Friday, January 13, 2012

Lesson 3: The Vision of the Tree of Life

Reading assignment: 1 Ne. 8-11; 12:16-18; 15.

Questions to keep in mind as we study these passages:

“What was the question that brought about the inquiry and the revelation?”

“Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record?”

“What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”

—from Ezra Taft Benson, The Keystone of Our Religion

Something else to watch out for:

Julie B. Beck:

A friend of mine suggested that I start looking for questions that the Lord asks us in the scriptures and ponder them (see John S. Tanner, “Responding to the Lord’s Questions,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 26). Since then I have discovered many important questions such as “What desirest thou?” (1 Ne. 11:2) and “What think ye of Christ?” Matt. 22:42). I keep a list of those questions in the back of my scriptures. I often choose one to think about in quiet moments because pondering enlightens my mind that I “might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). From My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures, April 2004 GC.

So…after Nephi and his brothers return with the brass plates, and make a second trip to bring Ismael and his family, Lehi, who was “a visionary man” has another vision. What did he see? (1 Ne. 8:2-34)

How did his family react to his vision?

Laman & Lemuel—“disputed one with another” (1 Ne. 15:2)

Nephi—desired to “see and hear and know” for himself (1 Ne. 10:17)

How important is it for us to know for ourselves?

How can we follow Nephi’s pattern of finding out for ourselves? (1 Ne. 10:17, 11:1)

  1. Hear words spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  2. Desire to see, hear & know of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  3. Believe that the Lord was able to make them known.
  4. Ponder in our hearts.
  5. Seek diligently.

What did Nephi see?

A similar, but not identical, vision. Lehi’s seems to focus on his family, while Nephi’s seems more historical. Nephi asks for, and receives, interpretation for both visions. As a result, he is shown:

  • A vision of Mary, John the Baptist and the Savior
  • The Land of Promise & Gentile nations
  • Meanings of the symbols

Importance of the Nephi’s vision:

Boyd K. Packer:

After the people of Lehi had arrived in the Western Hemisphere, Lehi had a vision of the tree of life. His son Nephi prayed to know its meaning. In answer, he was given a remarkable vision of Christ. . . . That vision is the central message of the Book of Mormon. Apr 1986 GC.

What were the symbols and interpretation? How effective are the symbols?

(Click on the chart for a larger view, I couldn't get the formatting right when I copied and pasted this).

Four categories of people:

1 Ne. 8:21-23

Commence on path

Don’t take rod


Catch end of rod

Cling thru darkness


Catch end of rod

Continually hold fast


Feel way to building

Lose way in mist

Partake of fruit,

fall away, lost

Fall down (humility)

Partake of fruit

Many drown

Many lost

Many enter building & scoff

Want eternal life, but don’t study or follow word of God; Want other things more; Temptations

Baptized, gain testimony, cling to some principles to get them thru temptations; Uneasy over conflicts between gospel & world; Yield to social pressures, persecutions & worldliness (Elder Packer)

Study word of God, Listen to prophets

Seek riches & power of world; Word of God doesn’t apply; Don’t really want eternal life

Matt. 13:4, 19

Seeds by wayside—hear word, but don’t understand; Wicked one catches away their desires

13:5-6, 20-21

Stony ground—spring up, but scorched & wither; Hear word & receive it w/joy; Offended by persecution, etc.

13:8, 23

Good ground—hear & understand word; Bear fruit


Among thorns—care of world chokes the word of God

Don’t know, and know that they don’t know

Know, but don’t know that they know

Know, and know that they know

Don’t know, and don’t know that they don’t know

(By the way, both of these great charts, and many other ideas for all lessons, are credited to my awesome father-in-law, who kindly let me copy his extensive notes, made over years as gospel doctrine teacher and mission president).

What lesson can I learn from this? What category am I in? Which direction am I heading? How can I prevent falling away?

The Lord’s questions in this assignment:

  • “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne. 11:16, asked by angel, not the Lord, but acting as representative)

W1828 condescension: “Voluntary descent from rank, dignity or just claims; relinquishment of strict right; submission to inferiors in granting requests or performing acts which strict justice does not require.”

Gordon B. Hinckley:

Well did an angel ask a prophet who had foreseen these things in vision: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne. 11:16.) I suppose none of us can fully understand that—how the great Jehovah should come among men, his birth in a manger, among a hated people, in a vassal state. Apr 1978 GC.

  • “What desirest thou?” (1 Ne. 11:2, 10)

What is it that we most desire? I remember asking Rob, years ago, what question he would ask the Lord if he had the chance. I thought he would want to know some deep gospel mystery. He surprised me by saying “That’s easy. I would ask Him if he could forgive me.”

I’m not saying Nephi made a mistake by asking for knowledge, but there is a big difference between intellectual knowledge and spiritual understanding. As Elder Bednar says, knowledge is important, but not enough.

“So if we think about Lehi’s vision, we need to conclude that the love of God is something that you have to seek and choose to partake of, and that it is most desireable. That some people don’t even want it; that large numbers of people who are actively looking for it will wander off and not get it; that people who do partake of it might feel ashamed; that the building occupants make fun of people who partake of it. Is this how you normally think of the love of God? (I have to confess that I normally think of the love of God as free and easily available, there for everyone, and reaches out to you the very second you make the teeniest effort to get it. This vision causes me to reconsider that.)” —Julie M. Smith, Times and Seasons blog

How can we increase our desire for God's love?

How can be keep from falling away?

How do we "heed not" those in the great and spacious building?

So many questions to ponder in this lesson. I'd love to hear your questions and comments.

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