This week we begin with Nephi having just heard the vision of his father and wanting so bad to receive revelation from the Lord. He is praying and meditating when a vision comes to him. He sees his father’s vision and more and this is the basis for Nephi’s confidence as he begins the most difficult 10+ years of his life. This moment is the foundation for Nephi and so it is important to understand it and think about it as it impacts his life moving forward.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 4 – 1 Nephi 11-15
– Personal revelation is what we must seek in our own lives.
– Like the Revelation of St. John, Nephi’s vision shows us that the destiny of the saint is to overcome the world, but it will be difficult.
– God gathers his scattered children through those who find him and then help to gather others.
History and Context:
– The Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q541 is one of the more powerful evidences of the idea of atonement by a Messiah in pre-Christian writings. This confirms that this idea existed before Jesus’s followers centuries later.
– Unfortunately, in the 1960’s the Great and Abominable Church described by Nephi was thought to be the Catholic Church instead of the same Babylon taught by John in the Revelation of St. John. This was an error that has not only caused unnecessary conflict and hurt to individuals, but more importantly distracted us from the real warning of the Great and Abominable Church. The allure of greed, power, status, convenience, materialism, consumerism, and the focus on self in our day is the Abominable church. These characteristics are what lead people to mock and persecute those with faith. If those things are our focus, then we become lost in the mist of darkness and find emptiness ever growing as we mingle with our fellow cohorts in the Great and Spacious Building. While there were people in this camp that participated in the apostasy of the middle ages, it is incorrect to label the Catholic Church, or any other church as Great and Abominable when they seek to bring people to Christ.
– Anciently the “high mountain” was the sacred place where men met with God face to face. They were the first temples and later temples were meant to be in the mounts. It is not insignificant that Nephi’s dream occurs as he is brought to the “high mountain’ for his dream.
– Explanations of the Tree of Life Dream:
- Strait and Narrow Path – Path to finding God and Salvation.
- Rod of Iron – the word of God and the words of those who God speaks through.
- The Tree and the Fruit – the revelation of the Love of God.
- Mist of Darkness – temptations of the devil and of Babylon.
- Great and Spacious Building – the pride of the world and the gathering place of those who mock and persecute those who love God.
The Condescension of God
Nephi’s vision begins with The Spirit of Lord showing him the “Tree of Life” which has living waters flowing from it, and he asks for an explanation. The explanation is more than just one word, it is more specifically a detailed look at the coming of Jesus Christ to the world. The condescension, or coming down from heaven, of Christ is the evidence that God loves us, and the Tree of Life is a representation of that in the dream. The rod of iron is then explained by talking of the apostles of the Lord or His servants that help us come to Christ. He then ties the rod of iron to the Tree of Life by explaining the coming crucifixion of the Lord. The fact that Jesus died for us and the fact that there are special witnesses who testify of Christ and bring people to His atonement is how the iron rod and the Tree are tied together.
The Fountain of Filthy Water
Nephi then sees the opposition to the goodness of the Tree of Life. He sees mists of darkness, fountains of filthy water, and a great and spacious building. Mists of darkness are in opposition to the rod of iron. The philosophies, distractions, and ideas of the world are confusing and lead us away from Christ and His help. Fountains of filthy water are the pleasures of the world that seem satisfying but diminish our faith on the inside as opposed the fountain of living water from Christ and His gospel. The Great and Spacious Building is the pride of the world, or the gathering place of those who unite in their mocking and intellectual superiority over those who are humble and have faith in Christ as opposed to the Tree of Life itself where love, compassion, and joy are shared as people feel the love of God.
Plain and Precious Parts
Nephi is then introduced to the Great and Abominable Church, which is very similar to the Babylon on the Revelation of St. John. Church is a misnomer in the dream as it is a symbol of a collection of ideas and beliefs that motivate its followers. The doctrine of the church of the devil is wealth, pride, power, status and self-worship. These ideas lead to people removing the plain and precious parts of the words of God from the Bible, which make things confusing for centuries. While there is the spreading of Christ, there is confusion about the gospel.
A Great and Marvelous Work
A great and marvelous work will come forth toward the end of this dark times and the church of the Lamb of God will be set up in opposition to the church of the Devil. The restoration and its foundation on the Book of Mormon joining with the Bible is how the church of the Lamb of God will be spread. The church of the Lamb of God is also a symbol for people who love Christ and love others and hold dear faith, repentance, and covenants. The vision Nephi sees is tied to John in the Revelation of St. John and he is told that the rest of what happens is for John to reveal.
The Scattering of Israel
After this amazing dream, Nephi comes across his brothers complaining about his father and his visions. Nephi asks the brothers if they have approached the Lord for answers, and they reject that idea as stupid. Nephi then teaches them something he must have gleaned from his vision, but not shared in the records, and that is the scattering and gathering of Israel is directly associated with Lehi and Nephi’s visions and inspiration to flee Jerusalem. All of Israel will be scattered, separated, and wander in darkness. Then the church of the Lamb of God will be restored and sent about to gather Israel together again.
What make Nephi’s dream so different from Lehi’s? Does that matter? Does God give different revelations to different people? If so, why?
What are things in our own lives that are like mists of darkness? How can we find our way through to the Light of Christ?
Do the allures of Babylon affect us? Wealth, power, status, convenience is much of our focus, do those things distract us from the Lord? What can we do about it?
Do we find ourselves complaining about things without seeking the Lord first? What if we are wrong and the Lord or his servants are right? What if we could be right if we just sought the Lord first and then helped others to see things differently?
Key Moment or Scripture: 1 Nephi 15:8-11
8 And I said unto them: Have ye ainquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: aWe have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
10 Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will aperish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and aask me in bfaith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.
This is one of my favorite moments in 1st Nephi. After receiving this amazing vision, Nephi comes upon his brothers complaining about their “visionary” father and Nephi is taken aback. His short question to them “Have you even asked God?” is so powerful. Of course, his brothers are like, “we don’t have time for that and besides why wouldn’t God just let us know?”
This is a microcosm of most of our attitudes when it comes to revelation and praying. Real, deep, difficult, and emotional type prayers take time and mental energy. They take focus, desire, and humility. Unfortunately, for most of us prayer is perfunctory, short, and right before bed when we are drained of the energy we need to have fervent prayers. I am convinced that one of the true challenges of faith is learning to pray with all of our heart minds and strength. However, even then we don’t always get the answers and so we have to work and continue in patience. That is really tough. I struggle with it, but when I have had the right mindset and emotional focus, I have had connection with the Lord and have found things I needed.
My short list of suggestions for having better experiences with prayer:
– Begin by thinking about all the good things the Lord has done for you and think on His grace and mercy.
– Get on your knees in humility and try to pray vocally instead of only in your mind.
– Open up to speaking and talking about all the things that are challenging and don’t worry if your prayer doesn’t go in the prescribed order of things. Just talk and ask, and plead and express thanks.
– Admit to your sins and shortcomings and ask for help in your own life and how to help others.
– Pause and think and let ideas and words come through your mind.
– Don’t be in a hurry.
– Talk about those you love and express your love for Christ and God.
The journey to the promised land begins in the next chapters. Thus far we have been given insight into Nephi’s experiences that are the foundation for his life and the baseline for his decisions. Things get much more difficult for him and his family, but his experiences make all the difference for him to lean on.