay true to our faith and press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, then we will make it safely through the mists of darkness. These experiences will even make us better and stronger.

However, giving into the temptations of the devil come with deleterious consequences.

Two – The Result of Giving into Temptation

From the Angel we learn that if we give into the temptations of the devil – or mists of darkness – then we will become blind, our hearts will be hard, and we will wander off into strange roads and perish.

The Nephites, at the end of the Nephite civilization did give into the temptations of the devil – even though they knew better! Because of their rebellion, because they deliberately let go of God’s Word and they persecuted the faithful, they were blind, their hearts became hard, and they perished. In fact, this was such a wide-scale problem, that every single Nephite besides Moroni, died. An entire group of people became completely extinct – after having a flourishing civilization that lasted about 1,000 years.

***

So…What’s the Point

So – what’s the point of studying this? What’s the point of knowing this about the Nephites, a group of people who all died off about 1,597 years ago? Why did Nephi need to see this? And why do we need to read it?

Well – it’s an extreme but also effective example.

Maybe it will help if I just think about this for myself…Likewise, you can apply this to yourself.

I need to remember that while I’m on the path toward the tree of life – toward eternal salvation and joy – I will experience times when I must travel through mists of darkness. There will be times when life is hard, I experience trials and tribulations. These trials and tribulations may even result in elevated temptations.

While Satan will tempt me in various ways, ultimately, his goal is the same: to get me to let go of the Iron Rod.

When I was a teenager, and I was in high school, I was tempted to drink, party, use drugs, be immoral. Those very real temptations are no longer temptations any more. I passed through that mist of darkness thanks to the Iron Rod – in the form of seminary, mutual, General Conference, and friends who were also navigating this time in their lives with faith.

When I was in my twenties, I experienced the “mists of darkness” in my first marriage and divorce – where I was tempted to give in to the self-loathing that comes when you are married to a serial adulterer. I’ve been tempted while trying to navigate challenges such as the shift into motherhood, I’ve been tempted to give up on myself and even God when I went through my divorce and the most painful time of my life. However, I passed through that mist of darkness with the help of the scriptures, my bishop, hobbies like running, and movies like Napoleon Dynamite.

In my thirties, and happily married, I experienced new types of “mists of darkness.” These were interesting. They weren’t as obviously evil – as drugs or immorality. They weren’t as painful as betrayal and divorce. These mists of darkness were more like the smoke that fills our valley right now. These temptations were the temptations to be overwhelmed – by things that even seem good! Goals, desires for my life, activities and responsibilities for my children, etc. While none of these things are bad, sometimes I have felt so much pressure to be whatever it is I think that I’m supposed to be that I just want to give up. I don’t want to go out and commit some kind of atrocious sin, but the temptations that I have faced in my thirties still have made me want to do the same thing as the temptations I faced in my teens and twenties – let go of that Iron Rod.

But, I have been blessed – again with the scriptures, with prayer, with a loving and supportive husband, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost that helps me to discern between truth and error – especially when the error I’m facing looks like something good (commitments and great expectations) rather than something so obviously bad (drugs).

I’m now about to turn 40. I know that I have not yet made it to the tree of life. Still, there will be times when I have to travel through mists of darkness. Though these mists and temptations may look different, they all are trying to get us to do the same thing – let go of the Iron Rod. Satan wants us to let go of the only sure and good thing in this world.

Though his temptations may be attractive, there is no substance to them, and they will only lead us to blindness, hardness, and eventually death.

Thankfully, the solution is just as simple – hold on. Keep holding on to the Savior. Press forward with steadfastness in Christ. We don’t have to run. We don’t have to be swift. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We just keep walking toward that tree, while holding on to The Savior and His Word.

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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 Most Desirable – 1 Nephi 11:21-23

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

If you have read any of the past blog posts, then you know that the idea of “desire” has been on my mind a lot lately. (You can read the posts here, and here…and even a little bit here.)

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:

  1. The city of Jerusalem.
  2. The city of Nazareth.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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:

  • happiness
  • Home
  • to be in shape
  • to go to the beach
  • pie
  • 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
  • etc.

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.
  • etc.

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.

