Source:Echoes:Ch5:8:Lehi's dream - multitudes

Cultural and Geographical Dimensions of Lehi's Dream: Multitudes of people

Cultural and Geographical Dimensions of Lehi's Dream: Multitudes of people

The dream of Lehi teems with people. Although the dream begins with a desert journey undertaken only by Lehi, his family members, and a guide (see 1 Nephi 8:5–7,14,17–18), it quickly fills with others. In his own words, Lehi "saw numberless concourses of people" who "did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree" (vv. 8:21, 8:22). Soon he "beheld others pressing forward" to take "hold of the end of the rod of iron," which also would bring them to the tree (v. 24). In the next scene, he "beheld . . . a great and spacious building" that "was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female" (vv. 8:26,27). Moreover, in another setting Lehi "saw other multitudes," some of whom came to the tree and others of whom began "feeling their way towards that great and spacious building," each group proceeding cautiously and purposefully because of the murky mists (vv. 8:30,31). Where did all of these people come from? Was not Arabia basically an empty place?

The answer is yes and no. There are vast regions where no human inhabitant lives. The problem in those areas, of course, is a lack of water. But anciently both the northwest and southwest sections of the Arabian Peninsula supported large populations, as well as large numbers of animals.29 It was through these very areas that Lehi's party passed. Though animals do not appear in Lehi's dream—the lone exception is a lamb (see 1 Nephi 10:10)—people do. And lots of them, matching the images in the dream. Although it is possible for a modern author to make up parts of a story that are unrealistic, the story will not gain credibility in the eyes of readers unless the author carefully masks the unrealistic elements with a heavy dose of reality in the other parts. In the case of Lehi's dream, it is impressive that even this detail of large numbers of people fits the ancient context of the family's journey into Arabia. No source that Joseph Smith had access to would have told him this fact.[1]


  1. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.