God's love
Scheduled for study Jan. 13-19, 2020. Be advised, you really need to read 1 Nephi 8-15 this week. The extra chapters are discussed in this week’s material, and the parts about Lehi’s dream aren’t discussed next week. The rest of this week’s lessons discuss Christ’s mission, our love for others, and our ability to receive personal revelation.

Day 1

1 Nephi 8 – The word of God leads me to the Savior and helps me feel His love.

As you read 1 Nephi 8-15, consider what messages from Lehi’s vision apply to you. Record the spiritual impressions you receive in your scriptures, a notebook, or in the CFM manual.

Today’s lesson has shown me that I have had questions I never admitted I had. I have always looked at the path and the rod of iron as the means of getting to the tree of life safely, but for some reason I viewed the partaking of the fruit as an afterthought, a byproduct of reaching the tree because we were faithful in keeping commandments, i.e. staying on the path and holding to the rod. When we came to earth, we became fallen, which means we were cut off from the presence of God. But is that all? Please consider the following questions. And after the questions I will discuss living waters and their relationship to the tree of life.

When we were cut off from the presence of the Lord, weren’t we also cut off from being able to feel His love?

Does it matter that we don’t feel God’s love as mortals?

What difference does it make to us if we feel God’s love?

Does feeling God’s love change us in some way? If so, how?

Tree of life and living waters

Before continuing with what I promised to tell you, please include these following thoughts in your mental deliberations. In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees specifically mentioned, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. When Adam and Eve partook of the tree of knowledge they were cut off from partaking of the tree of life. If the tree of life represents the love of God, does that mean that if we receive the fulness of God’s love we also receive eternal life? For Adam and Eve, we are told, couldn’t partake of the tree of life lest they should live forever in their sins. So the tree also gave them eternal life. Is this the same tree that Lehi and Nephi saw in their visions?

There are only two definitions I can find for living water. The first is in John 7:37-38.

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

In these two verses we are told (from the subsequent verses) that the living water being referred to is the Holy Spirit. So I ask you, do we need the Spirit to feel God’s love? Remember that the Holy Ghost works with those outside the Lord’s covenant people, so they can experience God’s love as well, but perhaps not as consistently or as fully as those who make covenants and keep them.

In the New Testament, the Savior tells the woman at the well that he is the living water, and that if she knew who he was she would be asking him for his living water. Keep this in mind when you read the following verses below. In John 4:10-11, 13-15 Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. He tells her about the living water he has to offer her. Note that she has not yet fully experienced the living water. The question is why?

10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

In this, and as far as I can tell all other references to living water in the scriptures, (with the one exception being John 7:37-38) living water refers to the love of God. Besides being cut off from the presence of God, were we not also cut off from being able to feel His love? Is there power in feeling God’s love? Why does Christ say that we all thirst for it, and that the only way to satisfy that thirst is to experience His love? What are people willing to do once they feel like they have experienced God’s love? Even outside the covenants of God’s Church, those who experience God’s love live changed lives. People who experience God’s love hunger for more of it. This is, I believe, a taste of our spiritual home that we all crave.

Both the tree of life and the fountain of living water refer to the love of God. They are synonymous in that they both refer to the same thing. In chapter 11 when Nephi asks the Spirit for the interpretation of the tree his father saw, what was it the Spirit showed him as the meaning of the tree? He showed Nephi the condescension of God, the willingness of Christ to come down among men and suffer for them in order to save them from eternal death or separation from God. The condescension of God is a representation of God’s love for all of us – His willingness to do whatever it takes to provide us with a way to return home. Jesus’ entire life was one large demonstration of God’s love for His children.

What is it in Lehi’s dream that is trying to prevent us from experiencing God’s love? It is the mists of darkness, which are the temptations and deceptions of the devil. They blind us and fool us into becoming distracted with the things of the world, causing us to wander away from God’s love. These mists of darkness, like a thick fog that surrounds us, prevent us from finding our way to God’s love. They lead us down any number of broad roads that all lead away from the Tree of Life. Some of those roads lead to the pride of the world, the great and spacious building. Others lead to the river of filthy water that drowns and swallows those who are submerged in the filth of this world, and some roads just simply lead us away from the tree, as far as Satan can get us to go.

