96989_000_013Information for this article courtesy of Mark Staker, Museum of Church History and Art
Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.”
With these words, the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi reveals a divine vision that testifies of God’s love for his children and his desire that they return to his presence. In the vision, God’s love is symbolized by a “tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” Lehi’s wife, Sariah, and two of their sons, Sam and Nephi, respond to his invitation to join him at the tree. But, to his sorrow, his rebellious sons, Laman and Lemuel, “would not come unto me and partake of the fruit.”
Lehi sees that although “numberless concourses of people” walk the path of life toward the tree, many become lost. Those who hold fast to a symbolic rod of iron eventually reach the tree and enjoy the fruit. But even after tasting fruit that Lehi said “filled my soul with exceedingly great joy,” some still fall away “into forbidden paths.” Many succumb to the jeers of mocking crowds calling from “a great and spacious building” (1 Ne. 8:2–35).
Lehi’s son Nephi saw the same vision and was given the interpretation of its symbolism (see 1 Ne. 11–14; 1 Ne. 15:21–36). Taking images from Lehi’s vision, as interpreted by Nephi, Latter-day Saint artists from around the world have used various media over the years to express their testimonies. The following pages contain some of these representations, reminding us to “give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things” (1 Ne. 15:25).
Become Familiar with the Scriptures, 1993, by Taichi Aoba, Sai jo-Shi, Ehime-ken, Japan; fired clay (35 x 26 x 10 cm). Lehi’s vision of the tree of life is encircled by other key stories from the Book of Mormon.
The Tree of Life, 1995, by Jeronimo Lozano Lozano, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States; painted plaster paste on wood (122 x 96 x 18 cm). Using the compartments of a traditional Peruvian retablo, the artist depicts Lehi’s dream in sequence. (Photograph by R. T. Clark.)
The Rod and the Veil, 1975, by Franz Johansen, Provo, Utah, United States; cast bronze (252 x 213 x 16 cm). The crucified Savior’s hand reaching through the veil between mortality and immortality becomes an extension of the iron rod. The boy strives upward to grasp the rod.
Tree of Life, 1994, by Abu Hassan Conteh, Freetown, Sierra Leone; applique, fabric on fabric (152 x 99 cm). Cattle, a traditional African instrument of exchange used to seal sacred contracts, here represent the covenant white-haired Lehi is making with the Lord. His family, upper right, make their way to the tree, but Laman and Lemuel and two seated figures are interested only in worldly things.