Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Book of Mormon Lesson #3

Posted by cherylem on January 18, 2008

Here is my lesson outline for Book of Mormon Lesson #3. My lesson will concentrate on Lehi’s vision. The whole of Nephi’s vision will be taken up next week.

I will post a link to the word document at the bottom.

The Vision of the Tree of LifeLesson 3 – 1 Nephi 8-11;1 Nephi 12:16-18;1 Nephi 15

Applying the vision to ourselves.
• How do we read this vision?
• What does it mean to read and study scripture?
• How do we bring the past into the present?

I suggest: we engage the scripture by means of Spirit and our imagination, and this engagement changes us. Transforms us. When we talk about applying the scripture to ourselves, what we’re really talking about is hearing the call of scripture, as it calls us to enter into a different life, a life that is eternal in its nature. (Not merely that it lasts forever, but is eternal as God is eternal.)
• When we speak to God and God reveals to us the things which we desire to know, the revelation/vision becomes personal and significant.
• Our experience of revelation both confirms and alters our understanding.
• We become empowered to act upon our understanding.

What is Nephi teaching by writing this vision?
• NOT teaching the definition of symbols.When Laman and Lemuel have the symbols explained to them, they have still not understood the vision, nor have they experienced the revelation.
• In this lesson, we’re going to try and discern what Nephi is teaching.
• We can and should ask God to help us experience the revelation, so that we can bring the past into our present, hear the call of scripture, and participate in the process of our own transformation.

Review: Apocalyptic visions.
Apocalypse: Greek Apokalypsis = unveiling
• Biblical apocalypses: a narrative framework in which a revelatory vision is accorded to a human being, most often through the intervention of an otherworldly being, e.g., by an angel who takes him to a heavenly vantage point to show him the vision and/or to explain it to him. Sometimes to get there the visionary has to travel a distance to the ends of the earth or make a vertical journey through various heavens The secrets revealed involve a cosmic transformation that will result in a transition from this world to a world or era to come and a divine judgment on all.
• The vision of the supernatural world or of the future helps to interpret present circumstances on earth, which are almost always tragic.
• The vision is often full of vivid symbols
• The message is hope

Raymond Brown:
“To a contemporary culture that idolizes science and calculable knowledge, apocalyptic is an enduring witness to a reality that defies all our measurements; it testifies to another world that escapes all scientific gauges and finds expression in symbols and visions. That world is not created by imagination, but images serve as an entrée . . . To a world that accepts only what it can see, hear, and feel, [apocalyptic] is the scriptural gateway to what the eye has not seen and the ear not heard. Because its visions are filled with theological symbols, not with photographic reproductions, [apocalyptic] does not give an exact knowledge of that other world, a world that cannot be translated into human concepts. Rather, it attests forcefully that at every moment of human history, even the most desperate moment that causes people to lose hope, God is present. The Lamb standing as though slain is the ultimate guarantee of God’s victorious care and deliverance, especially for the downtrodden and oppressed.”

God desires that we understand:
2 Nephi 31:3
D&C 45:39
D&C 68:11
D&C 76:5-8
D&C 98:12
D&C 106:4-5

1Nephi 8: Lehi’s vision

8:2 The prophet defined: dreamed a dream/seen a vision. Remember Numbers 12:6

8:3-4 To Lehi, what is the purpose of the dream? What is happening in Lehi’s life?

8:5 Guide will eventually disappear.

8:7 Dark and dreary waste.

8:9 Sees the field in response to the petitioning prayer.

8:10 – 12 Sees the tree; understands HOPE – the hope of happiness.
• Desirable fruit that brings happiness: see Moses 4:12; 5:11; Genesis 3:6; Alma 42:8, 16; 2 Nephi 2:25.
• “white”

8:13 –18 Lehi’s particular response to the experience of “partaking.”
• Will everyone’s experience be the same? In the vision, when you eat the fruit, what/who will you see?

8:19 rod of iron (other visions: a rope) which serves as a guide.

8:20 rod of iron, path, head of the fountain, large and spacious field

8:21 from the specific to the general – many people. Lehi’s vision widens.

mist of darkness

the building,
located where? (separation)
filled with who?
Dressed how?
Doing what?
Dangerous why?
Forbidden paths
Who do you imitate?

