The Tree of Life: Art Depicting Lehi’s Dream and the Tree of Life


The Tree of Life:

In Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, Lehi was shown, among other things, “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy” (1 Ne. 8:10). He also saw several obstacles on the strait and narrow path to the tree, including a river of water, mists of darkness that led seekers astray, and a great and spacious building filled with people who mocked those who partook of the fruit. But Lehi also saw a rod of iron leading to the tree that acted as a sure guide to those who would grasp hold of it and follow where it led.

Lehi’s son Nephi saw the same vision and recorded the interpretations told him by an angel of the vision’s symbolism (see 1 Ne. 11–4; 1 Ne. 15:21–36). Taking images from the accounts of the vision, artists have used a variety of media to express their convictions about the power of the vision of the tree of life.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life, by Kazuto Uota of Osaka, Japan, 1990.

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, by Tammy García of Taos, New Mexico, United States, 1994.

Lehi’s Dream

Lehi’s Dream, by David Hyrum Smith of Nauvoo, Illinois, ca. 1875. (Courtesy of RLDS Archives, Independence, Mo.)

He … Bade Me Follow Him

1 Nephi 8:5–6 [1 Ne. 8:5–6] [He … Bade Me Follow Him], by Marwan Nahlé of Beirut, Lebanon, 1995.

Lehi’s Dream

Lehi’s Dream, by Abelardo Lovendino of Legazpi City, Philippines, 1995

Lehi told his children: “There arose a mist of darkness … , insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost” (1 Ne. 8:23). Nephi wrote: “The mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost” (1 Ne. 12:17).

Tree of Life

Tree of Life, by Abu Hassan Conteh of Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1994

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life(click to view larger)

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, by Victor Enrique de la Torre of Puellaro, Ecuador, 1987

Lehi’s Dream

Lehi’s Dream, by Kurt Sjökvist of Mockfjärd, Sweden, 1995.

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, by Robert Yellowhair of Snowflake, Arizona, United States, 1992.

Iron Rod and Tree of Life

Iron Rod and Tree of Life, by Harrison Begay Jr. of Española, New Mexico, United States, 1994.

Joseph Smith and the Tree of Life

Joseph Smith and the Tree of Life, by Juan M. Escobedo of Caliente, Nevada, United States, 1987.

[illustrations] Art courtesy of the Museum of Church History and Art.

“I beheld a tree,” said Lehi, “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. … And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy” (1 Ne. 8:10, 12). Nephi shared the meaning of the tree: “It is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men” (1 Ne. 11:22). (Art courtesy of the Museum of Church History and Art.)

Lehi “beheld a river of water; and it ran along, and it was near the tree; [and] … many were drowned in the depths of the fountain” (1 Ne. 8:13, 32). This river, wrote Nephi in his interpretation, “was an awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God” (1 Ne. 15:28).

“On the other side of the river of water,” Lehi saw “a great and spacious building … filled with people … in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit” (1 Ne. 8:26–27). The angel told Nephi that the building represented not only “the world and the wisdom thereof” but also “vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men” (1 Ne. 11:35; 1 Ne. 12:18).

Lehi also saw “a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree” (1 Ne. 8:19). This rod of iron, Nephi explained, “was 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” (1 Ne. 15:24).