In Lehi’s powerful and visually descriptive vision of the Tree of Life, he saw an
iron rod that led to the tree. The iron rod is the word of God, and “whoso would
hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish;
neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them
unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.”
A Priesthood Choir from BYU, under the direction of Ronald Staheli, performed “The
Iron Rod” at the Priesthood Session of the April 2010 General Conference of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS Hymns, 274.
Speaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life, which represents the love of God, Lehi
said, “I did go forth and partake of the fruit. . . it was most sweet . . . . It
filled my soul with exceedingly great joy.”
Real people – real power. Real Hero Posters strives to capture the spirit of real
heroes, the uniqueness of their world, the strength of their character, and the reality
of their heroism.
Robert Yellowhair, Snowflake, Arizona, United States
Oil on canvas (121 x 76 cm). 1992.
The artist uses traditional symbols to express his belief that Native Americans are
descendants of Lehi. Brother Yellowhair, a Navajo from the Zuni clan, has adapted
the essential themes of Lehi’s dream of the tree of life to a Native American setting.
A piñon tree, brilliant with light, symbolizes the tree of life; the pine cones are
the white fruit. Father Lehi is dressed as a Hopi priest because Hopis are acknowledged
among Native Americans of the Southwest as the traditional religious leaders. Sariah
is depicted as Crow Mother, the first mother of the Zuni. Nephi, on his mother’s
right, is depicted as the visionary Comanche chief, Quainapaker, from the early twentieth
century. Sam is depicted as the great peace-loving Shoshone chief, Washakie. Laman
and Lemuel stand in the background. The “great and spacious building” is a composite
of all the domestic architecture of the Southwest tribes. – Ensign October 1992
Lehi and Nephi saw the beautifully symbolic Tree of Life in vision, which represents
the Love of God. The also saw a great and spacious building, filled with people
mocking those who were partaking of the pure fruit of the Tree.
“In this representation of Lehi’s Dream from chapter 8 of the first book of Nephi,
Teichert reverses traditional symbolism of light and dark. As in real life, the blessings
of faith and obedience are sometimes not as immediately apparent or attractive as
the entrapments of Satan.”
1 Nephi 11
1 Nephi 11
BOOK OF MORMON MUSIC
“Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life” – Marilyn Arnold & Maurine Ozment
After Lehi told his family of his amazing and wonderful vision of the Tree of Life,
his son Nephi wanted to see the things that his father had seen. Because of his
faith and faithfulness, the Lord blessed him with this desire, and he wrote extensively
of the marvelous things he himself saw, all of which testify of the love of God.
This painting represents a portion of the vision the prophet Nephi received concerning
the life and mission of Jesus Christ "to bear record that he is the son of God" (1
After being shown the tree of life, Nephi requested to know the interpretation of
that tree. Accordingly, Nephi was immediately shown a vision of a "virgin...bearing
a child in her arms" and was told that that the infant was "the Lamb of God, yea,
even the Son of the Eternal Father!" (1 Nephi 11:18, 21).
Upon seeing this, an angel questioned Nephi concerning the meaning of the tree of
life. Nephi accurately perceived that the tree of life, or Christ, "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...and the most joyous to the soul" (1 Nephi
Indeed, the love of God has never been manifested so plainly to God's children as
in the gift of His "only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
This visual representation of this moment from Nephi's marvelous vision seeks also
to testify of the reality and divinty of the Son of God.
Symbolism in Bearing A Child In Her Arms
The figures of Mary and the Infant Christ are depicted very clearly in the midst
of an indistinct background. As befits Nephi's unwavering focus during the vision,
there is nothing in the background to distract the viewer from the message in the
vision. All elements, even color and light, point to the center of our existence,
Jesus Christ, just as the Spirit of the Lord makes it clear to Nephi that the reason
he was shown what his father saw was so that he could bear his own witness of Christ.
The Child is loosely wrapped in the type of "swaddling clothes" in which Mary wrapped
Him at His birth (see Luke 2:7). Other than the barest hint of a golden trim at the
edge of the garment, there is nothing distinctive about the cloth, save its whiteness.
Its brilliance symbolizes His purity--what the Apostle Peter described as a "lamb
without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation
of the world" (1 Peter 1:19-20). The cloth's simplicity is also a reminder of Isaiah's
prophecy that there would be "no beauty that we should desire [Christ]" (see Isaiah
53:2). The Hebrew for "beauty" in this case denotes finery of appearance or indication
of noble rank. Even so, He is clothed only with the beauty of divinity. Additionally,
the swaddling clothes completely hide His noble hands, hands capable of salvation.
Even so, His hands are bound until we utilize our agency to accept His matchless
gift. His invitation is just that--an invitation: "Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation
The viewer is drawn to the Infant's penetrating gaze by the highlight in His eye,
contrasted with the dark shadows surrounding Him. Though partly enveloped in the
shadows of this world, His light is ever invincible. His mission was to descend below
all things and overcome the world--all of the darkness, evil, and despair it has
and ever will afford--to rise triumphant as the light of the world, "a light that
is endless, that can never be darkened" (Mosiah 16:9). The glimmer in His eye also
symbolizes His singleness of purpose in doing His Father's will (see Matthew 6:22
or 3 Nephi 13:22).
Mary's countenance is also radiant, partly from the Heavenly light enveloping the
two figures; partly reminding the viewer of Nephi's description her as "exceedingly
fair and white...most beautiful and fair above all other virgins" (1 Nephi 11:13,
15). Her beauty borne of goodness is also echoed in the words of Alma, who called
her "a precious and chosen vessel" (Alma 7:10).
Mary's hair is seen unveiled, a visual representation of her virginity. In her day,
it was customary for maidens to show their hair in public as a sign of their chastity.
This, among other cultural clues of apparel may have helped Nephi identify her as
a virgin without any help from the angel.
Mary's dress is patterned on traditional Palestinian dress, or shinyar, a costume
silhouette dating back 1500 BC. The embroidered ornamentation on its yoke and sleeves
is typical of Israelite bridal costume, though it is intended here as another visual
symbol of elements in Nephi's vision. The golden motifs embroidered on its sleeves
are a tree of life symbol, while the red and gold banding beneath the trees represent
the rod of iron which Nephi beheld leading, "to the fountain of living waters, or
to the tree of life" (1 Nephi 11:25).
The vessel immediately behind the figures is an oil cask symbolizing the Savior's
mission as the Anointed One, sent to earth to "heal the broken-hearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty
them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18). The cluster of purple anemones beside the cask
are the kind of flower believed by many scholars to be the "lilies of the field"
described in the Sermon on the Mount. Here, they remind the viewer of the Savior's
teachings concerning Heaven's constant watchcare and mindfulness.