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.
“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. And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.”(1 Nephi 23-24)
The only ones who make it through are those that cling to the iron rod, which Nephi later explains is a representation of the word of God. There is one fact here that cannot be underestimated: EVERYONE ENTERS THE DARKNESS. The darkness cannot be avoided, there is no way around it, one must go through it.
But what exactly are these mists? Nephi tells us that they are the temptations of the devil that blind eyes and harden hearts.
“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.”(1 Nephi 12:17)
Temptation doesn’t have to be sensual or attractive the natural man. It can be tempting to give up, to surrender, to be ashamed, or angry. A term I hear in some circles is “the dark night of the soul” which can come in many forms.
Someone’s faith could be challenged by studying criticisms and lacking the information to counter them. An unexpected loss or infliction of extreme pain or suffering of a loved one could cause it.
Nephi did not mention the mists of darkness as a symbolic element like Lehi saw them, rather, he saw their literal fulfillment in the context of the destruction of his people.
“And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof. And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.”(1 Nephi 12:4-5)
Nephi sees things on a greater scale, that of his people’s history, but Lehi’s vision was more personal, the context seems to be an individual’s journey to salvation.
One thing is for certain, each of us will have to enter this darkness. You, your spouse, your children, your parents and friends, everyone. Seek out wisdom from those that have been there and found their way to the tree of life.
But more importantly, help the young prepare because you cannot protect them from this. As Jordon Peterson wrote:
“It is far better to render beings in your care competent than to protect them.”Jordon Peterson, 12 Rules for Life
The scriptures teach us how to make it through the mist of darkness and I have been reading several examples of this in the New Testament this year.