Lesson 3: The Vision of the Tree of Life

Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), p. 11–15 — annotated and facilitated by Don R. Hender



Purpose:

To help class members understand the symbols in the vision of the tree of life and the application of these symbols in their lives.


Symbols is life: Nephi's vision does just this. The mist of darkness in chapter 12 is those lies and disceptions of the devil that misleads Nephites into wickedness prior to death, distruction and coming of Christ. Great and spacious building equates to great and abominable church of the devil of chapter 13. So such applies to one's life.


Preparation:

Read, ponder, and pray about the following scriptures: 1 Nephi 8–11; 12:16–18; 15.



1 Nephi 8 Lehi's dream/vision tree of life
1 Nephi 9-10 Two sets of records/Lehi teaches - Nephi speaks
1 Nephi 11 Nephi sees Lehi's vision (ch. 1)
1 Nephi 12:16-18 Nephi sees fountain of filthy water & river; mists of darkness; broads roads; spacious building; great & terrible gulf
1 Nephi 15 Nephi teaches Laman & Lemuel


Suggestions for Lesson Development:

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Explain that many symbolic dreams and visions are recorded in the scriptures. Then share the following examples and ask class members to explain the meaning of each symbol:

a. King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a large image, or statue, of a man. Each part of the man’s body was made of a different material. A stone destroyed the image and became a mountain, filling the whole earth. (See Daniel 2:31–45; see also D&C 65:2. The various parts of the image represented kingdoms that have reigned on the earth. The stone represented the kingdom of God, which would consume all other kingdoms in the latter days.)

b. Pharaoh dreamed of seven lean and ill cattle devouring seven fat and healthy cattle and seven poor ears of corn devouring seven good ears of corn. (See Genesis 41:17–31. The seven healthy cattle and seven good ears of corn represented seven years of prosperity that would come to Egypt. The seven ill cattle and seven poor ears of corn represented seven years of famine that would follow the years of plenty.)

c. In a vision, the Apostle Peter saw unclean animals lowered from heaven in a great sheet, and he was commanded to kill and eat these animals. (See Acts 10:9–16, 28, 34–35. The unclean animals represented the Gentiles, who were now to be taught the gospel.)

Explain that today’s lesson discusses another symbolic dream described in the scriptures: the vision of the tree of life received by Lehi and Nephi. Unlike the many dreams or visions that have application only to specific people or at a specific time (like Pharaoh’s dream of the cattle and corn), the vision of the tree of life applies to each of God’s children.





Scripture Discussion and Application:

As you teach the following scripture accounts, discuss how the symbols they contain can be applied in our daily lives. Encourage class members to share appropriate experiences that relate to the principles illustrated by these symbols.

1. The symbols in the vision of the tree of life

Explain that Lehi received a vision and told his family about it (1 Nephi 8:2). After Nephi heard his father speak about the things in the vision, he also wanted to “see, and hear, and know of [those] things” (1 Nephi 10:17; see also the first additional teaching idea). Because of Nephi’s belief in Jesus Christ, his request was granted (1 Nephi 11:6). It is through Nephi’s record of his experience that we know the interpretation of the vision.

Discuss the vision of the tree of life. As you discuss what Lehi and Nephi saw, draw (or have one or more class members draw) the major elements of the vision on the chalkboard. The finished drawing should look something like this:



"2 "And it came to pass that while my father tarried in the wilderness he spake unto us, saying: Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.
3 "And behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam; for I have reason to suppose that they, and also many of their seed, will be saved.
4 "But behold, Laman and Lemuel, I fear exceedingly because of you; for behold, methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness.
5 "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.
6 "And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.
7 "And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
8 "And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
9 "And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.
10 "And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 8:2-10

17 "And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 10:17

6 "And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 11:6



tree of life:

The tree of life and its fruit:

Have a class member read 1 Nephi 8:2–10. Then draw (or have a class member draw) the tree and its fruit on the chalkboard.

