We must continue on with the “tree of life” vision that Nephi saw because there is a lot more symbolism that needs to be addressed.
If we were to jump ahead in our reading of the Book of Mormon we would see many times where Nephi teaches principles that he learned because of this vision he was shown. A significant detail is revealed about Jesus Christ in 2 Nephi 25, as Nephi gives commentary on the words of Isaiah from the previous Isaiah chapters contained in that book. I believe he learned this particular detail from what he was shown in this earlier vision.
Look for what Nephi specifically draws our attention to about Christ in the following verse:
2 Nephi 25:12 But, behold, they shall have wars, and rumors of wars; and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh, behold, they will reject him, because of their iniquities, and the hardness of their hearts, and the stiffness of their necks.
An important thing Nephi specifically wants us to know is that Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father. I repeat, Christ was begotten of The Father. The definition for the word begat, or begotten, is typically that of bringing a child into existence by the process of reproduction; to procreate as the father or sire. I believe it is literally that.
In a talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson titled “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ”, the same idea is discussed.
President Benson states:
There are those who would seek to convince you that the divine birth of Christ as proclaimed in the New Testament was not a divine birth at all—nor was Mary, the Virgin girl, a virgin at the time of Jesus’ conception. They would have you believe that Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, was His physical father, and that Jesus was, therefore, human in all His attributes and characteristics. They appear generous in their praise of Him when they say that He was a great moral philosopher, perhaps even the greatest. But the intent of their effort is to repudiate the divine sonship of Jesus; for on that doctrine rest all other claims of Christianity.
I am bold to say to you young people tonight: Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. He was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!
It seems very clear to me… but how did Nephi know? Again, just as Nephi knew the symbolism of the divine feminine was the tree, I believe he also understood the symbolism for “living water”.
There is something very particular about Nephi’s vision that was lacking in the retelling of Lehi’s vision. In Lehi’s vision we are told that Nephi remembered his father speaking of a fountain of water that flowed into a river. This fountain was located in the opposite direction of the tree. What either Lehi or Nephi neglected to mention is that this fountain and river were filthy, and that there was another fountain in the vision too.
Look for where the other fountain is.
1 Nephi 11:25 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.
It is interesting to notice that the water, specifically the fountain or head of the waters, and the tree are in the same place, or are referred to as one thing. Both become a representation of “the love of God”. The fountain of living waters and the tree together produce the fruit, which is desirable above all other fruit.
According to specific Kabbalistic traditions and early oral traditional rabbinical teachings, the “living waters”, and light for that matter, can be equated with “male sexual energy, specifically as semen”. It is a life force that flows among and animates the world. (Source: A Guide to the Zohar by Arthur Green) I believe Nephi would have understood very clearly what “living waters” would have represented.
Conversely, let us consider the other water referred to in the vision, that of the fountain of filthy water. It did not have a tree connected with it. It produced nothing. It became a representation of the depths of hell, or damnation.
1 Nephi 12:16 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.
The location of this fountain of filthy water is in the polar opposite direction of the fountain of living waters, and the tree. It has no life giving energy to it at all; in fact it took life as “many were drowned in the depths of the fountain”.
When we look at the symbolism of what living water represents it is no wonder that, according to Jewish tradition, the “font” was a feminine entity, or a receptacle for the living waters. Guess what…. the tabernacle, or temple itself was also considered a feminine entity.
There is simply so much to ponder…