Yesterday Elder Bednar spoke at the BYUI devotional in Rexburg about how the Lord teaches through repetition. He gave the example of Moroni’s visitations to Joseph Smith and how essentially he gave Joseph the same message every time, but also each time it was given something was just a little different, and by paying attention to the patterns in repetition and what is repeated, what is not, and what is said differently is one way we receive line upon line and precept on precept. He said that in all their travels, he often is assigned and gives the same message to dozens of places. Sis. Bednar started keeping notes of patterns and differences she noticed in how he explained things or presented ideas and as they reviewed it they both had an increased understanding of the principles being taught. It was a good devotional.
So in the spirit of seeking patterns and differences I wanted to share a new insight my home teachers shared on Sunday. I’ve heard the story of the Tree of Life hundreds of times. Our home teacher had us read 1 Ne 8 (Lehi’s Vision) and 1 Ne 11 (Nephi’s Vision). Everyone seemed a bit burned out with all of the lessons at church having *just* been given that day on the Tree of Life, but we stuck with it and were glad we did. First, from Chapter 8:
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.
28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.
30 But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
If you compare these two groups of people who partook of the fruit, both groups used the iron rod and pressed forward until they partook of the Love of God. One difference in the group that stayed is when they arrived at the tree and before they partook they fell down. It’s so interesting to see in Nephi’s vision where he is given interpretation, the scene where people “fall down.” After rejoicing in Nephi’s testimony, the angel goes on to say “Look” and shows Nephi scene after scene from the Savior’s life, representing the Love of God (the Tree of Life) that is available for all to partake.
21 …Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
24 And after he had said these words, he said unto me: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him.
When I think of falling down at my Savior’s feet to worship Him I am feeling low, humbled, unworthy, gratitude and love. I think of being willing to give up everything else in my life to follow him and feel God’s love continuously. It (falling down) certainly keeps me coming back to partake of the fruit. It seems to be the same principle that was taught in Planted, you must be planted in Christ. Your deepest conversion must be to Christ. If you are converted to other programs or principles of the gospel more than Christ things may go off the rails.
The other thing I realized is that this Tree of Life story isn’t a story about enduring to the end, the Tree isn’t eternal life. The Tree is God’s Love, which we partake of over and over again all throughout our lives. Clinging to the rod isn’t something that guarantees that we partake and stay. This isn’t the moral of the story, it’s not the point – it’s a means to an end. I don’t think this is a story about people staying in the church, because there are plenty of people in the Church who might not regularly partake of the Love of God in their lives, they might have lost their way. And I think there are plenty of people outside of our Church who partake of the love of God regularly in their lives. This has me rethinking this whole vision. What do you think? are people leaving the tree leaving the church or the love of God?