1 Ne 11:1-36
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The relationship of Chapter 11 to the rest of Chapters 10-15 is discussed at First Nephi 10-15.
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- Learning the mystries of God. Compare Nephi's 'formula' for having the mysteries of God unfolded to Alma's formula for nourishing a seed of faith in Alma 32:41: (1) have desire, (2) nourish this desire with faith, diligence and patience.
- At the end of the last chapter Nephi tells us that the mysteries of God would be unfolded to him "that diligently seeketh" 1 Ne 10:19. Then in the last verse of that chapter Nephi tells us that he has authority from the Holy Ghost to make that promise. Now, with the first word of this verse, for, Nephi connects his upcoming description of his vision with that claim to authority. This description of his vision is justification for his claim to authority to make that promise. Specifically Nephi will show us that the Lord does unfold the mysteries of God to the person who diligently seeks.
- If the central reason for Nephi to tell us about his vision is to show us that the Lord fulfills his promise, then part of the point of the next part of verse one is to explain what we must do to have the mysteries of God unfolded to us. Like Nephi, we must 1) have a desire to know and 2) have faith.
- Nephi's faith was a belief that "the Lord was able to make" the things his father had seen known to him rather than a belief that the Lord would make them known to him. It may be that Nephi lacked confidence that the Lord would make these things known to him. Compare this with his brothers. Similarly, they desired to understand the words of their father. But, their belief that their questions to the Lord would not be answered prevented them from even asking 1 Ne 15:9. Nephi may not have had confidence that the Lord would make the things his father had seen known to him, but he did have faith that the Lord could do so. And clearly Nephi's faith was sufficient, for while he is pondering he is taken away in vision.
- Nephi's vision seems to parallel the modern and ancient temple rituals, with progression from one location to others, possible washing at the fountain of living waters, the tree comparision to the Celestial room, the woman and her child legends in the temple of Solomon, having one's family together at the end of the journey, midsts of darkness and testing and adherence to the word of God, the mocking or teachings of man often mixed with scripture, having a testimony of the living prophet prior to induction, teaching of Christ and the Atonement, the pre-eminence of the original Tweleve Apostles, and other things which Nephi is forbidden to write, etc.
- 1 Ne 11:1.
- "Had desired" shows that the action was completed in the past.
- The root of the word "ponder" is "to weigh."
- In the Old Testament, the heart stands for the person as a whole. It probably has the same meaning here.
- 1 Ne 11:6. The word "hosanna" is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "save, please" or "save now."
- 1 Ne 11:7. "Behold" means "look," but it is used here as a narrative particle to get Nephi's attention and to emphasize what follows.
- 1 Ne 11:8."Look": another narrative particle, like behold in verse 7.
- 1 Ne 11:9-11: Nephi's requests for certainty of interpretation. Lehi twice expresses uncertainty or doubt regarding the content of the revelations he receives, either about what it is that he sees or about the interpretation of what he sees. Nephi reports that Lehi said, regarding his second vision while still at Jerusalem, that "he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne." (1 Ne 1:8). Nephi also reports that Lehi began his account of his vision of the tree of life by saying "Methought I saw in my dream a dark and dreary wilderness." (1 Ne 8:4). Alma the Younger likewise describes his conversion experience by consciously copying Lehi's language. "Methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne." (Alma 36:22). Nephi also indicates that, on at least one occasion, Lehi simply failed to fully observe an element of the vision he saw. "And I said unto them [my brothers] 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 Ne 15:27).
- Here, in contrast, at the beginning of Nephi's vision of the tree of life, Nephi engages in conversation with his guide and specifically requests "To know the interpretation thereof." (1 Ne 11:9-11). This sets the tone for the many interpretations given to Nephi throughout the course of this vision. On two occasions when Nephi is asked by his guide whether he understands something, Nephi is quick to express ignorance, thus inviting further explanation. (1 Ne 11:16-17; 1 Ne 13:21-22).
- 1 Ne 11:11. "The Spirit of the Lord" is a phrase used in the scripture 71 times. Looking at the other references this title seems most closely identified with the role of the Holy Ghost.
- By itself verse 11 is unclear whether the title here refers to the Holy Ghost or the Son of God. The nevertheless in "I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord" and the title "Spirit ..." both suggest that the being Nephi spoke with did not have a body. Of course, not having a body is a characteristic of both the Holy Ghost and the Son at this time. However, this same title "Spirit of the Lord" is used to refer to a being in the New Testament at the time that Jesus did have a body. Assuming that the title consistently refers to the same being throughout the scriptures, suggests that this is the Holy Ghost. Note however that there are other examples where the same title in the scriptures is applied to different members of the Godhead. The fact the Godhead is one in purpose may explain why the scriptures don't make more of a point of always making it clear which member of the Godhead is playing what role. It may that it is a matter of little significance.
