1 Ne 8:2-9:6

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Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 8-9 / Verses 8:2-9:6
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Relationship to First Nephi. The relationship of Chapter 8-9 to the rest of First Nephi is addressed at First Nephi.

Story. Chapter 8-9 consists of six major sections:

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 19-22 include:


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1 Ne 8-9: Lehi's dream of the tree of life[edit]

1 Ne 8:2-9: The dark and dreary wilderness[edit]

  • 1 Ne 8:2. "Dreamed a dream" and "seen a vision" are equated in verse 2. There are many contexts in which these phrases might have different connotations.
  • 1 Ne 8:2. It is interesting to note that even though Ishmael's family had just arrived in the valley, there is no mention at all of them in the dream or in Lehi's commentary on the dream.
  • 1 Ne 8:7. In verse 7, Lehi finds himself in a dark and dreary waste where he wanders around for hours. He wanders around for hours before he prays to the Lord for mercy, after which he see the tree of life and partakes of the fruit. It is interesting that the iron rod is never mentioned in Lehi's partaking of the fruit.
  • 1 Ne 8:7. It is interesting to note that as soon as Lehi begins following the Heavenly messenger, he finds himself in a dark and dreary waste. Often times, it seems that when we make an effort in our lives to do what's right, we end up passing through trials and temptations, and it may seem that the Lord is not with us or doesn't care about us. But, if we are patient and faithful, calling upon His name, He will hear us AND deliver us.

1 Ne 8:10-18: The tree with desirable fruit[edit]

  • 1 Ne 8:10. The tree of life symbolizes the Love of God. There is nothing in this life that can bring us as much happiness as partaking of the fruits of his love. These include his spirit, the atonement, and much more.

1 Ne 8:19-28: The iron rod, mist of darkness, and spacious building[edit]

  • 1 Ne 8:19-20. Could the path be the trail worn by those holding on to the rod? If this is the case, it makes an interesting analogy to two groups of saints: Those who hold to the word of God (the scriptures and the words of the prophets) and those who simply follow the actions of those hold to the rod (they go to church, activities, etc.). Later, when the mist of darkness arises, it is those who are simply on the path, following the ways of the righteous, that fall away. Those who hold to the rod, or word of God, make it through the temptations. (A further note: There are two groups that hold to the rod and eat the fruit: those who eat and look around to see who's watching, and those who "fall down" and partake - very humble. It seems there are two ways to follow the word of God - we can do it in true humility, focusing on the Love of God (tree), or, we can follow the word of God because we want to look good to others.)
  • 1 Ne 8:24. Lehi sees that they are "clinging" to the rod of iron. In such a dark setting you might expect people to be holding hands. But nothing is said of people clinging together. No person is leading another by the hand. Maybe the significance of this is that the rod of iron, or as we learn later, the word of God, must be grasped directly, individually, of our own choice. We must know the truth for ourselves. Others can "beckon" us, as Lehi did his family, but we each need to grasp the word of God individually if we are to press forward.
Clinging to the rod implies a force pulling in the opposite direction--that is why they clung to it. Those who "continually held fast" seem to not have the opposite pull. The "clingers" did not "fall at the tree" but simply partook and then were ashamed. I think "clingers" could compare to those who view the Gospel as something they should do, but the pull of the world is very real in their lives, so they cling because they know they should, not that they really want the Gospel. That is why they did not fall down when they partook of the fruit; they didn't recognize the great gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They were like the nine lepers who had been cleansed and never thanked Christ. However, because they clung to the rod and partook of the fruit, not because they really wanted to but because they were "supposed to", they eventually fell away or gave into that force that had been pulling at them the whole time.
  • 1 Ne 8:19-24: Faith, hope, and charity. Elements from Lehi's dream of the tree of life illustrates the relationship between faith, hope, and charity. Faith can be seen as a belief that the path and rod of iron leading to the tree of life really do exist; hope as a belief that I am actually on that path and moving in the right direction; and charity as a desire to reach out and help someone else join me on the path. For more on faith, hope, and charity, see the discussion at 1 Cor 13:13.