8:29-30 “short in writing”

8:33 “we” heeded them not
What lesson is being taught?
Who do you imitate?

8:35 Back to the specific, to Laman and Lemuel

The vision and you:
v. 8-12 Where are you right now?
When have you passed through a “dark and drearywaste?”
In the vision, you are at the tree, partaking of the fruit, and you cast your eyes around. What will you see?

Iron rod = Word of God (1 Nephi 15:23-24)
Read: D&C 84:45, D&C 88:66, 2 Nephi 32:1,5

Path or way = Sanctification
Process of overcoming all sins and becoming pure and holy before God, accomplished by the power of the Holy Ghost and ending with perfection.
Read: 3 Nephi 27:19-20, Helaman 3:35; Moroni 10:32-33; D&C 88:66-68; D&C 50:24; Alma 13:10-12

A dynamic assurance that we are on the path to eternal life, given to us by the Holy Ghost when we are born again, which helps motivate us to endure to the end in the process of sanctification.
Read: 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Nephi 31:19-20; Moroni 8:25-26; 1 John 3:3; Ether 12:32; Moroni 7:40-48

We must retain a remission of sins as we walk down the path.
Read: Mosiah 4:11-12, 26

Tree of Life
1. Love of God (1 Nephi 11:21-22, Ether 12:34).
2. The process that is the condescension of God, including the mother of Jesus, through the suffering and resurrection, and all of life from the beginning to the end of the world. (1 Nephi 11:13 – 1 Nephi 15).
3. Christ. Read John 3:36, 1 Nephi 11:9-11, 20-21; 1 Nephi 11:25
4. Presence of God
5. Fountain of living water

Fruit of the Tree = Eternal Life
Read: 1 Nephi 15:36, D&C 14:7

Fountain of Living Water
Jeremiah 2:13 = Love of God
Ether 12:28 = Charity (Charity = Perfection. Read Colossians 3:14; Matthew 5:48)

Living Water
1. Word of God/Gospel/Spirit
2. Grace Read 2 Nephi 25:23; 2 Nephi 2:4-8
3. Mysteries of GodRead D&C 63:23, Alma 26:21-22, Alma 12:9-11

How do we get on the path?
Through the gate = being born again

Gate = faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost
When we have true faith (confidence or trust in God), sincere repentance and make a valid baptismal covenant, we actually receive the Holy Ghost. This reception of the Holy Ghost changes our heart and completes our spiritual rebirth = being born again. We get a remission of sins = forgiveness of sins.
Read Mosiah 4:2-3, Mosiah 5:2-7; DC 39:4-6; Alma 5:5-12; Alma 7:14-15
Other uses of gate and path imagery:
Matthew 7:13-14
2 Nephi 33:9
3 Nephi 27:33
Helaman 3:28-30
D&C 133:27
Isaiah 35:7-10

One lesson of the vision of the Tree of Life is that we should go to God and ask to experience the revelation. Otherwise, as we sit in the Gospel Doctrine class, we are no different from Laman and Lemuel, having the vision explained to us – and not experienced. No explanations can replace the experience.

BOM #3 McGuire

21 Responses to “Book of Mormon Lesson #3”

  1. cherylem said

    For anyone who works their way through these notes you will surely notice that I’ve used some of the ideas we’ve discussed. Thank you everyone.

  2. Robert C. said

    Cheryl, great notes. You might be interested in a discussion I’ve been having at the FPR blog regarding the role of imagination in interpretation (esp. the lengthy quote from Brueggemann in comment #10).

    (Oops, I just remembered I already mentioned this thread on the lds-herm listserv, which you probably noticed, but I’ll leave this comment in case others are interested….)

  3. cherylem said

    Thanks Robert. The discussion at FPR is interesting. . .

  4. Jim F. said

    Am I a dummy for not knowing what “FPR” stands for?

  5. Jim F. said

    Answer: When a link is provided in Robert’s #2, yes.

