You can read 1 Nephi 8:26-27, 33-34 here.
Context and General Information
- We are still reading about Lehi’s Dream.
- Lehi looks around and sees a great and spacious building – it is suspended in the air, high above the earth.
- The great and spacious building is filled with people. They are dressed well and they are mocking those who were partaking of the fruit.
- There was a great multitude who entered into the great and spacious building. After they entered, they too pointed a finger of scorn at others.
- Whoever heeded the people in the great and spacious building fell away.
The Great and Spacious Building
The next group of people we read about in Lehi’s ream are those who are in the great and spacious building.
I think that it is important to note that the great and spacious building is great and spacious. How does that sound? Well, to me it sounds kind of nice. It’s big. It’s high above the air. It isn’t some run-down shack. It is attractive.
In Lehi’s dream, he saw this building, and he saw many, many people who were either inside of it or trying to get to it.
Again – back to the idea of it’s attraction. We read:
“And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.” – 1 Nephi 8:31
A few days ago, we studied about the fruit of the tree of life (see here). We learned that it was sweet, desirable, and it filled Lehi’s soul with joy.
But since then, we’ve read about people who partook of the fruit and then left it. (See here.)
And now – we are reading about people who don’t even look at the fruit with any kind of desire. They aren’t making a move toward the tree of life. Instead, they are feeling their way towards the building.
It was attractive.
What’s so attractive about it? Well, we read:
“And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine;…” – 1 Nephi 8:27
The people, their manner of dress – it is fine. This appeals to the raccoon in all of us–to the natural man. Who doesn’t like pretty, glittery things?
Then, Nephi continues:
“…and they were in the attitude of mockingand pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:27
I think that this plays to another human foible – our pride. Okay. that might seem obvious, but hopefully we can think about this in a new light.
If you are familiar with the Book of Mormon, then you know that the great and spacious building (and the people inside) represent the pride of the world. But what is interesting to me is that they will employ their pride and ours to beckon others to come to them.
Maybe it would help if we compare the tree of life and the great and spacious building.
Tree of Life
- Beautiful – natural beauty. I think that most people who would behold it would want it – especially when they are in a dark and dreary world.
- God-made – this is a tree. It is not a man-made edifice. Not only that, but this is unique. It shines from within. The fruit, themselves, are white. It is celestial in its appearance. This is offered to us by God.
- Persuasion – Lehi does beckon his family to come. How does he do this? Well, he tells us:
“And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:15
Lehi doesn’t use manipulation or embarrassment to persuade people to come and partake. He simply bears testimony of its desirability. It’s a charitable method of persuasion.
The Great and Spacious Building
- Attractive – Though it isn’t described exactly in this account, we know that the people inside of the great and spacious building are dressed in a manner that is “exceedingly fine.” They are attractive. Their clothes are attractive. And, in my opinion, the building is also probably attractive. It’s great and spacious. I think that this building would appeal to all of us, most likely.
That being said, it doesn’t seem to be natural beauty – in contrast with the dark and dreary world. Attractive, yes, but also lackluster. This shouldn’t be hard to imagine. There are so many glittery-shiny-attractive things in this world, but, like the great and spacious building, they have no integrity.
And speaking of integrity, we know for a fact that the great and spacious building had no integrity:
“…and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” – 1 Nephi 8:26
When you think of a building, with integrity, you think of its infrastructure. If you have been reading this blog, then you will know that one of my favorite scripture study tools is the dictionary. The definitions of integrity:
1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness
The earthquake may have damaged the building’s structural integrity. – Miriam-Webster.com
Notice the second and third definitions especially. This great and spacious building – is in the air! It is not on a foundation. Where is its structural support or beams? It has no integrity. It might look nice on the outside, but with even the slightest threat it will fall.
Would you want to be in a great and spacious building that had no support? The facade is great, talk about curb appeal! Inside there are granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Who cares about the foundation and structure? We figured we’d spend money on an indoor pool instead.
Yeah, I’d pass on that, too.
So – even though the building is highly attractive – people want to get in – it has no integrity. It’s shiny but without any actual value.
- Man-Made – This isn’t a tree. It isn’t living. It is a man-made structure, and poorly made, too – since it has no foundation or support.
Don’t get me wrong. I live in a man-made house. I am using man-made technology to write this blog post. I think that there are some pretty cool man-made things; however, they pale in comparison to the things that God has made – the sun, moon, stars, earth animals, plants, flowers, trees, humans…I mean, really there is no comparison.
Yet – we do get a little distracted by the shiny man-made stuff, right? We walk right past the roses, the colts, the clouds – with our heads down staring at screens. (Maybe not all of us, I realized. I’m just talking about the human condition – to ignore the mundane no matter how miraculous it is.)
Anyway – the building, as great as it might be, doesn’t compare to the simplest creature – let’s take the earthworm as an example – that God has created. Even though earthworms are simple, they are alive. It’s amazing.
- Manipulation and Shame
This difference is striking to me. We already studied how Lehi inspired the people to come and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Now notice, in stark contrast, how the people in the great and spacious building call out to people:
“And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.”
“And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.” – 1 Nephi 8:27, 32
The people of the great and spacious building – who hadn’t partaken of the fruit of the tree of life, so they had no idea what they were talking about appealed to the pride of the people to scorn them into coming to the great and spacious building.
The people in the great and spacious building don’t have anything to offer. They aren’t promising desirable fruit – that would fill a soul with joy. No, instead, they are just spending their time tearing down the truth.
It’s so silly. If they were really happy with their great and spacious building, then why do they worry so much about the tree of life?
But I think that this comparison is telling. God beckons us just as Lehi did – with gentleness and testimony. Satan, on the other hands, calls out to us using tactics of fear, embarrassment and shame.
There is so much more that could be said about the Great and Spacious building and those who lived within. But for now, I’m going to end this blog post. I’m thankful for the scriptures – what they remind me and what they teach me. This example – of the tree of life in contrast to the great and spacious building – can help us to learn to see with discernment in our lives. Just because something is attractive does not mean that it is right! Through the scriptures, we learn better how to discern and how to teach our children to discern, too.