After hearing his father Lehi’s account of his vision, Nephi desired to see, hear, and know for himself the things Lehi had seen and heard (see 1 Nephi 10:17). While he was pondering his father’s teachings, Nephi was “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 11:1) and received his own vision. This vision is recounted in 1 Nephi 11–14. In 1 Nephi 11 we read of the tree of life, the rod of iron, and the great and spacious building, as well as the Savior’s birth, baptism, ministry, and crucifixion. As Nephi witnessed these things, he recognized the love God has for His children.
Suggestions for Teaching
Lehi prophesies of the Messiah
Briefly summarize 1 Nephi 10:1–16 by telling students that after relating his vision of the tree of life, Lehi also gave a series of prophecies. These included details of when Jesus Christ would come to earth (see 1 Nephi 10:4), His baptism by John the Baptist (see 1 Nephi 10:7–10), His crucifixion and resurrection (see 1 Nephi 10:11), and the impending scattering and gathering of Israel (see 1 Nephi 10:12–14).
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 10:4–6 aloud. (You may want to explain that Messiah is “a form of an Aramaic and Hebrew word meaning ‘the anointed.’ In the New Testament Jesus is called the Christ, which is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. It means the anointed Prophet, Priest, King, and Deliverer whose coming the Jews were eagerly expecting” [Guide to the Scriptures, “Messiah,” scriptures.lds.org; see also Bible Dictionary, “Messiah”].)
Nephi seeks to see, hear, and know the truths his father taught
Ask students to consider the following example: Three young men attend the same Church meeting. After returning home, one young man feels that the meeting was boring and a waste of his time. Another thinks the meeting was nice but is unaffected by it. The third returns home uplifted by the Holy Ghost and receives inspiration and direction for his life, even beyond what was taught in the meeting.
How is it possible that the three young men could attend the same meeting but have such different experiences?
Explain that this example is similar to the experience of Laman, Lemuel, and Nephi when they heard their father’s prophecies and the account of his vision. Laman and Lemuel did not understand their father’s words and disputed about what they heard (see 1 Nephi 15:2). Nephi, on the other hand, turned to the Lord for understanding. He provided an excellent example of how to seek and receive revelation.
Tell students that as they study Nephi’s experience, they will find principles that will help them seek and receive revelation for themselves. Encourage them to notice things Nephi did that allowed him to receive a revelation similar to the one Lehi received.
Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group one of the categories and sets of questions in the following chart. (You may want to display the chart on the board before class begins.) Invite students to read 1 Nephi 10:17 and 11:1–6 silently and prepare answers for their assigned questions.
What did Nephi desire to see, hear, and know?
How do our desires affect our ability to receive revelation?
What do I desire to know from the Lord?
What beliefs did Nephi express as he sought revelation?
How might these beliefs influence our ability to receive revelation?
How can I increase my testimony of and belief in Jesus Christ?
What happened when Nephi sat pondering?
Why can pondering lead to revelation?
What can I do to more diligently ponder the words of the prophets?
Invite a few students from each group to share answers to their first two assigned questions. (You might also invite students to respond to the third question, but assure them that they do not need to share answers that are too personal or private.)
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 10:19 aloud.
Who can know the mysteries of God?
By what power are the mysteries of God revealed?
What must we do to receive revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost?
What do you think it means to diligently seek?
What did Nephi do that demonstrated he was diligently seeking to see, hear, and know the things his father had taught?
Write the following statement on the board:
God reveals truth to …
Ask students to summarize what they have learned from Nephi’s experience by completing the statement on the board. While students may choose different words, their answers should capture the truth that God reveals truth to all those who diligently seek Him. (You may want to write this principle on the board.)
Encourage students to think of a time when diligently seeking God has led them to feel His Spirit and receive revelation. (It might be helpful to mention that revelation can include receiving guidance when making a decision, gaining increased understanding, receiving comfort, or receiving an assurance that something is true.) Invite students to share their experiences with the rest of the class. You may also want to testify of what you have experienced through your efforts to diligently seek the Lord.
Nephi witnesses the condescension of God
Explain to students that Nephi continued to ponder and seek divine guidance during his vision. When Nephi asked to learn the interpretation of the tree he and his father had seen, an angel appeared to help him. The angel asked, “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (1 Nephi 11:21). Review the meaning of the tree by having a few students take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 11:18–23.
What did Nephi say was the meaning of the tree? (After students respond, you may want to point out that Nephi saw Mary holding the infant Jesus, and the angel identified the baby as “the Son of the Eternal Father.” The angel then asked Nephi the meaning of the tree to help him see that it represented Jesus Christ. When Nephi answered that it represented “the love of God,” he was referring to the love of God as expressed through the gift of His Son. We experience the love of God by partaking of the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.)
