Context and General Information
- After Nephi saw the vision of the tree of life, he returned to the tent of his father.
- When Nephi got to Lehi’s tent, he saw that they were arguing with each other – concerning the things that his father had said to them.
- Lehi spoke many things that were hard to be understood…UNLESS the listener asked God for help in understanding.
- Nephi was grieved because of the hardness of the hearts of his brothers.
- Nephi was also very grieved because he saw the destruction of his people.
- Nephi received strength from God, and then he asked his brothers why they were arguing. They said that they didn’t understand the olive tree metaphor.
- Nephi asks if they have gone to God to understand, but they haven’t.
Back in Lehi’s Tent
Nephi returns to his father’s tent after his major vision…a few things:
One – Nephi is Depleted of Strength
Nephi just had a major vision. He saw that Christ would come to the world. He saw his birth, life, death, and resurrection. Nephi saw that the Savior would visit Nephi’s posterity in the Americas after his resurrection. Nephi saw many beautiful things.
However, he also saw some more troubling things, too. Nephi saw the death of the Savior, the pride of the world, and the complete destruction of his people. He saw the church of the devil grow in size and in power. He saw that wicked people with wicked intentions would even alter God’s word – causing the stumbling of many.
The vision, as recorded in 1 Nephi, ended on a hopeful note, though. After so much scattering and stumbling by the people of the earth, Nephi saw that God wouldn’t forget his promises. He would gather his people. He would bring about the Book of Mormon. He would do a marvelous work and a wonder. Of course, this wasn’t the end of the vision. Nephi saw more, but was forbidden to record it.
I can only imagine how exhausting this must have been. I have had some spiritual experiences that are a rush in the moment, and then after the rush, you feel a bit wiped out. It’s like a sprint.
So – Nephi returns to the tent of his father somewhat tired, wiped out, depleted of strength. I would imagine that he was also still deep in thought – perhaps even wanting to talk with his father.
In any case, I doubt that Nephi was thrilled to find, when he arrived at the tent of his father, his brothers fighting and disputing about what his father had spoken. I don’t know…I think it would have been a bit demoralizing. Not only was Nephi feeling a little bit wiped out, but that would have been a shock to then face his brothers and their petty arguments after such a spiritual high.
“And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.
5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall.” – 1 Nephi 15:1-10
So – yeah. He is tired. And then grieved because of the hardness of the hearts of his brothers – which probably just reminded him of some of the depressing things that he had learned in the vision he had had.
Nephi is so grieved he is overcome because of his afflictions. He’s out of it! This doesn’t sound like the Nephi we are accustomed to. He is overwhelmed.
I don’t know how long he was feeling overwhelmed, but at some point, he received strength, and then he deals with his brothers.
Two – Lehi did Speak Things that were Hard to Understand
For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought. – 1 Nephi 15:3
Let’s think about what Lehi said to them. I won’t go back into the details, but they include chapter 8 – which is the vision of the tree of life (remember – he didn’t give them the interpretation of this dream!); chapter 10 – which were prophecies of the scattering and gathering of Israel, the coming of a Messiah, the allegory of the olive tree.
Additionally, we read:
“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 10:17
Even Nephi, when he heard the words of his father, did not understand them. He didn’t know what this tree meant. Why were the people in the great and spacious building mocking the people partaking of the fruit of the tree? He didn’t know. Nephi could recognize that there was significance to his father’s dream, but he didn’t understand it.
Not only that, but Nephi didn’t completely understand the other prophecies that His father taught his children afterward.
Nephi wasn’t frustrated by his father. Nor was Nephi frustrated with himself for his lack of understanding. Nephi knew that he could go to the Lord, and that the Lord would help him understand what he needed to know.
We know that Nephi’s seeking yielded in finding. We know that the Lord unfolded the meaning of Lehi’s dream to Nephi. Not only that, but we know that this desire and faith of Nephi’s yielded a life-changing experience and testimony.
Without help from the Lord, Lehi’s dream and his prophecies were not easily understood.
Three – Have Ye Inquired of the Lord???
We know that Lehi’s words were hard to understand – not only for Laman, Lemuel, and Sam but also for Nephi. We also know that Nephi sought the Lord for understanding, and the Lord answered His prayer with an amazing vision.
(Note: I don’t know which brethren this included – Laman, Lemuel, and Sam? Maybe only one or two of them? Not sure, so from this point on, I’ll either say brethren or brothers.) Nephi’s brethren also had a hard time understanding Lehi’s prophecies. In fact, this was the cause of their disputation.