What Desirest Thou? (Deux) – 1 Nephi 11:8-23

You can read 1 Nephi 11:8-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • According to Nephi’s desire and faith, the Spirit begins to show Nephi the things that Lehi saw in a dream.
  • Nephi sees the tree his father saw – it exceeds all beauty.
  • After seeing the tree, the Spirit tells Nephi that it is most precious above all. The Spirit then asks Nephi, “What desirest thou?”
  • Nephi wants to know the interpretation of this tree.
  • Nephi spoke to the Spirit as a man speaks to another man. Th Spirit was in the form of a man, but Nephi knew it wasn’t actually a man.
  • The Spirit answers Nephi by telling him to Look!
  • Nephi saw Jerusalem, Nazareth, and a virgin.
  • The Spirit asks Nephi if he knows the condescension of God, but Nephi doesn’t.
  • The Spirit explains that the virgin that Nephi sees is the mother of the Son of God. She was carried away in the Spirit, then the Spirit told Nephi: Look!
  • Nephi looked and saw the virgin bearing a child in her arms – the Son of God.
  • Through this, Nephi begins to understand the meaning of the tree- the love of God – it is the most desirable above all things and the most joyous to the soul.

What Desirest Thou? (Deux)

FYI, we will be studying this section of scriptures for more than one day. Just letting you know now.

Yesterday we talked about Nephi’s desire. He wanted to know the the things his father had seen. This is how chapter 11 opens. Now, the After a little back and forth, the Spirit rejoices – Nephi has the desire and faith in order for Nephi to learn more about this dream. The Lord will grant according to Nephi’s desires.

So then, what we read next looks like this, right? (Spoiler alert, this is NOT how it goes).

The Spirit pulls down a giant blackboard, dons a pair of glasses and writes at the top of the Blackboard: Lehi’s Dream. “Get your plates and etching tool out Nephi. You’re gonna need to take notes.”

Then he continues, “First all – the tree. It symbolizes the love of God. Okay? Get it? Let me know when you’re done writing…”

If you’ve read the text, then you know that there is no blackboard, no glasses, no list of meanings.

The Spirit doesn’t just show Nephi the dream and tells him what it means. Instead, the Spirit commands: Look!

And Nephi looks.

This is kind of fascinating to me. Look! The command, “Look!” appears at least 12 times throughout the vision that Nephi sees. (There are other similar commands, too – like Behold…but I didn’t count the “beholds.”) Instead of answering Nephi’s question outright, the Spirit bids him to look.

And what does Nephi see? We read:

“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 11:8-22

So – Nephi sees the tree of life. Nephi confirms this:

“And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.” – 1 Nephi 11:9

After this the Spirit asks Nephi again What desirest thou?

You know, as I write this, I realize that the Spirit probably already knew the answer to this.

Think about it. Nephi had already been praying and pondering – to know what Lehi saw. Then, after Nephi was taken away into a high mountain the Spirit asked him “What desirest thou?” He probably already knew the answer then. Nephi told him – to see what his father had seen.

Then, as we know, the Spirit asked Nephi if he believed. Yes, Nephi believed. Rejoicing! The Spirit shows Nephi this one thing – a tree. Then asks him again, “What desirest thou?”

Why is he asking this again? Why is it so important for Nephi to reiterate what he desires so many times? I firmly believe that the Spirit already knows what Nephi desires. We know that the Spirit can discern our thoughts. So, why is the Spirit asking this again?

I can’t say that I know for sure.

Right now, the only thought I’m having is prayer.

I don’t know if it is the right train of thought, but we’ll see where it goes.

Remember the parable:

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:1-8

This is such an interesting parable. I found the following in the Institute Manual:

“Luke stated the main message of the parable of the importuning widow and unjust judge- “men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” (Luke 18:1). The Greek word translated as “to faint” means to become discouraged or weary or to tire of something. In the parable, praying without giving up is represented by a widow who repeatedly appeals to a judge to remedy her injustice.” – New Testament Student Manual

“to faint” means to become discouraged or weary or to tire of something. Nephi doesn’t get discouraged or tired when repeatedly asked “What desirest thou?”

