An angel shows Nephi the future birth of Jesus Christ and a magnificent and beautiful tree, which was a central part of his father’s vision (see 1 Nephi 8). The angel then teaches Nephi about the meaning of the tree.
“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” (1 Nephi 11:21-23)
-How is Jesus Christ the perfect example of the love of God?
-Why, as the angel testified to Nephi, is the love of God more desirable than anything else and the source of the greatest possible joy?
-How can you increase the love of God in your heart and experience this greatest of joys?
Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…
“The tree of life … is the love of God (see 1 Ne. 11:25). The love of God for His children is most profoundly expressed in His gift of Jesus as our Redeemer: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). To partake of the love of God is to partake of Jesus’ Atonement and the emancipations and joys which it can bring” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Lessons from Laman and Lemuel,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 8).
Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same gospel principles He taught to His Jewish disciples in the Old World. The teachings as recorded in the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 and 6) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants after His resurrection.
The passage below shows the words from verse 24 of the King James version of Matthew 6 and the comparable verse from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” (3 Nephi 13:24)
-Are you moving towards loving God in increasing degrees? Or, are you moving toward loving the idols and materialism of this world?
-Is it possible to be neutral in the direction you are going according to Christ’s teaching above?
King Benjamin teaches that humbly remembering the perfect goodness of God, calling on His name in prayer, and exercising steady faith are closely tied to being filled with the love of God and retaining a forgiveness of sin.
“…As ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith…And…I say unto you that if you do this ye shall always rejoice and be filled with the love of God and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 4:11-12)
-How does one come to a knowledge of the glory of God?
-Is it possible to do so without the influence of the Holy Ghost?
-How important is it to remember the impressions received from the Holy Ghost about who God really is?
-How is humility, prayer, and faithful action tied to retaining forgiveness of sins.
-Can a person shut out the purifying influence of the Holy Ghost by his or her thoughts or actions? Is it possible to retain a forgiveness of sins without the purifying influence of the Holy Ghost?
Nephi, in an attempt to help his rebellious older brothers understand the importance of their family’s journey away from Jerusalem, refers them to the experience of the Israelites who left Egypt and were led by the Lord to the land of Canaan (the Israelite’s promised land). He explains to his brothers that the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem – at the time he was speaking to Laman and Lemuel around 590 B.C. — had reached such a state of sin and rebellion that the Lord would allow these Israelites to be destroyed by another nation (similar to how the depraved Canaanites were displaced by the Israelites centuries before). In this context Nephi shares a number of general truths about how God sees and works with his children on earth:
“…The Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.” (1 Nephi 17:35)
“…The Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it. And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked. And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes. He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool. And he loveth those who will have him to be their God.” (1 Nephi 17:36-40)
-Are there any groups or individuals toward which God shows favoritism? Is there any unfairness in how he works with his earthly children? How is the favor spoken of in this passage different from favoritism?
-If righteousness is the key to receiving God’s favor, how does a group (or individual) become righteous?
-What role do God’s commandments, covenants, and grace play in helping a group (or individual) live in righteousness?
-Should every instance of human destruction be viewed as a case of God bringing His judgments upon the wicked? If a person dies of old age — which is the destruction of the body – does that mean the person is wicked? Is widespread destruction (affecting a whole society or nation of people) more likely to indicate the loss of God’s favor? Is it easy to fall into the trap of seeing the misfortune of others as God’s judgment when misfortune, separate from God’s actions, is an inevitable part of this mortal life for all who come to this fallen world?
-Does God ever do anything that isn’t what is best for His children on earth? Are there times when God allows the destruction of individuals and nations for the eternal benefit of those who experience the destruction (as well as for those who inhabit the earth after them)?
-What is the difference between the love God feels for all of His children and the increased care He is able to provide to those who will have Him to be their God (i.e., those who strive to know Him and worship Him through obedience to His commandments)?