The House of the World by Minerva Teichert

The House of the World

The House of the World represents the prophet Lehi’s dream from the Book of Mormon.  Lehi saw a tree whose fruit, representing the love of God, gave him great joy, and he wanted his family to eat it also.  His wife Sariah and his sons Sam and Nephi came, but his sons Laman and Lemuel did not.   Lehi records, “And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. . . . And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building. . . . 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.”1

Lehi stands at one end of the iron rod, the tree of life behind him, with the white fruit of the tree of life in his hands.  Since his arm is outstretched as “an extension of the iron rod, which symbolizes the word of God, Lehi demonstrates that a prophet’s words are from the Lord.”2  His wife Sariah kneels, clinging to the rod.  Perhaps she has fallen to her knees because two of her sons are missing.  Nephi is shown holding to the rod and reaching out to his mother, while Sam grips the rod behind him.

Laman and Lemuel are crossing the river in a boat to the great and spacious building.  That beautiful building is shown as only a shell or a façade; the windows and doors show blue sky, revealing that there is nothing inside the building.  This represents Nephi’s interpretation that the building is the “vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men.”3

Instead of illuminating the tree of life while the pride of the world is in darkness, Teichert reverses typical imagery.  “Lehi’s small group and much of the tree of life are shadowed while the building glows alluringly.  Its golden statues convey the status of its throngs of people, and its glory seems to surpass that of the tree. As in real life, the blessings of faith and obedience are sometimes not as immediately apparent or attractive as the entrapments of Satan.”4

Further reading: “Finding Ourselves in Lehi’s Dream

  1. 1 Nephi 8:19, 26-27
  2. John W. Welch and Doris R. Dant, The Book of Mormon Paintings of Minerva Teichert (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997) 60
  3. 1 Nephi 12:18
  4. John W. Welch and Doris R. Dant, The Book of Mormon Paintings of Minerva Teichert (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997) 60