1 Nephi 8 tweet: Lh sees a vision: a fruitful tree, a rod & mist, a G&S building. He sees grps of people: pressing, partaking, wandering, drowning, pointing.
Before working through the second half of the chapter, I want to consider something else that appears to be at play in Lehi’s vision. It’s perhaps best expressed by Michael Austin who says:
The narrative arc of this vision—the act of eating a piece of fruit and being ashamed—is one of those stories that invariably focus our attention back to a type: the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. But there is a difference here–and it is one with profound implications for the way that we read the entire Book of Mormon: in Lehi’s vision, eating the fruit is the right thing to do.
The story in Genesis says that eating a particular fruit is bad, that people should be ashamed for doing so, and that fruit-eating brought a curse upon humankind. The story in the Book of Mormon says that eating a particular fruit is good, that those who try to make us feel ashamed of the fruit are not agents of God, and that the sense of shame, not the fruit itself, is the bad thing.1
What do you think of the idea of Lehi’s vision as a way of correcting the story of the Fall? In what other ways do Lehi’s vision and the story of Adam and Eve compare and contrast (e.g. Lehi partakes and beckons Sariah vs Eve partakes and beckons Adam)?
On with the text:
v21: The phrase “numberless concourses” only appears three times in the Book of Mormon. The first instance is in Lehi’s earlier vision in which he saw “numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.” The other instance is actually Alma recalling Lehi’s vision of angels (see Alma 36:22). Do you think we are supposed to contrast the numberless concourses of angels with the numberless concourses of people trying to obtain the path? If so, what is Lehi trying to teach us?
Additionally, and in light of the context of this chapter (i.e. the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Lehi’s sons seeking wives and ultimately seed), do you think that the numberless concourses might allude to the promises made to Abraham (e.g. D&C 132:30)?
v23: Where do you think the mist of darkness comes from? Perhaps the river of water? If so, what would that symbolise? The only reference to a mist of darkness outside of the Book of Mormon is found in 2 Peter 2:17. How does this verse add to our understanding of Lehi’s vision? Are there any other elements in 2 Peter 2 that compare with Lehi’s vision?
v26: Of the great and spacious building, Joe Spencer suggested the following interpretation:
Though I’m not aware of anyone having offered this interpretation, it seems more than obvious to me: the building in question is the Jerusalem temple. Jeremiah had for years, by this point, been profoundly criticizing the institution of the temple, in particular criticizing the blind faith the people had in it—their conviction that, because they had a temple, Babylon could never destroy the city. It would certainly be fitting that the temple would be filled with the wealthy, and that it was precisely the wealthy establishment who would spend their time mocking those who attain the tree. They mock those who claim to have seen through the veil without having been inside the temple, as they mock those who would leave Jerusalem for the desert to escape from a destruction decreed by “visionary men.” . . . For Latter-day Saints acquainted with the sorts of covenants one makes in the temple, the association of the temple with wealth and excess, not to mention mockery and loud laughter, should be a bit shocking. I suspect the author of the dream—God, that is—meant it to be a bit shocking, though it was probably also quite accurate.2
We tend to read into the vision modern interpretations of what the great and spacious building could be. But how do you think Lehi would have interpreted the building? Is it useful to think of the great and spacious building as an anti-temple?
Regarding modern interpretations of the building, President Boyd K. Packer said the following:
Largely because of television, instead of looking over into that spacious building, we are, in effect, living inside of it. That is your fate in this generation. You are living in that great and spacious building.3
What do you think President Packer means when he says that because of television we are living in the great and spacious building?
I’ll round out this discussion of Lehi’s vision with some thoughts and questions about the various groups of people he saw. We might summarise these groups as follows:
Group 1: Those who obtain the path but wander off before reaching the tree (v21–23)
Group 2: Those who partake of the fruit but are ashamed and then fall away (v24–28)
Group 3: Those who partake of the fruit but do not fall away (v30)
Group 4: Those associated with the great and spacious building (v31–33)
It’s the comparison between groups 2 and 3 that has always interested me the most as I tend to think that most active members fall into one of these two groups. The only differences that I note in the text between these groups are that group 3 held fast to the rod, rather than clung to it, and they fell down before partaking of the fruit while those in group 2 cast their eyes about after partaking. In what ways might these differences be significant? Do you think “fell down” in v30 is the opposite to “fell away” in v28?
Elder Delbert Stapley said the following:
The parable of Jesus dealing with the sower who went forth to sow parallels in teaching the lessons given Lehi in [his] vision.4
How do you think the four groups in the parable of the sower (see Matt 13:3–8, 18–23) compare with the groups summarised above?
At the end of his conference talk in April 2009, Elder Bednar addressed four groups of members regarding their standing in relation to the temple.5 Do you think these groups might also be compared with the groups Lehi saw? If so, how?
Well, that’s about it for Lehi’s vision. Next week I’ll wrap up the original Book of Mormon chapter II with some concluding thoughts about Lehi’s vision and a review of 1 Nephi 9.
Next week’s reading: 1 Nephi 9