In chapter 11, Nephi asks for and receives a vision of the tree of life similar to the vision his father receives. But it starts out differently. In Chapter 11, verse 8, 9:
8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
The first thing Nephi sees right out of the gate is a tree, far beautiful than anything imaginable.
Contrast this with Lehi’s experience:
5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.
6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.
7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
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.
10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
Lehi rather begins his vision in darkness where he spends many hours. It says that he was led, but it also seems the man disappears and Lehi is forced to wander alone until finally he prays for grace and is delivered from the darkness. Only then, does Lehi get the blessing of the tree.
Why the difference? I have two thoughts here. Lehi didn’t seek for this vision, it came to him in a dream. Lehi needed to be taught, but he did not know it. There was knowledge out there that Lehi was not aware of to even seek. As a result, the dream begins in darkness, that is the first grace, he was made aware of his ignorance and lack of light. I often have this feeling of thinking I know more than I really do. There are times in my life when I’m woken up to the reality that I’m really just wandering in ignorance. Those feelings can be difficult, painful, overwhelming. I like Lehi’s response. He prays for mercy and is immediately blessed with light. The darkness is a grace. The light is a grace.
Second, Nephi is being taught by his father. Lehi teaches his family about the dream. Nephi’s immediately recognizes his ignorance and seeks for greater understand through prayer. For Nephi, his father was the man leading him through darkness toward the light. Thus, when Nephi prays, he’s basking in the light already. This is a grace, a grace of a parent, of family and Nephi is smart enough to stand on the shoulders of his dad.
Each of us have both alternatives before us. Some of us have had the blessings of lineage and geneology. We are born on third base. This is a grace, an opportunity. Some others of us are born in darkness. It is our calling to walk through the darkness to find the light.
For all of us, there is light and beauty. We can find it. It’s a tender mercy when we do.