This summer, as I’ve reflected on where to practice and what kind of law to practice after I graduate from law school, I’ve repeatedly been drawn to Lehi’s vision of the tree of life and especially the great and spacious building.
This summer I worked at a wonderful big law firm in Washington D.C. While there, I loved the experience and especially the people I met. I enjoyed the elaborate lunches and social gatherings. I enjoyed hearing people speak about the exotic vacations they planned to take. I loved the fascinating assignments they worked on, and the wealth of experience everyone there held.
And yet, looking back at the end of the summer. I also realize how much of the law firm experience resembles life in the great and spacious building.
In Lehi’s dream, the great multitude feel their way in the darkness. I believe that a great many, and perhaps the majority of people in this world desire righteousness and hope to goodness. And yet, so many of them eventually end up in the building. In the building, they are wined, dined, and clothed in expensive garments until they are comfortable with life in the building. I imagine that the people in the building are made to feel self-righteous and important. They are made to feel like the work they do in the building is essential and for the good of those around them.
And then, those people look out and see the multitude moving towards the tree of life. Perhaps at first they call out because they believe that life is wonderful in the building. They can not imagine why someone could be content with the fruit of a tree when they enjoy a smorgasbord of veritable delights within the great and spacious building. And eventually, their lack of understanding turns to disgust as they turn to mocking those that do not have what they have. Although not mentioned in the dream, I imagine some of the people in the building must even seek to demolish the tree, because they feel it blinds people from realizing that the good life can be found in the building.
The people in the building are I believe absolutely sincere and well intentioned. They are seeking to do good to the best of their understanding. They are also unquestionably and unalterable mistaken. The building has no foundation, and cannot bring true joy.
A law firm resembles this picture in many ways. I imagine many professions at the pinnacle of prestige do. Those who come are lured by promises of pleasure and also by a promise that the work they do can make a real positive difference. Yet, over time those within are desensitized and lose a sense of good and evil, right or wrong. All those outside of the building must be misguided or worse. In time, even those that enter with good intentions may find that life in the building has cankered the soul.
I am sure this picture is overly gloomy. Many wonderful lawyers practice in a big law firm and do not lose their sense of right and wrong. And yet, the lives that they are encouraged to live is often contrary to the gospel principles that provide eternal happiness. Marriage and children are seen as nuisances or burdens. Good becomes evil and evil good. (It is no wonder that not a single big law firm in the country has authored an amicus brief against gay marriage).
Yet, I am also optimistic. In Lehi’s dream, the building inevitably collapses. Knowing that many of the people within the building are sincerely good, kind, and virtuous individuals who were tricked by the glamour of the great building, I hope and believe that a great many will eventually find their way to the tree and partake of the delicious fruit. Though the gap between the two may now be a chasm, I pray that it will be bridged.
As for me, even though I do not know exactly what path I should take, I am so grateful to have tasted of the fruit. With Heavenly Father’s help, I believe I can find a path forward that allows me to both do good and live well. I have confident that if I follow the spirit and the rod of iron, I will be protected from the seductive allure of the great and spacious building.