Lehi’s recounting of his dream of the tree and fruit seems to be a demarcation point in the Book of Mormon. It concludes Nephi’s summary of his father’s ministry and the start of his own - “And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry” (1 Nephi 10:1.)
Interestingly, he begins by recounting some details about Lehi’s sweeping prophecies regarding Jerusalem’s destruction, the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, the need for and advent of the Savior, the Savior’s crucifixion, the scattering of Israel, and their eventual gathering. Nephi then continues, “I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:17.)
Note that Nephi includes seeing, hearing, and knowing. Unless sense of sight and sound are compromised in some way, or we deliberately close or cover our eyes and ears, seeing and hearing are automatic physiological functions. I am learning, however, that seeing and hearing do not automatically result in knowing. Knowing requires effort. We must choose to receive such knowledge into our souls and then align ourselves with it. In a gospel sense, the ultimate knowing is when the truths we see and hear are applied and shape all that we desire, think, say, and do. This is true gospel knowing.
Elder Maxwell taught:
Truth includes, but is not limited to, knowledge that corresponds to reality—things as they were, things as they are, and things as they will be (Jacob 4:13; D&C 93:24). Gospel truth is ‘morally richer,’ therefore, than the world’s definition of truth, as Terry Warner has written (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 4 [New York: Macmillan Co., 1992], p. 1490). Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). He has ‘received a fulness of truth’ (D&C 93:26). Hence, we are to seek to have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Furthermore, as to the ‘manner’ of people we are to become, it is clear we are to strive to become ‘even as’ Jesus is (3 Nephi 27:27; see also 2 Peter 3:11). If we keep the commandments, the promise is that we will receive ‘truth and light’ until we are ‘glorified in truth and knoweth all things’ (D&C 93:28). Therefore, gaining knowledge and becoming more Christlike ‘are two aspects of a single process’ (Warner, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 4, p. 1490). This process is part of being ‘valiant’ in our testimony of Jesus. Thus, while we are saved no faster than we gain a certain type of knowledge, it is also the case, as Richard Bushman has observed, that we will gain knowledge no faster than we are saved (Teachings, p. 217). So we have a fundamentally different understanding of knowledge and truth—behaving and knowing are inseparably linked. “So defined, the gospel is inexhaustible because there is not only so much to know, but also so much to become! The vital truths are not merely accumulated in the mind but are expressed in life as well. Intelligence is ‘the glory of God,’ as we all know. It is defined as ‘light and truth’ (D&C 93:36). The revelations also inform us that if we have ‘more knowledge and intelligence in this life,’ we will have ‘so much the advantage in the world to come’ (D&C 130:18–19). I do not pretend to be able to be definitive with regard to this last verse, but, clearly, what we carry forward, brothers and sisters, involves developing our capacity for cognition as well as application. This sets us apart from the world. I hope we understand some of the implications of all these things. Certainly, what we will carry forward is more than what we now term as IQ or databases. It is the entire being of the individual. Hence our approach to knowledge, truth, and wisdom is markedly different (“The Inexhaustible Gospel,” BYU Speeches, Neal A. Maxwell, 18 August 1992).
Why did Nephi have such desires to see, hear, and know? Nephi explains that the power of the Holy Ghost “is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” Why? Nephi knew that “[God] is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round” (1 Nephi 10:17-19.)
This succinct statement contains some wonderful truths:
- [God] is the same yesterday, today, and forever - this is the constant, stabilizing fact on which we can place our faith. We need not wonder if tomorrow or some time in the distant future God will decide to desire, think, say, do, or be something different. Because of this, we can put our faith in him. This point is reinforced by Moroni toward the end of the Book of Mormon. He taught:
“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles. But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are” (Morm. 9:9–11.)
- The way is prepared for all men if they repent and come unto him - God has mercifully prepared a way - the great plan of happiness - which is made possible through the gift of His Son. Since we are not perfect, like God, we must repent, or turn to Him. There is no shadow of changing in Him, but there must be for us.
- He that diligently seeketh shall find - God is not playing hide and seek. When we sincerely seek him, His promise is we will find him.
- The mysteries of the kingdom shall be unfolded by the power of the Holy Ghost - the mysteries of the kingdom are essential truths that must be revealed from God. These essential truths are mysteries to many because they do not seek or qualify for the required revelation to know them. Not only can we come to know God’s truths cognitively, they can be manifest in all of our desires, thought, actions, and words. In other words, they help us to overcome the natural man. This is truly mysterious to the natural man.
The summary truth Nephi offers is “the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” This has long been an intriguing expression for me. Does this expression suggest that God is on an eternal merry-go-round or stuck in an infinite do-loop? I think not. God’s course is as eternal and unchanging as he is. He knows how to help his children be happy. We don't need to worry that the plan or associated commandments will change at some point. We should also not worry that he will grow tired of this work. As Elder Maxwell observed, “Even though His course is’one eternal round’ (1 Ne. 10:19; D&C 3:2), as the plan of salvation is executed and re-executed, again and again, in realms beyond our purview, His love is constant and personal” (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1994/06/wisdom-and-order?lang=eng.)
The process described in the prior sentences of repenting, seeking, and unfolding never ends. It is as eternal as God’s nature - an eternal round. Abiding by this precept draws me closer to God.