You can read 1 Nephi 8:19-23.
Context and General Information
- Lehi saw a rod of iron leading up to the tree of life.
- Lehi saw a straight and narrow path along the rod of iron. It led through the large and spacious field and the head of the fountain.
- Lehi saw many concourses of people looking to get to the path that led to the tree of life. They started on the path.
- A great mist of darkness rose up. It was so thick and dark that many of the people who had commenced on the path lost their way.
They Wandered Off and Were Lost
I’m so fascinated with these groups of people we read about in Lehi’s dream.
The first group of people are searching. We read:
“And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.” – 1 Nephi 8:21
There were so many people – numberless concourses. They are searching. They are pushing forward. They want to obtain the path that leads to the tree of life.
There is an interesting footnote in this verse. The footnote has a cross reference to the Doctrine and Covenants:
“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—” – Doctrine and Covenants 123:12
There are so many who want to know the truth, they are searching for the truth. And some of these people are even deceived by subtle men who are preying on these earnest people. These people are only kept from the truth because they don’t know where to find it.
When I read scriptures like this, I am overwhelmed at my great blessing and fortune. I didn’t have to search far to find the gospel. My mother is a member of the church, and she raised me in the Church. I have had access to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the rest of the scriptures for my entire life. I have grown up to know that we have living prophets on this earth today. I have had the opportunity to make covenants with my Heavenly Father.
I didn’t have to search. The truth is right here – available to me so easily. It doesn’t seem fair.
Well, it isn’t fair. I recognize this. And I also recognize that it does me no good to only recognize the unfairness of my blessings – to have the gospel in my life. I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I was just born to a faithful mother who also had the gospel.
It isn’t fair, and I recognize that, but I don’t feel any shame. Instead, I feel great responsibility.
I think that shame is kind of popular right now. People of privilege are being taught to be ashamed of their privilege. I don’t think that this is helpful for anyone.
Should someone be proud of their privilege? No.
Instead, they should live up to it.
In other words, it doesn’t help anyone at all for me to be ashamed of my blessings – to the point where I don’t rise to the occasion and use them for the good of others.
Think of the parable of the talents. One man was given five, one was given two, and one was given one talent. You are probably familiar with the parable. The one with five talents invested and then made five more. The one with two made two more talents with his. Finally, the man with only one talent buried his.
When the Lord came back to these men, for an accounting, he saw that the first two had increased their talents. He commended them for their efforts. The last man had buried his talent. He didn’t use it. He didn’t create. He squandered his opportunity.
When the Lord made an accounting with him, this man’s talent was taken away and given to the first. He had been a poor steward of his resources.
So – think of it another way. Imagine that first man – who had been given five talents. Imagine if he had been embarrassed – because of his privilege.
Imagine if he had been embarrassed because of the blessings he had received – unfairly – while others only had two or even only one talent. He didn’t do anything to earn them. Imagine if this embarrassment had turned to shame.
Imagine if he had said
Five talents is too many. It makes other people feel bad because they don’t have as many talents as I do. I don’t want to look like a show-off. I don’t want to look like some rich, spoiled brat.
So…I’ll bury three of these talents – then cultivate two. Then it won’t seem so ostentatious.
If this is what the first person had done, what do you think that the Lord would have said to him when he came for the accounting? Do you think that the Lord would have said, “Oh…good. You buried three of your talents so that you could appear more modest and fair to the others.”
The Lord would have been disappointed. How would burying three talents help anyone? By vesting all of his talents and making more, he can do more. He can help to build the kingdom of the Lord. His wealth can help to generate more wealth and opportunity for others.
Yes – it’s unfair and I’m privileged. I’ve had the gospel my whole life. I’ve been blessed to live in the U.S. with access to good education and amazing experiences. In a way, I want to be “modest.” I don’t want people to feel bad because they haven’t been blessed in the same ways I have.
But I recognized that I have done nothing to deserve my blessings and privileges. I also recognize that those who do not have the same blessings and privileges that I have received their lots in the same arbitrary and unfair fashion as I did. I recognize that just as I did nothing to deserve my good fortune, others did nothing to deserve their less favorable fortunes.
I recognize that God did not give me my blessings “willy nilly.” He doesn’t love me more. I recognize that God gave me these blessings so I can use them in a way that will bless others.
Those people – struggling to find the path – who don’t know where to find the truth – aren’t wicked or unloved by God. They have inherited a less than ideal environment for life, and it is up to people like me – who have had so much handed to me – to extend my own hand to them.
Back to the dream for a second.
This is a dream, so more happens. (And remember – it is a dream!)
“And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:23
This first group of people struggled to find the path and then a mist of darkness arose. Unfortunately, those souls who had just struggled so much to find the path were overcome by the mists of darkness. They couldn’t keep their bearings, and they wandered off the path and were lost.
This is a sad situation for these unfortunate souls. Luckily it is only a dream. Unfortunately, it is symbolic of real life.
There are people who have struggled to find truth in their lives, and just as they get close to it, they are challenged and then lose their way.
In a way, I think that this story sounds like it “just happens” – that people struggle to find truth and then end up getting consumed by the mists of darkness.
Maybe it does “just happen.”
I don’t know.
One thing I do know – the life, grace, and atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ can overcome the deleterious effects of wandering off the path. The Lord, Jesus Christ, is the Good Shepherd. He will find the one that is lost and bring them back to the fold, if they allow it.
I also know that we, those who have the truth, can be tools in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
What is the personal application for me today? Praise the Lord and express my gratitude that I was one of the “lucky” people – to have the gospel in my life from day one. That I haven’t had to search far for truth and light and love in my life. I can then do more to share my knowledge and testimony with others, so those who are looking for the truth can find it.