Art for 1 Nephi 8-11 in the Book of Mormon

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An Artistic Tour of 1 Nephi 8-11

1 Nephi 8

1 Nephi 8


The Iron Rod” – Joseph L. Townsend & William Clayson

 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.

1 Nephi 8:2


Behold, I have dreamed a dream, or in other words, I have seen a vision.

Thus Lehi introduces one of the most memorable and spiritually impressive scenes in the Book of Mormon, now referred to as the Tree of Life vision.

This Liahona article combines a number of beautiful interpretations by various artists of Lehi’s Tree of Life vision.

1 Nephi 8:5


Lehi’s Dream

David Hyrum Smith

about 1875.  oil on canvas (61 x 45 cm).

The artist was born a few months after his father, the Prophet Joseph Smith, was martyred in 1844.

In the painting, Lehi is accompanied by the “Spirit of the Lord” (see 1 Ne. 8:5–6; 1 Ne. 11:11).

(Courtesy of Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Archives, Independence, Missouri; photograph by R. T. Clark.)

1 Nephi 8:9


Lehi’s Dream of the tree of Life

Kurt Sjökvist, 1995, Mockfjärd, Sweden

Carved wood, painted (157 x 101 x 101 centimeters).

Lehi’s reference to “a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world” is interpreted as a globe upon which the allegory is presented. (Photo by R. T. Clark, Museum of Church History and Art.)

1 Nephi 8:10


Joseph Smith and the Tree of Life

Juan M. Escobedo

1987, Caliente, Nevada, United States; oil on board (127 x 76 cm).

The Prophet Joseph Smith leads the way in this Mexican folk art interpretation of the tree of life.

1 Nephi 8:10


Iron Rod and Tree of Life

Harrison Begay Jr.- Haashké yah Níyá (“The Wandering Boy”)

Navajo Indian artist (1914-2012)

1994, Espanola, New Mexico, United States

(23 x 18 x 18 cm).

1 Nephi 8:11


Tree of Life - Kazuto Uota

Tree of Life

Kazuto Uota

This stunning artistic work by Kazuto Uota was created in 1990. It represents the Tree of Life as described in the Book of Mormon, with its fruit glowing as it displays the power of God.

 This work was featured on the cover of the Ensign magazine in August, 2010, and generated much favorable response from the Ensign readers.

1 Nephi 8:11,12


Lehi’s Dream

Real Heroes Poster – Steve Nethercott

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.

1 Nephi 8:12


The Tree of Life

Xiu Wang

Chang-hua, Taiwan, 1995

Tempera on silk (170 x 68 cm).

 This “mountain water” style of painting focuses on the joy of sharing the gospel with one’s family. The inscription quotes 1 Nephi 8:12

1 Nephi 8:16


Lehi’s Dream – Gary L. Kapp

Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life is a memorable high-light of the Book of Mormon.  After he ate the wonderful fruit of God’s love, he worked to bring his family to the tree.

Speaking of a part of them, the Book of Mormon records, “And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.”

1 Nephi 8:16


Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life

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

1 Nephi 8:21


Lehi’s Dream, 1984

Dar Churcher

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Beeswax on rice paper (71 x 61 cm).

 The artist suggests that some who set out for the fruitful tree of life may be lured toward barren trees shown at the right of the print.

1 Nephi 8:23


That Good Part blogger has illustrated Lehi’s dream  with a dozen multi-media pieces.  Click on image to see her post with the rest of her charming illustrations.  

1 Nephi 8:26,27


The House of the World

Minerva Teichert

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


“Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life” – Marilyn Arnold & Maurine Ozment

Sacred Hymns of the Book of Mormon, 18

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.

1 Nephi 11:20,21


Bearing a Child in Her Arms {Mary and the Christ Child} - Elspeth Young

Bearing a Child in Her Arms {Mary and the Christ Child}

Elspeth Young

Artist’s comments:  

The story behind Bearing A Child In Her Arms

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 Nephi 11:7).

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 11:22-23).

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 3:20).

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.

1 Nephi 11:20,21


Behold the Lamb of God  

Walter Rane



1 Nephi 12-22

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1 Nephi 1-7