In fact, I kind of wonder – even though the Lord probably knew his heart and what he desired, maybe Nephi needed to say it. To get better answers, we need better questions. The Lord was willing to answer his questions, but he had to ask them first.

Maybe, before being asked “What desirest thou?” Nephi hadn’t really verbalized his feeling. I’m not sure if this makes sense. I have found that there are many times when I have “feelings.” Then, if I’m asked to describe what I’m feeling, I have to kind of search to figure it out. If you are reading this blog, then you get to see me trying to sort out the feelings I have into words. I think that this process can lead to epiphanies.

So – maybe Nephi needed to say what he wanted so that he would know precisely what he wanted – so that the Lord could then answer his prayer. He needed to be asked repeatedly because for some reason, we have to pray in the same way – without getting discouraged, always expressing our faith.

The institute manual continues:

“Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “When lonely, cold, hard times come, we have to endure, we have to continue, we have to persist. That was the Savior’s message in the parable of the importuning widow. …” – New Testament Student Manual

I’m interrupting this quote for a second because I love what comes next, but I want to address one idea first. We have to persist. Nephi didn’t get frustrated when asked repeatedly, “What desirest thou?” He thought about it, and then he asked. He persisted, and this is why he received.

Okay, continuing on:

“Keep knocking on that door. Keep pleading. In the meantime, know that God hears your cries and knows your distress. He is your Father, and you are His child.” – New Testament Student Manual

I needed to read this today. Yesterday, I wrote about nudges. I kept feeling a nudge when I read the question “What desirest thou?” And then I wrote on this blog all about what I desire.

And then, again, I read “What desirest thou?” Again, I have the nudge. I haven’t written much about this nudge today because, well, because I wrote about it yesterday. Is it worth repeating? If there are people reading this blog post, then maybe they would rather read some kind of amateur commentary on 1 Nephi 11:8-22. But I’m getting nudged.

What desirest thou?

The next nudge I received was the thought about the parable that I shared earlier. Are these two things related? Maybe not. As in, maybe not in a scholarly way. Don’t go to your Sunday School class and say that there is a relationship between the Spirit asking Nephi “What desirest thou?” and the parable of the importuning widow and the unjust judge. You may seem crazy.

Of course, this isn’t a scholarly blog. It is more or less my journal, and I’m sharing more personal information that I would normally want to. Yet I feel inspired to do so, so I will.

And here’s the connection. Yes, I told the interwebs what I desire. But have I been like that widow? Have I knelt down and prayed? Have I poured out my soul to the Lord telling him what I desire? Have I answered that question again and again – like Nephi – so I can discover on a deep level exactly that which I desire, and so I can also receive it?

I mean, the Spirit isn’t setting Nephi up! He asks Nephi what he desires so that Nephi will express his desire, so that then the Lord can deliver! AMAZING!

We’re kind of doing a part two on “What desirest thou?” today. I hope that’s okay. And we’re combining it with the parable told in Luke. What is it you desire? Does the Lord know it?

I have an admission to make – yes, of course the lord knows that I desire home. He is omniscient, and I’m sure that He has heard me talk about my desire with my husband, my friends, and with you. And yes, I’ve lightly mentioned it in a few of my prayers.

But I haven’t cried day and night. I haven’t shared with Him my desires and why they are my desires. I ponder, yes. And I pray, technically, but I know that I’m not praying the way that the Lord wants me to pray. I know that I’m capable of praying in a way that really creates an environment where I can commune with God. I’ve had amazing experiences praying, and then I’ve become lazy

I take for granted that God knows my heart, and I just think that I should be lazy sometimes – let Him read my mind and answer my prayers. I don’t trouble the Lord. I don’t weary Him with my prayers, with my desires, with my gratitude.

And yet the Lord is so merciful and patient with me. Even though I haven’t humbled myself in prayer the way I ought to, He loves me. He sees the efforts I make. And He is speaking to me through the words of Nephi:

 

What desirest thou?

 

I know that my desire is righteous. And I know that I need to kneel down, pray, and tell Him directly.

***
This blog post went a lot differently than I expected, but I hope that it may have helped someone else today. What desirest thou? Have you asked God? Have you pled with Him – without getting tired or discouraged? Have you explained to Him concerning your desires the way that you have explained to your friends? Have you expressed yourself to the Lord and then asked in such a way that He can answer you.

