1 Nephi 11: Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life
Nephi , believing on the words of his father Lehi desired to see for himself the things which is father was able to behold he prayed to the Lord and; “…was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord… into an exceedingly high mountain, which I [Nehpi] never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.” (1 Nephi 11:1) Nephi is then asked by an angel of the Lord if he truly believed on the words of his father, and Nephi responded that he believed all the words. Because Nephi believed the words (had faith without seeing) he was then granted the ability to see what his father had seen in visions and dreams.
The Angel then shouts for Joy that Nephi believed, and told him to LOOK. Nephi looked and asked the Angel to give him an interpretation of the Tree which his father Lehi had seen. Nephi is then left by the Angel to see a vision;
“…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 11:13) The heavens then open and the angel comes down and asks Nephi; “…what beholdest thou?” (1 Nephi 11:14) Nephi responds; “…A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” (1 Nephi 11:15) The Angel then asks; “…Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11:16)
What is the Condescension of God?
Condescension: the act of descending to a lower and less dignified state; of waiving the privileges of one’s rank and status; of bestowing honors and favors upon one of lesser stature or status.
The Angel asks Nephi if he understood what the condescension of God was, to which Nephi responded; “…I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nepi 11:17)
The Angel explains that the virgin he had seen is; “…the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh…. [the Angel then carries Nephi into another vision and commands him to look] …I [Nephi] looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Nephi 11:18;20-21)
So what is the Condescension of God? Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained it better than I could;
“When we think of him, we think of the most noble and exalted being there is. Then we read this question, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” and discover that somehow it is associated with his love for us, his children, his spirit children who are now dwelling as mortals here on earth. We discover in our text that he shall be the Father of a Son born “after the manner of the flesh”; that is, he condescends, in his infinite wisdom, to be the Father of a holy being who shall be born into mortality…
So when we think of Christ’s condescension in this matter, we must think of the glory and dominion and exaltation that he possessed. We read in the revelations that he was ‘like unto God’ (Abraham 3:24). We read the language of the Father where he says, ‘worlds without number have I created; … and by the Son I created them, which is mine only Begotten’ (Moses 1:33). We discover that Christ was like the Father; that he was co-creator, that he had the might and power and dominion and omnipotence of the Father and that he acted under his direction in the regulating and the creating of the universe.
We read the words which an angel spake to King Benjamin, in which the angel described him as “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity,” and then said that he would come down and tabernacle in a body of clay and minister among men; that he would be the Son of God and that Mary would be his mother (see Mosiah 3:5, 8).
Here we have a glorious thing. Here we have exalted, noble beings on a plane and status so far above our present circumstance that we have no way of comprehending their dominion and glory, and we have one of them, God our Eternal Father, through the condescension and infinite love and mercy that he has for us, stepping down from his noble status and becoming the Father of a Son after the manner of the flesh. We have that Son being born, that Son who was his firstborn in the spirit, who had like power and omnipotence with the Father. We have each of them performing a work that there is no way for us to understand as far as magnitude and glory and importance is concerned.” (Bruce R. McConkie – Behold the Condescension of God; December 1984)
Nephi, after seeing the virgin and the Lamb of God being born explains to the Angel that the Tree 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) The Angel confirms that this is true and proceeds to show Nephi more visions of the Lamb of God and his ministry upon the earth. Nephi is commanded to look, and he looks; “….I [Nephi] beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.” (1 Nephi 11:31)
Nephi is commanded again to look, and he beholds the Lamb of God being judged before the world, lifted upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. Nephi is then shown the vision of the Tree of Life, which his father Lehi had seen. In the vision, there was a great and spacious building which Nephi declared; “….was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Nephi 11:36)