In the vision of the tree of life that Lehi and Nephi witnessed, a “great and spacious building,” prominently juxtaposed the righteous seeking to find their way to the tree of life.
The tree had a path and an iron rod, everything you needed to get there if you really wanted to. You just had to hold to the rod and keep moving, and anyone could get there.
The building, on the other hand, was less accessible, “it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” (vs.26) There was no clear path to get there, and those inside were too busy pointing their fingers and mocking to help others get where they were.
While the elite sat in their privileged positions, many perished down beneath them, and they didn’t even seem to notice.Read Full Post
The one component of Lehi’s vision that I have been thinking about for a while now is the mist of darkness. There have been many satisfying things I have learned from meditating upon this part of the vision and pondering what it means to our personal journies through life.
In Lehi’s vision, he sees “numberless concourses” of people seeking out the path which leads to the tree of life. This can be understood to potentially represent an individual’s journey to God by trying to discover a way to him.
But just as these people find the path, this mist of darkness arises.Read Full Post
I’m not sure if anyone has made this connection before, but in studying Matthew 4, I noticed that there were some pretty striking similarities to what Jesus went through in the desert and the vision that Lehi and Nephi had.
Both accounts begin in the wilderness.
- Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness… (Matt 4:1)
- I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. 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. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. (1 Nephi 8:4-5)
Hunger and Fruit
In the desert, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights while in Lehi’s vision, he tastes the fruit of the tree after several hours (not days). This contrast between extreme hunger and the vivid description of tasting the fruit is striking.Read Full Post
Where does that idea come from? It is a question that doesn’t get asked often enough. Someone proclaims something and it sounds right, they even have reasoning that feels compelling, but where did that idea originate?
Ideas are essential and powerful; with them, one may create order or chaos. Today, we are surrounded with peddlers of ideas and there are many who stand ready to instantly adopt whatever feels right at the moment.
These words of Isaiah are wise:
Who among you fears Jehovah and heeds the voice of his servant, who, though he walk in the dark and have no light, trusts in the name of Jehovah and relies on his God?
But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled.
This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony.Isaiah 50:10-11 (IIT)
Many walk by the light of their own fires, or the fires of popular voices around them. Even with this blog, I have to make sure that while I share my own insights, I try to give credit to the source.
On the path to the tree of life, there is an iron rod that passes through a mist of darkness; God intends for us to pass through it.
Whether in the darkness or not, the iron rod must be firmly gripped with both hands; Otherwise, we may find ourselves among the popular masses pointing a finger of scorn back to those on the path.
If you cannot trace the ideas being proclaimed around you to true doctrine, to the scriptures, to the divine patterns that repeat over and over again, we may want to re-examine the validity of the premise.
In Lehi’s vision, a man in a white robe leads him into a dark and dreary waste. Who was this man? We don’t know, but Lehi simply followed him anyway.
It wasn’t until Lehi cried out for help that he was presented with the vision of the tree, the rod, the path, the mist of darkness, and the multitude of voices seeking to shame those trying to get to the tree.
Imagine being on that path and holding the rod when you begin to approach that mist of darkness with all the uncertainty and fear that would accompany the loss of your vision and the inability to identify the myriad of voices that you would hear coming from all directions.
All of a sudden, you notice another path on your left. There, the sun is shining, and many people are escaping to avoid the mists. The trail features a spectrum of colorful flowers and wildlife and stands as a stark contrast to the bleak darkness ahead.
The new option immediately becomes desirable.
But which path would you encourage those behind you to take? One looks lovely, and the other fills the mind with terror. One looks like it will bring peace, and the other will bring challenges that may be too much to bear. One looks safe, and the other could undoubtedly cause one to become lost forever. Would you encourage anyone to hold onto the rod and venture into the mists of darkness?
Finally, you notice that there are no signs warning people not to take the sunny path, no warnings at all. It’s quite simple really, all you have to do is let go of the rod and step off the path.
