BYU Education Week: Nephi, Mary and sacred tree symbols

Nephi's familiarity with an ancient Israelite goddess helped him to understand his vision of the tree of life, said a BYU professor of Islamic studies and Arabic.

Daniel C. Peterson told a Campus Education Week class on Tuesday, Aug. 18, about Asherah, an ancient deity figure whose symbol was a tree.

The Book of Mormon tells of a vision received by Lehi and later by his son Nephi. The central image of the vision was a tree of life.

"The beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow," Nephi wrote in his account (1 Nephi 11:8).

Nephi asked the Spirit for the interpretation. "We expect the Spirit to answer Nephi's question. But the response to Nephi's question is really surprising," Peterson said.

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