In a way I’m ashamed of myself right now. It’s hard to write a blog post and admit online about my lackluster prayers. Shame isn’t the right word. I feel sorrow, that I haven’t been praying as the Savior taught – that we should pray always and not faint. I feel sheepish that I’ve been so open with so many people, but quiet and coy with the Lord about my desires. And I also feel so full of hope and love for God.

I feel His love, knowing that even though I’m kind of an idiot, He doesn’t ignore me. He has recognized my efforts, and through the Book of Mormon is asking me over and over again, What desirest thou? I’m so grateful that He is patient enough with me to help me to discover why I’m having this nudge. I know that He wants me to pray to Him, tell Him of my desires, so He can bless me.

So, I’m going to stop blogging right now, and I’m gonna get on my knees and pray. Thanks for reading. Thanks for your patience.

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.

Shame and Fear – 1 Nephi 8:24-28

You can read 1 Nephi 8:24-28 here.

Context and General Information

  • This is a continuation of Lehi’s dream.
  • Lehi sees a group of people who caught hold of the iron rod. They cling to it through the mists of darkness and eventually partake of the fruit of the tree of life.
  • After partaking of the fruit, however, they look around and they are ashamed.
  • Lehi looked around, and then he saw a great and spacious building – filled with people dressed well, mocking, pointing fingers, and jeering at those who partook of the fruit of the tree of life.
  • The group of people that Lehi saw – that clung to the iron rod and then partook of the tree were so ashamed by those scoffing at them that they fell away – even after partaking of the sweetest, most desirable fruit imaginable.
ashamed

Worried…

Shame and Fear

There are a lot of ways to interpret Lehi’s dream and the groups of people that are represented in his dream. Today, we are studying the second group of people – those who make it to the tree of life, partake of the fruit, then leave it because they are ashamed. I feel that one thing that this group of people teaches us is about the danger of living our lives in fear.

Before I go on, I want to mention (as I have before) this is only a dream. These groups of people are two dimensional. We are supposed to be learning a lesson. Maybe each of us can fit into more than one category of person described in Lehi’s dream. So, if you are reading this, then don’t think that I believe that there are three types of people in this world – as represented in Lehi’s dream. I don’t really think that. I believe in the power of Christ’s atonement – that it can help us no matter which group we might identify with.

That being said, it is good to learn from these groups so we don’t make the same mistakes that they made in our own lives.

We read:

“And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:24

Things start out pretty good for this group. They press forward, catch a hold of the iron rod, press forward through the mists of darkness, and then eventually come to the tree of life.

But notice the word…clinging.

When we read this word – clinging – it gives us an idea about this people. To me, it seems like they are afraid. And, initially, I think that they are afraid for a good reason. They are afraid to fail. They don’t want to get lost! They want to get to the tree of life, and they are so afraid that they won’t make it, they cling to the rod. They hold on tight to it – overly dependent. Afraid.

And it works…for now.

Sometimes fear seems like a good motivator. Maybe as parents, we explain the rules of our home, or even the commandments of the gospel in the context that if we break the commandment, then something bad will happen to us. If we don’t look before crossing the street, then we might get run over by a car. If we break the word of wisdom, then we might get addicted to drugs or worse.

And it’s true. Bad decisions result in negative consequences.

But, at some point, we have to be motivated by faith. We keep the word of wisdom because we want hidden treasures of knowledge – because we want to run and not be weary and walk and not faint. We keep the commandments because we love and trust God and know that His commandments are given to us because He loves us and wants to bless us.

Unfortunately, many of us might not learn this. Maybe some people go on a mission because they are afraid of what others might think. They are pressured into getting married because they are old enough to be considered a “menace to society.” Maybe some people participate in the church and the gospel because the society around them is doing it, too. That’s what is acceptable.

With fear in their hearts – worried about what others might think, worried that they might fail, or just afraid of what will happen if they don’t make it to the tree of life, this group “clings” to the gospel or rod of iron.

The thing that I’ve learned about fear is, you can’t be motivated it and then live unaffected by it. If you choose fear, then you have fear – even when you overcome that which it is you feared. Sounds strange, I know – and I’ll explain better in a second.

