Lehi’s Dream and the Parable of the Sower

I love Lehi’s dream. It is one of my favorite portions of scripture, because of how the themes and images in the dream are applicable in so many different circumstances. Lehi interprets the vision in a wholly familial way, while focusing on his own children and their needs. Nephi receives an interpretation of the dream that instead places against the vast backdrop of human history. This is a rich and multifaceted account that deserves serious study.

One of my favorite observations about Lehi’s dream is how well it parallels or syncs up with the Savior’s parable of the sower. Just as there were four types of soil in the parable, there are likewise four groups and they are closely parallel. This is a chart I made for my Sunday School class in order to illustrate the comparison. I’ve seen different pairings between the groups in other sources, but this is the pairing that I believe is best.  (Reversing the thorns and stony places would also make sense but I prefer this arrangement for reasons that I describe below).

Group Comparison to the parable of the sower.
Those who never start on the path but instead go directly toward the great and spacious building.

1 Nephi 8: 31-33

Seeds that fell by the wayside

Matthew 13:4, 19

Those who start on the path but then become lost in the mist of darkness

1 Nephi 8: 21-23

Seeds that fell among the thorns

Matthew 13: 7,  22

Those who hold to the rod of iron until they reach the tree and partake of the fruit, but then become ashamed and fall away.

1 Nephi 8:24-28, 34

Seeds that fell in stony places

Matthew 13:5­6,   20­21

Those who hold to the rod of iron until they reach the tree and partake of the fruit, and who then remain faithful.

1 Nephi 8:30

Seeds that fell into good ground

Matthew 13:8, 23


Group #1- Those who feel their way to the great and spacious building

I believe that this group most closely fits in with the seeds that fall by the wayside. For this group, the tree of life simply has no allure. They feel their way immediately towards the great and spacious building. Unlike all of the other groups, they never even commence on the journey towards the tree. Likewise, the seeds that fall by the wayside never even land on soil capable of growth. Instead, they are immediately snatched away.

Group #2- Those who start on the path but become lost in the mist of darkness

The mist of darkness symbolically seems to me to sync up quite well with the temptations and cares of the world. Those who start on the path lose sight of the tree because they are more attracted to the things that the building has to offer. They do not continue as they commence and thus the thorns grow and prevent their faith from growing and bringing forth seed.

Group #3- Those who fall away back because of the mocking of those in the great and spacious building

Those who reach the tree were able to endure all kinds of darkness and opposition until they reached the tree by clinging to the iron rod. Yet, once they take of the fruit of the tree they become ashamed because of the mocking, scorn and, persecution. They are in other words ashamed “because of the word.” Thus,  even though they have been able to partake of the fruit, the word is not able to take root within them and blossom.

Group #4- Those who remain by the tree

I love how considering these two accounts together and along with Alma’s parable of the seed enriches our appreciation for this fourth group. These individuals not only partake of the fruit and hear the word of God, but they understand it. They therefore are able to cultivate their faith and heed not the mocking and scorn from those in the great and spacious building. And ultimately, due to their faith and diligence and patience, they are able to bring forth thirty or sixty, or hundred times the fruit. Thus, these individuals are not merely passive partakers of the fruit of the tree but they also bring forth their own fruit as a result of their faith and perseverance. This is seen in the missionary efforts of Lehi as he attempts to reach out to his family and invite them to partake.

9 thoughts on “Lehi’s Dream and the Parable of the Sower

  1. To me one of the most interesting parts of the dream of Lehi, in a sad way, is that some people partake of the fruit, and then, because of the scoffing of those in the great and spacious building, they fall away into forbidden pasts and are lost.

    It would be completely sad, if it were not that I think that this, as the other options in the dream, are important as a way for God to preserve our agency.

    Now, I don’t know if I have enough scriptural evidence to prove that those in the successful group continued partaking of the fruit of the tree (maybe I’m overlooking something easy), or if once partaking of the fruit was sufficient, as long as they weren’t ashamed and didn’t heed those who mocked them. (A minor point)

    However, it is clear from what Nephi saw (and what Lehi saw) that partaking of the fruit, and not being able to be diverted from the tree, nor allowing oneself to be ashamed of partaking of the fruit, was central to the happiness of those who commenced in the path. To Nephi it was revealed that the fruit represented the love of God, which was the most joyous to the soul of all things.

    I find it interesting, that apparently, in both the example (which I’m glad was juxtaposed– #3 from Matthew 13:20-21) from the parable of the sower, and in Lehi’s dream, that not only the acceptance of the gospel, but the continuing to receive, the continuing to learn the gospel, is critical and vital to the success of those who partake of the fruit. Also, to heed not the scoffing of those in the great and spacious building, or ‘tribulation or persecution … because of the word’.

    Tonight I heard a local church leader emphasizing that we continue to learn, and not rely simply on what we think we already know from having studied the scriptures some time in the past. That we keep our knowledge current was his exhortation. I decided that was a really good attitude, not only for scripture reading, but it has application in other areas.

    Those who ‘fell down’ and partook of the fruit, the ones that didn’t fall away, did not heed those who mocked from the building.

    One of the aspects of truth that I have sometimes discovered is that it can be so simple, and seem so familiar (the Holy Ghost testifies of truth), but at times (not always), can be new to us, or a bit unpredictable. As C.S. Lewis says (I think) ‘something you could not have guessed.’ I would have expected that, for something as good as partaking of the fruit of the tree Lehi saw (how it is described by Lehi and Nephi) that it would be impossible, or almost impossible, to fall away after that. But apparently that is not how it works.

  2. David

    Elder Bednar makes some very similar comments on Lehi’s dream to those you made. Speaking of those who did not fall away, he wrote,

    “Perhaps this [] group of people consistently read and studied and searched the scriptures. Perhaps it was diligence and devotion to a seemingly “small and simple [thing]” (Alma 37:6) that saved the [] group from perishing. Perhaps it was “the knowledge of the Lord” and “the knowledge of the truth” (Alma 23:5, 6) obtained through faithful study of the scriptures that yielded the spiritual gift of humility—such that this group of people “fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree” (1 Nephi 8:30; emphasis added). Perhaps it was the spiritual nourishment and strength provided by continually “feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20) that enabled this group to heed not the scorning and mocking of the people in the great and spacious building (see 1 Nephi 8:33). This is the group you and I should strive to join.”

  3. Thank you for presenting these parallels. Once again the value of the Book of Mormon is illustrated as another Testament of Christ’s teachings. I pity those who disregard the Book of Mormon as a significant scripture. It is a rich source of inspiration. Some chapters, for example 2nd Nephi chapter 2, are alone sufficient reason for its existence.

  4. Today I taught a Primary class of nine-year old boys about Lehi’s dream. First I had them read 1 Nephi chapter 8, which is a good narrative that is far more powerful than any attempt to dilute or abbreviate the story. I then showed them a graphic which combined an illustration of Lehi’s dream with an illustration of the parable of the sower and asked them to tell me about the parallels. They were very excited to engage themselves in the exercise. Once again, thank you for the insights.

Comments are closed.