1 Nephi 8:2 The Pattern of Revelation Continues
As in 1 Nephi 1-7, the revelations continue in chapter 8 with what may be considered one of the most significant visions ever recorded. Indeed, Lehi’s dream of the tree of life is in a sense the introduction to—and a major theme of—the rest of the Book of Mormon (and it can be looked at as the theme of our lives on earth).
1 Nephi 8:30 First Things First
It is helpful to begin with what is likely the most important element in Lehi’s dream: The tree and its fruit. We may conclude that the tree ultimately represents Jesus Christ, His love, and eternal life in His presence (see also 1 Nephi 11:7, 21-24; 15:36; D&C 14:7).
In 1 Nephi 8:30, Lehi saw those who were “continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the tree” (emphasis added). Why did they fall down, rather than reaching up to pluck and eat of the fruit? It is because they had actually come into the presence of the Savior, as indicated in 1 Nephi 11:24, wherein Nephi is learning from the Spirit the meaning of the dream: “I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him” (emphasis added).
What else would one do upon entering the presence of the Lord? This is reminiscent of Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s final testimony, given in general conference less than two weeks before his death. He declared: “I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears” (“The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, May 1985)
1 Nephi 8:4-34 Seeing Ourselves in the Dream
Lehi’s dream is most valuable as we apply it to ourselves:
- We are making our way through life, which can be a dark and dreary wilderness (verses 4, 7, 9, 20).
- We are being helped by heavenly guidance (verses 5-6).
- We see and desire the sweet fruit that brings happiness and “exceedingly great joy” (verses 10-12).
- We invite our loved ones and others to join us in partaking of the fruit of the tree (verses 12-18).
- We encounter difficulties in the forms of a river of filthy water (verse 13); a mist of darkness (verse 23); and the mocking, scoffing, and scorning of the world (verses 26-28, 33).
- We learn how to stay on the strait and narrow path to the tree by clinging and “continually holding fast” to the rod of iron (verses 19-21, 24, 30).
And we come across several groups of people (compare to the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23):
- “Numberless” people get onto the path and commence their way, but they encounter a mist of darkness, “wander off,” and are lost (verses 21-23).
- Others press forward, catch hold and “cling” to the rod of iron, come to the tree and partake of its fruit, yet become ashamed through scorning and fall into “forbidden paths,” and are lost (verses 24-25, 28, 34).
- Other multitudes feel their way toward the already-crowded great and spacious building; many becoming drowned in the water and many others wandering in “strange roads” (verses 26-27, 31-33).
- Yet other multitudes also press forward, catch hold of the rod and continually hold fast, and come forth and partake of the fruit. They are also mocked and scorned, but they do not heed (verses 30, 33).
Does all this sound like our lives on earth? Speaking of Lehi’s dream, Elder Boyd K. Packer taught: “If you hold to the rod, you can feel your way forward with the gift of the Holy Ghost…. You will be able to feel the influence of the angels, as Nephi did, and feel your way through life.” (“Lehi’s Dream and You,” BYU Devotional, 16 January 2007)
1 Nephi 8:10-12 The Sweet Fruit
In what ways do you feel you have tasted of this sweet fruit in your life? It is inspiring to realize that even though partaking of the fruit represents being in the Lord’s presence, we get to enjoy tiny “morsels” of the fruit that He leaves for us along the difficult path to Him. What are some of the “foretastes” of heavenly happiness and joy that we get to experience, even as we make our way through mists of darkness?
1 Nephi 8:24-34 To “Heed Not” the Mocking, Scorning, and Scoffing
What are the characteristics and strategies of those in the great and spacious building? What must we do—and not do—in order to reject their attempts to influence us?
1 Nephi 9:1-6 Nephi’s Record
What did Nephi say are the purposes of his two sets of plates? (see also 1 Nephi 6). In verses 2-5, “these plates” refers to what we call the small plates of Nephi (1 Nephi through Omni); while “the other plates” are his large plates (Mosiah through Fourth Nephi, as abridged by Mormon).
Nephi had been keeping a “full account” of his people on the large plates, containing “the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions” (verses 2, 4). But then, over 2,000 years before the need arose, the Lord foresaw and provided the solution for a serious problem by inspiring Nephi to create a second set of plates, with an account of the “ministry” of Nephi and his people (verses 3, 5). The need for this second record arose in 1828, when the first 116 pages of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon plates were lost. The Lord instructed Joseph not to start over, but to continue with the superior version, as contained in Nephi’s small plates (verses 5-6; see also 1 Nephi 19:1-4; Words of Mormon 1:3-7; D&C 10:38-45).
1 Nephi 10:2-14, 18-19 Lehi’s Prophecies
Lehi prophesied of the captivity, unbelief, scattering, gathering, and redemption of Israel. Additionally, what things did Lehi and Nephi specifically teach about Jesus Christ?
- He would come to earth 600 years after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem (verse 4).
- He would be called the Messiah (meaning “Anointed One”), the Savior and Redeemer of the world, the Lamb of God, and the Son of God (verses 4-6, 10, 17).
- He would be slain and then rise from the dead (verse 11).
- He would make Himself manifest to the Gentiles and to the House of Israel (verses 11, 14).
What do verses 17-19 teach about seeking the things of God? In what ways can you more diligently seek and come unto Christ?