What Does the “Great and Spacious Building” Represent?

In Lehi’s dream, after arriving at the tree of life and tasting its sweet fruit, after guiding family members to the same tree, and after seeing many other people arrive at that tree by following a rod of iron through a mist of darkness, Lehi saw something which perplexed him. Some of the people who had tasted this incredible fruit were looking ashamed and wandering away (1 Nephi 8:25).

This fruit was superior to any other thing on earth. It filled those who tasted it with “exceedingly great joy” (1 Nephi 8:12). Two of Lehi’s sons had refused to even try the fruit, but these people had actually tasted it and knew firsthand of its goodness. Yet they were inexplicably abandoning it and leaving the tree.

Lehi hadn’t noticed any reason for embarrassment, but as these people began to leave, he looked around to figure out what had happened to them. Looking across the river, he saw for the first time what had prompted their feelings of shame:

I…beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost (1 Nephi 8:26-28).

Notice the characteristics of the people in this building:

  1. They were a diverse group: all ages and both genders.
  2. They wore fine clothing, which presumably reinforced their sense of superiority.
  3. Their only activity was mockery. They didn’t seem to be enjoying their situation or building wholesome relationships with one another. They were just ridiculing those who actually were happy.

Lehi explained to his sons that, even though the people in the building pointed “the finger of scorn” at him and at the other people who remained, “we heeded them not.” He indicated that the people who paid attention this criticism had all fallen away (1 Nephi 8:33-34).

Lehi’s son Nephi learned more about the meaning of this building from a vision he experienced shortly after.

After seeing the crucifixion of the Savior, Nephi saw many people fighting against the twelve apostles whom Jesus had chosen. He saw those people gathered in a “large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw.” An angel explained to him that this building represented “the world and the wisdom thereof.” Then, the angel said that the people in that building would “fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 11:35).

Nephi explained that this building represented “the pride of the world.” He also saw its ultimate fate: “It fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.” Since it had no foundation and floated in the air, its fall is not hard to visualize. Since it was a large building, it’s not hard to believe that the fall was massive.

Lest the connection to the apostles be lost, the angel made the following observation after the building fell: “Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 11:36).

Shortly afterward, in the same vision, Nephi saw his own descendants fighting against the descendants of his brothers. The angel again referred to the building, reminding Nephi that “the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men.” Nephi saw that his descendants would be overpowered and destroyed because of their pride (1 Nephi 12:18-19).

As I’ve pondered this symbolic building today, I’ve had the following insights:

  1. When you find something that makes you happy, your focus should be on enjoying it and on sharing it with others, not on mocking those who don’t have it.
  2. It is tragic when we give up things that bring us joy because other people criticize us. We need to ignore the taunts and the insults and to prioritize our own happiness over the approval of people who don’t have our best interests at heart.
  3. People whose objective is to place themselves above others are building their lives on an unstable foundation. Their perceived greatness is illusory, and it will eventually crumble.

Today, I will focus on the things which bring me and others joy. I will not pay undue attention to those who criticize and belittle my beliefs and my lifestyle. Instead, I will seek after things that are good and share those things with others.

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