Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Visions of Sugar Plums (1 Nephi 7-8)

We left off in chapter 7 where Nephi was lecturing Laman and them guys again because they were, once again, arguing about abandoning their cause and returning to live in Jerusalem.  Nephi's high and mighty lectures to his older brothers were often done at great peril to his own safety.  This time, Laman and those that listened to him decided to kill Nephi (again, yawn). 

1 Nephi 7: 16-20.
16.  And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me.  And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
17.  But it came to pass that I prayed unto The Lord, saying:  O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.
18.  And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.
19.  And it came to pass that they were angry with with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life.

You might remember a few posts back where I gave an opinion on the mental stability of Nephi's brother Laman.  I said something to the effect that, in my opinion, Laman may have been bi-polar or schizophrenic.  It's in verse 20 of chapter 7 that the idea first occurred to me.
20.  And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.
This behavior may seem nice and not so nuts as I'm sayin', but Jiminy Cricket, is it normal to go from calm to angry to murderous to begging Nephi for forgiveness, only to repeat this pattern again and again.  "Do calm and murder go together?  Calm and murder!?  Murder!?" (That's a movie quote from Don Knotts in "The Ghost & Mr. Chicken")  Well, I'm kidding about the mental illness stuff, of course, but how flip floppy can you be and not be a politician?

But, Nephi's no fool, no sirree.  He's gonna live to be 103.  Well, maybe not 103, but he's no fool.  Did you see that faith?  "According to my faith in Thee, give me strength to burst these bands with which I am bound."  Is there a principle there?  Yup, and it's a meaty one:  If we have faith in The Lord, He will strengthen us so that we can have power over those things that bind us down, and be able to stand before any opposition.  Whatchya think?

Chapter 8 is Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life.  I was having a good dream this morning when my alarm went off at 7:35, blowing the characters to smitherines and grinding the details into powder.  I rarely remember my dreams.  I'm glad Lehi remembered this one, and wrote it down for us.  And, I'm glad that Nephi wrote it down again (for a reason he knew not). 


Lehi's dream has been talked about, told about, taught about, written about, thought about, read about, even dreamed about 6 billion times (give or take a few hundred).  I've been wondering how I should approach it.  What keeps coming to my mind is the fact that if you take a look at my life at some random moment of my past, you will find me in different places within this dream, taking part in the plot sometimes as one type of character, and other times as anudder.  The dream isn't divided merely into those who make it to the tree of life and those who don't.  I have said that I hope that I can be a Nephi and not a Laman, but there are many levels in between these two.  Maybe I should have said that I hope that I can be a man who is more like Nephi than Laman (a lot more), and I am.  I punched my brother in the chin once 'cause he was teasing me, but I've never bound him with strong cords and left him in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.

I guess I'll talk about where I am (or have been) on the path, and you can think about where you are.  Also try to remember where you were 5 years ago, and where you are determined to be 5 years from now.

Lehi talked of several different types of people in his dream, some walking on the path, others wandering away from it.  I used to question where I was on this path & how close was I getting to the tree, thinking in terms of FINALLY arriving at the goal of partaking of the fruit.  That was dumb.  I have already partaken of the fruit, and have done so many times, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.  But, let's discuss the players in the story...

Lehi:  He didn't see the path.  He was walking aimlessly through a dark and dreary wasteland.  Getting a little worried, he prayed for mercy.  After he prayed he found himself in a big field with a tree in it.  He went to the tree and picked some fruit and ate it.  It was delicious, and filled his entire soul (body and spirit -D & C 88: 15) with exceedingly great joy.  Wow!  That's a lot o' joy. 

Nephi, Sam & Sariah:  They were, as my brother Bob likes to say from his Navy days, milling about smartly, not knowing which way to go.  The Prophet of The Lord called to them and told them the way.  They followed him to the tree and ate 'em some yummy fruit.  And there was much rejoicing.

Laman and Lemuel:  Like their brothers and Mom, they didn't know where to go either.  The Prophet of The Lord called to them and told them the way.  They didn't follow.

I took this photo after Emilie and I had driven the very steep road (16% grade) out of Black Canyon National Park in the fog.  Scary.

Others A:  These came to the path and started following it toward the tree, but then it got all foggy and they lost their way.  When you get lost, you should stop where you are and call out for help.  They didn't do that.  They just kept walking into the fog and got more loster.

Others B:  These more savvy folks started following the path, but when it got foggy, they grabbed the handy guard rail that ran along the length of the path, and found the tree.  After tasting the fruit, however, because the world made fun of them, they got embarrassed and walked away.  It says they went into forbidden paths.  That seems to be a bigger deal to me, over just being lost.  The difference may be that they tasted the fruit, and so they knew what it was and where it was, and chose to leave it.  Having read and understood the scriptures (handy guard rail, or Iron Rod as Lehi likes to call it) they decided to follow forbidden paths knowing where they led.  Man, I don't ever want to be an Others B.  But, of course, I have, in a way.

Fine dressed people in the building:  Lehi noticed a huge building sort of near the tree, but floating up in the air.  It was filled with men, women, both old and young.  They pointed and laughed at people having a sweet lunch of fruit snacks under a nice tree.  Others B, for some reason, felt shame from being ridiculed, and up and left.  I wonder what the fruit tasted like to Others B?  Was it sweet above all that was sweet, and filled their souls with exceedingly great joy?  Was it easy for them to walk away because it didn't do much for them?  In my opinion, to those who tasted the fruit, it was sweet, it was delicious, and it made them happy.  Whatever influence it was that made them decide to leave, they most likely suffered from the dreaded syndrome I talked about in my last post (I forget the title).

