In the spirit of the new year, many of my friends have shared how many books they read in 2023 or how many they’re hoping to read in 2024. But how many books have you read that are almost 2000 years old?
When you think about the age of the Book of Mormon, it’s impressive to consider how much of it still “holds up.” Of course, all its doctrinal truths are eternal and the stories can be looked at through the lens of history and culture, but all in all, you don’t need to be a scriptorian, historian, or intense gospel scholar to understand its messages—and that on its own is incredible.
On this week’s episode of the All In podcast, Nashville songwriter Tony Martin agrees. Martin has written 16 no. 1 country music hits, including “Just To See You Smile” by Tim McGraw.
Martin was also an early morning seminary teacher for years and has been teaching Gospel Doctrine in his ward for the last nine years, so he knows a thing or two about gospel study. Most recently, he co-wrote three songs for the Nashville Tribute Band’s latest album, Witness, all about the Book of Mormon. One of the songs he worked on centers around Lehi’s dream.
In answer to the question, “Lehi's vision of the tree of life and the iron rod: why is it just as relevant today as it was 600 years before Christ?” Martin had an incredibly insightful answer that had me appreciating the simplicity of the Book of Mormon even more.
Martin says that Lehi’s dream, at face value, is very interesting. But then we turn the page and read about how Nephi really wants to dig in and understand what each symbol means.And all of that symbolism holds up for hundreds and hundreds of years.
“It’s a very simple story told with very simple symbols…” Martin shared. “But [we know] the Book of Mormon was given more for our time, and there’s not a symbol in there that we don’t know today. We know what a tree is, or a path, or a rod, the fruit of a tree, or a building that is spacious where everybody’s dressed nice and they’re making fun of the world. You can look at this [story] and say, ‘Yeah, that’s the world I’m living in. I recognize that world.’”
And in using such simple symbols, it becomes that much easier for us living today to set the scene in our minds and contemplate where we are now—or where we want to be—in that scene.
This idea of seeing yourself in Lehi’s dream became the inspiration for the song, “Old Man’s Dream,” written by Martin and Nashville Tribute Band founding member Jason Deere. You can listen to the song in the player below.
Looking at the symbols found in Lehi’s dream, knowing this all happened—and that this book was written—more than 2600 years ago makes it even more obvious that God’s hand was in this dream and in this book of scripture. This could have been a dream full of ancient Jerusalem ”pop culture” references that would have gone completely over our heads, or scenes that would have only been of note to Lehi and his family. But it wasn’t. This dream was simple, straightforward, and full of common items and icons.
And this is true all over the Book of Mormon! Unlike a lot of the writing or symbolism in the Old Testament, many of the symbols found in the Book of Mormon—the allegory of the olive tree, faith growing like a seed, and even many of the battle strategies—are easy to understand and still make sense to us in 2024.
We may not be as agriculturally minded or war-focused today as the people living in Book of Mormon times were, but the metaphors are simple enough that we can still get the picture.
We know what a tree is, we’ve watched a seed grow, and we can picture what “casting up dirt round about to shield them” would look like. So we can understand what it would mean to ‘prune’ God’s people before the Second Coming or that in order for faith to grow, we would have to water it, nourish it, and plant it in good ground.
So now I have a new appreciation for the simplicity of the Book of Mormon, and as I study Lehi’s dream in Come, Follow Me, I want to take a step back and think about where I am in that symbolic scene and what I can do this year to hold tighter to the rod and end my journey at the tree of life.
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Find the All In podcast on all major streaming platforms, at ldsliving.com/allin, or in the player below.