21 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?
22 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.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
(1 Nephi 11:21-23)
As a teacher, I’m interested in the questions Nephi was asked during this vision. First, the Spirit of the Lord asked him the following questions:
- Behold, what desirest thou? (v. 2)
- Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken? (v. 4)
- What desirest thou? (v. 10)
Then, an angel appeared and asked the following questions:
- Nephi, what beholdest thou? (v. 14)
- Knowest thou the condescension of God? (v. 16)
- Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? (v. 21, above)
The Spirit asked questions to determine Nephi’s level of belief and desire, perhaps to help him adopt an appropriate frame of mind for the learning he was about to experience. The angel asked questions which challenged Nephi to engage fully in the learning process. He showed Nephi scenes from his father’s dream and from the life of the Savior and asked him to explain what he saw and what it meant. I find the third question to be particularly searching and meaningful. As Nephi saw the newborn baby Jesus in the arms of his mother, the angel asked if he understood the meaning of the tree from his father’s dream. Nephi, who had just admitted that his knowledge was limited and who presumably did not know the answer to this question before it was asked, now searched his own heart and mind and found the answer: “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.” The angel reaffirmed his answer: “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”
Today, as I have the opportunity to teach others, particularly to teach the gospel, I will encourage my students to fully fulfill their role as a learner. I will ask questions which enable them to stretch and to discover true principles for themselves. I will remember that a teacher is a facilitator of learning, not merely a provider of information, and I will give my students space to discover answers to difficult questions for themselves.