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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nephi Sees the Vision of Lehi (1 Nephi 11)

Listen now!Nephi's desires to see and hear what his father saw come to fruition in Chapter 11. Not only does Nephi experience the same vision, but he is also given the meaning or interpretation of each of the elements shown.

What you're about to read is one of the most profound moments of the Book of Mormon. In beautiful metaphor, Nephi is shown the coming of the Son of God. He is taught the meaning of the tree, the fruit, the rod of iron, the fountain of living waters, the river of filthy water, and the great and spacious building.

In this and subsequent chapters (11-14), Nephi also beholds, in a continuation of the vision, the future of his descendants in the promised land (the American continents), the death, resurrection, and visit of the Savior to Nephi's people, the fall of his people, and the building of a great and abominable church. Finally, he sees the coming of the Gentiles to the Americas, their prosperity, and their role in ushering in the Second Coming of the Lord.

As Nephi sat pondering what Lehi had seen, he was "caught away" onto a high mountain. The Spirit asked him, "What desirest thou?" to which Nephi responded, "To behold the things which my father saw". The vision was opened to him only after he affirmed that he would believe what the Spirit was about to reveal.

This is the kind of faith we must all attain to, and is a major theme of the Book of Mormon--to accept on faith that which we haven't yet seen or that which we are about to hear from the Lord. Latter-day Saints (members of the LDS faith) practice this kind of faith each time they attend church meetings or general conferences.

The Spirit then shows Nephi the tree, which was precisely as Lehi had described it. Nephi is then asked again what he desires. He responds that he wants to know the meaning of the tree. Next he is shown Jerusalem, then Nazareth, and then a beautiful virgin.

The heavens open and an angel asks Nephi what he sees and whether he understands the condescension of God. Nephi responds that he knows that God loves His children, but that he doesn't know the meaning of all things. The angel teaches Nephi that the woman he sees is to be the mother of the Son of God "after the manner of the flesh". In other words, the Son of God would be born on earth, to a virgin, in a body of flesh and blood, and live among men.

"Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?"

Nephi immediately understood that it was the love of God, being the most desirable of all things.

The angel rejoices, saying "Yea, and the most joyous to the soul." Nephi then sees people falling down at the feet of the Son of God and worshiping Him. The rod of iron or the word of God, leading to the fountain of living waters and the tree, which represent simultaneously the love of God and the Son of God, appears and Nephi understands their meanings. The angel confirms that these symbols represent the condescension of God.

Nephi sees a prophet, John the Baptist, baptizing the Son of God and preparing the way for His mission on earth. He sees the Holy Ghost descend on the Son of God as a dove before He begins his preaching. He sees the multitudes rejecting Him and the calling of the twelve apostles.

The Son of God heals the sick and afflicted, casts out evil spirits, is judged by the world, crucified, and slain for the sins of the world. The people persecuting and rejecting the Son of God are the very same people who are found in the great and spacious building of Lehi's dream.

The angel makes note of this, saying, "Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to bfight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb."

Nephi looks again and sees that the pride of the people in the building is great, such that they would not repent and turn to the Son of God. Rather, they stood mocking Him. The building they were in falls in an exceedingly great and dramatic way.

The angel speaks again, saying, "Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb."

Right: Modern-day edifice of the "great and spacious" kind, meant only to illustrate the concepts discussed in 1 Nephi 11. LDS artwork depicting Lehi's dream can be found here.