The revealed text

The revealed text
The light of revelation at the Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver worked upstairs to finish translating the Book of Mormon

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lesson 3: The Vision of the Tree of Life

Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life has inspired a tremendous amount of artwork, as well as discussions about the metaphor and its interpretation. It has also led to some Mormon mythology, such as that surrounding Stelle 5 from Izapa, Mexico.

In June 1985, the Ensign published an article that suggested the stelle could "correspond to features of Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life." Stelle 5 is a complex piece from which one could infer a variety of messages, so it's easy to see why some LDS eager to find connections between the Book of Mormon and Central American would see Lehi's tree of life in this stone. LDS scholars now--even those who support a Central American or Mesoamerican setting--don't think it is related to the Book of Mormon.

For example, Brant A. Gardner, author of Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History, has pointed out that stelle 5 is part of a series of stellae in Izapa that have nothing to do with the Book of Mormon. John Clark wrote: "The internal evidence from the Book of Mormon seems to be definitive that the Nephites had nothing to do with Izapa, and it is doubtful that the Lamanites did either."

Those who believe the Book of Mormon took place in North America don't see any reason to connect stele 5 to the Book of Mormon, either.

However, there is a possible link through the Jaredites. In Ether 1:1, Moroni explains he wrote about "those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country." There has been another Mormon myth that all the descendants of Jared, his brother, and the friends of Jared and his brother were destroyed, but the text does not say that.

We'll address the Jaredites later in the year, but for now, consider that when the Jaredites landed, "they began to spread upon the face of the land, and to multiply and to till the earth; and they did wax strong in the land." (Ether 6:18). Because Moroni wrote only about those who were destroyed in "this north country," there were likely many Jaredite descendants who were not destroyed.

Brother Clark wrote, "Some Latter-day Saints may still feel the need to seek a relationship between Stela 5 and Book of Mormon history. The Lehi connection that Jakeman espoused goes nowhere, in my opinion. But, long shot though it may be, a Jaredite link to Izapa cannot be completely ruled out. After all, Izapan art had its roots in the Olmec tradition, and that cultural line paralleled in time a major part of the history of the Jaredite lineage as reported in the book of Ether. The last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, carefully prepared a record on stone of his royal descent and status (see Omni 1:20–22). That is clearly a Mesoamerican-like thing for him to have done. While Stela 5 clearly cannot be his record (the geography and dating rule that out), it could fit within the general tradition of art and rulership that ended officially with Coriantumr’s demise, but which might have persisted among the later Mulekites in the form of myths, art elements, and other cultural patterns all the way down to Izapa’s heyday and beyond."

Of course, Coriantumr was part of the group in the "north country" and Izapa is in the south country. It would make sense that the Jaredites brought their traditions with them from Asia. Carving on a stone is not a "Mesoamerican-like thing" but a "Jaredite thing" that Mesoamericans and other cultures followed later.



What is the significance of the "large and spacious field" and the "great and spacious building?" Both descriptions are given twice.

What kind of building would appear to stand "as it were in the air, high above the earth," in the context of Lehi's experience?

Why would those in the building be in "the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit" if they were wearing "exceedingly fine" clothing?

1 comment:

  1. What !!! This is hanging on the wall in our Family Room!