We read:

“And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.”

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spaciousbuilding; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

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 mockingand pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:25-28

First of all, I realize that these scriptures don’t say that the people were afraid. So, let’s look at what ashamed means:

  • embarrassed or guilty because of one’s actions, characteristics, or associations.
  • reluctant to do something through fear of embarrassment or humiliation. – Definition of Ashamed

The reason that these people feel ashamed is because they are getting made fun of. They fear the judgments and jeering of those in the great and spacious building.

But wait! They had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life! It is sweet and delicious – sweeter than anything else, and filling their souls with joy, right?

Well, that’s the thing – they had been motivated by fear, rather than faith, to get to this tree. While the fruit is good, there are still people who don’t approve of their decisions. They can’t shake the fear, because that is the mental model that they live in.

The fruit of the tree of life can’t fill them with faith. Faith is what should have propelled them toward the fruit in the first place. Instead, because they were inspired by fear, fear remains, and they reject the joy, the perfect love that could have cast it out.

I’m writing this quickly because I’m short on time today, so I hope that this makes sense.

I’ll give a personal example.

Several years ago, I was living in Phoenix, AZ. I was honestly trying the best I knew how – to be a mom, wife, etc.

Phoenix

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was motivated mostly on fears. I was afraid that I wasn’t doing enough for my kids – that they weren’t in enough extra-curricular activities, that they were in too many activities, that they didn’t have healthy enough lunches, that I was not supplementing their schoolwork with enough extra material. I was afraid that I wasn’t doing enough as a wife – that my house was too messy, that I was overweight, that I wasn’t doing enough.

I was afraid of what I might become – that I might get lazy, that I might do something that annoys my children and then they would hate me, that I might do something that annoys my husband and he’d leave me.

I knew so much of what I didn’t want, what I was afraid of. And every single effort – even though these efforts were good things (ie: making my kids lunches, keeping the house organized, exercising, etc) – every single effort was made out of fear.

Working in a fear modality is exhausting. In my mind it is like being stuck in a Chinese finger-trap. You are working so hard to resist it, that you waste tons of effort while its grip gets stronger.

Fear is a Chinese-finger trap for life. You work so hard resisting, that it strengthens its hold on you. It can consume us, just as it did the second group of people in Lehi’s dream, unless we decide to root it out of our lives and replace it with something else:

Faith.

Back to my example from above.

One evening I was out on a trail run in some trails that were near my house. Sometimes trail running can be tricky. In Phoenix, there are rocks, snakes, cactus. You have to be smart about every step you take. This particular trail was quite rocky and gravelly – so it was easy to lose footing and slip.

I was running downhill, and that is especially slippery in gravel. I had learned that instead of trying to go too slowly and carefully (or fearfully!) down the hill, I needed to trust myself and lightly bounce/run down the hill.

I had also learned that if you focus on the obstacles of the trail – the rocks, the roots, the obstacles, then you will trip over them. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to go, when you are trail running, you need to focus on where you are going! 

While I ran, I realized that life is a lot like trail running. I realized that in my life, I was focusing on the problems and obstacles. I was living in fear! I realized that by living and operating in a fear modality, I was focusing on fear! Every effort was about that fear – that which I resisted. If I continued to focus on that fear, it would end up taking me down.

Instead, I realized that I could choose to live my life by faith. Instead of thinking of the kind of mother/wife/woman I don’t want to be, I could choose the kind of mother/wife/woman I wanted to be and I could put my effort to that! I also realized that if I continued on in the fear modality, even if I did everything the best – even if my house was spotless, I was a size two, and my kids all scored perfectly on the SATs – I would still be fearful.

There is always something to fear when we choose to live in that mindset. When we let fear be our guides, then we will get to the fruit of the tree of life, partake, then look around, worried. With fear as our constant companion – we would notice the mocking of those in the great and spacious building, and we’d feel shame. With fear in our hearts, we would reject the joy of the fruit, and walk away from the tree – forever controlled by our fears.

***

We can learn from this group of people. We can choose to give up our fears and replace them with faith. It is when we have faith that we will be able to create the life that leads to sweetness and joy.