- 1 Ne 11:13. "Fair and white" is a hendiadys, in other words, it uses two words, connected by "and," to say the same thing.
- 1 Ne 11:16. As used here, the word "condescension" means "a voluntary stoop or descent from one's rightful position."
- 1 Ne 11:18. "After the manner of the flesh" most likely modifies "the mother of the Son of God," but it could also modify "Son of God."
- 1 Ne 11:22. "Love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men" = "love of God that pours itself into our hearts."
- 1 Ne 11:24. Since, in this context, "fall down at his feet" and "worship him" mean the same, this is a case of hendiadys, using two words (or phrases) that mean the same and connecting them with "and."
- 1 Ne 11:25. "Word of God" can be understood in two ways: (1) as in Hebrews 11:3, where it means simply "God's words" or (more often) (2) God's revelations.
- 1 Ne 11:25. "Love of God" can also be understood in two ways: (1) the love a person has for God, and (2) the love God has for his children.
- 1 Ne 11:26-27. "And" is used nine times in these two verses, as the organizing word:
And the angel said . . . behold the condescension of God! And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world . . . and I also beheld the prophet . . . And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
- 1 Ne 11:27.
- "Way" means "road" or "path."
- "Abide" means "dwell." Here it indicates that the Holy Ghost not only came on him, but stayed with him.
- 1 Ne 11:28.
- "To minister" = "to attend to," "to wait on," "to serve."
- "In power and great glory" is probably a hendiadys.
- 1 Ne 11:29. Here "face" stands for the whole person.
- 1 Ne 11:30. This verse, like verses 26-27, is organized by the word "and":
1 And . . . the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! 2 And I looked, 3 and I beheld the heavens open again, 4 and I saw angels descending upon the children of men; 5 and they did minister unto them.
- Notice that lines 2, 3, and 4 are parallel to each other; each depends on a different, but synonymous verb for seeing. Each succeeding line of these three lines expands what the previous line tells us. The first line simply says "I looked." The second line expands that to say what Nephi saw when he looked. The third line expands that even further, giving us the details of what he saw: "I saw angels, etc."
- 1 Ne 11:31. Like verse 30, this verse is organized by "and":
1 And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! 2 And I looked, 3 and I beheld . . . among the children of men. 4 And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, 5 and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, 6 and with devils and unclean spirits; 7 and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. 8 And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; 9 and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.
- The second part of the verse corresponds to the first. Line 1 is parallel to line 7. Lines 2 through 5 are parallel to line 8. And, line 6 is parallel to line 9. Lines 7 through 9, therefore, act as a kind of synopsis of lines 1 through 6.
- 1 Ne 11:32-33. These verses are complicated rhetorically. A diagram helps show the complexity:
1 And it came to pass that the angel spake . . . saying: Look! 2 And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, 3 that he was taken by the people; 4 yea, the Son . . . was judged of the world; 5 and I saw and bear record. 6 And I . . . saw that he was lifted up . . . the world.
- Line 1 introduces the verse. Lines 2 through 5 are a chiasm. Line 6 is parallel to line 5 in that it tells in more detail what Nephi saw and bears record of. But line 6 is also parallel to lines 3 and 4. Specifically, it tells how the people condemned the Lamb of God.
- 1 Ne 11:32.
- "Judged" is ambiguous. It can mean only "to hear a case, such as a legal case, and to make a decision in regards to it." But it can also mean "to condemn."
- "Saw and bear record": though "saw" is in the past tense, "bear" is in the present tense. Nephi saw the vision in the past, but he now bears record through the Book of Mormon. (The same phrase appears in verse 36.)
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- 1 Ne 11:1: What does it mean that Nephi desired to "know the things" that his father had "seen"? Why does he pray to "know" them rather than to "see" them?
- 1 Ne 11:1: How does Nephi's desire to know what his father had seen (see 1 Ne 10:17), presumably a desire expressed in prayer, differ from his prayer in 1 Ne 2:16?
- 1 Ne 11:1: What is the difference in the faith expressed by someone who believes that the Lord can do something versus one who believes the Lord will do something? When is each appropriate?
- 1 Ne 11:1: Why does this vision occur on a high mountain?
- 1 Ne 11:1: What might Nephi have been pondering in his heart?
- 1 Ne 11:1: How is Nephi's experience like that of others? What significance do you see in those parallels?
- 1 Ne 11:1: Can the "exceedingly high mountain" be compared to a temple experience? If so, what parallells are there between modern and Jewish temple rites and the tree of life vision? Is Nephi and Lehi's vision an endowment for their dispensation?
- 1 Ne 11:2,4: Is the personage who responds to Nephi's desire here the same being who responded to Lehi in 1 Ne 1:5-6?
- 1 Ne 11:2,4: Why does the Spirit start to address Nephi with the "behold"?
