tree of life

My main focus for this lesson is to look at the tree of life and the iron rod, what they mean independent of one another then how they relate to each other and even depend on each other. All the other symbols in the vision of the tree of life are negatives and places and things we don’t want to have to dwell on.

Reading Assignment: 1 Nephi 8–11; 12:16–18; 15.

Tree of Life

The tree of life shows up in many stories and revelations throughout the scriptures from Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden through the revelation of John the Beloved when he sees many trees of life lining the street in the City of God. In Revelation 22:2 it says:

2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

From the beginning of this world through the end of this world, one of the universal constants is this tree of life. There is a reason for the persistence of it showing up again and again.

Condescension of God

The word “condescension” is problematic for us in English because all of our definitions of the word are in the negative form. Each definition of the word indicates someone who is haughty and of high station lowering himself to deal with something or someone that is obviously beneath his importance and station in life. The images painted by all the examples given in the dictionary are of snobbery and pride. People who are described as being condescending are the kind of people that others often want to punch in the face for their belittling attitude.

That definition of condescension makes it more difficult for us to appreciate how the word is being used in reference to God. In (, one of the definitions of the word is “to put aside one’s dignity or superiority voluntarily and assume equality with one regarded as inferior.” Even this definition smacks of unpleasantness.

Unfortunately, this word is the best word we have in our language to describe what God has done for us, so let’s look at it in a sensible and practical way so it describes the reality of what happened, leaving out the bad taste we usually get with this word.

In Moses 1:39 the Lord says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The immortality He refers to requires a resurrected body. The eternal life referred to means to have the kind of life God has, one of perfection and ever increasing glory. It is a life filled with perfect enjoyment of all the privileges and wonders of being a god. This is what our Father in Heaven wants for us, His children. The problem is, we are not capable of achieving either of those aims by ourselves. We require someone who is able to redeem us from our fallen state and save us from being eternally separated from God. Our Savior and Redeemer is Jesus Christ.

In order for him to save us He, who is perfect in every way, had to lower himself from his station as a god (and he was a god even in the premortal world) and come live among a world of sinners, murderers, and reprobates. He had to become one of us. But here is where the difference comes into the definition of the word condescension. Instead of regarding us as “inferior” or beneath Him, his love is such that he treated everyone he met as equals. His perfect humility before our Father in Heaven allowed him to go forth healing, blessing, and demonstrating our Father’s love for His children, and this in the face of people spitting on him, hating him, and eventually even crucifying him.

Jesus did what he had to do out of love. He “shed forth” the love of God on all men and showed them how happy they could be if they followed in his footsteps. One of his purposes in coming here was to show us the way home. He led the way. With that said, let’s look at how this concept is demonstrated in the reading assignment.

The demonstration of the condescension of God

The tree of life is a representation, a type. It stands as a physical way of demonstrating the love and salvation offered by God. It represents all that is glorious and beautiful about the life we can have with the Lord. Here is Revelation 22:2 again.

2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Notice how everything about it is representative of something else. The twelve fruits represent the covenant made with the twelve tribes of Israel, which is the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the highest covenants made in the temple. It also represents the ultimate in prosperity and abundance. It is ever producing and never failing. A tree that produces a different fruit every month of the year will never be dormant and unprofitable. Even the leaves of the tree heal the soul. Those who have tasted of the fruit of this tree say that there is nothing more desirable and delicious to the taste than this particular fruit. What the tree produces is a representation of the love of God. The love of God is what brings joy to our souls. It represents the all the best that God has to offer us.

In 1 Nephi 11:10 – 23 the angel asks Nephi what he wants to know. Nephi wants to know the interpretation of the tree his father saw. The response was a question back to Nephi. The angel wanted to know if Nephi understood the condescension of God. Nephi did not understand, so the angel showed him the virgin that was carried away in the spirit then that same virgin holding a baby, who was the Son of God. That was when Nephi made the connection and understood that the condescension of God was his willingness to lower himself, to come to mortality with the rest of us and pay for our sins so we could be with Him in the eternities. He did it out of love. He was aware that he had to lower himself to a different station in order to save us all, but was willing to do it out of his love for his Father and us.

The iron rod

In 1 Nephi 11:25 Nephi receives the interpretation of the iron rod.

25 And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.

Sometimes we underestimate the power of the word of God, the scriptures. God rules the universe through the spoken word. The scriptures are God’s spoken words to His prophets and the stories behind the Lord’s dealings with his people. There is power in reading His words. They are a source of revelation. We have many promises of our own salvation if we read from the scriptures and study them on a daily basis.

It is the revelatory power in the scriptures that will allow us to get through the mists of darkness talked about in the vision of the tree of life. It is the scriptures and their power that will keep us on the narrow path that leads to experiencing (partaking of) the love of God, which is the white fruit that is more delicious and pure than anything else.

The reason the rod of iron leads people to the tree of life is because studying the scriptures daily (holding fast to the rod) produces that effect. Experiencing the love of God is what happens as a natural result from keeping the commandments and studying the scriptures. The revelation that comes from living a godly life (keeping the commandments) and studying the scriptures (holding to the rod of iron) is the only way for us to withstand the fiery darts of Satan, and the deceptions he uses to get us to let go of the scriptures and move away from the commandments. We need the scriptures if we are to ever make it to the tree, to experiencing the love of God in our lives.

Final Thoughts

There are many symbols in the vision of the tree of life, but only two represent what we need to return to God. We cannot make it to the tree of life without the scriptures and commandments found in the scriptures. There are plenty of unpleasant symbols and figures in the dream Lehi had. The spacious building, representing the pride of the world, the river of filthiness that represents the gulf or divide between that which is sacred and holy and that which is worldly, etc. But all of these are representative of what we will experience if we let go of the commandments and scriptures and let worldly concerns govern our lives.

I recommend that a thorough study is important to understanding this vision, this tutorial in how to live our lives. But to find joy in this vision, we must focus on that which will bring us joy, the two representations of the love of God, and the scriptures and commandments that will bring us to experience that love.