I loved being a Sunday School Teacher at church. We had terrific youth and great subject matter–The Book of Mormon. This morning I mowed the lawn and listened to 1 Nephi 11. To any passage of scripture there is usually enough to cause whole volumes of commentary. This blog will serve as a contribution to the Book of Mormon commentary that exists in various forms. The most famous author of Book of Mormon commentary is likely to be Hugh Nibley. I cannot compete with his scholarly approach to investigating the complexities of the book. Let’s see though, if I can add some small contribution.
1 Nephi 11 takes place in response to Nephi’s father, Lehi, re-telling his vision of the tree of life. Nephi, having unanswered questions regarding the vision ponders and inquires as to the meaning of the things his father saw. Two things stuck out on me today. The first were in verses 9 & 10 when Nephi is conversing with the heavenly messenger:
9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is aprecious above all.
Verse 9 showed that Nephi had listened well enough to his father’s words to recognize the tree when he saw it. How well do I know the processes of heaven? Will I be able to recognize them?
The second thing I care to mention tonight is Nephi’s greatest “OH WOW!!” in all of the Book of Mormon. To explain this I’d like to present you with the following ‘puzzle.’ Without being told anything decipher the characters below as something meaningful:
Give up? Here’s a hint–count how many of them you see. Now which one looks like something you’re familiar with? Did you guess it? They’re numbers. In some parts of the world it is still perfectly normal to write numbers in this manner. Now, let’s talk about Nephi’s version of normal when it comes to Christ.
Nephi at this point in the scriptures doesn’t ‘know’ Christ. He knows a lamb being offered by his father (or another priest) on behalf of his sins. This is what he knows of God. It’s not bread and water. Now in the chapter Nephi is asking to understand what is the meaning of the tree. The scripture records this conversation.
Once Nephi sees the child in v. 20 the angel uses a specific and significant title to introduce the child. “Behold the LAMB of God…” Nephi has an OH WOW experience connecting the lamb that he has seen sacrificed with the actual physical person who would be born approximately 600 years from the time they left Jerusalem.
I’ve included v 23 because I marvel how even an angel is so impressed by Christ that he has to add his own two cents to the testimony. Certainly we cannot say enough about the magnitude, and the beauty of this plan of our loving heavenly Father, and his son Jesus Christ.
This oh wow moment of Nephi’s carries over as a theme throughout the Book of Mormon. Notice in King Benjamin’s speech he talks about types and shadows (Mosiah 3:15). Nephi’s brother, Jacob, makes a commentary regarding the law of sacrifice and Abraham sacrificing Isaac. (Jacob 4:5). There’s more to the meaning of the tree, but that will have to wait. In the meantime you can see one more addition to the complexity of the book. Mormon full well knew Nephi’s words would set a pattern for the book, and he wisely included them unabridged.
Sorry for preaching. I couldn’t let the opportunity slip by, and when the opportunity passes again I may take advantage of it once more. By the same token, the view off our back porch was phenomenal and worth sharing. I hope you enjoy.