• When Nephi was shown the tree of life, he asked to know its interpretation (1 Nephi 11:8–11). What did he learn that the tree represents? (See 1 Nephi 11:21–25.) What did Nephi see that helped him better understand God’s love? (See 1 Nephi 11:13–21, 24, 26–33. He saw the birth, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ.)


12 "And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
13 "And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
14 "And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 "And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 "And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 "And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 "And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 "And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 "And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 11:12-20

8 "And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
9 "And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
10 "And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
11 "And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 11:8-11

21 "And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 "And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 "And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
24 "And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and 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.
25 "And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 11:21-25



Have a class member read John 3:16 aloud. Emphasize that Heavenly Father showed the depth of His love for us when He “gave his only begotten Son.” The Atonement is evidence of Jesus Christ’s great love for us.



"¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." ~ John 3:16-17

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that the tree of life is a symbol of Jesus Christ. He said: “The images of Christ and the tree [are] inextricably linked. … At the very outset of the Book of Mormon, … Christ is portrayed as the source of eternal life and joy, the living evidence of divine love, and the means whereby God will fulfill his covenant with the house of Israel and indeed the entire family of man, returning them all to their eternal promises” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 160, 162).

Not that Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life, nor is the Tree of Life exactly a symbol of Jesus Christ, but rather the mission of Jesus Christ in its fulness, that is the Tree of Life is a representation of the Condescension of God, as the angel did point to and explain. And when one comes to understand the full extent of and exactly what the Condescension of God is, then is one able to appreciate just how they are 'inextricably' linked. Until then the words just seem to fall upon ears that like the nice sounds but they don't know the meaning thereof.

• What influence does the love of God have in our lives? How can we more fully recognize God’s love for us?





---its fruit • What did the fruit of the tree represent? (See 1 Nephi 15:36; D&C 14:7.)





How did Lehi and Nephi describe the tree of life and its fruit? (Have class members look in the appropriate verses to find the phrases listed below. Write the phrases on the chalkboard as class members find them. Abbreviate the phrases as necessary.)

a. “Most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted” (1 Nephi 8:11)





b. “White, to exceed all … whiteness” (1 Nephi 8:11; see also 1 Nephi 11:8)





c. “Desirable above all other fruit” (1 Nephi 8:12; see also 1 Nephi 15:36)





d. Having “beauty … exceeding of all beauty” (1 Nephi 11:8)





e. “Precious above all”; “most precious” (1 Nephi 11:9; 15:36)





f. “Most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:23; see also 1 Nephi 8:10)





g. “The greatest of all the gifts of God” (1 Nephi 15:36)

Emphasize that eternal life is the “most sweet” and “most precious” blessing we can receive. Because of God’s love for us, this blessing is available to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

• In the vision, what did Lehi desire once he had partaken of the fruit of the tree? (See 1 Nephi 8:12.) How can we help our loved ones draw nearer to the Savior and receive the promise of eternal life?





The rod of iron:

Have a class member read 1 Nephi 8:19–20. Then draw (or have a class member draw) the rod of iron and the path leading to the tree.

• What did the rod of iron represent? (See 1 Nephi 11:25; 15:23–24.) Where can we find the word of God? (In the scriptures, the teachings of latter-day prophets, and the promptings of the Holy Ghost.) How does the word of God help us come unto Christ? How does it keep us on the path to eternal life?





The river of filthy water, the mist of darkness, and the great and spacious building:

Have a class member read 1 Nephi 8:13, 23, 26–27. Then draw (or have a class member draw) the river, the mist of darkness, and the great and spacious building.

• What did the river of filthy water represent? (See 1 Nephi 12:16; 15:26–29.)

• What did the mist of darkness represent? (See 1 Nephi 12:17.)

What are the effects of the mist of darkness? (See 1 Nephi 8:23; 12:17.)

