rejoice in the Lord when their children are righteous.
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.
Lehi has announced to his family that he has received another dream vision, and
because of it he has reason to “rejoice in the Lord” because of Nephi and Sam. He
does not say he is “proud” of them. In fact, the two-pride theory is not found in
the scriptures at all. Every single scriptural reference to pride, including all
the references in the Book of Mormon, is of the kind condemned by the Lord.
Is Heavenly Father “proud of” Jesus? He never says so. He says He is “well pleased.”
What do you say you’re proud of? Our language can influence our thoughts and attitudes,
as well as vice versa. What would be a more humble way of expressing your satisfaction
than what you currently define as “the good kind of pride”? How can your language
point to gratitude to the Lord for these things, rather than obliquely at yourself?
1 Nephi 8:8
The Lord’s tender mercies
The Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord has a multitude of tender mercies.
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.
The first part of Lehi’s famous Book of Mormon dream is very dreamlike, and less
vision-like. He meets a man dressed in white, who bids him to follow. This fits
our model of a vision. But not really. The man is never revealed as an angel or
as the Spirit or as the Lord. The man never communicates further with Lehi. The
man just leads him on and on through the dark and dreary wasteland. So the dream
has a sense of never-ending monotony.
Nothing happens until Lehi takes the initiative and calls on the Lord, (not on his
guide). He prays for mercy, according to the multitude of the Lord’s tender mercies.
He knows the Lord is filled with mercy – He is overflowing with mercies – and Lehi,
in faith, knows there’s some for him, for this moment.
Lehi introduced his dream/vision expressing his rejoicing in Nephi and Sam, and
his fear and concern on behalf of Laman and Lemuel. This section of the dream seems
to be their present state. They are following someone righteous (their father),
as symbolized by the white clothing. But because they don’t look to the Lord, they
really aren’t making any progress, and their lives are a dark and dreary wilderness.
Just going through the motions of living the gospel does not lead to understanding.
Even having passive faith is not enough. We, too, need to pray unto the Lord for
mercy. Then our lives take on meaning, and we can step away from the dreariness.
1 Nephi 8:9
After I prayed, things changed
The beautiful and detailed allegorical dream of the Tree of Life,
as recorded in the Book of Mormon,
represents the world as a large and spacious field.
And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord
I beheld a large and spacious field.
The answer to Lehi’s prayer is that the dark and dreary wilderness gives way to
a large and spacious field. In the wilderness Lehi was just following his guide
blindly, with no change. Now the whole vista is opened up before him, and he is
presented with choices as to where to go and what to do next. He sees the tree,
and he, of his own volition, approaches it and eats the fruit.
People may feel that they’re in a rut, trapped in a life situation from which there
is no escape. But this dream/vision reassures us that awareness of choice and possibilities
in any situation is only a prayer away, and a sincere prayer will reveal not only
choices but the tree of life, or the love of God.
1 Nephi 8:36
Cast off from the presence of the Lord
The Book of Mormon teaches that the worst fate
is to be cast off from the presence of the Lord,
because of refusal to follow Him.
And it came to pass after my father had spoken
all the words of his dream or vision, which were many,
he said unto us, because of these things which he saw in a vision,
he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel;
yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.
At the conclusion of Lehi’s recital of the Tree of Life dream/vision, he repeats
the concern for Laman and Lemuel that he began with. His concern is that they will
be cast off from the presence of the Lord. After seeing all the different choices
people make, with or without knowing what they’re doing, the different directions
they are taking in this life, and the inevitable destinations they will reach, he
has seen that only one choice, only one direction leads to lasting happiness. So
he expresses his dream/vision to his sons in the hope that they can see what is so
obvious to him: being with the Lord is the sweetest, the most joyful, the most desirable
place to be in life.
It is nevertheless a sobering thought that some who have tasted of the fruit, even
while in the act of eating it, can be lured away to the large and spacious building.
Our Book of Mormon class Sunday school teacher pointed out the difference between
those who stayed and those who left: When they first arrived, the ones who eventually
left just started eating, while those who remained faithful first “fell down.” It
was the humility of the heart that made the difference.
1 Nephi 8:37
If they hearken, the Lord may be merciful
The Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord is merciful
to people who change their lives to follow Him.
And he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent,
that they would hearken to his words,
that perhaps the Lordwould be merciful to them, and not cast them off;
yea, my father did preach unto them.
Lehi encourages his sons to hearken to his words. “Hearken” means much more than
just “listen.” They’ve already listened – now he wants to assure that their listening
was fruitful. “Hearken” means to “hear with attention, obedience, or compliance.”
Lehi knows that all good things come by the mercy of the Lord. If Laman and Lemuel
will indeed hearken unto Lehi’s words, not only to his recitation of his dream/vision,
but also the other advice and admonition he gives them throughout their lives, he
can show them the way to approach the Lord for his mercy, that they may not be cast
off from his presence. The Lord “casts off” those who are not in and do not wish
to be in His presence anyway.
1 Nephi 8:38
Keep the commandments of the Lord
The Book of Mormon teaches, from beginning to end,
“Keep the commandments of the Lord!”
And after he had preached unto them, and also prophesied unto them of many things,
he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord;
and he did cease speaking unto them.
What a lot of information Laman and Lemuel were privy to – the preaching and prophesying
of Lehi! Nephi doesn’t give us any details at all. But we can read all the scriptures
and find preaching and prophesying, and the conclusion of it all – as well as Lehi’s
speech to his sons – is the admonition to keep the commandments of the Lord. That
is always the focal point. Preaching may explain why we should keep them, the good
things that happen to those who do, and the bad things that happen to those who don’t;
prophesying may explain what is going to happen to those who do and don’t. The bottom
line is that the Lord knows the way to happiness. At any point in a person’s life
it is better to keep the commandments.
When he is wandering around pointlessly without understanding, he will be better
off if he blindly keeps the commandments. All he can see is the commandments around
him – perhaps shackling him; he cannot see consequences because he is living in the
moment. But as he exercises faith and keeps the commandments, he begins to understand
them, and to know that they are making his life better. This can be an encouragement
to keep the commandments more precisely and more committedly.
Through this process he gains wisdom and understanding and vision, and begins
to see more clearly and broadly their positive effects, not only in his life, but
in the lives of those around him, and in his society at large, and in other societies.
Lehi, through his faithfulness and experiences, has attained this level of vision,
while Laman and Lemuel are still stumbling around looking elsewhere for happiness,
and at commandments as restrictions. How Lehi urges them to keep the commandments
of the Lord, knowing how simple and plain it really becomes! Nephi was by this time
already committed to keeping commandments, but surely as he heard his father repeatedly
exhort his brothers, this commitment became more solidified in himself, and became
a major theme of his writing. It may be that constantly hearing what he didn’t really
need to hear strengthened his personal resolve and his focus as the future leader
of his people, and helped them to live on a higher plane than they otherwise would