1 Nephi 8. Lehi’s Tree of Life Vision
In 1811, Joseph Smith Sr. reported a dream in which he was traveling in a barren land, accompanied by a spirit guide. He came to a narrow path and saw a beautiful stream of water, with a rope running along the bank. Coming to a valley, he saw a beautiful tree with white fruit that he began to eat. Wanting to share with his family, he went back and retrieved them. They were very happy while eating the fruit, but finely-dressed people in a spacious building on the other side of the valley began pointing the finger at them. His guide told him that the fruit represented the pure love of God and told him that he still had two children who needed to come to eat. He brought them back to the tree and inquired about the building, which he was told represented Babylon, which would fall. The account is so similar to the one reported by Lehi in 1 Nephi 8 that one is tempted to suggest that Joseph Smith borrowed the idea from his father when writing the Book of Mormon.
One finds the same phenomenon throughout the scriptures. John’s vision, recorded in the book of Revelation, has many parallels to visions of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, and Daniel. From the Book of Mormon, we learn that Nephi and Lehi had the same basic vision, and it is also reported in many early pseudepigraphic texts. I believe that the Lord gave this same vision to many prophets throughout the centuries and I have come to call it “the primordial vision,” since it is also attributed to Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and other ancient prophets, in both scriptural and nonscriptural texts. The tree of life is a very common theme in the scriptures and other ancient Jewish and Christian literature.
 For a detailed study, see John A. Tvedtnes, “Borrowings from the Parable of Zenos,” in Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch (eds.), The Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5 (Salt Lake City: Deseret and FARMS, 1994). I have discovered many more parallels since that article was published.