Why might Satan want our eyes to be blinded to the love of God?
to the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
to the word of God?

In what ways does Satan try to blind our eyes?

• The rod of iron “extended along the bank of the river” (1 Nephi 8:19), serving as a protection between the strait and narrow path and the filthy water. It also gave the people in the vision something to cling to when they were in the mist of darkness (1 Nephi 8:24, 30). What does this teach about how the word of God can help us?

• What did the great and spacious building represent? (See 1 Nephi 11:34–36; 12:18.) Why is it significant that the building “stood … in the air”? (See 1 Nephi 8:26. Note that the building did not have a solid foundation.) How can pride keep a person from receiving eternal life?

• Some people in the vision tasted of the fruit but were ashamed because the people in the great and spacious building mocked them (1 Nephi 8:26–28). How can we receive strength to withstand persecution?





2. The people in the vision of the tree of life

Explain that in the vision, Lehi saw “numberless concourses of people” (1 Nephi 8:21). These people can be divided into four categories based on their actions in seeking the tree and the fruit. Help class members identify and describe these four categories, using the passages listed below. (You may want to divide class members into four groups and have each group read one passage and then describe the actions of the people mentioned in that passage.)

2-a. 1 Nephi 8:21–23. (Those who start on the path but then become lost in the mist of darkness.)





2-b. 1 Nephi 8:24–28. (Those who hold to the rod of iron until they reach the tree and partake of the fruit, but then become ashamed and fall away.)





2-c. 1 Nephi 8:30. (Those who hold to the rod of iron until they reach the tree and partake of the fruit, and who then remain faithful.)



2-d. 1 Nephi 8:31–33. (Those who never start on the path but instead go directly toward the great and spacious building.)

• How are these categories manifest in the world today? (For example, people who say that they want eternal life but are distracted by other things, such as material wealth or worldly pleasures, are like those who start on the path but then become lost.)

• In the vision, what kinds of roads did people travel when they let go of the iron rod or left the tree of life? (See 1 Nephi 8:28, 32; 12:17.) What happens to those who follow such roads? If we are moving toward “forbidden,” “strange,” or “broad” roads, how can we return to the strait and narrow path?

• What are some things we must do to stay on the strait and narrow path? How can we help others stay on the path?





Conclusion:

Suggest that class members mark the following words in their scriptures: commence (1 Nephi 8:22), caught hold (1 Nephi 8:24), clinging (1 Nephi 8:24), and continually (1 Nephi 8:30). Point out that these words help us understand what we must do to reach the tree of life: we must commence in the strait and narrow path, catch hold of the rod of iron and cling to it, and continue moving toward the tree.

As directed by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.





Additional Teaching Ideas:

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. “He that diligently seeketh shall find” (1 Nephi 10:19)

• What did Nephi desire after he heard about his father’s vision? (See 1 Nephi 10:17.) What did he do to have this desire fulfilled? (See 1 Nephi 10:17–19; 11:1–6.) How can Nephi’s example help us as we seek to understand gospel truths? (Ask class members to share experiences in which the Holy Ghost has helped them understand gospel truths.)

• In what ways did Laman and Lemuel’s response to their father’s vision differ from Nephi’s response? (See 1 Nephi 15:1–2.) Why were Laman and Lemuel unable to understand the truths Lehi had taught them? (See 1 Nephi 15:3, 8–11.)



"For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round." 1 Nephi 10:19
"And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men." 1 Nephi 10:17
"And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
"And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us." 1 Nephi 15:8-9
"Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you." 1 Nephi 15:11

2. “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11:16)

To help class members understand the phrase “condescension of God” (1 Nephi 11:16, 26), explain that in this phrase the word condescension means coming down voluntarily to a lower level. Then share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“The condescension of God (meaning the Father) consists in the fact that … he became the personal and literal Father of a mortal Offspring born of mortal woman. And the condescension of God (meaning the Son) consists in the fact that … he [Jesus Christ] submitted to all the trials of mortality, suffering ‘temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death’ (Mosiah 3:5–8), finally being put to death in a most ignominious manner” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 155).