After getting some strength again, Nephi asked:
“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?” – 1 Nephi 15:8
It’s a fair question! This is exactly what he had done, and it was why he wasn’t in the tent disputing what his father’s teachings meant. He didn’t need to dispute. He asked God and now he knew.
How would it help us to think of this situation???…well, It’s like when my kids ask, “Mom, I can’t find my shoes!” and I say, “Did you look for them?” It’s so simple. In fact, this is almost an unfair comparison. When we go to the Lord, with real intent, then we will receive. The Lord implores:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seekethfindeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8
“Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 4:7
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” – Matthew 21:21-22
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seekme diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:63
Nephi wasn’t being a jerk. It was an honest question…did they ask?
Four – Spoiler: They Didn’t Ask
Nephi asked his brothers if they had inquired of the Lord. And they hadn’t! Silly billies. You know…this wouldn’t have been so bad if it went like this:
Nephi: Hey…why are you guys fighting?
Bro: Because of what dad was saying. It didn’t even make any sense. I mean, why didn’t we eat the fruit in his dream?! And why is he so worried about it? What’s the big deal, anyway. It was just a weird dream. I mean, did you hear that – there was a “great and spacious building” just floating on the air.
Other Bro: Yeah, man. It made no sense. And then that olive tree stuff. What is dad talking about? He is a nut job.
Bro: Right? What does an olive tree have to do with anything with us or with the gentiles? Hearing about olive trees is just making me hungry.
Other Bro: Don’t you get it, the olive tree means that the Gentiles are going to try to rip you into pieces.
Bro: Yeah right. They can’t do that. I mean, if they even think of coming at me, I’m gonna…—
Nephi: Guys, guys…Stop for a second. What dad said was kind of confusing, but did you ask God to help you understand?
Bro: Nope…that’s a good idea though. Maybe I should.
Other Bro: Yeah…I didn’t even think of that. Thanks Nephi. I’m gonna go see if I can understand this better.
[Exit Bro and Other Bro – where they go and pray, each of them on their own, and receive the witnesses and understanding that they each need – dependent on their lives, missions, and God’s will.]
That would have been pretty cool.
Imagine what would have followed. Instead of coming back into Lehi’s tent to fight, they would have all starting talking about what they learned. They could have had a pretty edifying experience.
Unfortunately, it went nothing like that. Instead, it went like this:
“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” – 1 Nephi 15:8-9
I have never really understood their response – even though I’ve seen variations of it through the course of my life. But seriously…they didn’t pray because God doesn’t answer their prayers? But they didn’t pray in the first place? This is insane. Talk about a fallacy! Talk about false logic. I mean, this is kind of stupid.
Yet – I think that we do this in our lives. We make the decision for God before we even ask Him. We refuse to exercise our faith because we have already decided that He won’t answer our prayers.
It’s so sad, but we do this. We stop ourselves before we even start. Just like Nephi’s bros. Silly, silly, silly. Instead of being silly like them, we can learn from Nephi’s example. Ask God. Remember Him. Just try.
And one more thing – maybe their response isn’t so stupid. Maybe they felt that God doesn’t answer prayers because they had never experienced God before. Maybe they were right – maybe God wouldn’t make anything known to them.
Remember Oliver Cowdery’s experience. The Lord granted Oliver the chance to translate the records. But it was hard! Translating the records was not easy. It took a lot of effort to be spiritually tuned and translating.
This difficulty frustrated Oliver Cowdery. He gave up translating and then wondered why he wasn’t successful.
The Lord responded:
Do not, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must it out in your ; then you must me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your shall within you; therefore, you shall that it is right. – Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-8
Maybe Nephi’s brothers had had similar experiences. Maybe they had prayed, but underestimated the faith and effort required to know the mysteries of God. Maybe these past experiences shaded the response they gave when Nephi asked them if they had asked. Maybe they knew that the Lord would not reveal anything to them.
Of course, their response is almost an accusation against God. It seems that they take no accountability. They don’t seem to even consider the fact that they need to put forth a little bit of effort if they want to get answers.
Again, I think that this is something that we might do, too. There are times when I just kind of whine and pray and great things to come easily. Unwavering faith is the first step toward any kind of miracle, but it won’t get you to your destination on its own. To receive wisdom or experience miracles, then we must take the next step—unprecedented effort. Truly, faith without works is dead.
Okay. That’s all for today. We will be back in Lehi’s tent next time.