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Lehi’s Dream, Nephi’s Blueprint: How Nephi Uses the Vision of the Tree of Life as an Outline for 1 and 2 Nephi

TitleLehi’s Dream, Nephi’s Blueprint: How Nephi Uses the Vision of the Tree of Life as an Outline for 1 and 2 Nephi
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsReynolds, Noel B.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
KeywordsAllegory of the Olive Tree; Divine Council; Dream; Great and Spacious Building; Iron Rod; Language - Hebrew; Lehi (Prophet); Nephi (Son of Lehi); Rhetoric; Small Plates of Nephi; Tree of Life; Vision

This essay harnesses the late twentieth-century discovery of Hebrew rhetoric by Bible scholars to identify Lehi’s dream as the foundation of the carefully constructed unity in Nephi’s writings and to identify previously unrecognized elements of that dream which are distributed throughout his final work. The teachings and prophecies in 1 and 2 Nephi are shown to derive from their shared dream/vision. Further, the entirety of Nephi’s writings in the Small Plates is shown to be a tightly designed rhetorical production that establishes the centrality of Christ’s identity, mission, and teachings for current and future generations of Lehi’s descendants and ultimately for the entire world. For decades, interpreters of the Book of Mormon and its teachings have singled out the vision of the tree of life given first to Lehi and subsequently to his son Nephi as one of the book’s most prominent elements that require careful study. While literary and visual artists continue to find inspiration in the human dramas retold throughout the book, the text itself features visualizations1 of its basic doctrinal messages: (1) God on his throne in heavenly council, (2)the tree of life with the straight and narrow path, the iron rod, and the great andspacious building, and (3) the allegory of the olive tree. As I will explain below, those threevisual images are part of Lehi’s and Nephi’s great vision and provide the blueprint for thecomplex of covenant history and doctrinal teaching recorded by multiple authorsthroughout the entire book. This article will trace that blueprint in the structure andcontent of Nephi’s Small Plates with limited side glances at the rest of the text.

For a summary of this article, check out Interpreting Interpreter