16 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.
17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.
18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God…. (1 Nephi 12:16-18)
I notice that in Lehi’s dream (or as it is interpreted to Nephi by the angel), there are three elements that Satan uses as his tools.
1) The filthy river of water. This is not a clear river. It’s carrying a ton of silt. I think the river can express sinfulness that is immersive and addicting, the kinds of sins that can make one think everything is dirty. It is aptly described as the depths of hell. This is not the kind of river a person can just wade in a little and walk out of. It’s worse than quicksand. It’s called “the depths of hell” for a reason.
2) The mists of darkness. Mists are nebulous and insubstantial, but they make things look different and hazy. I think mists are a great way to express how Satan’s temptations mess with our perceptions and try to make us think that things are different than what they really are.
3) The large and spacious building. Manmade, yet unstable, since it eventually falls. It looks like it would provide shelter from the elements, like it would be comfortable. But it is inherently unsafe. (I have to wonder if we make our own great and spacious buildings.) It looks like it would be a better, more interesting destination than that tree over there. A fancy-but-unsafe building is an excellent symbol for pride. Also, the way it gathers a judgmental, scornful crowd captures pride’s workings in larger society. Even if it feels like it is safe to go with the crowd, wrong is still wrong, and eventually it will be proven so.
So, we’re not just to beware of the mists of temptation, but also pride and filthiness.
Compare these things to the instruments of God, which are the path, the rod, and the tree with its fruit.
1) The path. It’s the only safe way with sure footing and a desirable destination. There aren’t rocks or obstacles or holes in it. (Only Satan tries to make us think there are.) To me the way we walk in the path teaches that God gives us things to do that help us progress.
2) The rod. It’s a fail-safe for the path and works in tandem with it. If you can’t see the way to go, you can feel it through the rod. For every place you are on the path, there is rod there to guide you. Also, anyone who honestly grabs and holds the rod will get on the path. The rod is guidance that God gives us through revelation and the scriptures.
3) The fruit. The fruit seems to me to be both the goal and nourishment along the way. God’s love nourishes us with sweet tastes that point us to a future hope of exalted bliss, and isn’t the fullness is also the reward? (This is perhaps the place where it seems like the dream breaks down for me as an allegory.)
So, I see that God uses gospel progression, revelation, and love as His tools during this life.
If we can just choose more of God’s tools and reject Satan’s tools!