Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Tree of Love (1 Nephi 11)

Today is December the 1th.  The weather outside is frightful.  In fact, the weather is blowing about 100 mph in some parts of the state.  We've already had reports of damage to some family's homes.  My wife's aunt Ginny and Uncle Dave had a tree fall on their garage and their big front window blew in, and are now, with the help of some Christ-like neighbors, trying to stop the insides of the house from blowing away. 
It was bad timing with their decorated tree and other Christmas stuff arranged around their living room.  My wife is now seeing if she can get off work early, and will drive up to see if she can do anything.  I pray a blessing from The Lord be sent to them in their time of need.  Except, it sounds like several have already been sent, or are on their way.

One of my favorite paintings, Peace Be Still -by Arnold Friberg
Nephi will learn more in 1st Nephi chapter 11 about the concept that blessings have already been sent.  Lehi saw a huge vision.  Only the part about the tree of life was passed on to us, but there was so much more to what he was shown, and Nephi wanted to see it too.  In the last chapter he said...

1 Nephi 10: 17
17.  ... I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
1 Nephi 11: 1-5
1.  For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that The Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.
2.  And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou?
3.  And I said: I desire to behold the things which my father saw.
4.  And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?
5.  And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.
Not only does Nephi bear testimony here that he believes in the words of his father Lehi, the Prophet, he also bears testimony that the Spirit knows the thoughts of his heart.


When Nephi saw the tree, even though he had heard his Dad's personal account, even he was surprised by the beauty of it, which was far beyond description, and exceeded any beauty he'd ever seen.  When Nephi asked the Holy Ghost about the interpretation of the tree, he is shown a remarkable vision of the birth, life, baptism, ministry and atoning sacrifice of The Savior.

1 Nephi 11: 16-23
16.  And he (an angel) said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17.  And I said unto him: I know that He loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18.  And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19.  And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20.  And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21.  And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22.  And I answered him, saying: yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23.  And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
Knowest thou the condescension of God?   Here is a definition of condescend from the online Collins English Dictionary, followed by 3 paintings from the Hope Gallery by Carl Bloch illustrating it.

condescend [ˌkɒndɪˈsɛnd]
vb (intr)
1. to act graciously towards another or others regarded as being on a lower level; behave patronizingly
2. to do something that one regards as below one's dignity
[from Church Latin condēscendere to stoop, condescend, from Latin dēscendere to descend]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Manger Scene -by Carl Bloch

Christ Mocked by Solder -by Carl Bloch
I don't like this picture. It's a wonderful work of art, but I don't
like how it makes me feel.  But I think this painting in particular illustrates
the point of His condescension.

1 Nephi 11: 32-33
32.  And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying:  Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that He was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
33.  And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.

The Crucifixion -by Carl Bloch
Nephi saw a beautiful tree.  He wants to know what the tree represents, and why the fruit of it is so delicious, and fills one's soul with joy.  In answer to the question, the angel shows him a vision of the birth of Jesus Christ.  The angel then asks Nephi what the tree means.  His answer touches me.  Of all the words in the human language to describe the gift of the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God, Nephi chooses this:
"It is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men." 


This is Emilie as we were leaving Box Canon Waterfall in Ouray, CO last summer. 
Heights make her a little nervous

The rod of iron, which led along the path to the tree of life, helped people find their way despite the blinding fog all around them.  Again, the angel said to Nephi...

1 Nephi 11: 24-25
24.  Look!  And I looked, and I beheld The Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at His feet and worship Him.
25.  And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.
Christ came to the people, us.  Many fell to His feet and worshiped Him.  After a little thought, I thought this: Christ didn't bring these people salvation, He brought them the message of salvation.  He didn't say, "You're saved."  He said, in effect, "Come, follow Me and be saved."  The way Christ delivers these most important of all words to most of us is through the words of prophets, both living and dead, and through the Holy Ghost, and these are the words that lead us to Him and his Tree of Love.  We can find these words in many places:
The Word of God is found in the scriptures

The Word of God can come to us in the Temple. 
This is a representation of the Bountiful Temple made entirely of Legos (Deseret News article)

The Word of God comes monthly in Church magazines & other publications.
October 2011 issue of the LDS Magazine, Ensign

The Word of God is delivered through His Prophet, Thomas S. Monson,
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
and other inspired leaders at General Conference every April and October. 

The Word of God can come to us directly from the Holy Ghost
through Revelation and inspiration through prayer

The Word of God can be heard in Genera Conference, or on the more rare occasion when a General Authority comes to your location and you get to hear him up close.  This is Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Once in a great while, and never for some (or most), an Apostle will visit during a local Stake Conference.  In 2009 Elder Holland visited us in the Palmyra Stake of Spanish Fork, UT.  He spoke in several different meetings, one of which my wife and I were 3rd row center.  Here my wife and I shared one of the great spiritual experiences of our lives.  The Holy Ghost was present in such a powerful and abundant way that I count it among my top three spiritual experiences which have cemented the foundation of my testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel.  The first was when I prayed about Joseph Smith's First Vision back in 1987.  The second was when I spent 3 days at the Washington DC Temple where the veil separating mortal from immortal was so thin and near, I reached out in the dark of my bedroom and tried to touch it.  Boy, you talk about a rod of iron leading to Christ and His Love.  I cried more during that 3 days than I did when I watched "Old Yeller".  Elder Holland is just a man, but he holds the office of Apostle of The Lord, Jesus Christ, and the special witness that he and the rest of the Twelve and First Presidency bear are surely the Word of God unto salvation.

Fruit of the Tree -by  Maia Alaula Kamala
All these things were said and done and written about as Lehi's family dwelt in tents in the valley of Lemuel next to the Laman River by the Red Sea. It would be hundreds of years before the prophecies of the vision would be fulfilled, and Christ would come and finish the atonement, yet the joy of His loving sacrifice was available to them in that moment. They didn't have to wait and see if Christ was up to the task. The blessings of joy and salvation, speaking of things to come as though they had already come (Mosiah16:6) have already been sent.

Tune in next time as Nephi sees his descendants try to kill each other...

Peace be with you.


  1. Wow. I am amazed at the amount of detail you notice in your studies. I love it! You are an amazing man!

  2. Love the photos you use as well. I thought Emilie and the iron rod was really appropriate.

  3. Those comments

  4. are all mine of course. I hadn't looked to see what it was signing me in as. You are great!