What’s in a tree that is so important? The tree that I am referring to is the tree of life, spoken of so many times in the scriptures. In the garden of Eden there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of which Adam and Eve partook and were booted from the garden, and the tree of life.
2 Nephi 2:15
“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.”
We know that the forbidden fruit was what Adam and Eve partook of, and that it is in opposition to the tree of life. I find it interesting the order of the description of the fruits in the next phrase. If the order of the tree’s match the order of the taste, we find that the forbidden fruit was sweet and the fruit of the tree of life was the bitter one. I don’t know what this means, but it’s something for us all to think about.
The tree of life holds great significance to the Egyptians. The Egyptian symbol of the horizon is guarded by two pillars, called trees of life. As far as I understand it, the trees are as sentinels that guard the horizon. The horizon was considered to be the location at which man meets his creator and receives a transition to becoming a God. The Egyptians saw the tree of life as a portal to travel from world to world through light, including what Joseph Smith called the Kokaubeam, or the planet of light. This method was used to accumulate knowledge and to grow. Those who were partakers of the fruit could somehow use the tree to travel from one place to another through it’s light. Perhaps that can explain why each prophet partakes and writes about the tree of life. Perhaps that is how Moses saw Jehovah (tree of life instead of burning bush). Maybe there is no significance that Nephi gets the sealing power in Helaman 10:5 and then is conveyed away in the spirit in v.16. I’m just thinking out loud.
Back to our reality. I have noticed that many parables deal with trees (fig, olive, and fruit). Jacob chapter 5 is all about the allegory of the olive tree. In this allegory there are different symbols.
- The original tree: The House of Israel (H.O.I.)
- Two types of branches: natural (H.O.I.) and wild branches (Gentiles)
- Roots: The gospel of Jesus Christ or the words of Christ (the roots are the seed that has matured)
- The Fruits: bitter fruit (results in burning the branches that produced them) and sweet fruit (of which is plucked by the Lord of the vineyard and preserved unto himself)
Alma 32 introduces a different angle on the tree. The Zoramites kick the poor out of the synagogues and they go up to the hill Oriah to seek answers from Alma. Alma uses the parable of the tree from the point of view of the seed, until it produces the fruit. In this parable the symbols are:
- The seed: this is the words of Christ
- Casting out the seed: Unbelief
- Nourishing the seed or feeding the seed: this is seriously reflecting upon the words of Christ daily (huge consistency)
- The Fruit: Partaking of the fruit is partaking of Christ, your personal visitation of which you can now freely partake (white above all that is white and pure above all that is pure and if you eat this fruit you will never hunger or thirst)
Matthew 13 we find the parable of the sower of the seeds. The seed was cast by the way side, planted in stony ground, planted in good ground, but choked by thorns, and the final group was on good ground that yielded degrees of good fruit. The symbols here are all about the condition of the heart. The seed is not in question, the soil is in question. Here are the symbols:
- The seed: the words of Christ, just like Alma 32
- Cast by the wayside: giving the words of Christ no consideration
- Stony ground: a hard heart, stubborn, unwilling to submit or subject himself to Gods will, to desire what God wants and let go of what it is that you want.
- Thorns: the opinions of the world and the cares of the world that occupy the focus, attention, and desire to know Christ through his word.
- Good ground: a soft heart
- Fruit: the actions or results or the reward that is produced (which is still measured in degrees)
I noticed a consistent pattern in thinking about all of these trees. I took all the symbols from the three parables to come up with a common list of symbols and what they mean for us. Here it is
- Ground: the condition of your heart in receiving the words of Christ.
- The seed/roots: this is the foundation of the tree, it is the words of Christ. When the moisture comes from the roots the fruit is sweet, otherwise it is bitter. These are the eternal principles that God is trying to get into our hearts and minds.
- Nurturing the Seed: Constant searching, pondering, prayer and applying principles to grow your faith, with unwearyingness.
- Branches: Israel or Gentiles
- Fruit: Your actions, your offering to the Lord, or the Lord Himself
I think that as we contemplate these attributes of the different trees discussed here, one can more easily understand the direction that their life is headed, in order to course-correct (repent) by applying God’s reasons. When God’s reasons are your reasons, now you are on a real mission. Like Joseph and Moroni both, you too will be able to say, “I will not deny the Christ.”
Lehi saw the tree of life. Nephi wanted to see what his father saw. Many other prophets including Alma, Mormon and Moroni testify of seeing the tree of life when they received the grand vision (when they saw all things from the beginning to the end). After partaking of the tree of life all of these men became prophets, performed miracles, saw angels and were connected to heaven. These prophets met Christ on the horizon and were brought back into Christ’s presence. These men became “the fathers” or “gods.”
If a prophet is one who has entered into the presence of Christ and is trying to teach us how to do the same, then perhaps that is why each prophet continues to teach us about planting our own seed, so that we can partake of our own tree of life and invite our own family members to partake, just as Lehi. Perhaps once we have partaken of our tree of life, we too can be connected to heaven, travel through the portals of lights (like Nephi who was conveyed away in the spirit (Helaman 10:16) or 1st Nephi who flew to the top of the mountains), become one who has the trust of God and free access to Christ.
When the apostles say that we live beneath our privilege, I ask the question, “What is my privilege?” The answer I get in my heart is, everything that the previous prophets had, and everything that the Father hath. Let us ponder the words of Christ regarding the trees of life discussed to unlock the entry way to receive that which is our privilege to receive.