I am reading Brant Gardner’s Commentary on 1 Nephi (through the good offices of Santa Claus).
After Lehi has his vision of the tree of life, Nephi seeks a revelation explaining it. Nephi gets his revelation, in job lots. He is shown the iniquity of his own descendants and told that they are the meaning of the filthy water his father saw:
And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the people of my seed gathered together in multitudes aagainst the seed of my brethren; and they were gathered together to battle.
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.
Nephi is also revealed that his own descendants will be wiped out, by his brothers’!, and that his brothers’ descendants will become loathsome.
Some revelation. Cheery stuff.
No one would like to hear this about their descendendants, but Gardner’s Commentary drew my attention to how hard it was for Nephi specifically. Nephi tells us that he was “overcome with his afflictions.” No wonder. Nephi had already suffered much to this point. The promise that kept him going, the compensation in his heart, was the Lord’s promise of land and seed. He killed Laban to keep his seed righteous. And now the Lord reveals to him that it will all come to nothing. No wonder Nephi crumbles.
The Lord’s cruelty is coherent. Nephi’s revelation is also the first clear Book of Mormon statement of Jesus Christ, the Atoning Messiah. So in total the revelation is moving Nephi away from the temporal, this-worldly Israelite-style promises of land and seed to the other-wordly, lasting promise of redemption and salvation through the blood of the Lord. There is a point to smashing Nephi’s hopes. It just involves smashing, is all.
The Lord loves us. His love is not kindly, however. Or if it is, the kindness is the kindness of the surgeon and the knife.