1 Ne 15:1-16:8
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- 1 Summary
- 2 Discussion
- 3 Unanswered questions
- 4 Prompts for life application
- 5 Prompts for further study
- 6 Resources
- 7 Notes
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Relationship to Chapters 10-15. The relationship of Chapter 10 to the rest of Chapters 10-15 is addressed at First Nephi 10-15.
Story. Chapter 15 consists of four major sections:
- Verses 15:1-11: brothers do not understand prophecy because they do not ask in prayer or obey commandments
- Verses 15:12-20: olive tree: scattering and gathering
- Verses 15:21-36: tree of life: individual salvation and judgment
- Verses 16:1-8: brothers repent, marriages, blessing
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 10-15 include:
This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
1 Ne 15:1-11: brothers do not understand prophecy because they do not ask in prayer or obey commandments
- 1 Ne 15:1-3. Nephi here contrasts his own approach to his father's teachings with his brother's. Both were confused about the meaning of what he said. Nephi's reaction was to ask God for not only an interpretation but to see what his father had seen. His brother's in contrast, "dispute" the meaning. In this context dispute might mean any number of things, but it could be a reference to a competing hermeneutic approach that prioritizes dialectic to revelation. Notice that Nephi's approach treats his father's teachings as more than a receptacle of latent meaning to be extracted. Rather, it treats it as a portal through which one comes to experience God's revelation for one's self.
- 1 Ne 15:2: Dispute. This word is consistently used with a negative connotation in the Book of Mormon. See especially 3 Ne 11:28. (Note that in the New Testament the word is used sometimes without the same negative overtones. See for example Acts 19:8.)
- 1 Ne 15:3: Hard to be understood. A couple of intriguing cross-references for this phrase are Ezek 3:6 and 2 Pet 3:16 in the KJV, and Mosiah 13:32 and Alma 33:20 in the Book of Mormon. Although these passages may be interesting from a theological, translational, or linguistic perspective, a more relevant passage in terms of what may have had an effect on Nephi is Isa 6:9ff where it seems Isaiah is told to preach things that "were hard for many people to understand," as Nephi puts it in 2 Ne 25:1.
- 1 Ne 15:4-5. Notice that Nephi here places himself within the cosmic story of history that he has just seen in vision. He is afflicted because of the "great wickedness of the children of men" and "the destruction of my people." Given that he seems to create an identity between himself and "his people" -- He is afflicted; they are destroyed -- it is possible that he also intends to identify his brothers with "the children of men" and their wickedness. Nesting himself and his brothers in the narrative of his father's teachings further emphasizes the approach taken in the previous three verses. There Nephi insisted on the recapitulation of the experience of the original prophet through personal revelation. Here he nests himself narratively rather than experientially within the story of the original revelation. The emphasis again is on the receiver of scripture not simply extracting meaning from it but experiencing it form themselves.
- If Nephi is in fact silently comparing his brothers with "the wickedness of the children of men," inviting the reader to fill in the lacunae in his parallelism, it is possible that there is another incomplete parallelism that Nephi is inviting the reader to complete, namely the parallel between Nephi and Lehi as prophets and the parallel between Nephi and the reader as those that receive revelation. In other words, Nephi may be inviting the reader to seek revelation to understand his revelation and to see themselves as characters in the narrative that he is providing.
1 Ne 15:12-20: olive tree: scattering and gathering
1 Ne 15:21-36: tree of life: individual salvation and judgment
- It is interesting that when Laman and Lemuel ask about the meaning of the tree, Nephi explained nothing more than to say that it is the Tree of Life (verses 21-22) before moving on to the next question. We know from 1 Ne 11:21-23 that Nephi knew more. There he explains to the angel in detail the meaning of the tree. The fact that he doesn't explain this to his brothers when asked about the tree may suggest that like Nephi, they already knew of its meaning. It seems likely that like Nephi, Laman and Lemuel were also taught in the learning of their father (1 Ne 1:1) and also knew of the manner of prophesying among the Jews (2 Ne 21:1).
- It isn't immediately clear what "this thing" at the beginning of verse 31 refers to. The fact that Laman and Lemual are asking whether it refers to the torment of the body in the days of probation or after death suggests that "this thing" does not refer to God's justice spoken of in the previous verse. Instead it refers to the last thing they asked about--the river of water (verse 26) or in other words, as Nephi explains to them (verse 29), the awful hell that the angel told Nephi was prepared for the wicked (1 Ne 12:16). Nephi also makes it clear that they are talking about the river of dirty water, or hell, in verse 35.
- Verses 32-36 are an explanation of what Nephi means by hell. We learn from these verse that Hell is the place prepared for those who cannot dwell in the kingdom of God.
1 Ne 16:1-8: brothers repent, marriages, blessing
- 1 Ne 16:6: Lehi dwelt in a tent. See the discussion at 1 Ne 2:15 regarding the phrase "My father dwelt in a tent" and the relation to the temple.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- 1 Ne 15:1: Was Nephi looking for his father or his brethren?
- 1 Ne 15:2: If they were debating something that was said five chapters earlier, how much time had already passed?
- 1 Ne 15:3: Should modern-day readers find Lehi's words just as hard to understand?
- 1 Ne 15:4: Why is it that the New Testament, but not the Old Testament, talks about "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (see Mark 3:5)?
- 1 Ne 15:5: My people. Why does Nephi use the term "my people" rather than "my descendants"? Is he more concerned here about the preservation of his seed, which would persist as a "remnant" or in the preservation of his kingdom?
- 1 Ne 15:6: Did Nephi go on without much hope?
