1 Nephi 11:22-23 — LeGrand Baker — “it is the love of God.”

1 Nephi 11:22-23 

22. And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, that 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.

The symbolism of a glorious tree is an appropriate representation of the love of God. It represents “the most desirable above all things” and “the most joyous to the soul.” The reason lies in both the beauty of the tree and the taste of the fruit. We cannot imagine a more meaningful symbol, because a tree is a tangible example of towering strength and endurance. It is our protection from the unexpected thunder storm. We are nurtured by its fruit, just as we are sustained by pure waters. They become the source of our energy, of our continuance in life, of our personal fulfillment—a fundamental part of our very being.

Our personal sense of fulfillment never comes in tandem with a sense of our being alone. We are most completely ourselves when we are with those whom we love. The fulfillment comes through our sustaining them, and of our being sustained by them—of being one with them—so that as we feel that togetherness we are more completely our Selves than we can be otherwise. There is a place in our souls that can be filled only with those whom we love. When they are not there, their place feels empty. The tree of life which represents the Savior’s love for us, and bears the fruit that is the nourishment of our souls, represents that eternal togetherness. Similarly, the sacred Temple Feast—like our the sacrament— represented to the ancients their returning to the Garden of Eden where one may be with God. It is hearing the voice of God saying, “I am your friend”—it is an eternal embrace.

Nephi said the Tree of Life “ is the love of God, that sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men.” There we get the sense of a beautiful fall day when the fully ripened leaves fall to the welcoming earth. In the word “sheddeth,” we find a multiplicity of ideas. Since almost everywhere in the scriptures “shedding” has to do with shedding blood, when we consider Nephi’s description of the tree, we think of the sacrificial blood sprinkled upon the altar, the tabernacle and the priests to purify them on the Day of Atonement. Thus, Nephi may have been describing the symbolism of the atoning powers of the Savior. Isaiah understood that blood of the Day of Atonement represented the Savior’s redeeming power (Isaiah 52:15, 3 Nephi 20:45), as did Peter (1 Peter 1:2).

There is another symbolic image in Nephi’s words, “sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men”—it is that of one standing under a tree of light that is dropping its burden of anointing oil—and the oil appears to be a display of dazzling lights. That may have been the kind of “shedding” Nephi was alluding to—an anointing of light—a baptism of fire.

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