• maryack

Unfolding Revelation and the Tree of Life

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

Last Sunday, a sister in my Ward gave a really outstanding and insightful talk on Lehi’s Tree of Life Vision. She taught me a new way of seeing how his vision unfolds.

Lehi is walking in a dark and dreary wilderness (waste) led by a man dressed in a white robe. He walks in darkness for many hours when he begins to pray to the Lord for mercy. It’s only at this point that the large and spacious field with the tree and the white fruit appear to his view (1 Nephi 8:4-8). Lehi partakes of the fruit. Elder David Bednar taught: "The fruit on the tree is a symbol for the blessings of the Atonement. Partaking of the fruit of the tree represents the receiving of ordinances and covenants whereby the Atonement can become fully efficacious in our lives. The fruit is described as “desirable to make one happy” (1 Nephi 8:10) and produces great joy and the desire to share that joy with others." (Ensign Oct. 2011)

This is what happens to Lehi. He wants to share his joy. He looks around and sees a river (he doesn't notice that it's filthy at this point). There he sees Sariah, Nephi, and Sam (1 Ne 8:13-14). Lehi calls out to them with a loud voice to come and partake of the fruit. “And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.” (1 Ne 8:16).

But where are Laman and Lemuel? He looks around again and sees them at the head of the river. But they reject Lehi’s beckoning father/prophet voice. They refuse to come and partake.

It’s now that Lehi notices the rod of iron and the strait and narrow path alongside the rod. (Lehi, Sariah, Nephi, and Sam haven’t used the iron rod to get to the tree). Notice that the path leads to both the tree and the spacious field which is the world (1 Ne 8:20).

Lehi then observes “numberless concourses” of people “pressing forward” towards the path, they enter the path, but many wander off as they pass through the mist of darkness (1 Ne 8:21-23). They don't hold onto the rod. In fact, the iron rod isn't even mentioned.

More enter the path and then cling to the iron rod as they pass through the “mist of darkness” towards the tree. They partake of the fruit and have an almost inexplicable reaction. They’re looking around like they’re “ashamed” (1 Ne 8:21-25). Why are they ashamed? David Bednar mentions that "it is significant that the second group pressed forward with faith and commitment. They also had the added blessing of the rod of iron, and they were clinging to it! However, as they were confronted with persecution and adversity, they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost. Even with faith, commitment, and the word of God, this group eventually was lost—perhaps because they only periodically read or studied or searched the scriptures. Clinging to the rod of iron suggests to me only occasional “bursts” of study or irregular dipping rather than consistent, ongoing immersion in the word of God." (Ensign, Oct. 2011).

The “great and spacious building” now makes its ugly appearance in the vision. Lehi sees that it is filled with prideful people scoffing and mocking those who have partaken of the fruit. This is why some who ate of the fruit are ashamed and fall away into forbidden paths (1 Ne 8:26-28).

Others who hold “continually” to the iron rod, arrive at the tree, and falling down in gratitude/humility, partake of the fruit. "The third group also pressed forward with faith and conviction; however, there is no indication that they wandered off, fell into forbidden paths, or were lost. Perhaps this third group of people consistently read and studied and searched the scriptures. Perhaps it was diligence and devotion to a seemingly “small and simple [thing]” (Alma 37:6) that saved the third group from perishing. Perhaps it was “the knowledge of the Lord” and “the knowledge of the truth” (Alma 23:5, 6) obtained through faithful study of the scriptures that yielded the spiritual gift of humility—such that this group of people “fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree” (1 Nephi 8:30; emphasis added). Perhaps it was the spiritual nourishment and strength provided by continually “feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20) that enabled this group to heed not the scorning and mocking of the people in the great and spacious building (see 1 Nephi 8:33). This is the group you and I should strive to join." (Elder Bednar, Ensign, Oct. 2011).

There’s also a group who skip the path and the iron rod completely, making their way directly to the “great and spacious building” (1 Ne 8: 31-32).

Four principles entered my thoughts as I pondered this unfolding vision (not all-inclusive, of course).

