1 Nephi 11:22-25 — LeGrand Baker – “the most joyous to the soul.”

1 Nephi 11:22-25 {1}

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 our scripture, “the most joyous to the soul” is bracketed by”the love of God.” Nephi notes that the “love of God” is “the most desirable above all things.” The angel responds, “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” As one examines other scriptures, it becomes apparent that love and joy are more than just necessary components of each other. Rather, they are equivalents. “Love” as used in this context, and “joy” as the angel expresses it, are simply the same thing. 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 Savior loves, and as he accepts our love.

Our very lives testify that this is true. As we acknowledge the eternal reality of a dear friend, we become more alive. We begin to rediscover the eternal truth of who and what that friend was, is, and will be. That recognition opens a window through which we can get a glimpse of our own eternal Self. The light that emanates from the soul of one’s friend penetrates just a bit of the veil that clouds our memory of our own past eternal self. It reveals a shining new aspect of a forgotten portion of who and what we were before we came into this world. It does that by teaching us who our friend was and how dearly we loved him.

As we re-experience the light that is his personality and goodness, we feel again the love we shared for each other before we came into mortality. The friendship brings more truth, light, and love that blend anew into a unity of joy. It gives new vibrance to our lives and helps us overcome the loneliness of this otherwise dreary world. Thus the friendship makes both beings more complete—more of what and who we were. The friend’s light seems also to extend a beckoning hand even beyond the veil of death that obscures the hope of our eternal future.

The love of God is something within us—it is the ultimate power of our souls. It is within us in something like the way that the light reflected by a mirror is within in the mirror. Our love for God is a gift of the Spirit, and so it is a reflection of his love for us. Mormon said it succinctly: “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:47).

The prophets of the Book of Mormon equate the word “charity” with an exalting love. It is Nephi’s message, beginning with his statement that the “love of God” is the most desirous of all things; to the sobriety of his poem, “He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh”; to the solemnity of his warning, “wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing.”{2}

No expanse of friendships is documented more thoroughly in the scriptures than those of the Savior himself. He invites us to be his friends. Such a friendship is most sacred—it is neither casual nor nonchalant. There are clearly defined conditions that are prerequisite to the fruits of that friendship—they are the same conditions for our being forever where he is. Notwithstanding the certainty of the laws of redemption, this friendship is not a somber affair, as is testified by Heber C. Kimball:

I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit. That is one reason why I know; and another is—the Lord said, through Joseph Smith, “I delight in a glad heart and a cheerful countenance.” That arises from the perfection of His attributes; He is a jovial, lively person, and a beautiful man.{3}

In extending the invitation to us to come to where he is, the Savior seeks to teach us how we can qualify, and help others to qualify, so we may be there. Both the qualifications and the fruit of salvation are, as both Mormon and Peter described, love and joy (Moroni 8:26, 1 Peter 1:7-9).

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 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 (John 11:5-44). That same love is expressed by Mark, when he tells the story of the rich young man (Mark 10:21).

The Savior understood, and frequently tried to teach, that salvation is a state of unity with the Savior and also with others whom we love. That is the dominant theme in the great intercessory prayer which he delivered the night before he was crucified (John 17:1-26). It was not only the apostles and other church leaders whom the Savior called his friends. 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).

Jesus’s half-brother James understood the importance of this commandment and its implicit relationship with sacral kingship. He wrote, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8 ).

James’s reference to the “royal law” was written in the covenant context of the gospel. The scriptures approach it by two ways, but the destination is the same. Charity describes what one is; the law of consecration describes what one does. The consequence of both is peace, love, and joy. The gospel of John puts that concept in an eternal perspective (John 15:8-12).

The point is, love is not only the criterion by which our lives will be judged, it is also the definition of our eternal Selves. It is the sealing power that will enable us to live eternally with those we love and those who love us in return. Priesthood is necessary to perform the sealing ordinances, but ultimately it is love that is the sealing power that enables us to be a part of the celestial world.
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FOOTNOTES

{1} See: 1 Nephi 8:10-12, Lehi’s description of the tree, the water, and the fruit.

{2} 1 Nephi 11:22-25; 2 Nephi 4:21, 26:30, 31:20.

{3} Journal of Discourses, 4:222.

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