Others C:   These guys followed much the same pattern as Others B did.  They held fast to the Iron Rod and followed it along the true path all the way to the tree.  Having made it, they fell down and had 'em some fruit.  What made Others C fare better than Others B?  Why did they stay?  It says they fell down and then ate the fruit.  I've always thought this was a metaphor for humility, and it is, but I was talking to my wife's son McKay last night about this stuff and he offered an insight that I feel good about.  His thought ran along this line.  Others C, after following the path, holding fast to the Iron Rod, all the way to the tree, recognized The Savior and his atoning sacrifice for them, and their falling down was, in effect, prayer.  I can totally see the truth in that.  Of course, the Spirit teaches different things to each of us according to The Lord's knowledge of us.  He knows our needs, and He knows that I need to pray more.  Definitely need to pray more.

Others D:  These idiots are feeling their way towards the building.  Things that stimulate the senses, like alcohol, drugs, exercise, movies, making out, food, soda, video games, pornography, fishing, reading, music, etc, etc, can be good, bad, great or horrible, or even a combination of good & bad when not moderated.  If the sensory input you seek after comes out of the big building, or what Nephi later calls "the pride of the world", then, as my Dad used to say, "you in a heap o' trouble, boy."  Some of these sight-impaired beloved children of God made it all the way into the building and started laughing at the people at the tree.  Others fell into a dirty river and were drowned, or wandered down "strange roads" with a downward slope of 16% grade. 

I like this:  1 Nephi 8: 33
33.  And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building.  And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.

Have you ever had someone in the building point their finger of scorn at you?  I have.  And, I love it.  It means I'm doing something right for a change.  This brings me to how I have personalized this story.  I told you before that at certain times of my life I have fit into different character types in this vision.  I'll tell you a little more about the talk I had last night with McKay.  We were talking about the gospel, and I was telling him how I like scriptural references to light and darkness.  Like, "[Jesus is] the light and the life of the world, a light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." (-D & C 34: 2)
Here goes one of my famous Bus Stories

I used to drive a city bus.  Many of our routes went through BYU campus.  This was the only connection for bus riders who lived in south Utah County.  I remember a kid coming out of the BYU Wilkinson center and getting on my bus.  It was my last trip of the night.  He had nails that had been hammered all over his head in place of hair.  He had piercings in many and divers places, and smelled like a chimney.  His shirt looked like a black t-shirt, but when he went by me after paying his fare, on the back of it in large print was, in the words of Ralph on "A Christmas Story", the queen mother of dirty words.  I didn't have the energy for throwing him off the bus for profanity, I just wanted to go home.  So, anywayz, I listened to his conversation with another guy.  He was going on and on about how much he hates BYU.  He hates being on BYU campus so much because of the way people look at him.  They stare at him, and they judge him, he says.  I heard that lots of times, people hating to be on BYU campus.  Besides the obvious "people look at you because you're begging them to" reply that I was thinking, I also thought, that's what that means:  "A light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not."  For some reason, this guy feels uncomfortable in a place that, ideally at least, is centered in the Gospel.  He doesn't like to stand directly in the light. 

So how does that relate to me and Lehi's Dream?  I have struggled my whole 45-year life to live the gospel principles that I believe in, and to be worthy to have the Spirit with me.  Many's the time I have failed at that.  Many's the time; that's why I use the word "struggle".  If I were to place myself in Lehi's Dream during a time when my struggle was getting the better of me, you might find me in the big building.  You might find me sitting down on the path, taking a break.  You might find me wandering out into the mists of darkness a little, just to see what's out there, thinking it will be easy to get back if I keep one eye on the trail.  Sometimes I have been on the trail holding onto the Iron Rod with both hands, making steady progress.  Other times I have been on the path, but maybe only having a finger or two on the Iron Rod, and my attention is directed away from the tree, and toward the misty underbrush, or toward the building.  I have made it to the tree and partaken of the fruit, and really felt that joy that Lehi talks about, only to walk away from it for a minute and lose my way.  But, I have always returned to the path and the Iron Rod, as many times as it has taken, and returned to the tree to eat once again of the joyous fruit. 

I like standing in the light.  I feel at home there.  I like feeling the Spirit of The Lord.  When I walk away from that light into the darkness that surrounds on all sides, I feel uncomfortable.  I feel and know that it's not the place I want to be, and my greatest desire becomes trying to get back into that light, to get back home.

I guess that's enough for today.  Nephi is going to go on for several chapters talking about his Dad's vision, his own vision, and the interpretation of his Dad's dream. 

Tune in next time when we try to reap what he sowed.

Peace be with you...


  1. No comments? Are you people kidding me? Ope, there I go, pointing my finger from the great and spacious building... But I loved this post. I just finished reading Chapter 8 and was taught some things pertinent to my life and then you added unto it.

    I enjoyed your flip floppy politician comment and your "no sirree...103" rhyme. I like how you broke down the different players of the dream. I was especially touched by your perspective on how we could be at different places in the story at different times in our life as well as the standing in the light analogy. I haven't quite seen things that way before. Thank you for the new insight and your wisdom!

  2. love your flip floppy and not be a politician! And the calm and murder stuff. Made me laugh out loud here alone at midnight. The post is wonderful. I especially like your insight into how many places we all are on the path and in the midst. You are a great writer!