Lehi had a dream. And in this dream he saw a tree whose fruit was sweeter and more desirable than any other he had ever had in his life. This fruit was so desirable he shared it with his family and wished everyone could partake of this fruit. The joy it brought to his soul was “exceedingly great.” This joy is the joy available to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Not long ago I was assigned to address my ward on the subject of living a covenant life. In the course of my preparations the Holy Ghost instructed me to study Lehi’s dream. These studies and subsequent discussions with my wife on the subject led me down a path of study and enlightenment that has transformed my understanding of Lehi’s dream and its importance to our understanding of the doctrine of Christ. I learned that living a covenant life is in fact the process of following the path to the tree and living in this way will open the full blessings God has to give us if we will endure to the end. I learned a great many other things which I hope to impart both in this and subsequent posts. Fundamentally my studies taught me that the entirety of Christ’s Gospel can be seen in and understood through Lehi’s dream.
Each element of Lehi’s dream is intended to help us understand how to seek, follow, and stay on the path to everlasting joy and to encourage us to take that path instead of any other. The symbols in the dream are also designed to make us aware of the pitfalls and deterents along the way which can have power to alter our course away from that joy. A few of them are as follows:
The way – no other way than Jesus Christ
The gate – baptism and repentance
The rod – God’s word, the Holy Ghost
The tree – the love of God, eternal life, Jesus Christ (God so loved the world)
The fruit – the atonement of Jesus Christ
The building – pride of the world, false happiness
Multitudes – children of God, all attempting to find happiness
Clinging – desperation
Holding fast – personal autonomy with the use of a guide
From my studies I have learned one simple truth: each of us has the simple goal of being happy. Whatever other decisions or goals we make in life each is calculated to bring us happiness. The entire point of Lehi’s dream and Nephi’s subsequent vision is that there are two possibilities for seeking to find happiness: God’s way and Satan’s way. God’s way leads us to the tree whose fruit brings happiness and joy unlike any other; or we can choose the far more permissive and open path offered by Satan which leads only to our eternal captivity. It is our choice.
And so I begin yet another Russty Follower of Christ Project – one intended to study and understand Lehi’s dream in a way that will encourage us all to seek for the tree whose fruit “is desirable to make one happy.” Welcome to “Lehi’s Dream.”
Uncle Paul has loved Lehi’s Dream for many, many years. A key principle he emphasizes is that the main image, and the main point in a fulfilling existence, is the tree itself – the Love of God manifest in the greatest way through Jesus Christ. He has come to recognize that if our focus is not on the tree, even if our actual view of it is obscured by mists of darkness, then focusing on just holding to the rod and staying on the path can lose meaning for us increasing the likelihood of abandoning the rod and path, even for just a little while. But if the tree, or Jesus Christ, is our focus then holding to the rod and staying on the path make so much sense that we are filled with more strength to do so no matter how thick the darkness gets.
An interesting thing that stood out to me this past time of really studying and discussing this dream and the interpretation of it…While we know from other visions, prophecies and teachings from Jesus Christ and his prophets that Jesus Christ has prepared the way for ANYONE to get to the tree if they desire to, no matter where they are/were before (the dark and dreary waste, the open field, the dirty river, the great and spacious building), there is no depiction of that happening in what we have recorded of either Lehi’s or Nephi’s vision. They both teach and testify of the power of Christ to redeem all who come to him during their teachings and explanations after they relate their visions, but there is not a depiction of it in the visions. I thought that was curious and began to ponder on that.
I wondered if maybe a major purpose of the dream is to teach WHY we need a Savior – because justice cannot be denied no matter how badly you may wish it could. It is true that unless each person comes to a place where they recognize they, themselves, NEED a Savior, there really is no personal motivation to seek Him. So maybe a big point the vision is teaching is that need. And then both Lehi and Nephi were reminded that the Savior, through His atoning sacrifice, is able to create that bridge out of the great and spacious building and the filthy water, across the great gulf and back to the path and the rod, that will lead anyone to the tree who chooses to walk or climb out of those places and onto the path.
A couple of days after those thoughts clarified in my mind I read this verse – Helaman 3:29-30 – which teaches this doctrine of the Redeemer. And then my mind went to this verse – 1 Nephi 12:18 (see also 1 Nephi 15:28-30) And I noted that Mormon uses the same term (gulf) that is used in Nephi’s dream and explanation to describe being separated from the full love of God as represented in the tree. Mormon also uses the term “strait and narrow” to refer to the path that gets us there. But I particularly noted that Mormon describes the path as stretching ACROSS the gulf.
So, again, that is not how the path is depicted in the vision, but it does describe the power of Christ, through His atonement, to enable all to come who desire to come. It is a visually descriptive way of teaching what both Lehi and Nephi taught and testified of to the family after seeing their visions.