While the multitude were pressing towards the tree through the spacious field, “there arose a mist of darkness” (1 Nephi 8:23).
1 Nephi 8:23 – “there arose a mist of darkness”
1 Nephi 12:17 – “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.”
A “mist of darkness” is not an uncommon occurrence in the desert. Earlier this month, there was a powerful dust storm in Australia.
A couple of years ago, we were in Phoenix on vacation during the middle of the July. One day while we were there, a huge dust storm occurred, moving into the city. This picture shows what it looked like.
So, a dust storm in the desert, preventing the multitude from moving forward, would not have been an uncommon experience for Lehi.
We have been introduced to the iron rod that follows the strait and narrow path. At the time Lehi saw it, it was of no use to those on the path. The path was clear, they could see the tree, and they did not need the rod.
This changes with the mist of darkness. Suddenly the people are lost. They may not even be able to see their hand in front of their face. Now what do they do? It is now that the iron becomes essential for survival. Without the iron rod, people will become lost forever. By holding on to the rod, they follow the path to safety.
The word of God is eternal. It is always there. When we came to this world, we entered the mist of darkness. Temptation is all around us. It is easy to fall off the path and go in different directions, each direction pulling you away from the strait and narrow. The world of God (as symbolized by the iron rod) becomes our sure path to eternal life. When we hold firmly to gospel principles, the iron rod leads us through the challenges of life. By holding to the gospel, eventually we will never become lost and partake of the tree.
Lehi saw people coming to and grabbing the iron rod. The moved forward through the mist and successful came and partook of the fruit. Then, there was an unexpected response. They became ashamed of having partaken of the fruit.
Paul warned Timothy, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).
Addressing those who oppose the gospel, Moroni wrote, “O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?” (Mormon 8:38).
Why were they ashamed?
On the other side of the river, Lehi saw “a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth” (1 Nephi 8:26).
1 Nephi 8:26 – “I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building”
1 Nephi 12:18 – “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, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.”
Why would Lehi see this building, standing in the air?
[W]e ask how such tall buildings would appear to Lehi to be "in the air, high above the earth" (1 Nephi 8:26). One answer is that travelers in the deserts of Arabia typically traveled at night because of the heat and because of the danger of marauders.6 That is exactly what Lehi does at the beginning of his dream, for the wilderness through which he travels with his guide is "dark" (1 Nephi 8:4, 7). The first row of windows in tall buildings was high enough to offer safety to inhabitants. At night, light from the windows of these buildings made them appear as if suspended in the air.
Contemporary buildings there "stood as it were in the air" (1 Nephi 8:26), rising to imposing heights of five and six stories. Did contemporaries of Joseph Smith know about this building feature of the ancient past? The answer has to be no. Nor did Joseph Smith. Instead, it was Lehi, who beheld such a structure in his vision, and members of his party traveling through the region, who saw this "strange" appearance of skyscraper buildings.
The building was filled with young and old, male and female. They were dressed exceedingly fine. Later in Nephite history, costly apparel will be a sign of a wicked Nephite society (see Alma 1:6, 27, 32; 4:6; 5:53; 31:28, Helaman 13:28). They would mock those who had partaken of the fruit. When Christ entered Jarius’ home, He “saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him [GR ridiculed him] to scorn” (Matthew 9:23 - 24). Throughout Nephite history, the rich in society would mock the religious and the poor.
Christ warned those who were ashamed of Him.
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
[And they shall not have part in that resurrection when he cometh.
For verily I say unto you, That he shall come; and he that layeth down his life for my sake and the gospel's, shall come with him, and shall be clothed with his glory in the cloud, on the right hand of the Son of Man. (JST | Mark 8:42 - 43)]”
We also read that “among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42 - 43).
Those who were ashamed “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:28).
 Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life: Understanding the Dream as Visionary Literature, Charles Swift, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, accessed January 26, 2013.
 New Light: The Queen of Sheba, Skyscraper Architecture, and Lehi's Dream, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume - 11, Issue - 1, Pages: 102–3, 115, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, accessed January 26, 2013.