The Vision of the Tree of Life and Success (1 Nephi 8)

The vision of the Tree of Life is a great allegory that can help us to learn to overcome adversity and obstacles. It can be found in 1 Nephi 8.

Here are a few points that Lehi’s landmark Vision teaches us about successfully overcoming obstacles and adversity – about enduring and making it.

One – Listen

“And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.

And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.” – 1 Nephi 8:15-16

Listen! Be humble! Listen to those who know, who have experienced what we want. We live in 2016. We have an advantage. We have 10,000 years of recorded history to inform us. We don’t really need to experiment. We can listen to those who have gone before. We can learn from their mistakes and their triumphs. They know what it takes to overcome and achieve.

Two – Hold to the Rod

“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.” – 1 Nephi 8:19

The Rod of Iron, or the Word of God will lead to the tree. The Lord has given us His word and His wisdom. This will empower us only if we choose to let it empower us! If not, then it is simply a rod – an inanimate object. Our faith is what gives His word power in our lives.

“For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” – 1 Nephi 10:19

We must choose to hold fast to the iron rod – and press forward. It will give us stability and strength. But if we don’t press forward, if we don’t hold fast, then it’s just an iron rod. Catch a hold of it and do something.

Three – If we Get Distracted, then We Will Fail
The path is strait and narrow. Take a moment to remind yourself of the definition of “strait.” (Hint: NOT straight). In other words, this path is “narrow and narrow.”

As mentioned in the previous point, we have the Iron Rod – and that will anchor us, if we choose to grasp a hold of it. But we can’t be tempted into letting go – because the path is narrow. Any kind of distraction may lead to perilous results.

Often, I have thought about the idea of living “on the edge.” There are many people who want to be as far from that edge as possible. However, it is probably wise to note that being a safe distance from “the edge” isn’t possible. Especially if the way is strait and narrow. We don’t have time for distractions – no matter how innocent they seem.

I know this so incredibly personally. I’m constantly distracted, then I wonder why on earth I’m so far from my original position (let alone destination).

Four – We WILL Face Difficult Adversity, Blindingly Difficult

“And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.

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.” – 1 Nephi 8:19

So – notice, these mists of darkness aren’t in some far corner. They are directly on the path! They appear in our lives, after we have commenced. After we have begun trying.

We start on the way with a vision of our desired goal – the Tree of Life (and its fruit). But then, we get into the “trenches,” and at times a mist of darkness surrounds us.

To those who steadfastly hold to the rod, their vision helps them through this mist of darkness. Now, I don’t mean their immediate vision – it is dark! The vision, and the hope that they had from the outset. I suppose that this is what is meant by “visionary.” We don’t get bogged down by temporary difficulties.

For those who lack vision, they wander off and are lost. Even though they know that the rod leads to the tree of life! Crazy! Don’t get distracted! And don’t choose to be blinded by the temporary mists of darkness and adversities that are simply part of the path.

We can’t become so overcome by our obstacles that we flee them. We know where we want to be. Those who let go of the rod are only being guided by their emotions (fear), rather than keeping their senses and remembering that the only way is through.

Remember the wisdom of the poet:

“He says that the best way out is always through.
And I agree to that, or in so far
As I can see no way out but through.” – Robert Frost

Five – Fear Motivated “Success” will usually end up in a very late-term (and tragic) Failure
So, there is a group of people who make it to the tree of life. We read about them:

” 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.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.

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.” – 1 Nephi 8:24-25, 28

This is so interesting to me. Because, it seems like they succeed! They make it to the tree of life! They partake of this sweet fruit! They held on to the rod. They weren’t blinded by mists of darkness. They weren’t distracted while treading the strait and narrow.

However, the way I interpret this success is that they were driven and motivated by fear. What will people think if I don’t partake of the fruit? What will people think if I don’t go on a mission? What will my family and friends think if I don’t get married in the temple? What will people think of me if I fail?

According to this interpretation, then their success is also shrouded in their pride/their ego. If we let our success be wrapped up with our ego, then we will eventually self-destruct. This is especially tragic because it often happens after we have reached that pinnacle of supposed success.

These people sabotaged themselves by listening to the voices of that silly building. Then those people who had tasted the sweet fruit doubted their own work and accomplishments. Their ego led to thoughts of penetrating shame – causing them to leave the tree (which they had fought for)!

Fear isn’t really a great motivator. It might get us where we want to be, but it is still there once we arrive. Then, it will banish us from our success faster than the climb we took to get there. Get rid of fear. Get rid of ego. Get rid of pride! Let our vision be our motivation!!!

Six – The Pride of the World is Idiotic. Don’t Listen to It!!!
This is closely related to point five, but I think it deserves its own point.

“And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:26-27

The people in the great and spacious building have not partaken of the fruit of the tree of life.

