After Nephi received a vision similar to the vision his father had received, he returned to his father’s tent. There he found his brothers disputing over Lehi’s teachings. Nephi chastised his brothers 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. 1 Nephi 15 contrasts Nephi’s diligent efforts to seek the truth with the casual efforts of his brothers (see 1 Nephi 15:9–11).
Suggestions for Teaching
Nephi’s brothers complain that they cannot understand Lehi’s vision
Ask students to list several activities that require effort on our part before we can enjoy the results. You may want to list their responses on the board. (Answers might include schoolwork, gardening, playing a musical instrument, playing a sport, and physical exercise. Invite students to think of examples they have experienced.)
For the activities you are thinking of, what relationship have you seen between the effort you make and the results that follow?
After students respond to this question, encourage them to look for a similar pattern in this lesson as they study 1 Nephi 15.
Tell students 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, 7 aloud. Ask the class to look 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 brothers disputing about? Why?
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 15:3 aloud. Ask the class to identify the reason why Nephi’s brothers were struggling to understand the things Lehi had taught them.
According to 1 Nephi 15:3, why were Nephi’s brothers having difficulty understanding the things Lehi taught them?
What did Nephi do to learn spiritual truths? (To help students answer this question, you may want to have them read 1 Nephi 10:17.)
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 15:8 aloud.
Considering that Nephi had just received heavenly visions in response to his questions (see 1 Nephi 11–14), why was it natural for him to ask his brothers if they had inquired of the Lord?
Ask a student to read 1 Nephi 15:9 aloud. Then ask another student to write the response of Nephi’s brothers on the board:
We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
On the board, underline the phrase “we have not.”
What had Nephi’s brothers not done?
Insert the answer (inquired of the Lord, prayed, or asked the Lord) into the sentence on the board so it now reads:
We have not inquired of the Lord; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
(In other words, “We haven’t asked, because the Lord doesn’t speak to us.”)
What was the problem with Laman and Lemuel’s thinking?
Be sure students recognize the flaw in Nephi’s brothers’ thinking. Invite them to rearrange or rephrase the sentence on the board so it clearly describes why Nephi’s brothers had not received the Lord’s help in understanding Lehi’s teachings. Possible answers may include “The Lord maketh no such thing known unto us because we have not inquired of Him” and “Because we haven’t asked the Lord, He has not made these things known unto us.”
Ask a student to read 1 Nephi 15:10–11 aloud. Have the class look for truths Nephi taught his brothers to help them learn how to obtain answers from God.
What counsel did Nephi give his brothers to help them understand their father’s words and receive answers from God? (Nephi counseled his brothers to not harden their hearts, to ask in faith, to believe that they would receive an answer, and to be diligent in keeping the commandments. Help students see that Nephi knew the value of these principles because he had followed them himself and had received revelation as a result.)
To help students identify principles from these verses, write the following on the board:
If … , then …
Based on what we read in 1 Nephi 15:10–11, how might we complete this statement?
Students may use different words, but they should demonstrate understanding that if we inquire of the Lord in faith and obey His commandments, then we will be prepared to receive revelation and guidance from Him. (You may want to write this principle on the board.)
Prepare the following questions before class, either on the board or as a handout:
How might you explain this principle to help someone understand how to be taught by the Lord and understand spiritual truths?
How have your personal efforts affected your ability to receive the Lord’s guidance and understand the gospel?
Arrange students in pairs. In each pair, have one partner ponder the first question and the other partner ponder the second question. Have them share their answers with each other. After students have had sufficient time to discuss their answers, invite a few to share their thoughts with the class. Emphasize that our effort and desire to seek the Spirit’s direction can have a significant impact on our testimonies and our closeness to the Lord.
Nephi explains the scattering and gathering of Israel
Briefly summarize 1 Nephi 15:12–20. Explain that to help resolve his brothers’ disputations, 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; see also 1 Nephi 10:12–14).
Testify that the Lord keeps His promises and remembers His covenants with His children. He desires all to receive the blessings of the gospel.
Nephi answers his brothers’ questions about Lehi’s vision
Explain that in the remainder of 1 Nephi 15, we read Nephi’s answers to his brothers’ questions about Lehi’s vision. Nephi used what he learned in his own vision to teach them.
Display the following statements by President Ezra Taft Benson on the board or in a handout. Invite students to guess the word or phrase that should be inserted into each sentence.
“In the __________ … we can find the power to resist temptation.”
“The __________ … has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit.”
