Lesson 16: 1 Nephi 15

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2017


Introduction

After Nephi received a vision similar to the vision his father had received, he returned to his father’s tent. There he found his brethren disputing over Lehi’s teachings. Nephi chastised his brethren for their hard-heartedness and reminded them how to receive revelation for themselves. He then explained some of Lehi’s teachings about the natural branches of the olive tree and the meaning of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Nephi 15:1–11

Nephi’s brethren complain that they cannot understand Lehi’s vision

Invite students to imagine that a friend approaches them and asks about a recent statement made by Church leaders that is difficult for this friend to understand and accept. Ask students to record in their class notebooks or study journals what they would say to this friend.

As students study 1 Nephi 15 today, invite them to look for principles that can help us when we encounter issues about the Church or its teachings that we may not understand.

Explain that 1 Nephi 15 begins with Nephi returning to his father’s tent after having received a vision similar to Lehi’s. Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 15:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi encountered when he returned to his father’s tent.

  • What did Nephi find when he returned to his father’s tent?

  • What were Nephi’s brethren disputing about?

Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 15:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Nephi’s brethren were struggling to understand the things Lehi had taught them. Invite students to consider marking what they find.

  • Why were Nephi’s brethren having difficulty understanding the things Lehi taught them?

  • What principle can we learn from verse 3 about what can prevent us from understanding spiritual truth? (Help students identify the following principle: If we harden our hearts and do not look to the Lord, then we will struggle to understand spiritual truth. Write this principle on the board.)

  • In our day, where might individuals who are struggling to understand spiritual truth choose to turn rather than looking to the Lord?

  • When struggling to understand spiritual truth, why do you think it is important to look to the Lord to help us understand spiritual truth?

Summarize 1 Nephi 15:4–7 by explaining that Nephi was overcome with grief because of the hard-heartedness of his brethren and because of the destruction of his people that he had seen in his vision. When Nephi regained his strength, he asked his brethren why they were arguing. They responded that they could not understand what Lehi had taught about the house of Israel and the Gentiles.

Invite students to read 1 Nephi 15:8–9 silently, looking for the question Nephi asked his brethren and how they responded.

  • What did Nephi ask his brethren?

  • What was the reason his brethren gave for not turning to the Lord for answers?

  • Based on their response to Nephi’s question, what do you think Nephi’s brethren failed to understand?

Ask a student to read 1 Nephi 15:10–11 aloud. Invite the class to look for a principle Nephi taught his brethren to help them learn how to obtain answers from God.

  • According to verse 11, what principle did Nephi teach his brethren to help them understand their father’s words and receive answers from God? (Students may use different words, but they should identify a principle similar to the following: If we do not harden our hearts and we ask the Lord in faith and keep His commandments, then we will receive answers and understanding from Him. Write this principle on the board.)

  • Why do you think it is necessary to ask in faith and keep God’s commandments in order to receive answers and understanding from Him?

Remind students of the scenario presented at the beginning of the lesson. Divide students into pairs. Invite students in each pair to explain to each other how they could use the principles they have identified in 1 Nephi 15 to help their friend in this scenario.

Ask students to ponder how the principle they identified in 1 Nephi 15:11 has blessed them or someone they know. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class. You might also share a personal experience and your testimony of this principle.

Encourage students to apply this principle and to share it with someone they know who may be seeking answers and understanding concerning spiritual truth.

1 Nephi 15:12–20

Nephi explains the scattering and gathering of Israel

Invite a student to read aloud the following summary of 1 Nephi 15:12–20:

To help resolve the disputations of his brethren, Nephi taught them the meaning of Lehi’s prophecy about the “natural branches of the olive tree” and the Gentiles (see 1 Nephi 10:12–14; 15:7). He explained that the olive tree represented the house of Israel. Because Lehi’s family had left Jerusalem and was separated from the rest of the house of Israel, it was like a branch that had been broken from the olive tree (see 1 Nephi 15:12). He further explained that in the latter days, many years after Lehi’s descendants would have “dwindled in unbelief” (1 Nephi 15:13), the fulness of the gospel would be given to the Gentiles. The Gentiles would then bring the gospel to Lehi’s posterity, restoring them to the knowledge of their Redeemer and to the covenant blessings of their fathers. This would be like gathering and grafting their branch back into the olive tree (see 1 Nephi 15:13–17). This restoration would happen not only for Lehi’s descendants but for all the house of Israel (see 1 Nephi 15:18–20).

