Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thoughts on the Tree of Life

Is the Tree of Life a literal tree with literal fruit or is it figurative? Answer, as with many things in the gospel, there are different layers of meaning that we can reach as we become more in tune with the Spirit. There may very well be deeper levels that I haven’t even begun to contemplate yet.

What do we know about the Tree of Life? “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

(Old Testament Genesis 2:9)

Here we see that the Tree of Life was in the Garden of Eden. Was Adam and Eve allowed to partake of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden? Answer, Yes. “And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

(Pearl of Great Price Moses 3:15 - 17)

They were only forbidden to partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Some of the best information we have on the Tree of Life comes from I Nephi 11. Nephi is trying to obtain the interpretation of the dream his father had.

8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
10 And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
11 And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.
12 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

(Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 11:8 - 21)

In answer to his request to know the interpretation of the Tree of Life, Nephi sees the birth of Christ.

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.

(Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 11:25)

In this verse we see that the fountain of living waters is synonymous with the tree of life. What is the fountain of living water? “13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

(Old Testament Jeremiah 2:13)

13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

(Old Testament Jeremiah 17:13)

The fountain of living water is the Savior. When asking to know the interpretation of the tree of life Nephi sees the birth, life, and crucifixion of Jesus.

Conclusion: At least on one level, the tree of life is Jesus Christ. I could use several more scriptures to support this view, but I think what I have above should suffice.

But, when the angel states, “21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?”

Nephi responds that he does and that the tree is the love of God. Does this conflict with the view that Christ is the tree of life? “16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

(New Testament John 3:16)

God’s love is most clearly manifested in offering his Only Begotten Son.

What does the fruit of the tree of life represent? 36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
(Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 15:36)

7 And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

(Doctrine and Covenants Section 14:7)

If the fruit is the greatest of all the gifts of God, and eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God, then the fruit equals eternal life.

This makes further sense with Christ being the tree of life. Where does eternal life come from? “17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”

(Book of Mormon Mosiah 3:17)

While Adam and Eve were in the garden they were in the presence of the tree of life, Christ. It was only after the fall that they were cast out of the presence of the tree of life, Christ. What better way to describe being cast out of the presence of the Lord than, “31 So I drove out the man, and I placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”

(Pearl of Great Price Moses 4:28 - 31)

Look at how the Lord describes his visit with the brother of Jared. “13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.”

(Book of Mormon Ether 3:13)

That seems to tie into the above scripture very well for me, i.e. being redeemed from the fall means being able to get past cherubim and a flaming sword to re-enter the presence of the Lord.

If the tree of life is Christ, what is the tree of knowledge of good and evil? “15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”

(Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2:15 - 18)

It seems apparent to me that if the tree of life on some level is Christ, then the tree of knowledge of good and evil on some level is Satan. Let’s think about this for a second. What does Christ bring? Life, both temporal and spiritual. What did partaking of the forbidden fruit bring? Death, both temporal and spiritual.

When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, whose counsel were they following?

How did the fall occur? Warning, I give the following as a possible opinion, I reserve the right to change my mind at any given moment, if I receive better guidance and inspiration. At the moment, I feel this to be more speculative than what I’ve stated above. Your mileage may vary. Also, if you have enlightenment to share on the subject, I would love to hear it.

How do we get to the tree of life? By holding onto the rod of iron that leads us to it. What is the rod of iron?

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

(New Testament Revelation 12:5)

15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

(New Testament Revelation 19:15)

19 And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.
20 And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.
21 And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.
22 And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.
23 And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.
24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

(Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 8:19 - 24)

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.

(Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 11:25)

The rod of iron is the word of the Lord. By holding onto it, i.e. listening to Christ’s commandments and following them, we can return to the tree of life.

In the Garden of Eden, whose counsel/commandments were Adam and Eve following when they fell? Who did they choose to follow? Obviously, at the time they didn’t know good from evil, which is why it is a transgression and not a sin.

Satan clearly must’ve thought that now that he had Adam and Eve following his counsel that he had frustrated the plan of God. Isn’t that the way it always goes though? If we dig a pit for others, we usually fall into it ourselves. Could the fall be that simple? i.e. they chose to follow Satan’s word, i.e. rod of something other than iron, and it brought them to him. By choosing to follow him, in ignorance, they were cast out of the Garden and mortality was brought into the world.

Could the fall have happened some other way? “22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

(Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2:22 - 25)

2 comments:

KO said...

Very good Dan & Wendy, want to re-read it again and ponder some more, peeling back the layers is very interesting and faith building.Thanks for the insights

KO

David Littlefield said...

Dan and Wendy:

Great post, I really enjoy this topic. Keep them coming.

Thanks,

-David