1. Revelation. God will guide our lives by revealing to us what we need as we need it {as we are prepared to receive and understand the instructions}. (The tree of life vision unfolds as Lehi progresses in his journey). Throughout the progression of the vision, Lehi is always moving. His vision is filled with ‘action’ words.

  • The man dressed in white summons him and Lehi follows.

  • He walks for hours.

  • He prays.

  • He goes forth and partakes of the fruit”.

  • He casts his eyes “round about’.

  • He calls in a loud voice to his family and beckons them.

Before each component of his vision is revealed, Lehi has acted. This is our charge, as well. We must act.

President Nelson taught us a similar pattern of actionable words that will lead us to becoming recipients of ongoing, unfolding revelation. “Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort. Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation” (April 2018 General Conference). He further urged us “ stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (April 2018 General Conference, italics added). I’m so thankful for a Prophet!

2. Asking for divine assistance brings relief. (After wandering for many hours in darkness, Lehi prays and sees the tree and fruit). I have personally experienced this principle. A few years ago, I was experiencing extreme anxiety. This extremity had continued unabated for ten days. On the tenth day I was exhausted and felt that I could go no further on my journey. I wanted to give up my efforts to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. It was just too hard! I was driving aimlessly, when I realized that I was at the Temple. I went onto the Temple grounds to a secluded spot and began to pour out my soul to Him. It wasn’t a pretty prayer, but it was heartfelt. It was at this moment of crisis that the love of God entered me. I can’t/won’t describe the experience any further, but this was a life-changing event in my life. It was real.

This fundamental principle is found elsewhere in the scriptures. For example, Alma the Younger, after being visited by an angel, tells the story of what happened to him thereafter (where he was surely walking in his own dark and dreary wilderness). Alma 36:12 “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. 13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. 14 ...yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. 15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. 16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. 17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. 18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. 19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” This describes very well my own result!

As Abraham was about to be sacrificed to false gods, deliverance didn’t come until he called upon the Lord for divine help: Abraham 1:15 “And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands; 16 And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee.”

Finally, King David, the psalmist-turned-warrior, understood this principle perhaps better than most when he wrote: Samuel 22:2 “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; …3 In him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; [who] savest me from violence. 4 I will call on the Lord, … so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”

3. When we partake of God’s love, we desire those around us to receive it, too. (Lehi wants his family to partake of the fruit). It isn’t enough to just partake of God’s love and call it a day. When I had my own experience (mentioned above), great healing took place. I found that I was still imperfect me, but I had a desire to help others experience His grace in their extremity. This is called living grace-to-grace and grace-for-grace. It’s a way of living in Christ.

  • He loves us first.

  • Then we receive His love.

  • Then we share His love with others

  • After which He blesses us with more love/grace/power that we receive, give, and so on.

President Uchtdorf taught: “Love is the guiding light that illuminates the disciple’s path and fills our daily walk with life, meaning, and wonder.”

“Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.”

“Love is the way of the disciple.” (Ensign, Oct 2009)

Enos is a wonderful example of how God’s love works upon the heart. Enos: 2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins. 3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. 4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. 5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. 6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. 7 And I said: Lord, how is it done? 8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. 9 Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.

4. Although entering the path (through baptism, etc.) and holding onto the iron rod are ways to the Tree of Life and the Love of God, it’s not enough. (Lehi tells us of groups of people who have done all of this and yet are “ashamed” and wander off into the world). The Savior taught the rich young man about this. Matthew 19:6 “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

President Russell M. Nelson taught: ‘Whenever I hear anyone, including myself, say, ‘I know the Book of Mormon is true,’ I want to exclaim, ‘That’s nice, but it is not enough!’ We need to feel, deep in ‘the inmost part’ of our hearts, that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it.’ “ (From Knowing is Nice But Not Enough by Steven C. Harper, Ensign 01/2020).

“Real life is messy. It was designed that way. Life gives us choices. Will we go on the “narrow path” or the “strange paths”; to the “Tree of Life” or to “the great and spvacious building”?; to “exceedingly white fruit” or “exceedingly fine manner of dress”?” (Sacrament Meeting Talk, January 2020)

Ongoing revelation is the key. “To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you.” (President Nelson, October 2018).

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