1 Nephi 15

1 Nephi 15: Nephi and the Tree of Life

                After having seen these visions, Nephi returns to the tent of his father Lehi, where he finds his brothers arguing over what their father had seen in his visions. Nephi explains that Lehi had seen visions that “…were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord…” (1 Nephi 15:4) Essentially Nephi is saying that those things Lehi spoke of were not easily understood without the inquiring of the Lord to have a deeper understanding. In other words, in order to understand the words of Lehi one must have the Spirit of the Lord.

Nephi was saddened because of the destruction he saw in his visions, nevertheless he desired to know why his own brothers were fighting against their father. They explain to Nephi; “…Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” (1 Nephi 15:7) Nephi asks them if they had inquired of the Lord to know of its meanings, and they explained that they had NOT inquired of the Lord. Nephi asks his brothers; “Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11) Nephi knew that if you asked the Lord in FAITH, He would answer your prayers.

Regardless of the hardness of their hearts, Nephi explains the meaning behind the branches of the Olive Tree; “…now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed— And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.” (1 Nephi 12-14) In other words, the seed of Nephi and his brothers will become the Gentiles in the Americas who will eventually come to the knowledge of their divine inheritance, that they shall be grafted into the Olive Tree in Israel. They will become the covenant people of the Lord!

Nephi explains to his brothers that the Jews will also be restored and shall no more be confounded or scattered among the land. Nephi’s brothers then ask for a meaning of the Tree of Life, which Lehi and now Nephi had seen.

The Tree of Life

 

“And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree? And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24) Nephi urges them to give heed unto the words of the Lord that they might keep His commandments and shall overcome the adversary.

25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

“And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw? And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.” (1 Nephi 15:27) Nephi explains that this river of water was an awful gulf, that separated the wicked from the tree of life… it was a representation of Hell.

Nephi explains to his brothers that this vision is meant to be both temporal and spiritual, for if someone were to die in their wickedness they would be judged of their works. No unclean thing can enter into the presence of the Lord. Therefore, those who die in filthiness will remain in filthiness and shall be given their just reward.

1 Nephi 11

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)

1 Nephi 8

1 Nephi 8: The Tree of Life

Lehis-Dream-of-the-Tree-of-Life.62620.4-12

                Nephi and his brethren gathered all manner of seeds; grains and fruits. While they were in the wilderness, Lehi (the father), spoke unto his children and the family of Ishmael saying that he had dreamed and dream, in other words he had seen a vision. In this vision he sees a man dressed in a white robe, who commanded that Lehi should follow him. After a while of following this man, Lehi explains that he was in a ‘dark and dreary state.’ He continues; “…after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies. And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy… I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen… as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” (1 Nephi 8:8-12)

Nephi saw a tree, whose fruit was the whitest and sweetest he had ever seen and tasted! He explained that the fruit filled his souls ‘with exceedingly great joy’. It was so desirable that he desired that all his family would partake of this fruit as well; “…as I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also, I beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree of which I was partaking the fruit. And I looked to behold from whence it came; and I saw the head thereof a little way off; and at the head thereof I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi; and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go… 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 8:13-15) Lehi was able to find Sariah, Sam and Nephi through the dark and dreary state. They followed the sound of Lehi’s voice so that they might also partake of the fruit of the tree. Lehi was also desirous that Laman and Lemuel would also partake of the fruit of this tree; however Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto the voice of their father.

Lehi goes onto explain more of his vision; “…I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood… I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.” (1 Nephi 8:19-21) Lehi see a ‘Rod of Iron’ that led from a strait and narrow path to the tree that produced this wonderful fruit. Lehi saw many people pressing forward to obtain this fruit!

Lehi explains that there arose a mist of darkness that caused many to be led off the path and be lost. However, there were others who were determined that they might obtain the fruit of the tree; “…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) Many made it through the darkness, and obtained the fruit of the tree. However, some of those who partook of the tree looked around and did cast their eyes as if they were ashamed.

Lehi explains that he looked across the river and beheld; “… a great and spacious building; 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 mocking and 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 8:26-28)

This is an example of the path we take to follow Jesus Christ, it is long and arduous, mists of darkness will overcome us… but if we hold to the word of God [The Iron Rod] we can make it to the Tree of Life. Many of those partake of the fruit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will sadly fall away and are led to the ‘Great and Spacious Building’ that is the world and its worldly desires and passions!

Nephi explains that Lehi had a vision of many people who did make it to the Tree of Life and many who fell away into forbidden paths to either be drowned in the river or to boast themselves in the Great and Spacious building of Sin. Lehi feared for Laman and Lemuel, because he desired that they should be more life their younger brothers Nephi and Sam. Lehi pleads with Laman and Lemuel to follow the commandments of the Lord that perhaps the Lord would be merciful unto them.

