This post covers verses 19 through the end of the chapter.
A rod of iron leads along a “straight and narrow path” to the tree where Lehi stands.
We learn later that this rod of iron is the word of God. It extends along the bank of the river and the path goes by a large fountain unto a “large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.” (20)
This dream is symbolic. The wonderful thing about symbols is that what one person might use to represent an object, someone else (experiencing different things in life) might see it another way. There is no right or wrong, as long as you seek personal revelation from God. He helps us SEE the dream in the best way to help us RIGHT NOW. Next year, when we read it again, He can help us SEE it in a whole new light (because hopefully, we’ll be a little different person. A better person, as we keep striving to come unto Him).
One way I see the straight and narrow path is that it leads away from the world unto God. Lehi’s dream shows “numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.” (21) Many of these people are trying to find their way to something of value. They are seeking happiness.
There are 5 specific groups in Lehi’s vision:
These people find and commence (enter or begin) on the straight and narrow path which leads to eternal life. They’re doing the right thing. But…
This mists (worldly doctrines & philosophies) confused and blinded them. They let go of the guiding rod and wandered away from truth.
The dark miss could also symbolize addictions, pride, selfishness, depression (without seeking help from God, family, friends, or professionals), and worry/anxiety.
Anything that confuses or leads us away from God is a mist of darkness.
Even good things, like hobbies or our passions, can lead us off the path to wander if we devote our time and energy to that, instead of making pleasing God our highest priority. God must come first if we don’t want to lose our way.
Please don’t start singing the Frozen song. I’m talking about a different let it go. These people were holding onto the rod of iron. They couldn’t have gotten lost and wandered into forbidden path if they hadn’t LET GO of their hold on the safety bar. Even though the dark fog had blinded them, they could’ve kept holding onto the word of God and found their way to light eventually.
I see these people getting scared. Darkness is unsettling, as Lehi said in the beginning when he was in the dark and dreary waste. He seemed to reach a point where he couldn’t go on, but he didn’t let go. He begged for God’s tender mercies.
The Misters didn’t call on God for help. They LET GO of what could keep them safe. They let go, and then nothing made sense and they were more lost than ever. Fear made them let go and do it on their own.
Fear is the opposite of faith. Faith leads you to hold on, even when it’s dark and you can’t see your way forward. You believe and keep stepping forward through the darkness, never letting go of that safety bar.
The next group “caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron…” (24)
Clinging implies fear, which is the opposite of faith. During a scary movie, I cling to my husband because I’m terrified and need someone to hold onto for support. The Clingers’ fear was enough to keep them from letting go of the rod of iron and get through the mists of darkness, but it wasn’t strong enough incentive to keep them true in the end.
They partake of the fruit of the atonement, but then their focus shifts. They “cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (25) because of the taunting and mocking they receive from the world.
Fear still rules them (same as the Misters). They’ve made it through the mists, but now they fear men’s opinions.
It’s natural to be concerned about others’ reactions. Do they think we’re cool? Braggy? Shy? Fun? Stubborn? Smart? Beautiful? Successful? Weird? Naïve?
Clingers care very much about what others think of them. At the tree, they are surrounded by others who love them for who they are. But they can’t see that, because they are looking about to other sources. Worldly ones. And the world is laughing and calling them fools. Human nature pushes us to belong, so the Clingers give up the good they obtained to belong with the group of bullies who are so loud.
Clinging has a negative connotation. Clingy people latch onto things or others because they don’t have confidence in themselves. They’re terrified to be alone. They are dependent on outside sources for their strength, having none of their own.
Clingers can’t stand being laughed at or being different. So they turn away from God, who truly loves them and wants to give them ALL He has, to the Mockers, who provide a shallow, temporary belonging in their cruel, critical, nasty group.
Clingers focus on appearances and outside opinion. They are double-minded in their testimonies of Christ, and unwilling or unable to stand courageously for what they believe.
I often wonder why the Clingers didn’t experience the joy Lehi did when he partook of the fruit. Focus is what made the difference, I think. Lehi focused on the beauty of the tree. The Clingers focused on those who were mocking them. Maybe the Clingers went through the motions of going to church, reading the scriptures, following the prophet; but they silently longed for the praise of the world. They hadn’t lifted their eyes to heaven yet because they’re too concerned about pleasing the world.
For these reasons, the Clingers ending is super sad.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.”1 Nephi 8:28
God enables us to overcome fear so we aren’t clingy and ashamed when opposition comes. If we look to Him, He empowers us to stand on our own two feet and hold fast to His rod—not because we’re scared and need a safety blanket, but because we truly love Him and want to be with Him again. That kind of love gives us power to stand up boldly against those who hate us, mock us, or put us down. We don’t cower or fear or cast our eyes about. We know what we believe. We know what is true. And we don’t cling.
The fourth group are the Mockers who are “on the other side of the river of water, [in] a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” (26) Notice: the building has no foundation. It’s up in the air, signifying pride (think tower of Babel). Buildings without foundations cannot last or endure. It’s impossible.