  6. brianj said

    Cheryl, you cross-references are especially helpful! What is your thought about the iron rod? “= word of God”, but what’s that? You imply that it is the light of Christ and/or the Holy Ghost. The standard take is that it is the scriptures. I like your thinking (if that is your thinking…).

  7. cherylem said

    Brian #6
    I don’t think either Lehi or Nephi would have defined the word of God as only the scriptures. This is even unlikely to be their first thought regarding the word of God.

    Rather, the word of God would have been something more directly revelatory, certainly linked to Spirit, as my cross references attempt to indicate. So, in this light, clinging to the iron rod is clinging to the revelation that one has received – one’s testimony, for instance, received through revelation. And other revelatory experiences . . .

    The rod is a guide – and our guide is the Spirit, which reveals to us the word of God.

    Though I don’t think linking the iron rod to the scriptures is wrong – rather it is limiting. If I had to choose one phrase for the iron rod/word of God it would be direct communication from God to man: revelation through Spirit. Inasmuch as the scriptures accomplish this they are the word of God. But the iron rod is more than scripture. It is the knowledge that God talks to us directly, and we hear him.


  8. robf said

    Thanks cherylem, I was gritting my teeth a bit today in class when the suggestion that the “Word of God” was the scriptures. That’s not what Nephi said in his final testimony. That’s not what John said in John 1.

  9. cherylem said

    #8 Robf,
    I think my class “got it” today. SO MUCH TO TEACH in so little time. Arghghghg

    Regarding the tree of life, here’s some further stuff that I shared. The first is from a messianic Jewish service I attended yesterday. I thought the reference to the tree of life and the words within the reference compelling.

    The second is from Wikipedia – the reference to Mary’s womb being the tree of life – or growing the tree of life – reminded me of Peterson’s article on the Asherah.

    From a Jewish liturgical service (Congregation Zera Avraham, Ann Arbor MI, 2008)

    The Torah is returned to the Ark.

    Your word is a tree of life to those who lay hold of it.
    Those who hold it fast are called happy.
    Its ways are ways of pleasantness.
    And all its paths are peace.
    Turn us to You, and we shall be turned.
    Renew our days as of old.

    The Eastern Orthodox Church:
    Make ready, O Bethlehem, for Eden hath been opened for all. Prepare, O Ephratha, for the Tree of Life hath blossomed forth in the cave from the Virgin; for her womb did appear as a spiritual paradise in which is planted the divine Plant, whereof eating we shall live and not die as did Adam. Christ shall be born, raising the image that fell of old.

  10. robf said

    Something I didn’t mention in class yesterday, that I find interesting, is that for the Classic Maya, the Milky Way can represent the Tree of Life rising up from the horizon and linking heaven and earth, or a heavenly path stretching across the sky.

  11. Robert C. said

    Cheryl, your quote from the Eastern Orthodox church reminds me of Moses 6:59—very, very interesting….

  12. lori said

    I have a question regarding the fruit: Fruit of the Tree = Eternal Life
    Read: 1 Nephi 15:36, D&C 14:7. If the fruit of the tree is eternal life (exaltation, living God’s life, highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom etc) how did the one group, who were clinging to the rod of iron, get to the tree, partake of the fruit (eternal life) and then fall away because they were ashamed? In my mind and heart I understand but by reading it and the doctrinal definitions and quotes regarding eternal life how does that work? -citing doctrine-

  13. cherylem said

    Lori #12,
    Good question . . .

    The scriptures cited are:
    1 Ne. 15: 36
    36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.

    D&C 14: 7
    7 And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

    In giving cross references like this one of my goals is to get people to think about the symbols of the vision in a new way. I also think to a great extent the vision itself is fluid and not to be defined absolutely.

    Nevertheless, it is interesting to think about the nature of “eternal life.” From scriptures we learn that eternal life is something we can be enjoying now, and is also a promise of future glory.

    Perhaps one way to think about this is Robert’s comment #10 under this other discussion on the lesson: https://feastuponthewordblog.org/2008/01/13/bom-lesson-3/#more-415.