How did Nephi and the angel describe the love of God?
Ask a student to read 1 Nephi 11:16. (Explain that the word condescension means the voluntary descent from a position of rank or dignity. You may want to invite students to write this explanation in their scriptures next to 1 Nephi 11:16.)
Have students identify Nephi’s answer to the angel’s question by reading 1 Nephi 11:17 aloud.
What did Nephi know?
What didn’t he know?
After Nephi responded, the angel showed him several examples of God’s condescension to help deepen his understanding of the love of God. Explain to students that the “condescension of God” refers to both God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who explained the condescension of God, our Heavenly Father:
“The condescension of God lies in the fact that he, an exalted Being, steps down from his eternal throne to become the Father of a mortal Son” (The Mortal Messiah , 1:314).
To help students understand how “the condescension of God” also refers to Jesus Christ, show the picture The Birth of Jesus (62116; Gospel Art Book , no. 30). Ask a student to read 1 Nephi 11:13–21 aloud. Invite another student to identify what these verses have to do with the picture. Have a student read the following statement by Elder Gerald N. Lund, formerly of the Seventy. Invite the class to listen for ways the Savior demonstrated His love for us.
“Here was Jesus—a member of the Godhead, the Firstborn of the Father, the Creator, Jehovah of the Old Testament—now leaving His divine and holy station; divesting Himself of all that glory and majesty and entering the body of a tiny infant; helpless, completely dependent on His mother and earthly father. That He should not come to the finest of earthly palaces and be … showered with jewels but should come to a lowly stable is astonishing. Little wonder that the angel should say to Nephi, ‘Behold the condescension of God!’” (Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation , 16).
How does the Savior’s birth show His love for us?
Make sure it is clear that the Savior’s willingness to live a mortal life shows His love for us.
Show the pictures Jesus Raising Jairus’s Daughter (62231; Gospel Art Book, no. 41) and Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda (Gospel Art Book, no. 42). Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 11:28 and 31 aloud. Encourage the class to identify ways the pictures are similar to the verses.
Whom did Nephi see the Savior ministering to and healing?
How do the Savior’s actions show His love?
Have a student read 1 Nephi 11:32–33 aloud. Invite the class to listen for the ultimate example of the Savior’s love.
After students share what they have identified, show the picture The Crucifixion (62505; Gospel Art Book, no. 57).
Testify that the condescension of Jesus Christ demonstrates God’s love for us. The Savior condescended to live a mortal life, minister to and heal the sick and afflicted, and die for all our sins that we might return home to the presence of Heavenly Father.
How does knowing about the Savior’s condescension and love influence your feelings about Him?
Conclude by inviting students to share how the love of God is “most desirable” and “most joyous” to them (see 1 Nephi 11:22–23). Testify that as we follow Nephi’s example and diligently seek God, we will feel His love and experience the joy of partaking of the blessings made available through Christ’s Atonement.
Invite students to follow Nephi’s example in the efforts they are making to seek revelation. Remind them of their role as learners in seminary class and that the faith and effort they put into their daily personal scripture study and class participation affect their ability to learn by the Spirit.
Commentary and Background Information
1 Nephi 10:17–19. Learn by the power of the Holy Ghost
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized our need to learn gospel truths by the power of the Holy Ghost:
“Living the Lord’s standards requires that we cultivate the gift of the Holy Ghost. That gift helps us understand doctrine and apply it personally. Because truth given by revelation can only be understood by revelation, our studies need to be prayerful” (“Living by Scriptural Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 17).
1 Nephi 11:1. The importance of pondering
Elder Gerald N. Lund of the Seventy taught the importance of meditation in the process of seeking revelation:
“Take time to ponder and reflect. Get away from the bustle of life. Find a quiet place and take time to simply sit and think, to listen to your thoughts and feelings, to open yourself to the promptings of the Spirit. Note what the following prophets said they were doing prior to receiving important revelations. Nephi: ‘I sat pondering in my heart’ (1 Nephi 11:1). Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon: ‘While we meditated upon these things’ (D&C 76:19). Joseph F. Smith: ‘I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting’ (D&C 138:1–2). Joseph Smith: ‘My mind was called up to serious reflection. … I reflected … again and again [upon the words of James]’ (JS—H 1:8, 12).
“Sometimes we must deliberately put aside the cares of the world, put aside the rush of our daily lives, and find a quiet place and a quiet time where we can sit and ponder and reflect and meditate—and listen for that still small voice that whispers” (“The Voice of the Lord” [Brigham Young University devotional address, Dec. 2, 1997], 9–10, speeches.byu.edu).