1 Ne 8:29-35: Two groups of people seeking after the tree and the building[edit]

  • 1 Ne 8:30. We often talk about clinging to the rod of iron and holding fast to the rod of iron similarly. Both are descriptors of how we should approach the word of God, or the scriptures. If we follow those who cling to the iron rod to their conclusion, they become ashamed after they have partaken of the fruit of the tree life (verse 28). The group that holds fast to the iron rod (verse 30) comes to the tree, falls down and eats the fruit. Is there a difference, then between clinging and holding fast to the iron rod? Can this difference help us understand how to better approach the scriptures?
Cling is often used in a negative connotation. It also carries a sense of desperation. I envision someone putting their whole attention on the object to which they cling. In the vision, these people may have been clinging to the rod for their life. Or, they were looking to the scriptures to save their life. However, the scriptures are not meant to be the source of life, but something to lead us to the source of life, the tree of life, the love of God, or simply Jesus Christ. Perhaps the mist of darkness and their focus on the iron rod resulted in them not even understanding what they were going to. When they finally arrive at the tree, they partake, but it is not what they expected because this was the life they thought they had received, and they fell away. Perhaps this approach is making the scriptures something they were not intended to be, and maybe this is what wresting the scriptures means.
Contrast holding fast. Fast implies firm and secure. It is similar to fasten. Fastening something together (such as a seatbelt) brings to things together and joins them as one. It gives a sense of safety, without occupying one's entire attention. These people on the path could pay more attention to what was happening and where they were going. Perhaps through breaks in the mist, they could see the tree. They came to understand that the tree would offer them life. They then arrive at the tree and fall down in a worshipful manner and partook of the fruit.
When Nephi and Lehi understood that the rod of iron was a representation of the word of God, they probably thought first and foremost of the Law of Moses. If we apply the two approaches to the rod to the Law of Moses, we can clearly see the history of the Jews in a simple form. There were many who clung to the Law as though it was the source of life. They rejected Christ. There were others who understood that the Law led to Christ. These people continued to follow the law, but it was secondary to their focus on Christ.
Also see this post by NathanG at the Feast blog regarding the "clinging to" wording here in contrast to the "holding fast" wording in verse 30.

1 Ne 8:36-9:1: Lehi exhorts Laman and Lemuel[edit]

1 Ne 9:2-6: The small plates explained in contrast to the brass plates[edit]

  • 1 Ne 9:2-6. The Lord knows our past. His knowledge of history allows him to make plans for the future. This power of perception allows him to orchestrate our lives and his purposes. The prophecies he shares with us provide an inkling of what he foresees and is putting in place.
  • 1 Ne 9:2-6: The small plates of Nephi. In chapter 5 Nephi told us that the Brass Plates contain two types of information: more secular matters such as histories (1 Ne. 5:11-12) and genealogies (1 Ne. 5:14-16), and matters relating to a more spiritual ministry such as prophecies (1 Ne. 5:13) and commandments (1 Ne. 5:21-22). Throughout the course of First Nephi he then tells us that his large plates also contain histories and genealogies (1 Ne. 19:2, 4), while his small plates do not (1 Ne. 6:1-2; 9:2, 4), because the small plates are limited to matters of his ministry (1 Ne. 6:3-5; 9:3-4; 19:3) specifically including prophecies (1 Ne. 19:3).

