Joseph Smith Sr’s vision of the tree of life – an apologetic response

Joseph Smith Sr’s vision of the tree of life – an apologetic response

The following is an apologetic response made on an email list to the contention that Joseph Smith Jr. entered elements of his father’s dream into the Book of Mormon.

Nibley mentions in his discussions of Lehi’s dream in An Approach to the Book of Mormon and Lehi in the Desert. Brodie had suggested that Joseph cribbed from family tradition. Nibley’s response observes that:

1- The dream is archetypal in many respects. The archetypal aspect comes up in other discussions of the dream, including, in the FARMS catalogue:

The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book
C. Wilfred Griggs
Discusses early Greek Orphic gold plates showing a tree of life, with relationships to Egyptian and Book of Mormon texts, providing plausible parallels to Lehi’s vision. Reprinted from BYU Studies. Includes the author’s “The Tree of Life in Ancient Cultures” (Ensign), a less technical treatment of the same information.
GRI-81 20 pp. $2.25

I think Griggs also discusses Joseph Senior’s vision.

The Narrative of Zosimus and the Book of Mormon
John W. Welch
Extensive parallels between 1 Nephi and a little-known but early text about a man who has a vision similar to Lehi’s in which he meets a group that escaped the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and were taken across the ocean by God. Reprinted from BYU Studies.
WEL-79 14 pp. $1.50

Also, Jess Grosbeck gives some interesting Jungian readings of several successive Smith family visions, published in Sunstone a few years back as “The Smiths: Their Dreams and Visions.”

2- The cultural content of the dreams is quite distinct. Nibley points out how Joseph Smith Senior finds himself wanding on a forest among “fallen timber”. Lehi’s imagery belongs to the desert.

3- Directions of influence. Responding to charges that the direction of influence was from Joseph Senior to the vision, a number of people have observed that since the Book of Mormon account was translated in 1829, and Joseph Senior’s vision was not written down until much later, is very possible that the wording of the Book of Mormon account influenced Lucy’s account.