Lesson 12: 1 Nephi 8

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012


Introduction

In 1 Nephi 8, Lehi recounts his vision of the tree of life. In vision, Lehi partakes of the fruit of the tree, which represents the love of God and the blessings we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Lehi is shown various groups of people. Some become lost and do not reach the tree. Others become ashamed after partaking of the fruit of the tree, and they fall into forbidden paths and are lost. Others hold fast to the iron rod, partake of the fruit, and remain true and faithful. Another group chooses not to seek the path to the tree of life at all.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Nephi 8:1–18

Lehi experiences a vision in which he partakes of the fruit of the tree of life and invites his family to do the same

Invite students to think about times when they have felt Heavenly Father’s love for them. Ask them to silently consider how the choices they make affect their closeness to God and their ability to feel His love. After giving them time to reflect, share your testimony that Heavenly Father loves each one of them. As the class studies 1 Nephi 8, encourage students to look for things they can do and things they should avoid if they want to grow closer to God and feel His love more abundantly in their lives. (To help prepare students for this lesson, you may want to invite them to sing “The Iron Rod” [Hymns, no. 274] at the beginning of class.)

Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 8:2 aloud. Ask the class to identify what Lehi experienced shortly after his sons returned from Jerusalem with the brass plates. Have a few students take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 8:5–12.

  • What objects were the focus of Lehi’s vision? (The tree of life and its fruit.)

  • What words and phrases did Lehi use to describe the fruit? (See 1 Nephi 8:10–11; you may also want to have students read 1 Nephi 11:8–9 to see how Nephi described the tree.)

Explain that the Lord often uses familiar objects as symbols to help us understand eternal truths. To help students identify what the tree and the fruit in Lehi’s dream represent, invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen carefully and identify what the tree and the fruit symbolize.

Neal A. Maxwell

“The tree of life … is the love of God (see 1 Ne. 11:25). The love of God for His children is most profoundly expressed in His gift of Jesus as our Redeemer: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). To partake of the love of God is to partake of Jesus’ Atonement and the emancipations and joys which it can bring” (“Lessons from Laman and Lemuel,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 8).

  • According to Elder Maxwell, the tree of life represents the love of God shown to us especially through what gift? (Help students understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the greatest expression of God’s love for His children. When people in Lehi’s vision partook of the fruit of the tree of life, it meant that they were partaking of the blessings of the Atonement.)

  • Emancipation means liberation or freedom. How does the Atonement of Jesus Christ free us from bondage and bring us joy?

Lehi's dream

To help students identify one of the principles illustrated in 1 Nephi 8:10–12, ask them to identify in 1 Nephi 8:11 the words that describe what Lehi did (“I did go forth and partake of the fruit”). Then have them look for the results of his action in 1 Nephi 8:12 (“it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy”). You may also want to point out to students that, in 1 Nephi 8:10, Lehi described the fruit as “desirable to make one happy.” (You may want to suggest that students mark these phrases in their scriptures.)

  • What feelings did Lehi experience after partaking of the fruit?

  • How can we “partake” of the Atonement? (Through the process of repentance.)

  • Why does partaking of the Atonement fill our souls with “exceedingly great joy”?

Share your testimony that coming unto Jesus Christ and partaking of the Atonement brings happiness and joy. (You might want to write this principle on the board.)

  • When has the Savior’s Atonement brought happiness and joy to your life? (Remind students that they do not need to share experiences that are too personal or private.)

1 Nephi 8:19–35

In his vision, Lehi sees various groups of people and their success or failure in reaching the tree of life

Display the picture Lehi’s Dream (62620; Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 69), and point out the symbols the class has already discussed: the tree and the fruit. Explain that in this vision, the Lord also used other symbols to teach Lehi how to come unto Jesus Christ and partake of His Atonement. Ask students what other symbols they see in the picture. (Answers may include the river, the rod of iron, the mist of darkness, and the great and spacious building.)

Remind students that the Lord showed Nephi the same vision. Nephi later recorded the meanings of the various symbols and images in the vision (see 1 Nephi 11, 12, and 15).

