I thought I was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus traveling, the thought suddenly came to me that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing before I went any further. So I asked myself, “What motive can I have in traveling here, and what place can this be?” My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, “This is the desolate world, but travel on.” The road was so broad and barren, that I wondered why I should travel in it; for said I to myself, “Broad is the road and wide is the gate, that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and strait is the gate that leads to everlasting life, and few there be that go in thereat.” Traveling a short distance further, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor the mouth; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope, running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me, was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree, such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible, whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so, the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near, and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, “ I cannot eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me.” Accordingly, I went and brought my family which consisted of my wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed. While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were all filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded. I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me that it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. “No,” he replied, “look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also.” Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we ate, the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down on our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfuls. After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, “It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God, because of their humility.” I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy. (Joseph Smith, Sr.: First Patriarch to the LDS Church, Appendix II, p228-229)
It is amazing to me how similar this dream of Joseph Smith Sr’s corresponds with Lehi’s dream as recorded in the Book of Mormon. And to think he had this when his son Joseph Smith Jr. was about six years old…
Can you imagine what Joseph Smith Sr. must have thought and felt when he read the printed Book of Mormon for the first time and discovered a dream very similar to his had been dreamt and recorded by the ancient prophet Lehi? What a confirmation of faith that must have been. (What would it be like to have one of your dreams canonized like that?) And too, it would seem to locate Joseph Smith Sr. at the beginning of a new gospel dispensation, just as Lehi was the beginning of whole new offshoot of Israel.
I think there are a few principles that can be distilled from this.
First, that the Lord can give visions in dreams to those whom he chooses.
Second, that the Lord can give similar dreams to different people.
Third, the Lord has ways of preparing His servants (and even their relatives) for what is He is going to do, even years before it happens.