Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Tree of Life

Last week I wrote about the parable of the seed and how our lives are compared to a seed that is planted in the ground. The seed represents the Gospel of Jesus Christ and depending on the type of soil it is planted in determines if the seed will grow or not. If we provide good soil and nourish the seed it will grow within us and a testimony of the Gospel will develop until it is fully grown and produces the fruit that shows in the way we live our lives.

Lehi, the Book of Mormon Prophet, had a vision of the Tree of Life. He said he was walking through a dark and dreary waste. After many hours he prayed for deliverance and then found himself in a large and spacious field. He said:

10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

 11 And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

 12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit. (1 Nephi 8:10-12)

Lehi tells his family of his dream and his son Nephi desires to know the meaning of the dream. He goes to the Lord and asks to know the meaning of what his father saw and he was given the same vision. He is also shown a vision of the birth of Jesus Christ and his ministry in the meridian of time. An angel explains the meaning of his vision:

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?
 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. (1 Nephi 11:18-22)

Through these scriptures we learn that the Tree of Life represents the love of God. What is the love of God? It is His Son, Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most desirable above all things. It brings us the greatest joy as well as salvation in the Kingdom of God. The gospel seed that is planted in good soil and is nourished and allowed to develop will eventually become the tree of life and the fruit is our lives as we live the gospel and is the outward sign of our Christ centered lives.

A group of young men and women from Salem, Oregon participated in a memorable youth conference that taught them the importance of staying on the path that leads to the tree of life. The youth were taken on a 45-minute walk at night that simulated Lehi’s journey to the tree of life. It was on a dark and rainy night and the path was muddy and there were stones and logs that blocked their way. There were also other youth and leaders that were along the path trying to convince them that they should leave the path and take a short cut to the tree of life. After it was over some of the youth made these comments:

“‘Shaunelle Lakey, 17, testified: “The fact that it was so muddy and rainy that night relates a lot to life, because lots of times we have so many trials, especially as teenagers. Near the end, when we came to the tree of life, it was so beautiful. Coming to the tree that night was a relief for a lot of people. That’s how I think it’s going to be when we go back to our Heavenly Father, so that’s what we have to look forward to.”

“They learned to help one another make it to the end. Kayla Merriman, 17, said: “You need to always keep trying. The person above me on the hill reached out his hand and said, ‘Here, I’ll help you.’ When we made it to the end, everyone was so happy, even though we were wet and muddy and cold. You just have to endure!”
“We need our own testimonies,” said Haley Prychun, 17. “We can’t always rely on our parents. I’m so glad to be surrounded by strong youth.”
“Isaac Bergevin, 18, related his experience to the conference theme: “The holiest place was at the hill, because it was there that people worried about each other. That brought us together.”
“One of the most memorable lessons was learned by those who left the path. They felt disappointed as they had to wait in “spirit prison” and watch their brothers and sisters walk by them on the path.
“Jackie Haws, 18, said: “Because I was on the youth committee, one of my jobs was to try to lead others astray. Because of this, I ended up going to ‘spirit prison’ and being separated from the others. I felt such shame in prison. But I’m so grateful for repentance. I need it every day.” (In Search of the Tree of Life”, New Era, January 2004)
These youth learned that it is not easy to stay on the path that leads to the tree of life. But if we ignore those around us that try to lead us from that path and if we continue to cling to the rod of iron (which represents the word of God) and follow the prophet we will one day make it to the tree of life and partake of the fruit that is most desirable above all other fruit.

As the seed that we planted is nourished and grows in our lives, the fruit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ really does become most desirable. We desire to associate with others that have the same goals that we have. We keep the commands of God because doing so is the only way to have true happiness and freedom. We serve others because that is what Christ did and we want to follow his example. This is the type of life that Nephi described when he said that they “lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). This is the life of anyone who is a disciple of Jesus Christ wants to live. This is the life that I desire and strive for every day.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

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