For ten years I have had discussions with many different people about the man “dressed in a white robe” in Lehi’s vision recorded in 1 Nephi chapter 8. Some firmly believe that he was an angel or a true messenger from the Lord. Others believe that he was just a man. Lehi chose to follow this man and ended up walking through darkness for many hours until he finally decided to pray to God for help. What do we know of this man? We know only two things:
1. He was a man.
2. He was dressed in a white robe.
Lehi’s vision initially placed him in a dark and dreary wilderness. After he decided to follow this man, he discovered that he had been led into a dark and dreary waste and there is no more mention of this man. Finally after many hours of traveling in the darkness, he prayed for mercy. It wasn’t until after he prayed that he beheld an enormous field with a very special tree in the field whose fruit was “desirable to make one happy.”
But this was not Lehi’s first vision. In the very first few verses of the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon we read about Lehi’s vision where he sees God sitting on His throne and then he sees One descending whose “luster was above that of the sun at noon-day..” Then twelve others follow Him and “and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.”
But the man who asked Lehi to follow him in his second vision of the tree of life had no glory or brightness to speak of, yet Lehi chose to follow him. The most elect of God’s people are also willing to and readily follow men who dress in white without question just as Lehi followed this man who had no glory or brightness. There is no shortage of men (and women) in this world who desire that anyone and everyone follow them with mottos and promises of rewards. There are many gospels of success and prosperity for the right price. Satan himself may be transformed as an angel of light ready to deceive anybody willing to pay attention. Korihor was deceived by Satan who had appeared to him in the form of an angel. In the Pearl of Great Price, however, when Satan appeared to Moses in chapter one, Moses could tell that he had no glory to speak of, unlike God who had just spoken to him while His glory was upon Moses, so Moses could discern the difference and had the presence of mind to reject Satan.
Some readers of the Book of Mormon might think it should have been important enough to God to make this man dressed in white identifiable (Nephi in another vision identified a different man in a white robe as John but this is another discussion). But I consider the anonymity of the man dressed in a white robe in Lehi’s vision an important feature and not a fault of the vision and its intended message. We must learn by sad experience never to trust in the arm of flesh as one Old Testament Prophet did which resulted in his tragic death. Sometimes such a lack of discernment can be fatal. Oftentimes it leads to bruised egos and also humbled hearts as with Lehi who had become lost in a dark and dreary waste.
Most believers have a shallow understanding of the scriptures and the powerful lessons they teach. We are given those lessons so that we may be wiser than they were and not make the same mistakes that they did. One of the most important lessons is to trust your own connection to God. Trust the Holy Ghost which you should have received if you were baptized.
D&C 45:56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
If you do not have more than a superficial understanding of the scriptures or the breadth and depth of knowledge and wisdom which they impart, it is incumbent upon you to study them in order to know how Satan operates in all his subtlety. But more importantly, studying and pondering them deeply and doing what God has taught and commanded brings you in harmony with Him. And if you are attuned to His voice, you will know when any man dressed in white, though well intentioned he might be, is leading you–whether naively or deliberately–from the dark wilderness you now occupy into a dark waste.