[The condescension of God does involve both Father and Son. Only a Father can appreciate what it is to give one's son unto such suffering, pain and death. Abraham would have a perspective of that. Jesus as Jehovah also so condescended to come down, not just to gain a body, but to decend below all things giving himself to suffering for the sins of all mankind. The depths and sorrows only he would know.]

26 "And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
27 "And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
28 "And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.
29 "And I also beheld twelve others following him. And it came to pass that they were carried away in the Spirit from before my face, and I saw them not.
30 "And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men; and they did minister unto them.
31 "And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.
32 "And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
33 "And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world."
~ Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 11:26-33)

3. “And they were in the attitude of mocking” (1 Nephi 8:27)

As class members discuss the great and spacious building, point out that the people in the building had an “attitude of mocking.” This mocking led some who had partaken of the fruit to be ashamed and fall away (1 Nephi 8:27–28).

• In what ways might our attitudes toward others lead them to fall away?

Emphasize that accountable individuals are responsible for their own actions; however, our attitude toward others can either strengthen them in their righteous efforts or discourage them. Encourage class members to strengthen each other and to never mock or belittle others.





4. Hymn

With class members, sing or read the words to “The Iron Rod” (Hymns, no. 274).





Lesson 3: The Vision of the Tree of Life Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide, (1999), 3
As you study the account of the vision of the tree of life, watch for the following symbols and their meanings:

•Tree of life (1 Nephi 8:10; 11:8–25)

•Fruit of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:10–18, 30; 15:36; see also D&C 14:7)

•Rod of iron (1 Nephi 8:19–24, 30; 11:25; 15:23–24)

•Mist of darkness (1 Nephi 8:23–24; 12:17)

•River of filthy water (1 Nephi 8:13, 26, 32; 15:26–29)

•Great and spacious building (1 Nephi 8:26–28, 31, 33; 12:18)

• When Nephi was shown the tree of life, he asked to know its interpretation (1 Nephi 11:8–11).

What did he learn that the tree represents? (See 1 Nephi 11:21–25.)

What did Nephi see that helped him better understand God’s love? (See 1 Nephi 11:13–21, 24, 26–33; see also John 3:16.)

• How did Lehi and Nephi describe the tree of life and its fruit? (See 1 Nephi 8:10–12; 11:8–9, 23; 15:36.)

• In the vision, Lehi saw “numberless concourses of people” (1 Nephi 8:21). These people can be divided into four categories based on their attitudes toward the tree and the fruit. Read 1 Nephi 8:21–33, and look for these four categories. How are these categories manifest in the world today? In which category do you feel you are?



Tree of Life: Make one happy - Plan of Happiness. Love of God that yields the condescension of God. "And he said unto me: Knowest thou the acondescension of God?" 1 Nephi 11:16 Atonement etc. "And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!" 1 Nephi 11:26 Mission of Messiah - Gospel Plan - Preexistence Selection to Final Judgement

Fruit of the tree of life: The product of the atonement or immortality & eternal life

Rod of iron: Word of God

Mist of darkness: Deceit, temptations, lyings and deceptions of Satan

River of filthy water: Depths of Hell

Great and spacious building: Pride of the world - Church of the Devil



Suggestion for Family Discussion

Conduct the following activity to help family members better understand the vision of the tree of life:

Blindfold a member of the family and spin him or her in circles. Explain that the blindfold represents the mist of darkness. Then place a picture of the Savior somewhere in the room. Challenge the blindfolded family member to walk to the picture without help from anyone. When it becomes apparent that he or she will not be able to walk directly to the picture, have one family member stand by the picture, holding one end of a piece of string (representing the iron rod). Have another family member hold the other end. Then have the blindfolded family member catch hold of the string and walk to the picture.
























ver.