There are those who experience the love of God, but their love and devotion to the things of this world cause them to become ashamed of where they are, so they wander off down forbidden paths and are lost to God. But those who care more about experiencing the love of God than listening to the voices and opinions of the world, hold onto God’s word in the scriptures and the voices of the prophets. These lead them right to the life-changing experience of feeling God’s love in its purity.

Both Nephi and Lehi refer to the fruit God’s love bears as being more precious than anything in the world. What do you think the fruit or result of experiencing God’s love is? Their description of His love is that it is pure above all that is pure, and desirable above anything else. Lehi tells us that the result of his experience with God’s love was an increased desire that those he loved also experience it. Isn’t that what happens when people join the Church – they want to share it with those they love.

My conclusions

I am sure someone must have talked about this somewhere, but I can’t think of whom or where at the moment. But my conclusion from studying the vision of Nephi is that the power behind having the gift of the Holy Ghost is that he helps us to feel more keenly, and more consistently the love of God. This is what cements our conviction and dedication to the things of righteousness. This experience of tasting God’s love creates within us an increased desire for more of it. It brings hope, life, and reason to our mortal experience. It gives us purpose. This is the ultimate promise to those who obey the commandments, that they will be ushered back into the presence of God, to live with Him and feel his love in full for eternity, and this is what it is to experience eternal life. To feel God’s love is what brings us a fulness of joy.

If you have other conclusions to the purpose of the tree of life and the living waters Christ promises us, I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.

Day 2

1 Nephi 9 – Why did Nephi make two sets of plates?

As you read 1 Nephi 8-15, consider what messages from Lehi’s vision apply to you. Record the spiritual impressions you receive in your scriptures, a notebook, or in the CFM manual.

Today’s lesson is further demonstration that the Lord was preparing the record known as the Book of Mormon for thousands of years before Joseph Smith’s birth. The Jaredites were commanded to keep a record of all their prophecies and a history of their people. Ether served as the equivalent of the Nephite’s Mormon, in that he collected the records of his people’s history and compiled their story so that Mormon could one day read it and include Ether’s abridged version of their society in the record he, himself was making under the Lord’s direction.

Knowing that Martin Harris would lose the 116 pages of translated text, once Nephi had written it all out on metal plates, Nephi was commanded to do it all again on a different set of plates. Then Mormon was commanded to include both sets of the same information in his own record. By doing so, nothing was lost to the world, and Joseph Smith learned a valuable lesson about relying on the Lord, and not fearing or being intimidated by man. So even though it was a lot of work for Nephi and Mormon, the whole world benefited from their recording duplicates of this passage of scriptures. They simply trusted that the Lord, in His wisdom required it for a good reason.

Day 3

1 Nephi 10:2-16 – Ancient prophets knew about Jesus Christ’s mission and testified of Him.

As you read 1 Nephi 8-15, consider what messages from Lehi’s vision apply to you. Record the spiritual impressions you receive in your scriptures, a notebook, or in the CFM manual.

It is a common attitude among those who are currently living, and has always been the case, that all knowledge is confined to what has happened in the past or is presently known. The idea that God knows everything that will happen in the future is either dismissed or minimized because there is really no way to comprehend how someone can know what will happen before it happens. This classifies as a truly great miracle, for it is completely unexplainable.

I have discussed the nature of prophecy and how the Lord uses it in more than one article. I suggest you read What Is the Purpose of Prophecy? to read about the types of prophecies and how the Lord uses prophecies to help us. From Adam down to Moses, and beyond, the Lord told His prophets His people would reject God and be scattered among the nations of the earth. Up to the time they were actually scattered, they received opportunity after opportunity to repent and change that outcome. The Lord knew that eventually, they would refuse to repent and declare themselves free of His requirements in their lives. After thousands of years it happened.

Now, after thousands of years more His other promise is being fulfilled, that they are being gathered out from the world and becoming a covenant people once again. He told them all along that it would be through the ministering of the Gentiles that they would once again receive His covenants and enjoy their privileged status once more.