Moses 4

Moses 4: How Satan Became the Devil

 

In the pre-mortal existence, before the world was, God created a plan for His children and during this plan Satan rebelled against God. The Lord speaks to Moses and explains to him how Satan became the Devil;

“…That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1) Satan came to God in the pre-mortal existence and told God to send him as the Redeemer of Mankind. Satan promised that NO SOULS would be lost, but he demanded the entire honor for doing so. This of course would defeat the purpose of coming to the earth to obtain a body and earthly experiences; to be tried and tested.

But in that pre-mortal existence Jesus Christ came forth and said; “…Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2) Jesus Christ would do as commanded and would give all the glory to the Father.

The Lord goes on to explain to Moses that; “…because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:3-4) Because Satan was cast out of the presence of God, this angered Him and Satan desired to make ALL miserable like unto himself.

God explains to Moses that “…the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which I, the Lord God, had made. And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.

And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.)

And the woman said unto the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die; For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Moses 4:5-11)

When Satan was cast out of Heaven, He brought with Him 1/3 of all the host of heaven. These were his followers. Satan knew that God had a plan for man (at this time, Adam and Eve). So Satan, knowing this plan came to Eve and tempted her to partake of the forbidden fruit.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (Moses 4:12-13) After Satan had tempted Eve, she partook of the fruit, because she desired to be wise. Adam, having no other choice partook of the fruit also. God had commanded them to multiple and replenish the earth. If Adam had not partaken of the fruit, Eve would have been cast out of the Garden and reproduction would not have been possible. So Adam partook, that men might be!

Because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, they now had knowledge of good and evil, and shortly after eating the fruit they were walking in the garden and heard the voice of God;  “…and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?

And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.

And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?

And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.

And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” (Moses 4:14-18)

Before partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve did not know they were naked. They were both as little children in the garden. Partaking of the fruit was part of God’s plan, and part of our gift of Agency. Adam and Eve’s actions are known by some as the ‘Original Sin’, however, Adam and Eve did not sin, but rather used their agency to further the plan of God. As a result, we are separated from God physically and must rely on faith of His existence. Because of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, He gave us the ability to overcome this physical death and return to live with our Heavenly Father again.

Because of what had just occurred in the Garden of Eden, God punishes the Devil;

“…I, the Lord God, said unto the serpent: Because thou hast done this thou shalt be cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Moses 4:20) God gave man the ability to overcome Satan. God in fact took away much of the power of Satan from those who do not wish to follow him.

Because of Eve’s disobedience, God said; “…I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Moses 4:22) Child birth would be painful and Man would be placed as head of household.

God tells Moses that he also instructed Adam directly after their disobedience in the Garden of Eden;

“And unto Adam, I, the Lord God, said: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the fruit of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying—Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou shalt return unto the ground—for thou shalt surely die—for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Moses 4:23-25) When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden they were taken care of, now because of their disobedience they would have to work for their food and endure hardships of the Earth.

Adam names Eve and calls her; “…the mother of all living…” (Moses 4:26) God makes them coats of skin to wear as clothing and God says to His Only Begotten [Jesus Christ]; “…Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil…” (Moses 4:28) Adam and Eve made one step closer to becoming like their/our Heavenly Parents. We too, being offspring of an Eternal God, have the ability to become like Him and become gods. For Jesus Christ Said; “…Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34)

God drove both Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden into the Earth, and placed a; “…cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Moses 4:31) So that no one could gain access to the tree of life.

Revelation 2

Revelation 2: Overcome the World = Eternal Life

                John writes a specific letter to each one of the seven churches throughout Asia, in verse 2 he covers 4 of the church and he starts each one off with; “Unto the angel of the church of ______” (Revelation 2:1;8;;12;18) It is interesting to note that in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible “angel” is changed to “servant”, which is probably more accurate considering John was writing to the leaders of each one of the branches of the churches throughout Asia.

This is the counsel that is given to these churches by John;

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” (Revelation 2:2) John explains that sometimes leaders will fall away or will lie completely to say they are leaders. However only those authorized by God to teach, shall teach.

                “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) Those who overcome the temptations of the world will obtain the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

                “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried ; and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life…. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11) Often times we will be tried, but if we overcome we will receive the crown of Life and be able to return to live with our Heavenly Father and we will not be hurt by the second death (the spiritual death)

                “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first” (Revelation 2:19) God knows us all, therefore it is important that we do good in the sight of others as well as when we are in private… for God knows.