Tree of life vision

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Considered by adherents to be Aztec chart depicting Lehi's dream[1]

The tree of life vision is a vision discussed in the Book of Mormon, one of the scriptures of Latter Day Saint movement, published by Joseph Smith in 1830. In the Book of Mormon, the vision was received in a dream by the prophet Lehi, and later in vision by his son Nephi, who wrote about it in the First Book of Nephi. The vision includes a path leading to a tree symbolizing salvation, with an iron rod along the path whereby followers of Jesus may hold to the rod and avoid wandering off the path into pits or waters symbolizing the ways of sin. The vision also includes a large building wherein the wicked look down at the righteous and mock them.

The vision is said to symbolize the spiritual plight of humanity, and is a well known and cited story among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). A Latter-day Saint commentator reflected a common belief of church members that the vision is "one of the richest, most flexible, and far-reaching pieces of symbolic prophecy contained in the standard works [scriptures]."[2]

The vision is similar to the second vision recounted by Smith's father Joseph Smith Sr. prior to publication of the Book of Mormon. The vision of Smith Sr. contained a tree with delicious fruit, a path, and a large building where the wicked looked down in scorn of the righteous; however, the vision of Smith Sr. contained a rope rather than an iron rod, and there were other minor differences.[3] Because of the similarity, secular church scholars postulate that Smith Sr.'s dream is the source for the tree of life vision.[4] Smith Sr.'s dream was first recorded by his wife Lucy Mack Smith after publication of the Book of Mormon, and some Latter-day Saint scholars suggest that the text of the Book of Mormon may have influenced Lucy's account, rather than vice versa.[citation needed] Other apologetic scholars, such as Hugh Nibley, postulate that Lehi and Smith Sr. simply had the same archetypal vision.[5]


A depiction of the vision in the Hill Cumorah Pageant

According to the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi received this vision in a dream during his exile in the Arabian wilderness sometime after 600 B.C. He awoke and recounted it to his children as described in the 8th chapter of the First Book of Nephi. Lehi's son, Nephi, recorded the vision on the golden plates, and later had the same vision, albeit a more detailed version, which he records later in the same book.[6] Nephi's vision also included an interpretation of the vision.

In the vision, Lehi related that he saw several objects, including the following:

  1. A tree with white fruit,[7] symbolizing the love of God, and by extension, the atonement of Jesus.[8]
  2. A strait and narrow path,[9] symbolizing the path to salvation.[citation needed]
  3. A rod of iron, which runs along the path,[10] symbolizing the "word of God".[11] Holding onto the iron rod refers to holding tightly to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which enable a person to avoid the temptations of the world or to stray from the strait and narrow path.
  4. A mist of darkness,[12] symbolizing the temptations of the devil.[13]
  5. A great and spacious building,[14] symbolizing the pride of the world.[15] The many inhabitants of the building mock and laugh at those who are on the strait and narrow path.

Lehi sees in the vision that his sons Sam and Nephi, and his wife Sariah partake of the white fruit, indicating that they will be saved.[16] He sees that his sons Laman and Lemuel do not partake of the fruit.[16]


The story of the vision is well known among members of the LDS Church and is widely cited. The "rod of iron" specifically is mentioned often referring to the scriptures or the words of the Lord, in order to convey the importance of heeding God's teachings.[17]

Izapa Stela 5[edit]

Some members of the LDS Church, including Jakeman, believe that Izapa Stela 5, an ancient stela found in ancient Mesoamerica in the 1930s, is a depiction of the tree of life vision.[18] This interpretation is not supported by mainstream scholars. Mesoamerican researchers identify the central image as a Mesoamerican world tree, connecting the sky above and the water or underworld below. Mesoamerican art scholar, Julia Guernsey Kappelman does not support this association between Izapa Stela 5 and the Book of Mormon. Kappelman has stated that Jakeman's research disregards the cultural context behind Izapa Stela 5 in favor of his own interpretations and biases.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reynolds, George (1888). The Story of the Book of Mormon. Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co. pp. 32–34.
  2. ^ Corbin T. Volluz, "Lehi's Dream of the Tree of Life: Springboard to Prophecy," JBMS 2/2 (1993): 38. - as quoted in Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life: Understanding the Dream as Visionary Literature, Charles Swift, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2005. P. 52–63 - online version at [1]
  3. ^ Smith (1853, p. 59).
  4. ^ Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 58. Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 70-71. Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004).
  5. ^ Nibley, Hugh. Lehi in the Desert, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 5. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, and F.A.R.M.S., Provo, Utah, 1988, p. 44.
  6. ^ See 1 Nephi chapters 11–14
  7. ^ 1 Nephi 8:10-12
  8. ^ 1 Nephi 11:21-23
  9. ^ 1 Nephi 8:20
  10. ^ 1 Nephi 8:19
  11. ^ 1 Nephi 11:25
  12. ^ 1 Nephi 8:23
  13. ^ 1 Nephi 12:17
  14. ^ 1 Nephi 8:26-27
  15. ^ 1 Nephi 11:36
  16. ^ a b 1 Nephi 8:14-16
  17. ^ Bednar, David A. (October 2011), "Lehi's Dream: Holding Fast to the Rod", Ensign
  18. ^ See Jakeman.
  19. ^ Guernsey, p. 53.


Further reading[edit]

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