Virtually every prophet who ever lived has testified of the life and death of Christ. It wasn’t just the scattering and gathering of Israel that was known and told to generation after generation. The whole plan of salvation was spelled out in detail. Our Father in Heaven has never been shy about letting us know what His plans were for us. He has always been very open and honest about what would happen to us, in every generation. The problem isn’t with Him, but with us. We just can’t seem to wrap our heads around anything that happens in the future.

Day 4

1 Nephi 10:17-19 – God will reveal truth to me if I diligently seek it.

As you read 1 Nephi 8-15, consider what messages from Lehi’s vision apply to you. Record the spiritual impressions you receive in your scriptures, a notebook, or in the CFM manual.

I will go out on a limb here and say this is a dangerous passage of scripture. If you are like me, I look at the nature of Lehi’s dream, and the nature of the vision shown to Nephi because he wanted to experience what his father had experienced, and I suddenly feel like Laman and Lemuel when they said, “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

Could the Lord have given Laman and Lemuel such a vision? Certainly. Then why were they convinced they couldn’t receive such communications from the Lord? The answer is because their hearts were hard. They didn’t keep the commandments like they should. They didn’t exercise faith in Christ. They didn’t search the scriptures diligently. They didn’t pray diligently, etc., etc. Is the same true for us?

Modern prophets have also taught us that any of us can have the same visions the prophets have, IF we have the same faith and put in the same work into acquiring said visions as they did. Admittedly they did not use “if” in all caps, but you get the idea. It isn’t that God doesn’t want to give us the same knowledge. The problem has to do with personal preparedness.

Part of our (my) problem is that we may want the knowledge, but are terrified at the idea of standing exposed before, literally, God and His angels to have a face to face conversation. Are we really prepared for such an event? Our spiritual preparation has a lot to do with the nature of the revelations we receive. But hey, this gives us something to shoot for. Knowing that God wants to talk to us face to face, that He wants us to speak to His angels, and that He wants us to see the workings of the Godhead in action, has to be an encouraging thought.

For many of us, revelation may need to become more familiar to us on a daily basis as we learn to follow the Spirit’s promptings. From there we can move on to more intense forms of spiritual communication. But let’s at least start somewhere, for we can’t move forward if we don’t take a step from where we currently are.

Scripture Study and Family Home Evening

1 Nephi 8:10-16 – Feeling the sweetness of Christ’s love

What was the purpose of the fruit of the tree? It was “desirable to make one happy.” So the purpose of this fruit was to make a person happy. What happened when Lehi ate the fruit? “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy;” The fruit did exactly what it was supposed to do – make those who ate it, those who tasted it, happy. It filled their souls with joy.

Why wouldn’t Lehi’s family be the first thing he thought of when he ate this mysterious fruit that filled him with “exceedingly great joy”? That is a natural response. Isn’t it interesting that we can try a new laundry detergent or find a sweet fishing hole and suddenly we want to shout our discovery from the rooftops? But we discover the love of God that fills our soul with such sweetness and we are hesitant to say anything for fear of offending someone. Odd.

Is it how we think we need to invite them to come to Christ that embarrasses us, or is it the actual message? If it is the experience we are sharing then why can’t we just simply share the experience? If our life with Christ is bringing us peace and joy, why can’t we just be candid about that and tell our friends about the peace we experience by keeping the commandments? Why would we be ashamed of honestly stating that prayer has brought us closer to God, and that our life is richer because of it? Why can’t we simply and honestly state that life is so much sweeter when we study our scriptures?

Are we being dishonest somehow to be that simple and plain about how the gospel of Christ affects our life? I think the difference we need to look for is in our delivery. Are we truly desiring to share our source of happiness with a friend or are we afraid that if we share with someone, and they have questions, our lives might be inconvenienced by the commitment required of us to shepherd them along to the covenant path? The important point here is that love, in any form, takes commitment, time, energy, and resolve. But aren’t the rewards of that love what makes love worth having? Isn’t it the love we share with others that brings them happiness part of the source of our own happiness? It doesn’t really matter if we are talking about a family member or a neighbor. We need to remember that the gospel of Christ is rooted in, and founded upon, love for others. And perfect love casts out all fear.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

BoM Week 03