    Robert was talking, I think, about what “eternal” life means in a qualitative sense – in a godly sense. To have eternal life is to have God’s life, or a life in God. We know that we will ALL have a life that more or less goes on forever, so eternal life is somehow qualitatively different (see also D&C 19, when God says that “endless” and “eternal” are names that belong to him).

    Your question, about whether or not someone can be ashamed after partaking of the fruit of eternal (godly) life, then becomes easier to answer. That is, eternal life is not necessarily only defined as “highest degree of Celestial kingdom,” but rather having partaken of the fruit of the godly life one’s life in mortality becomes “godly,” or “eternal”. This godly life, lived in mortality, can still be the greatest of God’s gifts, especially to mortal men and women. (and this alone is something to think about for a good long while)

    Regarding the D&C reference, interestingly 2 Nephi 33:4 says that enduring to the end IS life eternal. And in D&C 42:61 we read
    61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

    so that here, it seems joy is parallel or equal to life eternal.

    Yet on the other hand, D&C 88:4 does equate the glory of the celestial kingdom with eternal life:
    4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

    and Moses 6:59 differentiates between the words of eternal life in this world, and the reality of eternal life in the next:

    59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

    Therefore, to answer your question the best I can, and maybe someone else here can do better, I think in the sense that we can look at one of the definitions of the “fruit” symbol as eternal life, one can partake of that life (the godly life) in mortality and still cast one’s eyes about and feel ashamed and then stop partaking. Yet like any symbol there are layers of meaning, and ultimately one does – in some future sphere – move into God’s kingdom – the celestial kingdom, and there receive the blessings and reward of eternal life (still defined as God’s life).

    Because these are symbols, however, I want to the add the caveat that other meanings can be found as well. Symbols resist tight, narrow definitions generally.

    Hope this helps.


  14. robf said

    Joe, surprised you haven’t jumped in here to reprise your Christmas fireside thoughts on symbols and symbolism…

  15. Joe Spencer said

    Um… Hey everyone! Go listen to my Christmas fireside!

    Actually, I’m glad you mentioned that, Rob. Now you see how quickly I move in my own work: that’s old news for me! But it is a very helpful discussion, I think, of how we might most profitably think about symbols. So here’s the link for any who missed it before: http://teachyediligently.mypodcast.com/2007/12/A_Christmas_Fireside-65808.html

  16. RuthS said

    If the tree is God’s love and the fountain of living water leading to the tree represents God’s love then isn’t also possible that the fruit of the tree is also a form of God’s love? That being the case it would be possible to eat and then become ashamed upon looking around and being mocked? It is clearly representative of mortality so it is only a taste of what might be in store beyond this life.

    It also strikes me that if one juxtaposes 1 Nephi 11:25 with John 1:1-3 a case could be made that the iron rod is the Savior himself. It would follow from there that acceptance of his teachings and atonement lead to the tree of life, i.e. God’s love and eternal life.

    How tenuous is that?

  17. marjay said

    One of my family members works with the criminally insane. He said many of them consider themselves “prophets.” They “know” their revelations are “real.” One could not convince them otherwise. You’ve read about them in the daily news. I think it is a wise person who has a healthy respect for the possibility of deception when it comes to revelation. I agree that the iron rod means more than the scriptures only; I think it is the word of God delivered to us in all its “differences of administration.” The following words of Harold B. Lee serve as a solid guide:

    “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea!” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them “standard”—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it.”

    (Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Faculty, BYU, 8 July 1964)

  18. cherylem said

    #18 Ruth S –
    One of my class members argued strongly that the rod was Jesus Christ.

    #17 Marjay,
    Thanks for those comments.

  19. Beau said

    could you please go into further detail in regards to the absolute meaning of Lehi’s Dream? i have heard there are symbolically 4 different groups of people demonstrated in this vision… i have also heard that the guide is symbolic of the bishop leading us in our blind status. please help me with this in more detail if possible i would highly appreciate it.

  20. cherylem said

    Many people have attempted to put precise meanings to the symbolism of Lehi’s dream. Yet symbolism defies precision, and rather becomes something understood – sometimes without words – by the receiver of the symbols.

    Nevertheless, you might want to look at the lesson itself: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=32c41b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=dfb1cb7a29c20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0

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