- 1 Ne 15:6: Did Nephi go and speak to his brethren while they were still disputing, or was his being overcome in Verse 15:5 something like fainting, and so when he got up again he went and sought them out after the fact? Why does Nephi add this detail about being overcome and receiving strength, does this contribute to the readers' understanding of the ensuing conversation?
- 1 Ne 15:7: Were they sincere in their belief of impossibility?
- 1 Ne 15:8: Why do various forms of the word "inquire" appear throughout the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, but not even once in the Bible?
- 1 Ne 15:9: Had they sincerely tried to obtain an answer to prayer, or merely given up after their half-hearted efforts met with no response?
- 1 Ne 15:10: Does Nephi sound fatalistic in this verse, or does he have some faith that his brothers can really turn their life around?
- 1 Ne 15:11: Does asking the Lord in faith differ from asking the Lord believing that you shall receive? How might these be different? Why does Nephi mention each of these as part of the process of knowing the things of the Lord?
- 1 Ne 15:12: Why is "olive tree" never hyphenated in the Bible and always hyphenated in the Book of Mormon?
- 1 Ne 15:13: After seeing a vision about the fate of his seed versus the fate of the seed of his brethren, how did Nephi so quickly conclude that "our seed" had a common fate?
- 1 Ne 15:14: Was Nephi confident that the indigenous peoples of the Americas would accept and embrace their identity as the descendants of Lehi?
- 1 Ne 15:15: Was Nephi lumping the descendants of Lehi in with indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere, or was he oblivious to the fact that the former would be severely outnumbered by the latter?
- 1 Ne 15:16: Will the members of the church in Latin America always remain a branch or will they at some point become the trunk?
- 1 Ne 15:17: Is Nephi suggesting that the scattering of indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere by Euro-Americans was finished in the 1820s?
- 1 Ne 15:18: Is Nephi saying that when American Mormons went across the ocean to preach the gospel to Non-Mormon Europeans during the 1830s and 1840s, that this was a case of Gentiles delivering the gospel to scattered Israel?
- 1 Ne 15:19: What did Nephi believe would be restored to the Jews before the Second Coming of Christ?
- 1 Ne 15:20: Was Nephi comparing or equating the restoration of the Jews to/with the restoration of the house of Israel?
- 1 Ne 15:21: What was the antecedent to "this thing"?
- 1 Ne 15:22: Did they know more about the tree of life than is presently recorded in our Old Testament?
- 1 Ne 15:23: Why were Laman and Lemuel so willing to believe that Lehi actually saw a vision?
- 1 Ne 15:24: What did it mean to "hold fast" to the scriptures for a people who had no concept of, or experience with, personal ownership of scriptures?
- 1 Ne 15:25: If faculties are an aspect of the soul (see Jacob 3:11), then what was the difference between energies and faculties of the soul?
- 1 Ne 15:26: Did they have good reason to be perplexed about what this river represented?
- 1 Ne 15:27: What made Nephi immune from this swallowing up of the mind?
- 1 Ne 15:28: Why was there no bridge to allow the penitent to cross the gulf and approach the tree?
- 1 Ne 15:29: If the gulf represented hell, then why were the wicked outside, rather than inside, the gulf?
- 1 Ne 15:30: If God is being just when separates the wicked from the righteous in the afterlife, then is he being unjust when he allows these two groups to live together during mortality?
- 1 Ne 15:31: Why did Laman and Lemuel feel like a gulf separated them from others during their mortal probation?
- 1 Ne 15:32: Is Nephi saying that the wicked will be tormented while in the flesh? If so, who is the tormentor that inflicts this upon the bodies of the wicked?
- 1 Ne 15:33: Is Nephi connecting these points with his earlier statements and saying that Jews and Lamanites who procrastinate their repentance, and ultimately die in their sins, will at that point be cast out of the covenant?
- 1 Ne 15:34: Is this evidence that the war in heaven did not take place in the kingdom of God?
- 1 Ne 15:35: Has the devil prepared any place for eternal human habitation besides Outer Darkness?
- 1 Ne 15:36: Who is the actor in this Verse 15:that rejects the wicked?
- 1 Ne 16:1: Nephi’s brothers tell him that the things he has said are too hard to bear. What have they heard that has caused that response?
- 1 Ne 16:2: In this verse, Nephi explains why they find the truth to be hard. Which meaning of “hard” is relevant, “difficult to understand” or “difficult to bear"? What does the fact that the wicked are cut to their center by the truth tell us about wickedness and truth?
- 1 Ne 16:3: What is the difference between hearkening to the truth and giving heed unto it?
- 1 Ne 16:4: Does the word "diligence" modify Nephi's manner of exhortation or the level of obedience to the commandments he expected of his brethren?
- 1 Ne 16:5: Did Nephi never become cynical about the sincerity of his brothers' many changes of heart?
- 1 Ne 16:6: Why doesn't Nephi say this was a place "we called Lemuel"?
- 1 Ne 16:8: Is Nephi saying that Lehi had reached a stopping point, that there were no more commandments left for him to fulfill, or is this a rhetorical device to indicate a transition in his story?
This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
- LDS Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual (PDF version): Chapter 4/56: 1 Nephi 12-15 • Chapter 5/56: 1 Nephi 16-18. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009.
- 1 Ne 15:12-19. Russell M. Nelson, "The Gathering of Scattered Israel," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 79–82. :"While some aspects... have already been fulfilled, the Book of Mormon teaches that this Abrahamic covenant will be fulfilled only in these latter days! It also emphasizes that we are among the covenant people of the Lord (see 2 Ne 30:2). Ours is the privilege to participate personally in the fulfillment of these promises. What an exciting time to live!"
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