1 Nephi 7 - 1 Nephi 8
v5 "a man" = the Lord (Dan 10:5)
v7 "a dark and dreary waste"
v9 "a large and spacious field" = the world (Matt 13:38)
v10 "a tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy" = the love of God
v13 "river of water" = the depths of hell (1 Ne 12:16)
v19 "rod of iron" = Word of God, scriptures (1 Ne 8:30)
v20 "strait and narrow path" = leads to eternal life (1 Ne 31:18)
v23 "mist of darkness" = temptations of the devil (1 Ne 12:17)
v26 "great and spacious building" = pride of the world (1 Ne 11:36)
Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life remains one of my children's favorite lessons in Family Home Evening. They love to draw their own versions of the field, path, river, building and finally the Tree of Life brimming with yellow fruit. The vision is full of symbolism that is simple for even the youngest to understand.
In verse 14, Lehi says he saw Sariah, Sam and Nephi, "and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go." Lehi calls to them and they come and partake of the fruit. My husband asked if Lehi's role was as a prophet or as a father. I think his duty is now as a father. His duty to the Jews was absolved when he was told to leave Jerusalem. And so since we are to liken scripture unto us, it becomes the father's responsibility to lead and guide his family to the Tree of Life. A father can teach, lead and guide his family to the tree but he cannot force someone to partake of the fruit.
Partaking of the fruit is an act of one's own free will and choice. Lehi showed his family the way and some (Sariah, Sam and Nephi) ate the fruit. Surely Lehi begged and pleaded but Laman and Lemuel chose not to eat the fruit. Lehi can force them to physically follow him into the wilderness (1 Ne 2:14) but he cannot and we cannot force someone into righteousness.
Lehi describes the fruit as "desirable to make one happy" (1 Ne 8:10). What is "happy"? I think happiness has become a convoluted term in our current society. We're happy if we have a new car; go on a trip; get a raise; have a good time, etc... but in reality happiness, true happiness is only in coming unto Christ and obtaining exaltation. In Nephi 2:13, Lehi tells his sons "and if there be no righteousness there be no happiness" and in Alma 41:10 we read "wickedness never was happiness". If I can remember what true happiness is, I can do the things that bring happiness. I can find joy in my family; in fulfilling my callings; in studying the scriptures; in serving others and in sincerely striving to become a better person and come unto Christ.