The truth is that we must go through the mists and we cannot be afraid to encourage others to do the same. We cannot protect people from the trial of faith that requires them to choose to hold onto the rod of iron and step into the darkness; we cannot avoid this ourselves either.
When we trace ideas back to the source and discover the iron rod, we must hold fast to it. Even though the masses in the building point the finger, mock and deride, even though the mists of darkness blind our eyes and the voices in the mist beckon us to follow them to escape the darkness, we don’t let go.
As the pride of the great and spacious building surges and their voices grow louder, as the mists grow dense and the darkness deepens, we must make a concerted effort to feel the iron rod in our hands and tighten our grips.
This is the only way to the tree of life.
“Knowest thou the condescension of God?”
This question was posed to Nephi in a vision by one he refers to as the Spirit of the Lord. (1 Nephi 11:16) I’ve read this verse many, many times and I’ve often heard young people mispronounce it as “condensation” which always cracks me up.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately though as I’ve been hovering around the tree of life vision for several months now; I keep coming back to it and finding things that interest me.
The wording of this question always struck me as somewhat awkward, and what is being implied by the word “condescension” isn’t clear. In fact, in all of scripture, we only find it 5 times and all of those occurrences are in the first three books of the Book of Mormon.
Lately, I have been struck by how shocking this question may have initially been to Nephi. In the course of his vision, he is shown the same tree from his father’s vision, then a beautiful woman, and then he gets asked this question that at this point seems out of the blueRead Full Post
My friend, Richard N. shared this image with me, and I thought it was fantastic. What is lacking in artistic skill is made up for in composition and message which I will attempt to break down as intricately as I can. The artist is Sr Grace Remington OCSO, a Cistercian Sister of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, Iowa.
I was reading Elder Uchtdorf’s Three Sisters talk from this past General Conference and something he said prompted me to look at Lehi’s vision again. I went looking for a particular verse that illustrated the moment the people went from holding the rod to grasping the fruit of the tree.
“…they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:30)
Notice that the iron rod in this vision has a beginning and an end. I don’t think that means that God’s word has a beginning or an end so why use this as a metaphor? There could be many reasons, but I’ll focus on what comes to my mind.
First, consider what hands represent.Read Full Post
“And I also beheld… a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree…” (1 Nephi 8:21)
It seems like this represents everyone in the world all searching for “the path” the truth and the meaning of life, a connection with the divine. Nobody begins on the path, they must search for it.
“And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” (vs.22-23)
One group of people that found that path went forward and followed it, but thenRead Full Post
In Lehi’s vision, there are 18 references to the fruit of the tree of life with only 9 references to the tree itself. (1 Nephi 8)
In Nephi’s vision, there is a larger focus on the tree of life with 9 references to the tree and only 1 reference to the fruit. (1 Nephi 11) When Nephi is explaining the vision to his brothers, he mentions the tree 5 times and the fruit 2 times. (1 Nephi 15) That would make a total of 14 references to the tree and 3 references to the fruit by Nephi in the context of his vision.
Lehi > fruit: 18, tree: 9
Nephi > tree: 14, fruit: 3
Symbolism can convey numerous meanings depending on how the context shifts; herein lies its power.
The tree of life bears a white fruit that captured Lehi’s attention. Immediately following the vision of this tree bearing fruit is a virgin holding a child. The implication is that the tree is synonymous with the virgin, and the fruit is synonymous with the child, or in other words, the tree is Mary, and the fruit is Jesus.
Nephi’s vision tells us that the tree also represents the love of God, as does the fountain of living waters. On another level, however, I believe that Mary may potentially represent Jesus’ spiritual mother as well — our Heavenly Mother (more on that in the future).
What does this all mean? I’m not entirely sure yet; I just found this to be an interesting observation, and I’m certain that it is significant.
If the focus of Lehi and Nephi in these visions carries over to their teachings, it makes me wonder if there is more in Nephi’s writings that could lead to a greater understanding of our Heavenly Mother.