Prepare the following chart as a handout, or display it on the board before class begins. (Leave the right column blank except for the scripture references.) Invite students to use the provided cross-references to identify the interpretation of each element of Lehi’s vision. Review the first symbol, the tree with white fruit, together as a class. Have students take a few minutes individually to identify the meaning of the remaining four symbols. (You may want to suggest that they record their answers in their scriptures next to the corresponding verses in 1 Nephi 8.)

Symbol in Lehi’s Vision

Interpretation Shared by Nephi

1 Nephi 8:10–12—The tree with white fruit

1 Nephi 11:21–25 (The love of God; the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ)

1 Nephi 8:13—The river of filthy water

1 Nephi 12:16; 15:26–29 (Filthiness; the depths of hell)

1 Nephi 8:19—The rod of iron

1 Nephi 11:25 (The word of God)

1 Nephi 8:23—The mists of darkness

1 Nephi 12:17 (The temptations of the devil)

1 Nephi 8:26—The great and spacious building

1 Nephi 11:35–36; 12:18 (The pride and vain imaginations of the world)

Invite students to share the interpretations they have discovered. To help them see the relevance of 1 Nephi 8 in their lives, ask a student to read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Invite the class to listen for a reason why it is important for them to study Lehi’s vision:

“You may think that Lehi’s dream or vision has no special meaning for you, but it does. You are in it; all of us are in it. …

“Lehi’s dream or vision … has in it everything a Latter-day Saint needs to understand the test of life” (“Finding Ourselves in Lehi’s Dream,” Ensign, Aug. 2010, 22).

As students study the remainder of the vision, encourage them to look for people in the vision who might represent themselves. Assure them that no matter where they see themselves in the vision, they each have the power and ability to choose to qualify for the blessings of the Atonement.

Divide students into two groups. Explain that each group will look for different things as the class reads 1 Nephi 8:21–33 together.

Ask group 1 to look for answers to the following questions. (Before class, write these questions on the board or on a handout.)

  • What obstacles did the people in Lehi’s vision face?

  • What do those obstacles represent?

  • What form do those obstacles take today?

  • What principles do you see in these verses?

Invite group 2 to look for answers to the following questions. (Before class, write these questions on the board or on a handout.)

  • What helped the people reach the tree and partake of the fruit?

  • In what ways is an iron rod like the word of God?

  • How does the word of God help us overcome obstacles on the path to eternal life?

  • What principles do you see in these verses?

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 8:21–33. Then invite students in group 1 to share their answers to their assigned questions. Also ask them to share principles they see in these verses. Make sure students understand that pride, worldliness, and submitting to temptations can keep us from receiving the blessings of the Atonement. Invite students to ponder how these obstacles may be hindering their spiritual progress.

Have students in group 2 share their answers to the questions they were assigned. After discussing their insights, invite them to share principles they see in 1 Nephi 8:21–33. Principles they identify might include the following:

If we hold fast to the word of God, it will help us overcome temptation and worldly influences.

Holding fast to the word of God helps us grow closer to the Lord and receive the blessings of the Atonement.

  • In 1 Nephi 8:24 and 30, what words describe people’s efforts to hold on to the iron rod and reach the tree?

  • What do you think it means to “press forward”?

  • What do you think it means to cling and continually hold fast to the word of God? (You may need to explain that in 1 Nephi 8:30, the word fast means firmly attached.)

  • Why should we study the scriptures every day?

After discussing these questions, you may want to point out that in the vision, some people, such as Laman and Lemuel, would not partake of the fruit (see 1 Nephi 8:22–23, 35–38). This represented their refusal to repent and partake of the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Some people fell away even after partaking of the fruit (see 1 Nephi 8:25, 28). This reminds us that after we have begun to receive the blessings of the Atonement, we need to be diligent and faithful, repenting of our sins and striving to keep our covenants. Encourage students to follow the example of the people who partook of the fruit and remained at the tree (see 1 Nephi 8:33).

To help students see how the principles in Lehi’s vision have blessed their lives, invite them to answer one of the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  • When has the word of God guided you or helped you overcome temptation, pride, or worldliness?

  • When have you felt God’s love for you as you have read or listened to His word?

Invite a few students to share their responses with the class.

