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Mormon - Tree of life vision
The Tree of life vision is a vision described and discussed in the Book of Mormon, one of the scriptures of the Latter Day Saint movement denominations published by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830. According to the Book of Mormon, the vision was received by a prophet named Lehi, and later 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 gulleys or fountains 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 within Mormonism. A Mormon commentator reflected a common Mormon belief that the vision is "one of the richest, most flexible, and far-reaching pieces of symbolic prophecy contained in the standard works [scriptures]."
The vision is similar to the second vision recounted by Joseph 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. Because of the similarity, secular Mormon scholars postulate that Smith, Sr.'s dream is the source for the Tree of Life vision. However, Smith, Sr.'s dream was first recorded by his wife Lucy Mack Smith after publication of the Book of Mormon, and some LDS scholars suggest that the text of the Book of Mormon may have influenced Lucy's account, rather than vice versa. Other apologetic scholars, such as Hugh Nibley, postulate that Lehi and Smith, Sr. simply had the same archetypal vision.
According to the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi received this vision in a dream during his exile in the wilderness. He awoke and recounted it to his children as described in the 8th chapter of the First Book of Nephi. According to the Book of Mormon chronology, this vision occurred between 600 and 592 B.C. 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. Nephi's vision also included an interpretation of the vision.
In the vision, Lehi related that he saw several objects, including the following:
- A tree with white fruit, symbolizing the Love of God, and by extension, the Atonement of Jesus.
- A strait and narrow path, symbolizing the path to salvation.
- A rod of iron, which runs along the path, symbolizing the "word of God". 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 straight and narrow path.
- A mist of darkness, symbolizing the temptations of the Devil.
- A great and spacious building, symbolizing the pride of the world.
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. He sees that his sons Laman and Lemuel do not partake of the fruit.
The story of the vision is well known among Mormons, 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 the Lords teachings.
Izapa Stela 5
Some Mormon scholars, including Jakeman, believe that Izapa Stela 5, an ancient stela found in ancient Mesoamerica in the 1930s, is a depiction of this vision. Mainstream Mesoamerican scholars do not support linking Izapa Stela 5 to the Book of Mormon. Julia Guernsey Kappelman, author of a definitive work on Izapan culture, finds that Jakeman's research "belies an obvious religious agenda that ignored Izapa Stela 5's heritage".
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