So they are laughing and mocking those who have partaken of it, but they DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT TASTES LIKE!!!!!! This is actually kind of insane, right? They have no idea what they are talking about, so why does their opinion even matter?

I think that this happens to us in so many ways. My husband and I started a business recently. It can be really easy to listen to people say things that might dissuade us from our path, but, more often than not, they haven’t gone down the path, so how on earth am I supposed to listen to them!?

If we have our vision – (the tree of life) and we know where we want to go, it makes absolutely NO logical sense to give the mocking, know-it-all, voices of those in the Great and Spacious building – even a fraction of a second of our attention. They simply have no idea what they are talking about. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time on this topic because it is so silly. Yet we always seem to get so caught up in it.

The Key – Press on and Hold Fast

“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.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

It’s not fancy or sexy or whatever. The solution is really simple. Just keep pressing forward. Hold Fast. We know that the path and the iron rod will lead us to our goal. We must simply hold fast to truth and the wisdom that will support us on our journey to our desired destination. There are no shortcuts. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s not easy, but its entirely possible.

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The Righteous Path is a Joyful One

“Many times did the Lamanites attempt to encircle them about by night, but in these attempts they did lose many prisoners.

And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.

But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.” – Alma 55:29-32

Still in the thick of the war chapters, I have come to a kind of conclusion.

We see the Lamanites and their anxious reactions to the stresses of war.

Now, I know that I’ve never experienced a physical war. I can appreciate the fact that I can’t appreciate the stress of war. Still, we can learn a powerful lesson by comparing the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites.

How we react to stress can tell us a lot about ourselves and our spiritual standing with God.

The wicked react to stress with fear. This is usually a rather irrational and overly-emotional response. Most often it includes poor choices that might actually worsen their situation.

The righteous, blessed with the Spirit, are comforted during stressful times. They are able to detach from their emotions, and then make smart and educated decisions. The righteous, through the comfort of the Holy Ghost, are blessed with a hopeful response to stress. They will understand that stress and afflictions aren’t causes to mourn, but are opportunities to experience the Atonement, and that their afflictions will be consecrated for their gain.

This hope results in joy – even in the midst of trial. I believe that this hope and joy enables the righteous to then make the critical decisions that will lead to their success.

The righteous path my not be the easy one, but it is the joyful one.

Inequality of Humankind: A Result of Sin and Wickedness (Alma 28:12-14)

Every once in a while in the Book of Mormon, Mormon (the prophet who abridged this record) gives us an insight. One of these commentaries is included in the book of Alma.

We read:

“While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.

And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.” – Alma 28:12-14

Mormon sums up a few things in this part of the abridgment and helps us to draw a few conclusions.

We can compare and contrast the lives of these people: The Lamanites (who would not convert to the gospel) and the People of Ammon (who were originally Lamanites and then were converted and covenanted with God).

Compare – How are they the same?
They are all Lamanites. They have lived together for hundreds of years. They have shared a common tradition and belief – even hatred of the Nephites for about 500 years. They all live in the same general area. They are related to one another.

Contrast – How are they different?
The Lamanites have clung to the incorrect and wicked traditions of their fathers. They have continued on in sin. They don’t really respect one another. They plunder and steal, they murder, rob, and live lascivious lives. They don’t believe in God.

The People of Ammon – used to have this tradition in their lives, also. They grew up hating the Nephites, feeling wronged. They started their lives without believing in God, and also committed all manner of sins.

However, when they heard the gospel message, they accepted it. They covenanted with God. They kept the commandments and were living vastly different lives.

The Inequality of Man

Mormon concludes (and helps us to conclude) that the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression. Why is this so? Well, read if you past posts and the Book of Mormon, then this fact becomes fairly obvious. But to sum it up – When we sin and transgress the laws of God, we hand ourselves over to the devil. He wants to destroy us. He wants us to be miserable.

Having lost our right mind, we then may start to things that will drive us apart. Divisions, inequalities, a lack of charity and love for one another accompanies the wicked mindset. Inequality then becomes the norm. And it is all just sad.

Sorrow and Rejoicing

Mormon also helps us to see the reasons of sorrow and rejoicing.

Sorrow comes of death and destruction. It comes because people have turned their hearts and lives over to wickedness and selfishness. Not only does sorrow come to the damned, but the followers of Christ feel sorrow over their brothers and sisters who have chosen this life.

Rejoicing – This comes, as Mormon teaches, because of the light of Christ unto life. Life. Joy. Fewer problems. More solutions. Love. Equality. Peace.

Joy.

We have so much sorrow in this world. While we can’t escape all of our pain during this life, there is a “fix” that is everlasting – the Gospel. The Savior came to this world to redeem us from death and hell. He offers us light, life, peace, and rest. We can have joy, if we will simply give up our wicked desires, put our wills on the altar of the Lord, and serve Him.