Encourage students to act on what they have learned and felt while studying 1 Nephi 8 by setting a realistic goal to begin or continue developing a habit of daily personal scripture study. Share with students the blessings that have come into your life through regular scripture study.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Nephi 8

Referring to the vision of the tree of life, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “The images of Christ and the tree [are] inextricably linked. … At the very outset of the Book of Mormon … Christ is portrayed as the source of eternal life and joy, the living evidence of divine love, and the means whereby God will fulfill his covenant with the house of Israel and indeed the entire family of man, returning them to all their eternal promises” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 160, 162).

1 Nephi 8:4–35

The following chart provides additional details about what Nephi learned from the vision of the tree of life:

Symbol from Lehi’s Vision (1 Nephi 8)

Interpretation Given to Nephi (1 Nephi 11–12)

1 Nephi 8:10–12—The tree with white fruit

1 Nephi 11:21–25 (The love of God; the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ)

1 Nephi 8:13—The river of filthy water

1 Nephi 12:16 (Filthiness; the depths of hell)

1 Nephi 8:19—The rod of iron

1 Nephi 11:25 (The word of God)

1 Nephi 8:23—The mists of darkness

1 Nephi 12:17 (The temptations of the devil)

1 Nephi 8:26—The great and spacious building

1 Nephi 11:35–36; 12:18 (The pride and vain imaginations of the world)

1 Nephi 8:21–23—People who start on the path to the tree but are lost in the mist

Nephi saw the following kinds of people in his vision:

  • 1 Nephi 11:28 (Multitudes who heard Jesus but “cast him out”)

  • 1 Nephi 11:31–33 (People who crucified Jesus even after He healed the sick and cast out devils)

  • 1 Nephi 11:34–36 (Multitudes who were gathered together in a large and spacious building to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb)

  • 1 Nephi 12:1–3, 13–15 (Nephites and Lamanites who were gathered together to battle and were slaughtered in war)

  • 1 Nephi 12:19–23 (Nephites who, because of pride, were destroyed by the Lamanites; Lamanites who dwindled in unbelief)

1 Nephi 8:24–25, 28—People who make it to the tree (and taste the fruit) by holding on to the rod but fall away when they are mocked by the people in the great and spacious building

1 Nephi 8:26–27, 31–33—People who desire the great and spacious building more than they desire the tree and its fruit

1 Nephi 8:30, 33—People who hold on to the rod, partake of the fruit, and do not fall away

1 Nephi 15:24, 36 (Those who hold fast to the word of God, withstand the temptations of the adversary, and partake of the greatest of all the gifts of God)

1 Nephi 8:19. Blessings of holding fast to the word of God

President Ezra Taft Benson taught of the blessings that come from holding fast to the word of God:

“[Lehi] saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. … Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries. … The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 80.)

1 Nephi 8:26–27. “Great and spacious building”

The great and spacious building stands in opposition to the tree of life, which represents the love of God and the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy contrasted the standards of God with the behaviors of the people in the great and spacious building:

“To those of you who are inching your way closer and closer to that great and spacious building, let me make it completely clear that the people in that building have absolutely nothing to offer except instant, short-term gratification inescapably connected to long-term sorrow and suffering. The commandments you observe were not given by a dispassionate God to prevent you from having fun, but by a loving Father in Heaven who wants you to be happy while you are living on this earth as well as in the hereafter” (“They’re Not Really Happy,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 40).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

1 Nephi 8:4–35. Illustrating Lehi’s vision of the tree of life

Instead of identifying symbols on the picture of the tree of life as suggested in lesson 12, invite one or more students to draw the vision on the board or on a large piece of paper as the rest of the students take turns reading the verses identified in the lesson. Have readers stop at intervals so those who are drawing can add to the illustration. Invite the students to explain what they have drawn. As they identify what the symbols in the vision represent, have them write the interpretation on the drawing. This activity provides a chance for more student involvement in discovering the truths in this chapter, but it will take more time than the activity described in lesson 12.

1 Nephi 8:36–38. Lehi tenderly exhorts Laman and Lemuel to keep the Lord’s commandments

Explain that because the Lord has charged parents to teach their children to observe His commandments, fathers and mothers will, at times, invite their children to repent. 1 Nephi 8:36–38 shows how Lehi continually sought to love his sons although they had previously rebelled and murmured against the commandments. Tell the class that Lehi exhorted his children “with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words” (1 Nephi 8:37). Lehi wanted his wayward sons to feel the love of God and experience the joy of the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ as he did (see 1 Nephi 8:12–18).