1 Nephi 8:8-9 — LeGrand Baker — A Wasteland or a Field

1 Nephi 8:8-9 

8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.

There are vivid contrasts in the sequence of the words with which Lehi describes his vision: “dark and dreary waste,” then “many hours in darkness,” then prayer, then a “large and spacious field.” and finally, the tree of life.{1} A “waste” connotes a place that is not so much infertile as it is unproductive. In contrast, a “field” is a cared-for and productive place. His choice of words causes one to wonder about the effect of the prayer. After the prayer, did the Lord transport Lehi to a new location, or did he simply take away the darkness so Lehi could see what was really there? Or did somehow Lehi have the wisdom and the strength to see more clearly than he saw before? If either of the latter two, then what we might understand from Lehi’s description is this: The light and the field were there all along, but then, so was the darkness. Perhaps the darkness had not been so much a product of where he was but of what he was able to see. After many hours he saw “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” If that is a correct interpretation, then, for us, Lehi’s vision is a perfect microcosm of human experience. Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote a few lines in a poem that says it well.

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.{2}

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FOOTNOTES

{1} See 1 Nephi 8:10-12, Lehi’s description of the tree, the water, and the fruit.

{2} Edna St. Vincent Millay, Renascence in  One Hundred and One Famous Poems, ed. Roy J. Cook (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997), 166-70.

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