The Dream of Lehi
The Dream of Lehi, when scrutinizing it, we have to consider that the story is of the second generation. Lehi tells it, his son Nephi listens to it and writes it. The details are important because they have passed several filters. That of Lehi’s memory, Nephi’s memory and time. Because, Nephi writes this story at an advanced age, between 65 and 70 years old.
“And now I, Nephi, do not speak all the words of my father.” (29)
This story is a selection, that’s why we have to give importance to the details, because they have been selected for their relevance. All those who emerge in this dream are the ones who have impacted the storytellers the most and they must be given attention. The details of this dream are similar to the peaks of a mountain system, they give us an idea of the size of the valleys and the climate.
Later, in chapters 11 and 12, Nephi receives more insight into the meaning of the elements of the vision.
The vision of Lehi and Nephi
Nephi does not mix his father’s vision with his own in his record. Lehi receives that dream and lives it as a father. Therefore he rejoices, for “…behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam;” (3). But it also awakens their fears because “…behold, Laman and Lemuel, I fear exceedingly because of you;…” (4). For Lehi, everything he sees is perceived as a father.
Nephi is not yet one, he has no wife and he scrutinizes the elements of sleep in a more detailed way. “And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof…” (1 Nephi 11:11) From that tree-centered question, Nephi comes to Christ.
The Dream of Lehi, a vision without time
Other dreams or visions in scripture have concrete purposes in time. Joseph’s dream of the field of gleanings announces the predominance of his house over those of his brothers. That of Pharaoh and the years of plenty and drought. Peter’s dream or vision regarding the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles.
They are flat dreams or visions of concrete meaning. Useful for a given moment, to resolve an issue.
However, Lehi’s dream is different from all those known in the scriptures. It has the power to situate the observer or the reader in a given space. It is not flat but has depth, volume. The one who observes it tends to situate himself in a place of the scene and that makes him a participant in the action. This vision is not located in a specific historical time but in the personal, its actuality is permanent. Therefore, the reader is introduced to a scene in which he or she is a participant.
Una visión aumentada
The distances between the elements are increased to enhance the details. We can see Lehi describe the clothing and attitude of the distant inhabitants of a building that “seemed to stand high above the earth. He does so as if he were facing them. He even distinguishes them individually by sex and age. That degree of detail does not correspond to the distance at which the scene is situated.
It’s like that in our modern world. Everything we see in vision is produced at our fingertips. We don’t have to extend our arm. The technique has made this vision a reality. Everything is in sight and within reach. The reality of this vision is seen in our vision where everything is compressed before our soul.
It is not necessary for Corianton to abandon his ministry and go “…to the land of Siron, on the borders of the Lamanites, behind the harlot Elizabeth” . The borders have disappeared. The great scene of the world and its offerings are on this table in the place where I write. Before my eyes and at my fingertips.
The elements that form Lehi’s dream are like porous membranes. They allow the flow of action in any direction. And all this in the space of the soul.
It describes the nature of the world
Another quality is that it allows us to perceive different aspects of life depending on our position in the scene. His story becomes foundational, his narrative is the foundation of a nation like the Nephites. At the same time it serves a worried father, a restless son and an anguished mother. Even a rebellious son. It also serves you and me, dear reader, whatever the situation we observe.
Lehi’s dream or vision has another remarkable quality. He has been observed by two different people at different times. I believe, if memory serves, that this is unique in its kind. After Lehi receives it, Nephi sees it and can analyze it further with the help of the Spirit.
This curious fact suggests that Lehi’s dream is actually a construct. An image that represents in a very complete way the nature of the world and the plan of God. In other words, its elements and action must be carefully considered. They are not an accidental part of a dream, but the whole plot and scenes correspond to a previously prepared script. With clear intentions of teaching and transmitting.
Lehi’s dream contains the powerful quality of scripture. That is, not having a fixed meaning, but orbiting around light and truth. Thus, it shows man, the continuous reflection of knowledge that shines and illuminates permanently the one who searches.
Scrutiny, therefore, 1 Nephi 8 will always be an unfinished task. For the words of him who prepared it are without end, and without end are the perspectives from which we can look into that great and spacious field.
El momento previo al sueño de Lehi, es una recogida de semillas. “Y aconteció que habíamos recogido toda suerte de semillas de toda especie,” (ver.1)
Así, el capítulo 8, comienza con una actividad significativa previa a la gran decisión.
We do not know how this God, who is also of his creatures, realizes his plan for them. So it is not surprising
that through very simple means, such as a family’s journey to distant lands, he executes hidden purposes for his creatures. These can be to transport their seeds, their bees or their fish to new regions. Whether on tree trunks across the sea or on vessels on the backs of camels, he carries out his hidden purposes “where it seems good to him, it is not our business. (Jacob 5:13)
I suspect that when Laman and Lemuel saw the preparations mentioned in verse 1, they began to consider that collecting seeds is not related to someone who is going back to Jerusalem. Nothing could be more discouraging to them than to guess that those future harvests were alien to the hope of returning to their heritage. With this activity and an unknown journey, Lehi gives both good and bad news among other people to Sariah. He makes it clear to his family that there is no turning back, as the seeds are a sign of resolve to build a future outside his land.
The Dream of Lehi, his ad
Once they do this or during this activity, Lehi states what is the beginning of their vision. And he does so in an ambiguous way, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.” (2). I confess that in writing this chapter I have also used both the words dream and vision and have had trouble deciding on one. Therefore, in other words, I will use the term vision from now on.
Laman and Lemuel had accused their father of being a visionary, of having crazy imaginations in his heart. Perhaps that’s why Lehi hesitates a little to come to the conclusion. No one likes to be unpopular and in Lehi’s case the polls were against him. In the end he calls a spade a spade. Again his family was to hear the story of another vision. For sure, Laman and Lemuel would listen with skepticism.
To say I had a dream is tolerable. It’s even an acceptable word. But that chosen ending… I have seen a vision, puts Lehi in the sights of the index fingers, of the supporters of reason. You know, “That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come;…” (Helaman 16:18).
I once had a willow tree in the garden at home. We named it Tuki. Every afternoon my kids and I would say good night to it (they were little, I was little then too). My daughter Alma even kissed it goodbye.
Every time I looked at him I couldn’t decide on the best place to see him. Every place seemed excellent to me, which gave me a 360º field. That represents, as far as the aesthetics of things are concerned, infinite possibilities. Fortunately, I didn’t have a camera in my mobile phone at the time.
Look from where we are
It’s the same with Lehi’s vision. There is no place to observe it or a better way to understand it. This vision gives us the possibility to interact with it. It is a three-dimensional scene and it is precisely this quality that gives it its unique character. The best place from which we can contemplate it is where we are, and the appropriate time, in which we are.
Something similar happens to me in my modest garden. It is difficult sometimes to choose the best place to plant my chair. There are so many factors! The sun, the smell, the time of day, the noise. Of course, in summer, if there are cicadas, I have no doubt to leave everything and listen to them.
In Lehi’s dream we can see two very clear parts. The first one, once Lehi arrives at the spacious field, he chooses a place in that field. We read what Lehi personally experiences from that place of his choice.
The second part of the vision is the narration of what he observes from that place.
As to how he experiences it, we’ll talk soon. After this we will approach some visions that we could observe from other angles.