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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  • 1 Ne 8.2: Was Nephi quoting Lehi when he wrote the phrase "in other words"?
  • 1 Ne 8.2: Is there a difference between a dream and a vision? What might qualify a dream as a vision?
  • 1 Ne 8.3: How might Laman and Lemuel have felt to be unflatteringly compared to their younger brother?
  • 1 Ne 8.4: May Lehi might have inadvertantly pushed his older children--who obviously did have some serious issues--further away by comparing them to their younger siblings?
  • 1 Ne 8.4: Why does Lehi use the word "methought" here? It seems to express uncertainty. Is his uncertainty about whether there was a dark and dreary wilderness in his dream? Or does it point back to his fear for Laman and Lemuel and he is saying he thinks (but isn't sure) that his dream should be interpreted as causing him to concern for their salvation.
  • 1 Ne 8.5: As members of the church, who leads us to the tree?
  • 1 Ne 8.5: Who was this man that Lehi followed?
  • 1 Ne 8.5: Is there special significance to the man's robe being white?
  • 1 Ne 8.7: What level of consciousness or awareness was Lehi describing with the phrase "beheld myself"?
  • 1 Ne 8.7: What happened to the angel that Lehi was following? Did he abandon Lehi in the darkness?
  • 1 Ne 8.8: If the word "hours" does not appear in the Old Testament, then was it New Testament usage that influenced the translation of this verse?
  • 1 Ne 8.8: How does one distinguish "many hours" of travel in a dream? What was this experience of traveling in darkness like?
  • 1 Ne 8.8: Why would Lehi pray for mercy while traveling in the darkness? Was there something more to the dream than just being in the dark?
  • 1 Ne 8.8: What does the "multitude of...tender mercies" mean? Does this imply that there are more than one type of mercy, and what might make them tender?
  • 1 Ne 8.9: Why doesn't the word "spacious" appear in scriptures outside the Book of Mormon?
  • 1 Ne 8.9: Is the word "spacious" in this verse related to the word "space" in the previous verse?
  • 1 Ne 8.9: Why doesn't the field appear until after Lehi prays?
  • 1 Ne 8.10: Why does this verse echo the phrase "a tree to be desired to make one wise" found in Gen 3:6?
  • 1 Ne 8.11: Why does the word "sweet" require the modifiers "most" and "above" while the word "white" only requires "exceed"?
  • 1 Ne 8.12: Why does the Bible say nothing about the soul being filled with joy?
  • 1 Ne 8.14: Why was this sacred tree located at the bottom of the river, rather than in an elevated spot?
  • 1 Ne 8.15: Was Lehi using a messianic phrase when he invited his family to "come unto me"?
  • 1 Ne 8.16: Why is it necessary for both the words "and" and "also" to appear in this verse?
  • 1 Ne 8.17: Why did Lehi choose to not repeat his "come unto me" message when calling for Laman and Lemuel?
  • 1 Ne 8.18: Does this foreshadowing vision of Laman and Lemuel not going to the tree of life, or not coming unto Christ, mean that they will never come unto the Savior? What about their agency? Does this de-motivate them to try?
  • 1 Ne 8.19: Why was it necessary for the iron rod to follow the route of the river from its head to the tree?
  • 1 Ne 8.20: Was the path located on the bank, between the iron rod and the river, or was the iron rod located in between the river bank and the path?
  • 1 Ne 8.21: Given how the word "concourses" is used in the Book of Mormon, should we assume that Lehi was trying to say there was something angelic about the people in this first group?
  • 1 Ne 8.22: How is it possible that all of these people started out on the same side of the river as the path?
  • 1 Ne 8.23: Why did everyone on the path at that moment "lose their way"?
  • 1 Ne 8.24: What were the odds that, in total darkness, these people could find the direction they needed to take in order to find the iron rod?
  • 1 Ne 8.26: How did it happen that both the ashamed (vs. 25) and the confident (vs. 26) cast their eyes about?
  • 1 Ne 8.27: Why does the word "attitude" not appear in the Bible?
  • 1 Ne 8.28: Why wasn't it possible for these individuals to avoid feeling ashamed?
  • 1 Ne 8.29: Was Nephi speaking and writing these words simultaneously?
  • 1 Ne 8.30: What does it mean that the people "fell down"?
  • 1 Ne 8.31: Does use of the word multitude connote a line of descendants (see Gen 48:4)?
  • 1 Ne 8.32: How does Nephi know what these people were doing if his father was unable to relate their fate in his telling of the story?
  • 1 Ne 8.33: Why is Nephi switching, apparently without an explanation, from third person in the previous verse to first person in this verse?
  • 1 Ne 8.34: Were these people powerless to escape once they listened to the song of the sirens?
  • 1 Ne 8.35: Which group were these two in and did they even get close to the tree?
  • 1 Ne 8.36: Was Lehi's vision so prophetic that Laman and Lemuel were destined, from that time on, to work against the will of the Lord?
  • 1 Ne 8.37: If "exhort" means to "force or impel in an indicated direction" and "tender" means "given to sympathy or gentleness or sentimentality," then how do these words work together?
  • 1 Ne 8.38: Did Lehi think this was the last chance he would have to convince his sons to change their ways?
  • 1 Ne 9.1: Was Nephi trying to say that what Lehi felt was less important than what he say, heard, and spoke?
  • 1 Ne 9.2: Why didn't Nephi make the large/small distinction at this point for his plates?
  • 1 Ne 9.3: Did Nephi make these plates in their entirety or did he simply start the plates and leave it to others to add additional leaves?
  • 1 Ne 9.4: Why did Nephi need to repeat this eleven-word phrase twice in the same verse: "of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions"?
  • 1 Ne 9.4: How did Nephi know at this point that his descendants would have a history of kings?
  • 1 Ne 9.5: Why did Nephi think that creating an account of the spiritual ministry of his people did not count as a wise purpose?
  • 1 Ne 9.6: Is power the only thing the Lord uses to fulfill his words?


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  • 1 Ne 8:23-24. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Prophets in the Land Again," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 104–7. Elder Holland said: "[W]hen those mists of darkness enveloped the travelers in Lehi's vision of the tree of life, it enveloped all of the participants—the righteous as well as the unrighteous, the young along with the elderly, the new convert and seasoned member alike. In that allegory all face opposition and travail, and only the rod of iron—the declared word of God—can bring them safely through. We all need that rod. We all need that word. No one is safe without it..."


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