I know that most people would probably expect to see the picture of Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life, but I chose a picture that represents the whole reason for the vision. The image below is definitely “worth a thousand words”. (Hopefully it’s not too graphic for you.)
Why these disturbing images? Well I couldn’t help but notice how often the “Lamb” of God was referred to during Nephi’s vision. A quick list of references will illustrate: 1 Ne. 11:21,27,31,32,34,35,36; 12:6,8,9,10,11,18; 13:24,26,28,29,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41. WOW! And it doesn’t stop there… keep looking on pages 25-30 in the next reading assignment and you will find it another 17 times! Jesus Christ is the “Lamb” that was slain for us (Isaiah 53), and Nephi wants us to KNOW IT!
Dr. David Bokovoy, a colleague of mine who studied at Brandeis University, taught me about something called “Leitwort” (Leading/Theme word)–the intentional use of a word, over and over again to highlight a theme within a text (many examples are found in the Bible and other Hebrew texts). Without a doubt (to me) Nephi’s use of the “Lamb” of God is to bring us back, over and over, to the central figure of the vision of the Tree of Life—Jesus Christ—so that we don’t get lost in the vision like so many others literally did.
By the time Nephi’s vision ends in chapter 14, one will have read the word “Lamb” over 43 times. That is some serious “Leitwort”! This is indeed a snapshot of the leitwort that makes up The Book of Mormon—Jesus Christ.
My wife, Hilary, once read the entire Book of Mormon and marked each reference to Jesus Christ by His many titles. She would tally the total at the end of each page. It is incredible to flip through the pages, with so much marked, and realize that she was marking references made to the Savior. Perhaps you have done the same.
In a study conducted by Dr. Susan Easton Black it was determined that 101 names for Jesus are found in 3,925 references to Him in the Book of Mormon’s 6,607 verses–an average of once every 1.7 verses, from the first reference to Him as “Lord” (1 Ne. 1:1) to the final name of “Eternal Judge” (Moro. 10:34). Maybe you will want to make that part of your personal Book of Mormon Translation Challenge. If not, it would at least be worth your time to find the references made to the “Lamb” of God in these pages.
Don’t forget about leitwort as you continue reading. Leitwort can help you identify the intent of the author and the message that they wished to convey. The video below will be very helpful for those seeking to understand the connection between lambs and the Lamb of God. Happy reading!
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