“His __________ is one of the most valuable gifts He has given us.”
Once a few students have shared their guesses, ask a student to read 1 Nephi 15:23–24 aloud. Invite students to look for a phrase in this passage that will help them accurately complete the statements by President Benson. After the verses have been read, ask students to again guess the word or phrase that completes each of the statements. Review the correct answers with the class. (Answers: 1—word of God; 2—word of God; 3—word. [See “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 80, 82.])
Have students search 1 Nephi 15:24–25 silently. Invite half of the students to identify in these verses some blessings of following the word of God. Ask the other half of the class to identify words or phrases that suggest how we should follow the word of God in order to receive those blessings. Have each group share what they find.
What do we need to do to “hearken,” “hold fast,” and “give heed” to the word of God? (Answers might include daily scripture study, listening to and heeding the counsel of inspired Church leaders, and seeking and following personal revelation through prayer.)
Invite students to state in their own words a principle that summarizes what these verses teach about scripture study and the blessings it brings into our lives. One possible answer is that studying and following the word of God daily strengthens us against Satan’s temptations. To give students an opportunity to testify of this principle, ask:
When has daily personal scripture study strengthened you against temptation? (Remind students that they do not need to share experiences that are too personal or private.)
Read the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“So essential are these truths that Heavenly Father gave both Lehi and Nephi visions vividly representing the word of God as a rod of iron. Both father and son learned that holding to this strong, unbending, utterly reliable guide is the only way to stay on that strait and narrow path that leads to our Savior” (“Holy Scriptures: The Power of God unto Our Salvation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 25).
Remind students that in Lehi’s vision, those who held fast to the iron rod were led safely through the mists of darkness, which represented the temptations of the devil (see 1 Nephi 12:17).
Briefly summarize 1 Nephi 15:26–29. Tell students that Nephi’s brothers asked him to explain the meaning of the river their father saw in his vision. He explained that it represented an awful hell prepared for the wicked, separating them from God and His people.
What did Nephi notice about the river of water that his father had not noticed? (That the water was filthy.)
Explain that in 1 Nephi 15:33–36, Nephi teaches about the justice of God and why the wicked will be separated from the righteous. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 15:33–36.
Why will the wicked be separated from the righteous?
How might knowing that no unclean person can enter the kingdom of God have helped Laman and Lemuel?
Encourage students to consider the principles they learned in 1 Nephi 15 by pondering the following questions silently:
In what ways do Lehi and Nephi’s visions show God’s interest in Laman and Lemuel? In what ways do they show God’s interest in you?
What can you do to apply the principles you have learned as you have studied this chapter? (You may want to invite students to write responses to this question in their scripture study journals or class notebooks.)
Consider concluding the lesson by rereading 1 Nephi 15:25 to the class. Share your testimony of the blessings that come when we heed the word of God and keep His commandments. Assure them of the great love God has for them and that He will bless them in their righteous efforts.
Commentary and Background Information
1 Nephi 15:12–13. Jews and Gentiles
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified the “Jews” and “Gentiles” spoken of in 1 Nephi 15: “Both Lehi and Nephi divide all men into two camps, Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were either the nationals of the kingdom of Judah or their descendants; all others were considered to be Gentiles. Thus, we are the Gentiles of whom this scripture [1 Nephi 15:13] speaks; we are the ones who have received the fulness of the gospel; and we shall take it to the Lamanites, who are Jews, because their fathers came from Jerusalem and from the kingdom of Judah” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 556). Note that the Lamanites were considered Jews because their ancestors had come from the land of Judah.
Elder McConkie also specifically identified Gentiles who would greatly assist in the Restoration: “Joseph Smith … was the Gentile by whose hand the Book of Mormon came forth, and the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … are the Gentiles who carry salvation to the Lamanites and to the Jews” (The Millennial Messiah , 233). Even though Joseph Smith and others who brought forth the Book of Mormon were part of the house of Israel through their blood line, they were considered Gentiles because they were not from the land of Judah.
1 Nephi 15:13–16. Latter-day Restoration of the gospel
President Gordon B. Hinckley declared: “My brethren and sisters, do you realize what we have? Do you recognize our place in the great drama of human history? This is the focal point of all that has gone before. This is the season of restitution. These are the days of restoration. This is the time when men from over the earth come to the mountain of the Lord’s house to seek and learn of His ways and to walk in His paths. This is the summation of all of the centuries of time since the birth of Christ to this present and wonderful day” (“At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 74).