Knowest Thou the Meaning of the Tree? – 1 Nephi 11:20-23

20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
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 11:20-23)

Nephi prayed to see, hear, and know for himself:

  1. what his father, Lehi, had seen in a vision, and also
  2. “the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:17).

His father’s vision consisted of a collection of interconnected symbols representing the forces that act on us as we make decisions. The words which he spoke after describing the vision consisted of prophecies about the Messiah and about the scattering and gathering of Israel.

Nephi’s vision enabled him to know firsthand what his father knew. But it did more: it enabled him to connect the symbols of his father’s dream with his father’s prophecies:

Symbols from Lehi’s vision Lehi’s prophecies Additional things Nephi saw Meanings of the symbols
A tree with delicious fruit (1 Nephi 8:10) The Messiah would come in about 600 years (1 Nephi 10:4).
He would be baptized (1 Nephi 10:7-10). /td>
The Savior would be born to a virgin (1 Nephi 11:13-23).
The Savior would be baptized and the Holy Ghost would descend upon Him (1 Nephi 11:27).
The tree represents the love of God, as demonstrated by His condescension.
A “rod of iron” which marked the path to the tree (1 Nephi 8:19-20) Many prophets had testified of this Messiah (1 Nephi 10:5). The Savior taught the people the gospel (1 Nephi 11:24-25). The iron rod represents the word of God, which leads people to the love of God.
A “great and spacious building” filled with people who mocked the people eating the fruit of the tree (1 Nephi 8:26-27) The Messiah would be killed and would rise from the dead (1 Nephi 10:11). The Son of God would be judged and crucified for the sins of the world (1 Nephi 11:32-36). The great and spacious building represents the pride of the world, and it will fall.
A “mist of darkness,” which caused people to wander (1 Nephi 8:23)
A “river of water” (1 Nephi 11:13, 32)
People are in a “lost and fallen state” unless they learn to rely on the Messiah (1 Nephi 1:6). Nephi’s descendants and the descendants of his brothers would battle against each other (1 Nephi 12:13-17). The mists of darkness represent the temptations of the devil.
The fountain of (filthy) water represents the depths of hell.

Today, as I pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, I will remember that God can do more than teach me individual facts. He can also show me the relationships between those facts. Just as Nephi’s vision helped him connect his father’s prophecies with the symbols in his father’s vision, I will trust that God can help me connect the dots between my experiences and the doctrines and principles of the gospel.

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