Lehi’s landmark vision of the Tree of Life is one of the most well known revelations from the Book of Mormon. It’s a beautiful depiction of life, and embodies numerous eternal principles with profound depth. One of which is the importance of pursuing spiritual knowledge.
The Tree of Life, a synopsis:
Since many of my readers are new to the Book of Mormon, here’s a brief synopsis of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life.
In it, the prophet Lehi finds himself in a “dark and dreary wilderness”. He travels for a time, and upon praying for assistance, beholds a large and spacious field, on the other side of which, stands a tree, whose fruit was exceedingly white, sweet beyond all other fruit, and caused his soul to be filled with exceedingly great joy.
Compelled to share this joy, he looks up to find his family, and notices the rest of his surroundings.
He sees a river of water, and next to it, a rod of iron with a “strait and narrow path” leading along the bank of the river, so as to protect one who held onto it from falling prey to the current and being swept away.
This path led through the great and spacious field, wherein “numerous concourses of people” were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path, which led to the tree. But in the field, there arose a mist of darkness, so that those who would not cling to the rod of iron, would lose their way, some drowning in the depths of the river, and others becoming lost along forbidden paths.
He spoke also of a great and spacious building on the other side of the river, which seemed, as it were, to float in the air, and in which there were many people who were pointing their fingers at, and mocking those who were partaking of the fruit. There were many who partook of the fruit of the tree, and feeling ashamed, left in search of the building, and were lost. After a time, the building, which lacked a foundation, fell to the earth, causing the destruction of all who were within.
The tree of Life, an interpretation:
Upon hearing his father speak of his vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi, a soon-to-be prophet, sought the Lord for understanding. He too was then given the same vision, but in expanded form, complete with interpretation of its symbolic meaning.
To Nephi it was revealed that the Tree of Life, and the fruit thereon was representative of the Love of God, which fills the soul with joy. The Rod of Iron was the word of god, the great and spacious field was the world, and the great and spacious building was the pride of the world.
The pursuit of spiritual knowledge
Amongst the many lessons taught in this vision, one of those that stands strongest for me is that of the rod of iron. Often within the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (the Mormons), the phrase “hold to the rod” has become cliché. It has sort of come to represent the vague notion of righteous living, our need to “choose the right”.
But while these too are good, the specific, inspired translation of that symbol, as revealed to the prophet Nephi, is that the rod of iron, that thing to which we are to “cling” is specifically… the “word of God”. And cling to it we must.
There’s nothing casual about the word cling. It is defined as “to hold tightly, to grasp or embrace, to cleave”. It is an active word that depicts active behavior.
It’s no mystery where we can FIND the word of God. It is to be had in abundance, in the scriptures, in inspired teachings by the prophets today as well as in times past. And it is to be had by direct revelation to you, as an individual, according to your faith and effort.
In the chapter preceding Nephi’s vision of interpretation, he comments:
“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father… was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever… For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (1 Nephi 10:17-19)
Here Nephi communicates the primary ingredient for receiving revelation: diligent seeking. This is how we cling to the word of God. By diligently seeking it. We must become singularly focused on obtaining, understanding, and internalizing the word of God.
We are told through modern revelation to do “all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). And what is the Glory of God? “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36).
The prophet Joseph said “No man can be saved in ignorance”. We must therefore reflect upon the urgency with which we search the scriptures, seek divine revelation, and work to obtain the word of God. For this is how we cling to the iron rod, this is how we obtain the fruit of the tree… the Love of God, this is how we plunge through the mists of darkness (confusion of the world and the adversary).
Only by clinging to the word of God can we obtain the tree. As the angel told Nephi of the Great and Spacious building “behold the wisdom of the world”. Great was the fall thereof, for it was founded upon the pride of men. But our foundations must be built upon the solid ground of true doctrine, entrenched in the fertile soul of divine revelation, from which eternal lives may grow.
So cling to the rod, and begin your own quest for spiritual knowledge, that the fruit of the tree, or the love of God, will be yours.