When Nephi needed to understand God’s love, he saw Mary.
About 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Nephi’s father shared with the family a dream he had experienced while they were traveling in the wilderness. The central symbol in that dream was “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy” (1 Nephi 8:10). Intrigued by the dream, Nephi asked God to show him what his father had seen and to help him understand it (1 Nephi 11:3, 11).
Nephi saw the tree in a vision. When he asked what it represented, he saw something apparently unrelated: a young lady in the city of Nazareth.
“What do you see?” asked an angel. “A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins,” replied Nephi. Then, the angel asked an unexpected question: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?”
Nephi responded carefully: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”
The angel explained to Nephi that the woman he saw would be the mother of the Son of God (1 Nephi 11:14-18).
Nephi subsequently saw the same woman with a child in her arms, which the angel identified as the Savior. “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree?” asked the angel. “Yea,” said Nephi, “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” (1 Nephi 11:21-22).
The angel did not answer Nephi’s questions directly. He provided visual aids, and he asked questions to help Nephi work out the answers for himself. It’s significant to me that Nephi figured out the answer to his first question while observing Mary.
Two subsequent prophets in the Book of Mormon also spoke of Jesus’s mother:
- King Benjamin told his people that, when “the Lord Omnipotent” came to earth, He would be known as Jesus Christ, and that His mother would be called Mary (Mosiah 3:5, 8).
- Alma told the people in the city of Gideon that Jesus would “be born of Mary…she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel” (Alma 7:10).
Why was she chosen, and what made her so “precious” or valuable?
As I’ve thought about these questions today, two attributes have stood out in my mind: Mary was willing to accept assignments from God, and she was thoughtful as she fulfilled those assignments.
- After the angel Gabriel explained to Mary what God wanted her to do, she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). She didn’t need time to adjust. She didn’t need a lot of clarifying information. When she understood what God expected of her, she immediately committed to do it.
- After the unusual visit from the shepherds in the stable, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Twelve years later, after seeing her young son reasoning with scholars in the temple at Jerusalem, she “kept all these sayings in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Like Nephi, she did “not know the meaning of all things.” But she was observant and introspective, and she was able to work out what she needed to do to raise this unequaled son.
Today, I will strive to follow the example of Mary. I will willingly accept assignments from my Heavenly Father. I will strive to fulfill those responsibilities thoughtfully. When I encounter new information, I will ponder it in my heart, trusting the Lord to help me gain the wisdom necessary to fulfill my assignments successfully.