Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lehi's Dream of the Tree of Happiness -- 1 Nephi Chapter 8

What Happens

"Lehi sees a vision of the tree of life—He partakes of its fruit and desires his family to do likewise—He sees a rod of iron, a strait and narrow path, and the mists of darkness that enshroud men—Sariah, Nephi, and Sam partake of the fruit, but Laman and Lemuel refuse."
1 Nephi 8 Chapter Heading


The first verse isn't part of the vision, but it is interesting, telling us that Lehi's family had collected seeds of every kind--definitely preparing for a new land by bringing along familiar crops and other foods. It doesn't mention non-food seeds, so I'm guessing that God had that part covered.

Lehi's dream is always great, but I noticed something this time that I didn't remember from previous times. I had always remembered it starting out in a dark and dreary waste... and yet it does not. :) According to Lehi, this is how it starts: "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."

I guess I thought that it started out with him lost in the dark (and dreary) because I feel like that is how life is sometimes... we are lost, and things just don't really make sense, and we finally reach out and learn to find our way out of meaninglessness by reaching out to God.  The way it actually starts makes much more sense (of course), because whether it represents the premortal existence or is symbolic of the spirit of Christ that is "given to every man" (Moroni 7:16), it shows us clearly that God doesn't just stick us in the middle of dark and dreary alone with no idea what to do.  We have that previous experience or latent knowledge of some sort to draw upon, so we know where to turn when we are lost.

As the story goes, as he is following the man, Lehi finds himself in the dark and dreary waste, and then after praying for mercy (<--Note important concept), he sees a large and spacious field and finds the tree "whose fruit was desirable to make one happy."  I love that idea of a happiness tree, where we could just eat and be filled with joy as Lehi was.  ... I also wonder how close to that reality we often already are, and yet we refuse to partake... letting so many other things get in the way of the simple joy that can be found in our relationship with God.

Lehi sees some of his family beside the river, and they are willing to join him.  Others are not.  He sees the path, the rod of iron, and lots of people.  Some of them are headed to the tree, and then the mist of darkness comes, which causes many to lose their way.

I like the mist of darkness part not because I like darkness or feeling lost, but because it is clear that the mist of darkness happens to everyone.  Even people who are clearly trying to do the right thing, and are going in the right direction.  We all have to experience that sort of thing in life.

Some people in the dream make it through the mist of darkness by taking advantage of the rod of iron and make it to the tree... which is also cool, because it reminds us that we can't always rely only on what we observe around us.  Sometimes we have to feel our way in the dark, and that requires the word of God, which can get us through the darker times.

Unfortunately, some of the people in the dream, even after enduring all of that--finally making it to the tree and partaking of the fruit and *knowing* that joy--even then, they leave because they are ashamed by the mockery of those in the great and specious building, and fall into "forbidden paths."

Nephi truncates the dream, but indicates that it went on with people moving toward the tree and towards the building filled with mockers.  He emphasizes that in the dream Laman and Lamuel didn't partake of the fruit. I wonder sometimes how hearing that made them feel.  I know it would likely have a lot of bitterness, but I almost want to read the Book of Lemuel or something and hear it from a different perspective... not to embrace the idea of ignoring angels or beating brothers or leaving them for dead, but because I wonder how much of me I would be able to see in them, and maybe it would show me how careful I need to be to avoid whatever justifications they were using to end up the way they did.

Tune in next time when Nephi tells us why he is writing this story. :)

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