- 1 Ne 11:2,4: The Spirit already knows the answers to the questions that he asks Nephi, so why does he ask?
- 1 Ne 11:3: Why didn't Nephi say that he wanted to know the things that his father had learned from his vision? What is the difference between his wanting to "know" in vs. 1 and his desiring to "behold" in this verse?
- 1 Ne 11:5: In what tone of voice did Nephi say this?
- 1 Ne 11:6: Having asked Nephi what he wants and what he believes, the Spirit then praises God before proceeding with the revelation. Why?
- 1 Ne 11:6: Why does the Spirit's address to Nephi begin with hosanna, a praise of God? Note that the second clause begins with "for," which seems to me "because" in this context. Does this help us understand the cry of hosanna?
- 1 Ne 11:6: According to the Spirit, what will explain why Nephi will see the vision he wants to see?
- 1 Ne 11:7: Why does the Spirit tell Nephi what he is going to see before he sees it? Is this somehow similar to how Nephi gives us the full story of 1 Nephi in the intro to the book before really launching into the story? Is there a pattern here?
- 1 Ne 11:7: The Spirit tells Nephi that seeing the Son will be a sign. A sign of or for what?
- 1 Ne 11:7: The Spirit uses the word "witness" to mean "see" in this verse rather than to mean "testify" or "bear record." Why, then, does he use the word "witness" rather than the word "see"?
- 1 Ne 11:7: Lehi tastes the fruit, but Nephi seems to just see the tree in his vision. Why is that? Why doesn't Nephi report that he ate the fruit?
- 1 Ne 11:8: Before Lehi saw the tree, he went through a dark and dreary space and a large and spacious field (1 Nephi 8:7-9). Why do you think those things are omitted from Nephi's experience?
- 1 Ne 11:8: Is it significant that Nephi says the tree he saw was "like" the tree his father saw (verse 8)?
- 1 Ne 11:8: Do we know what tree Nephi sees? If so, how?
- 1 Ne 11:8: Why is the tree beautiful? What is the connection between the goodness of the tree and its beauty?
- 1 Ne 11:8: What is the significance of the whiteness of the tree? What does it mean that its whiteness "did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow"?
- 1 Ne 11:9: How does Nephi know that the tree is precious?
- 1 Ne 11:9: What does it mean that the tree "is precious above all"?
- 1 Ne 11:10: The Spirit asks the same question that he asked in verse 2. Why?
- 1 Ne 11:10: Is there some sense in which this is the beginning of a second vision?
- 1 Ne 11:10: If so, what is the connection between the two visions?
- 1 Ne 11:11: What has Nephi seen so far?
- 1 Ne 11:11: When he asks for "the interpretation thereof," what does he want to have explained for him?
- 1 Ne 11:11: Nephi identifies the Spirit as the Spirit of the Lord. Does he mean the Holy Ghost or the Son?
- 1 Ne 11:11: Why does Nephi tell us that he spoke with the Spirit as one person speaks with another? How is that relevant to this particular story?
- 1 Ne 11:11: How does the vision that follows correlate with Lehi's vision and, if what follows is an interpretation of the beautiful tree, what does that tell us about Lehi's vision?
- 1 Ne 11:12: Does the repeated command to "look" take on extra significance from Nephi's statement that he had "seen many afflictions in the course of [his] days" (1 Ne 1:1)?
- 1 Ne 11:12: How does the vision that Nephi has answer his quest for an interpretation of the tree that he saw in vision?
- 1 Ne 11:12: Why doesn't Lehi's dream include this interpretation of the tree?
- 1 Ne 11:12: Why did the Spirit disappear?
- 1 Ne 11:13: Why is Nephi shown a vision of Mary after asking for an interpretation of the tree? What is the connection between Mary and the Tree of Life or the Love of God?
- 1 Ne 11:13: What do you make of the fact that verses 13 and 15 describe the virgin in the same language used in verses 8-9 to describe the tree?
- 1 Ne 11:13: In the Old Testament, the prophets frequently have to deal with people who worship the goddess Asherah, whose symbol is a pole or tree. In Canaanite religion, Asherah was the queen of heaven, the consort of El, and the mother of the gods. Does Nephi's vision help us understand better why the Israelites might have found Canaanite religion so easy to adopt?
- 1 Ne 11:14: An angel appears before Nephi and continues the pattern of asking him questions about his beliefs and, now, what he has seen. What is the point of that pattern?
- 1 Ne 11:14: Why did the Spirit disappear only to be replaced by an angel?
- 1 Ne 11:14: What does it mean to see "the heavens open"?
- 1 Ne 11:15: What was the source of the virgin's beauty?
- 1 Ne 11:16: What exactly is the condescension of God?
