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Baptism Understood in Light of the Tree of Life Vision (2 Nephi 31)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 10:
“This Is the Way” (2 Nephi 31-33)




In the Book of Mormon, Lehi has a vision of the Tree of Life and later Nephi has a vision interpreting it. Nephi’s interpretive vision and subsequent Nephite discourse highlight the importance of baptism as a component of the path of salvation outlined in Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions. One example of this linking discourse in found in Alma 5:62, “I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life.”

In 1 Nephi 8:5-12 Lehi describes the first part of his vision,

5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.
6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.
7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.
10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

Lehi thus follows this man and ultimately comes to partake of the Tree of Life. Later he will describe the path that leads to the tree. Nowhere in this record of Lehi’s vision is baptism explicitly described, so where do we get the idea the baptism and the Tree of Life are somehow related?

In 1 Nephi 11, Nephi has a vision in which the Spirit of the Lord explains to him many aspects of the vision his father. We begin at verse 21 where the meaning of the tree is explored.

21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
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.
26 And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
27 And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
28 And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.

So in answer to the question of the meaning of the tree, Nephi is shown a series of vignettes from the life of the Savior. Among these, he is specifically shown the baptism of the Savior.

In 2 Nephi 31:4-21 Nephi discusses further the baptism of the Lamb of God, likely drawing upon what he learned in his vision, but this time drawing out the lessons that remained implicit in his narrative of the vision. His starting point in verse 4 is the same point that received focus in his vision, the baptism of the Son of God by the prophet who should prepare the way before him.

4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

Nephi thus establishes the necessity of baptism by a comparative argument, but he also simultaneously establishes baptism as an essential component of righteousness. He then turns to the question of why Jesus was baptized beginning at verse 6

6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.

It appears that the key reason why baptism fulfilled all righteousness was that the Son demonstrated humility toward the Father and complete willingness to obey his commandments.

8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.

A second function of the baptism of the Savior is to illustrate the path of salvation, to exemplify the strait and narrow way by his passing through all of its ordinances as our Example in all things. Baptism is thus identified as an essential component of that path. Continuing with verse 10

10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

When Lehi describes his version of the vision it begins with a man who “spake unto me, and bade me follow him.” Lehi’s guide through the vision appears to functionally represent the Lord in Nephi’s vision in that if you follow them, including in ritual example, you will proceed safely through the strait and narrow path to partake of the fruit.

11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

After highlighting the importance of enduring to the end, Nephi clarifies further the importance of baptism within the strait and narrow path, beginning in verse 17.

17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.
18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

This, then, places baptism as the gate of entry to the strait and narrow path, but this is the beginning in many respects rather than the end of the path. Continuing in verse 19,

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Knowing these things, it befits us to enter into the covenant path by baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure unto the end and in all of these ways follow the example of Christ, who is the Way, and the one whom we should trust and follow for life and salvation.

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