Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Question of 1 Nephi 2:6-9

This post is more of a question than a explanation.

Learning to study patterns in scripture can be a great tool to see associations between passages. These associations provide clarification, or additional insight into each other.

To me, a most prominent example of common patterns between scriptural motifs is the idea of ascension. The scriptural references to ascension that I would easily associate would be:

Genesis 2, where the Tree of Life is described, and from it flows a river that flows into the world and breaks into four parts.

Ezekiel 47, where the temple is described, and from it flows a stream goes into the world and expands into four levels.

Nephi 8, where the Tree of Life is described, that has a river that flows from it through the world and become polluted as it proceeds.

Now the above are the main anchors of this thought, but I would also associate the Parable of the Olive Tree (Jacob 5-6), The True Vine (John 15), Tree of Faith (Alma 32:40), Revelation 22, Jacob’s Ladder, The Parable of the Sower, and so on, But the point is easier to make with the anchors.

So we see the pattern of the temple, or the Tree of Life being the place or origin. And this is all clearly a temple setting, with a water flow descending from the source into the world.

When we begin to notice a pattern we need to use restraint and not make association that are not there. But this is where my question starts.

I see the pattern of ascension described above in 1 Nephi chapter two verses 6 through 9. I don’t know if anyone has ever pointed this out before.

It is usually not seen as any great revelation, but a simple teaching example used by a father to teach his sons.

Lehi and his family camp beside a river, and from there he builds his example.

In verse 7 Lehi builds an altar that I would contend is a place of covenant and has an ideological equivalence or at least an association to a temple or Tree of Life.

“And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.”

This imagery is a little more difficult to reconcile, but we have in 1 Nephi 2 an altar, a river, a valley, the sea, and a connection to the “fountain of all righteousness.”

(see 1 Nephi 11:25, Ether 8:25, 12:28, 1 Nephi 8:20, 32, Ps 36:9, 68:26, prov. 14:27, Jer. 2:23, 17:13, Joel 3:18, Rev. 7:17, 21:6)

I am unsure of the importance, but I can’t shake the idea that this imagery was purposefully incorporating aspects of other ascension vision. Now was this being used to get them in the mindset to receive the Tree of Life vision that would follow? Or just pure coincidence? Or for some other reason?

What do you think?


Unknown said...

All ascension literature has these same, traditional images and/or patterns: mountains, pillars or alters, rivers, trees, paths or roads, ladders or stairways, images in fours (rivers, beasts, etc.) and the all important Temple at the Summit or Throne of God. The Garden of Eden story is of this genre, as is our temple endowment with its rich traditional imagery. Curiously, the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story stems from the same origins, as does the "Jack and Jill" nursery rhyme. I maintain that all the prophets saw the same vision, each lending their own interpretation to it, based on their own cultural traditions. Hence, the variations we see down through time. There are several related monographs on my blog. I recommend you read them. Then you may see the importance of this imagery, and you will learn its origin.

David Littlefield said...

Hello Anthony Larson!

Very interesting! I never even thought about Jack in the Bean Stalk, or Jack and Jill as Ascension imagery.

I do visit MormonProphesy from time to time, you always have interesting things to learn there.


Anonymous said...

I think in the garden story there are two trees.
Each tree had symbolic power or was symbolic of power.

God commands Adam Not to eat of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil.

Could man have been exalted with out breaking Gods commandments?

Is God in self contradiction? I think Not!!!

But some think, yes it is so.If so what do we learn of
God's Nature ?

Some learn and teach a Fallen view of the Nature of
God Based on the Garden story.

It would not be in the Holy and Right manner of
Gods nature to withhold his highest Blessings from His children and force the to break his Laws. If so
God would cease to be God.

David Littlefield said...


I think what you miss is that nobody is forced to do anything. We make choices. Adam made a choice and so did Eve. And we all chose to come here too.

But more importantly, the creation, the fall, and the redemption was a plan from the beginning.

The First Adam was part of the plan, and so is the second Adam.


Anonymous said...

I think that it was possible that Lehi was setting them up for the vision in ch. 8. These explanations (the teaching moment in ch.2 and then the dream in ch. 8) were important for them, because they wouldn't have the temple anymore in their lives and they somehow needed to be taught about their purpose and potential.

Like David said, Adam and Eve were part of the plan and knew of the plan. Refering to commandment that the Lord gave to Adam, Joseph Fielding Smith stated: "The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat it you will die." So, apparently there was no contradiction, they made the choice.


Anonymous said...

Hi David. I'm with you. I think there are many levels of understanding in the scriptures and there are often deeper, hidden meanings.

I seem to remember that Nibley said in one of his Pearl of Great Price classes which had a group of Middle Eastern students in it.

If I remember correctly, they pointed out that Lehi - like Abraham before him - built three altars following the vision contained in 1 Nephi 1.

Someone who is watching said...

If I might respond to your question with a question-

I wonder if the imagery in some of the scriptures you have referenced has typological application to the literal "living waters" that shall go out from Jerusalem in the end times. (Zech 14)

What exactly are the living waters?

David Littlefield said...

Somebody Is Watching:

Please forgive my delay in responding. Good question. A full answer would be lengthy, but here is my short answer.

The waters are the blessings, promises, laws, and ordinances of God. They flow to man from God, thru the three kingdoms. This flow is what creates the three kingdoms.

This is the meaning of Nephi's vision. Adam's vision, Ezekiel's vision, and so on.

I used to have a more literal understanding of the latter-day temple to be built in Jerusalem, but I now see it more symbolically.



Unknown said...

All things denote the God of Israel -- No matter what your experience’s in this life that belongs to you. A parable can associate it with the some of the lesson being taught.
When teaching with real parallels the impact of the lesson is felt and is not just intellectually consumed. True knowledge is power but not all education equivocates to knowledge therefore power is lost to the proud. Speaking to the question at hand repartition is part of the learning process. It’s given to those that see spiritually the mysteries of heaven. But the Lord also issues a warning unto them that can hear let them hear and unto them that can see let them but be careful less thou shall become converted. Converted to what? Good question?
And the truth shall set you free – Free from what, is another good question.
For you seek to unravel the mysteries of heaven. And walk in the paths of righteousness
You have carefully placed the question with revealing answers all around it.
And I very much love the Gospel of Jesus Christ for in as much to have Christ reveal himself unto you my brethren is to know the Holy Order of God.
Consider this that the gateway in which opens the view to heaven begins with the symbolism of death and resurrection and that which concludes that ordinance with purification symbolism is fire. Awesome
Let me suggest the symbolism of the fountain, bearing in mind that all truths have depths and are bi dimensional. I am not scholarly but have been give some gifts to see beyond sight – Lets test it shall we – The four rivers are representative of each direction of the earth – that will pour out the truth to all nations and all will come to the source of the fountain or the source of the truth in modern day it is the House of the Lord.
I would warn you to be careful for the things you seek. Prepare yourself -- for the Lord requires all things from the hands of his servants. You want to know the mysteries of the Kingdom you must earn them line upon line precept upon precept so as not to be consumed by unrighteous dominion.

S. C. Taylor