1 Nephi 11:22-25 — LeGrand Baker — “The representation of the love of God.”
1 Nephi 11:22-25
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
24 And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him.
25 And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.
In that scripture the phrase, “the most joyous to the soul” is bracketed with “the love of God. Each is a necessary component of the other. To know joy is to love others and to be worthy of being a recipient of their love—to love and to be loved as the Saviour loves, and as he accepts our love.
The Saviour and his friends
No expanse of friendships is documented more thoroughly in the scriptures than those of the Saviour himself. He extends his friendship to his children and invites us to be his friends. Such a friendship is most sacred—it is neither casual nor nonchalant. There are clearly defined conditions to that friendship—the same conditions for our being able to be where he is. Thus, in extending the invitation, he seeks to teach us how we can qualify, and help others to qualify, to be where he is. Evidence of the Saviour’s desire to be a friend can be found as early as the story of Abraham. When King Jehoshaphat, stood in the Temple at Jerusalem, he prayed, “Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?” (2 Chronicles 20:5-7) In the New Testament, James affirmed Jehovah’s relationship with Abraham, when he wrote,
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (James 2:22)
Similarly, Moses was also regarded as Jehovah’s friend.
9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.
10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. (Exodus 33:9-11)
One of the New Testament’s repeated evidences of Jesus’s divine nature is its many references to his devotion to his friends. The Apostle John never speaks in the first person, but always refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23, 20: 2, 21:7) But John does not imply that it was only he whom Jesus loved. The story of Lazarus is a shining example of others whom Jesus loved very dearly.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. …
11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep….
32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!…
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave….
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:5-44)
That same love is expressed by Mark, when he tells the story of the rich young man.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:20-22)
The Saviour’s deepest personal feelings—the love he showed for his mother and his friend— are revealed in the very conclusion of the story of his life on the earth:
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (John 19:25-26)
Now long before that, when Jesus spoke his High-Priestly Prayer, he showed that same concern for all of the Twelve— all of us. (John 17:1-26 It is too long to quote here, but please read it.)
Luke also shows that Jesus called his apostles his friends, not so much in a casual, but in a very caring and affectionate way.
4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. (Luke 12:4-5)
In this last dispensation, Jesus spoke the same way to the Prophet Joseph and others. To his modern apostles he said,
63 And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God’s high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends. (D&C 84:63)
To those present when the Prophet received section 88, he said,
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— ….
62 And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;
65 And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.
66 Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound. (D&C 88:1-5, 62-66)
To those present when the Prophet received section 93, he said:
45 Verily, I say unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., or in other words, I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me—
46 I called you servants for the world’s sake, and ye are their servants for my sake. (D&C 93:45-46)
It was not only the apostles and the church leaders whom the Saviour called his friends. At the beginning of a revelation addressed to all the Saints in Missouri, the Saviour said,
1 Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks. (D&C 98:1)
This revelation is not unique. There are five other revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Saviour begins with a salutation were he refers to “my friends.”2 In most of these he gives them council and commandments, making it clear that even though he calls them “friends” they must keep his commandments or they cannot be where he is. The Saviour taught that principle to his apostles,
1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. ….
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:1, 34-35)
The Prophet Joseph explained,
1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy. (D&C 130:1-2)
The other places where the Saviour refers to his followers as his friends are: D&C 94:1, 97:1, 100:1, 103:1, 104:1 .