I just re-read 1 Ne. 8 again and I wonder if there's something else to notice.
Lehi sees a tree (v. 10) and goes to it (v. 11). No big deal. No mention of a path or a "rod of iron." There's a field with a tree in it, so he walks to it. He calls his family (v. 15) and they come, too (v. 16). Still no mention of a path or rod.
Then Lehi notices the path and iron rod (vv. 19-20). Lots of people (v. 21) are "pressing forward" to obtain the path. Not until "a mist of darkness" arises (v. 23) does the iron rod become necessary. Then people are pressing forward to catch "the end of the rod of iron" (vv. 24 & 30)
Is it possible that Lehi's vision describes not just the general human condition, but different times in the history of man? In Lehi's day, coming to the tree was a matter of walking to the tree. Later, a path and a rod of iron defined the way. And later yet, the path is obscured by a mist of darkness, and only those who hold to the rod of iron will reach their destination.