Mountains = Temples (Isaiah 2:2)
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."
1 Nephi 1-15
Chapters 11-14 consist entirely of Nephi’s own vision of the tree of life. This entire vision is extremely valuable to us as we study the scriptures. Here we see Nephi, seeking to understand the symbols of the vision in Lehi’s dream, go to the Lord with questions about those symbols. Then the Spirit comes to Nephi and presents to him a meaning of those symbols and then proceeds to give Nephi examples of how these symbols can be given meaning through real events in the world. I do not think that these chapters represent the only meanings possible to be derived from Lehi’s vision. Instead, I think we should look at this as the Lord instructing us on how to study symbols and find meaning in them ourselves. Key among finding meaning is coming to the Lord with a desire, speaking to and hearing Him through the Spirit, and then seeking further knowledge in His holiest of places (the temple).
1 Nephi 11:1-12
Nephi seeks to confirm the truth of his Father’s vision for himself. In doing so, he is carried away by the Spirit to a mountain and asked what it is that he desires. Nephi then answers that he is seeking knowledge for himself.
1 Nephi 11:13-25
Nephi is taught the tree is the love of God (demonstrated through the birth, life, and ministry of Christ). The rod is the word of God, or the scriptures. What other meanings do you think the tree or rod can have? Seek understanding through the Spirit. A great way to understand symbols is to seek other places where trees are spoken of in the scriptures, or even historically among religions. For example, trees often have a sacred meaning or connection with God. We see this in ancient Nordic religions with the World Tree (an entity that connects the realms together) and we see this in modern fantasy in Lord of the Rings where the white tree is symbolic for the King. The same imagery is present in Daniel chapter 4 when King Nebuchadnezzar is represented by a tree in the vision he has. If we look at the tree, which we are told is the love of God, manifest by Christ’s condescension, we can reasonably make the connection that the tree of life is also God himself, the king of kings, who rules over all else. And taking the fruit of the tree is symbolic of entering his presence, making the entire vision of the tree of life a temple experience, for both Nephi and Lehi. Further in 1 John 4:8, we are told "God is love” which can strengthen this connection between the tree and God himself. I’m not saying this is a 100% correct interpretation, but it is one way to find meaning in symbols by applying what the angel is teaching Nephi.
1 Nephi 11:26-36
This part vision is one of the reasons why the Book of Mormon is so necessary. (This becomes clearer later on when Nephi is told the removing of plain and precious truths from the bible is a mist of darkness. This part of the vision restores those truths to the Old Testament, which is missing any and all plain references and prophecies like this that refer to Jesus Christ in so clear a manner.)
1 Nephi 12:1-12
This part of the vision I see as a tender mercy of the Lord. Nephi sees the great things Christ does in his ministry among Israel. Certainly Nephi must have wondered, “Will my own people be given the same mercy?” And then the angel shows Nephi Christ’s ministry in the Americas. Showing that Christ is the redeemer for all mankind (this is significant as Nephi lived in Old Testament times before the gospel was taken to the Gentiles). Have you had similar experiences the Lord has blessed you and given you the righteous desires of your heart?
1 Nephi 12:13-22
The angel tells Nephi what the mists of darkness is, then shows that his descendants will succumb to them and the result of that is to be destroyed or to become a filthy people "full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” What are the mists of darkness if your life? What would happen to you if you fell into them and could not overcome them? What do you do to overcome the mists of darkness?
1 Nephi 13:1-9
It is easy to compare the abominable church spoken of by Nephi to the historical Catholic church, but I think that comparison is actually fairly lazy. In fact, Nephi himself refutes that very idea in 1 Nephi 14:13 when the abominable church is directly said to be those who fight against the Lamb.
1 Nephi 13:10-42
The Lords hand in the colonization of the Americas is evident from Nephi’s vision. His purpose in this is many fold: to bring to pass the restoration of His church, to bring the Bible to the descendants of Lehi and restore them to the fold of God, to bring all of God’s people the more plain and precious things that were lost throughout history, to bring forth records and scriptures that had previously been hidden or lost, to prepare the way for when God will manifest himself to all nations, to unite all people through God, and give man an opportunity to repent.
1 Nephi 14:1-17
Take stock of where you may stand with God in each aspect of your life. In your work, your home, at church, and beyond, do you make sure that you are always a part of the Church of the Lamb?
1 Nephi 14:18-29
The apostle John saw the same vision as Nephi, but Nephi was forbidden from writing the whole of it because John would be called to do so.
1 Nephi 15:1-11
When we are told hard things by the prophets, or come across difficult circumstances to understand do we act like Nephi, or do we act like Laman and Lemuel? Remember to ask the Lord and keep His commandments so that His mind will be opened to you.
1 Nephi 15:12-36
Nephi explains the vision of Lehi to his brothers. If we ask we will receive understanding, but if our hearts are closed to it, we will be blind to the truth of revelation.