Oh, Great...More Visions
I'd be interested to see if there is any scholarly research on the subject of visions per page. Specifically, if anyone has done a comparison between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Because it sure sounds like the Book of Mormon has something to prove--"Hey, look at me, I'm inspired of God and you can tell because he's been throwing out dreams and visions all over the place so I must be the real deal."
It sure seems like there weren't quite so many miraculous revelations in the New Testament, and the New Testament also didn't spend entire chapters discussing one dream.
Rooting for Laman and Lemuel
Lehi has a dream. It's a nice little dream drenched in simplistic symbolism. It tells us that people apostatize over shame because rich people (who are evil) are mocking them. It also sets a precedent for TBMs who think they've found the greatest thing ever ("the gospel") to try and force it upon their family members.
The way people keep harping on Laman and Lemuel and telling them they're bad guys who need to change and be more god-oriented really makes me feel sorry for them. Which is weird, because I've never sympathized with them before when I read the Book of Mormon.
Where Does the Iron Rod Start?
Lehi's description leaves the starting point of the iron rod in question. Specifically, I think it's important to know whether or not the rod begins in the midst of the cloud of darkness or outside of the cloud of darkness.
I think the accurate place to have the rod start would be inside the darkness. This placement portrays the church's ability to prey on people in vulnerable situations. These people in Lehi's dream were doing fine on their own. But when the darkness arose, they became disoriented and lost sight of their objective. In the midst of their troubles, they grasped the iron rod and found it to be steadfast and unmoving. They needed help getting out of the darkness, so they relied on anything that seemed to provide a sense of direction. When it led them out of the darkness, they continued to trust the iron rod even though they no longer needed it to navigate. They allowed it to lead them all the way to the Tree of Life--which, assuming the Tree of Life symbolically provides salvation Mormon-style, is not the destination they had in mind.
Sure, the fruit may be sweet, but it'll rot your teeth out.