Those in the great and spacious building come from all walks of life, according to Lehi’s dream “…and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” (27)
This group is very influential and powerful. Their power comes not because they are built on anything enduring, but through their sheer numbers.
This group recruits heavily through nefarious means—bullying, shaming, belittling, scorning, taunting, labeling, and calling good bad and bad good.
Tons of people in the world fit into this group. Just peek at social media for a few minutes and you’ll see the mocking and belittling and hating going on. Mockers are very vocal, loud, and completely obnoxious. They’re in politics (they seem to LOVE that venue), they’re in the comments you read and nasty reviews written about everything from movies, books, to art and style.
Mockers are out in force. They love to put everyone down that isn’t like them.
When you’re barraged by this crowd, it’s definitely easier to go along with them and join them rather than stand up for what you believe, especially when it isn’t politically or socially correct for the time. Standing alone is hard. It can be painful and discouraging.
Mockers work relentlessly to poke at people’s vulnerabilities, tear down their values, and force others to believe as them or be condemned. They’re mean and vicious and have no compassion or empathy for anyone who opposes them. These people bring contention and negativity to the table as they shout, yell, scream and demean everyone who is not in the great and spacious building with them.
“Be like us or else!” is what they seem to shout.
They are the first to call themselves tolerant while blasting anyone who does not agree with them.
Nephi wants to be short in writing, so he only writes a couple verses about this group of people—the Kneelers. These people “caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (30)
Hold Fast Continually
The difference between this group and the other groups who also held to the rod is that the Kneelers never let go. They didn’t cling to the rod in fear. They held fast, because they knew it was good. They didn’t take their hands off the word of God to listen to naysayers or explore what might be in the mists of darkness.
They continually held fast, inferring that they had chosen of their own free will to get to the tree. They desired the fruit and were determined to make the journey, no matter how hard
Kneelers are humble. When they reach the tree, they drop to the ground and partake of the fruit, showing an attitude of gratitude and reverence. Prayer and scripture study are key to being close to God. So is repentance. Dropping to the ground as the Kneelers did shows that they were humble.
Kneelers focus on Christ, the Giver of the fruit. They don’t look about like the Clingers. They give the Mockers absolutely no attention. They “heeded them not.” (33)
We can do the same. Nephi says that “as many as heeded them [the Mockers], had fallen away.” (34)
It does no good to get in arguments with Mockers. In fact, it can be harmful. We need to stand up for what we believe, but we don’t need to stoop to their level of persuasion—taunting, belittling, arguing, bullying, shaming. Let them scream and laugh and mock—they will whether we let them or not—but don’t get in the gutter with them or metaphorically step into the great and spacious building so they can hear you better.
Don’t pay mockers any heed. They thrive on attention. If they can get even a little of ours…we risk falling away into forbidden paths.
Focus on Christ. He is our safe harbor. He is the Tree of Life. The One who gives us strength. The One who makes joy possible. The One who saves us from the effects of the Fall when we partake of His fruits.
The last group is “feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.” (31) They don’t even try to get to the sweet and pure fruit of the tree. These spiritual starving people blindly wander, seeking the pleasures of the world—what they can feel and taste with their five senses.
Many “were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads.” (32) So many people in the world do the same, try to find happiness by feeling their way about–BUT they’re on the wrong side of the river! They wander along dangerous roads with treacherous cliffs falling down to the raging river. Some fall in and drown, unable to gain traction to save themselves.
But a great number do reach this floating building and enter into it. Interesting to note, as soon as they enter, they become just like the Mockers, who had laughed at them earlier. They have to, because Mockers won’t allow anyone to join them unless they become the same as them.
Why can’t the Mockers leave the partakers of the fruit alone? Why can’t they enjoy their riches and finery without having to put others down?
There are tons of haters in the world who seem to live to tear down people and things that are good. Truthfully, I feel sad for these people. They want to be happy—everyone does—but they will NEVER be so, because they can’t leave others alone. Happiness only comes by seeing the good in life, ourselves, and others…and lifting those around us. If we tear down and belittle, we tear down our own chance of being happy. Ironic, but true.
Lehi grieves for Laman and Lemuel, because they don’t partake of the fruit in his dream. They’re too concerned with the Mockers, and when they do repent and gravitate back to the rod of iron, they’re Clingers.
Lehi “did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them, and not cast them off.” (37) He begs them to keep God’s commandments. Pleads for them to make good decisions. He can’t force them to choose the right so they can be happy.
God won’t force us to be good either. But, like Lehi, I think He pleads with us through His words in scripture and through the words of living prophets, with all the “feeling of a tender parent,” hoping we will choose His way, so He can give us all that He has and let us feel all that He feels, including joy.
Question to Ponder
- What can I do to combat fear, so that I don’t let go of the rod of iron when mists of darkness arise in my life?
- How can I stay focused on Christ, instead of letting my eyes wander to the Mockers in the great and spacious building?
- Do I ever mock others or put them down (even in my thoughts)? How can I do better at lifting others up?
- Am I grateful for the marvelous fruits Christ has made available to me? Do I repent daily? Do I seek to please Him in all that I do because I love Him?
- Is there someone in my life I could help find their way back to the rod of iron?