- 1 Ne 11:16: Why does the angel ask Nephi about the condescension of God rather than about something else?
- 1 Ne 11:16: It is relatively easy to see what condescension has to do with the part of the vision that is about to come, but does it have anything to do with what Nephi has already seen?
- 1 Ne 11:17: How is Nephi's answer, "I know that he loveth his children," an answer to the angel's question?
- 1 Ne 11:17: Why does Nephi add "I do not know the meaning of all things"? Since no human being does, that is a strange thing to say.
- 1 Ne 11:18: How is verse 18 related to the question of verse 16?
- 1 Ne 11:19: There is a kind of empty spot in the vision here: the virgin is carried away and then, after a while, reappears, and as far as we know Nephi sees nothing in the interim (verse 19). Why do you think the vision might have been given in that way? Why not proceed directly to the part of the vision that we see in verse 20?
- 1 Ne 11:20: Was the vision temporarily silent about the virgin because of the sacred nature of her conception?
- 1 Ne 11:21: Having shown Nephi the birth of Jesus, the angel asks whether Nephi now understands the meaning of the tree. How is the birth of Christ the interpretation of or explanation of the tree?
- 1 Ne 11:21: Having seen the birth, Nephi says that the tree is the love of God. How does he get that from what he has seen?
- 1 Ne 11:21: What does it mean that the love of God "sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men"? (Compare Rom 5:5.)
- 1 Ne 11:22-23: In verse 8 Nephi saw that the tree was the most beautiful thing and the most white, in other words, brightest thing. In verse 9 he saw that it was most precious. Now Nephi sees that it is most desirable (verse 22), and the angel says that it is the most joyous thing to the soul (verse 23). How are these things connected to each other?
- 1 Ne 11:22-23: What does "joyous to the soul" mean? Does it mean the same as "joyous for the soul"?
- 1 Ne 11:24: How is verse 24 related to the verses that precede it? For example, does it explain what the angel says in verse 23?
- 1 Ne 11:25: How do the fountain of living waters and the tree of life both symbolize the love of God?
- 1 Ne 11:25: Why do you think that Nephi doesn't mention the contrasting river of filthy water in this part of his account, though he seems to have seen it? (Compare 1 Ne 8:13 and 1 Ne 15:26-29.)
- 1 Ne 11:25: Do you think that Nephi saw, as Lehi did, his family in his vision? (Compare 1 Ne 8:14-18.) If so, why doesn't he mention them? If not, why not?
- 1 Ne 11:26: Why are the vision of Christ's birth (verses 17-23) and the vision of his life (verses 27-34) both preceded by the angel describing them to Nephi as "the condescension of God"? In other words, why does verse 26 repeat verse 16?
- 1 Ne 11:27: Is there any particular reason that the name "Lamb of God" is used in this context?
- 1 Ne 11:28-29: Notice that the chronological order of the elements of the vision doesn't correspond to the historical order. What does that tell us about visions? About historical order?
- 1 Ne 11:28-29: Why might there be a break in the vision at this point, with a kind of end to the vision, followed by a new beginning in verse 30?
- 1 Ne 11:30: When did the event of this verse occur?
- 1 Ne 11:30: Since it seems to interrupt the flow of the vision of the Lamb of God, what does this vision of angelic ministrations have to do with that vision and the vision of the twelve?
- 1 Ne 11:31: Why does the vision include this relatively lengthy description of the physical and psychological healings that Jesus did?
- 1 Ne 11:31: How were they important to his mission of salvation?
- 1 Ne 11:32-33: Why does Nephi see a vision of the crucifixion of Jesus, but not of his resurrection?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: Verse 34 tells us that the building is the wisdom of the world. If we compare that to 1 Nephi 8:26-27 we see that the world and its wisdom is derision of those who are outside. What does that mean?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: 1 Ne 12:18 says that the building is human vain imaginations and pride. How do those three versions of the building fit with one another?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: How do we participate in the "wisdom" of the world?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: Why does the angel describe the occupants of the building as the house of Israel (verse 35)?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: Don't the events to which this corresponds occur after the loss of the ten tribes?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: What does "pride of the world" mean here (verse 36)?
- 1 Ne 11:34-36: All three of these verses speak of those who fight against the apostles. What fight are they speaking of? Why is it a fight against the apostles rather than against God?
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- LDS Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual (PDF version): Chapter 3/56: 1 Nephi 6-11. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009.
- 1 Ne 11:11. See comments here about Elder Bruce R. McConkie's interpretation of the Spirit of the Lord as a reference to Jesus Christ.
- 1 Ne 11:13: "Nephi and His Asherah". In this FARMS article, Daniel C. Peterson discusses the connection Nephi may have made between the virgin mother described in this verse and the symbolism of the tree in Lehi's dream based on ancient Canaanite and Israelite associations. (Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000, pp. 16–25)
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