1 Nephi 15:21–36

Nephi answers the questions his brethren had about Lehi’s vision

Explain that in the remainder of 1 Nephi 15, we read Nephi’s answers to the questions his brethren had about Lehi’s vision. Nephi used what he learned in his own vision to teach them. For example, as recorded in 1 Nephi 15:21–22, Nephi explained that the tree he and his father saw in vision was a representation of the tree of life.

Invite students to read 1 Nephi 15:23 silently, looking for what Nephi’s brethren asked him next.

  • What did Nephi’s brethren ask?

  • If you had been in Nephi’s position, what would you teach Nephi’s brethren about the meaning of the iron rod?

Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 15:24–25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi taught his brethren about the iron rod. (Explain that the phrase “fiery darts” [verse 24] can refer to any temptation or evil influence that the adversary uses to try to harm us.)

  • What principle about the word of God can we learn from verse 24? (Help students identify the following principle: Continually hearkening and holding fast to the word of God enables us to withstand Satan’s attempts to blind and destroy us. Write this principle on the board.)

Ask a student to come to the front of the class, and blindfold him or her. Invite the student to walk to another place in the classroom. (Be careful not to risk the student’s safety.) Ask the student:

  • How did the blindfold make this task more difficult?

Remind the class that in Lehi’s vision the mists of darkness represent “the temptations of the devil” (1 Nephi 12:17).

  • Why do you think Satan tries to blind those he desires to destroy?

  • In what ways can temptations blind us or cause us to not see clearly?

Give the blindfolded student a rod to hold on to, such as a broom handle. Ask another student to hold the other end of the rod and to guide the blindfolded student safely back across the classroom. Then remove the blindfold, thank both students, and ask both of them to be seated.

  • When you are walking and cannot see, what difference does it make to have something to hold on to?

Point out that in Lehi’s vision the iron rod did not eliminate the mists of darkness, but it did allow those who held on to the rod to come through the mists of darkness in safety.

  • In what ways is the iron rod like the word of God?

  • Where can we obtain the word of God? (Answers might include in the scriptures, in the words of inspired Church leaders, and by personal revelation from God through the Holy Ghost.)

  • What can we do to hearken and hold fast to the word of God?

  • How has studying and following the word of God strengthened you against Satan’s attacks? (You may also want to share an experience. Remind students that they should not share experiences that are too personal.)

Invite students to ponder what fiery darts they feel the adversary is firing at them. Encourage them to set a goal to better hearken and hold fast to the word of God so they can withstand Satan’s attacks.

Briefly summarize 1 Nephi 15:26–36 by explaining that Nephi told his brethren that the river their father saw in his vision represented an awful hell prepared for the wicked, separating them from God and His people. Point out that these verses teach that no unclean thing can enter the presence of God. Invite students to consider marking the words that teach this doctrine in 1 Nephi 15:34.

Conclude the lesson by testifying of the truths students identified in 1 Nephi 15.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Nephi 15:10. “Because of the hardness of your hearts”

Elder Gerald N. Lund, who served as a member of the Seventy, emphasized the role of personal agency in preparing our hearts to receive personal revelation:

Elder Gerald N. Lund

“We feel things in our hearts. In the scriptures, the prophets teach that personal revelation is closely linked to the heart. …

“The heart is a tender place. It is sensitive to many influences, both positive and negative. …

“… Individual agency is so sacred that Heavenly Father will never force the human heart, even with all His infinite power. Man may try to do so, but God does not. To put it another way, God allows us to be the guardians, or the gatekeepers, of our own hearts. We must, of our own free will, open our hearts to the Spirit, for He will not force Himself upon us” (Gerald N. Lund, “Opening Our Hearts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 32, 33).

1 Nephi 15:11. A pattern for learning spiritual things

Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy taught that the Lord may not answer our questions immediately and provided counsel on what we can do when answers do not come quickly:

Elder Paul V. Johnson

“Answers to spiritual questions are given to individuals who don’t harden their hearts; who ask in faith, believing they will receive; and who diligently keep the commandments. Even when we follow this pattern, we don’t control the timing of getting answers. Sometimes our answers come quickly, and sometimes we must place questions on the shelf for a time and rely on our faith that has developed from the answers we do know” (Paul V. Johnson, “A Pattern for Learning Spiritual Things” [address given at the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion satellite broadcast, Aug. 7, 2012]).