Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Tree of Life

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi has a spectacular dream of the Tree of Life. We are all familiar with that dream. There are 

two powerful aspects of that dream that have stood out to me lately.

The first thing is that although Lehi had the initial dream, which he also called "a vision" (1 Nephi 8:2), Nephi powerfully sought for and also obtained the same vision.
1 Nephi 10: 
17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. 
18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. 
19 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. 
In 1 Nephi chapter 11 Nephi says: 
1. For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot. 
Nephi shows us the way to understand Lehi's dream for ourselves. The pattern is right there. You too can be "caught away in the Spirit of the Lord" and see, and hear, and know the vision of the Tree of Life.

Nephi showed the pattern: 

1. Desire it!
2. Believe that it is possible for the Lord to give it to you. 
3. Spend time pondering on the dream in your Holy Time. 

God blesses us according to the desires of our heart. 

The second aspect that has caught my attention is, "the mist of darkness". Look at 1 Nephi 8:
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. (He saw numberless crowds of people - many of whom who wanted to get on the path which lead to the Tree of Life...)
22 And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. (This verse is very important. These NUMBERLESS concourses of people actually DID "commence in the path which lead to the tree"!)
23 And it came to pass that there arose 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.
What does "commencing on the path" look like personally?
Does it mean when you are investigating the church but not yet a member?
Does it mean you got baptized and entered the gate?
Did you feel the mist of darkness after you were baptized? 

That wasn't my experience. 

What if "mist of darkness" is something that makes you lose your way? 

What if an exceedingly great mist of darkness meant that once you set foot on the path to return to God, things became so dark, confusing, and frightening that you could not proceed without external help to guide you. 

Look at the mist of darkness Lehi went through:
4 ...methought I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. 
And it came to pass that I saw man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. 
And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. 
And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. 
And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, **I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me**, according to the multitude of his tender mercies. 
And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field. 
To fully understand what the mist of darkness is, you must understand what the Tree of Life truly is. It isn't something you automatically receive because you were baptized. It isn't when you feel the Holy Ghost. It isn't being endowed and going to the Temple. 

It is a return to Christ and the Father. You partake of the fulness of the gospel. Everything. The whole plan of Salvation is in that piece of fruit offered to all willing to pass through the mist of darkness to obtain the prize. 

Look what Lehi experiences when he fights through the mist of darkness:
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.  
If we pay close attention to what Lehi experienced in the mist of darkness, we may better discover what to expect if we choose to find the path that returns us to the Tree of Life:

1. The person desires to know God, face to face.
2. They are bid to follow a person who bears the appearance of the one to trust but continually leads them nowhere (2 Nephi 4:34).
3. When they realize they are lost - they long for God to the point that they cry out for Him to have mercy on them. They want Jesus Christ and no one else. 
4. God hears their cry and deliverance from the mist of darkness is granted. The way to the Tree of Life is made clear. 

Joseph Smith explains this journey well:
After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John in the 14th chapter. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150)
The mist of darkness only comes to those who are seeking to know God face to face, just as Lehi, Nephi, Mormon, Moroni, Moses, Abraham, the Brother of Jared and SO MANY MORE have done! Only those seekers will know what mist of darkness truly means. 

There are numberless people who want to obtain Eternal Life. You are one of them. And Lehi has seen these people pressing forward and commencing on the path that leads to the Tree of Life. But the problem is, those who manage to get on the path to know the Lord/get to the Tree of Life WILL experience the "mist of darkness". It is part of the test. All people in the scriptures experience the mist of darkness. Deep fear...wondering if they are doing the right thing. Often people are so afraid when they experience the beginning stages of the mist of darkness that they run the other way. They then interpret the "ceasing of darkness" as "peace" and believe this is "their answer" to "go no further." 

The "iron rod is the word of God" which interpreted means: "the iron rod is pure revelation". We often think that grasping hold of conference talks and scriptures are what Nephi is referring to. But that isn't what he is talking about at all. Nephi clings to the word of God spoken to him directly. He only does what the Lord asks him to do (1 Nephi 5:20). We have all known people who wielded the sword or committed horrific crimes while clinging to scripture. Nephi clings to pure revelation: obeying every commandment of the Lord given to him personally

Let's look at some examples where Nephi talks about obeying the commandments of the Lord:
1 Nephi 3: 15-16 
As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us. Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord;" 
Later he says in 1 Nephi 5:20: 
"And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us."
These two examples show that "the commandments of the Lord" are pure revelation. They did exactly what the Lord told them to. This is the iron rod. This is clinging to the word of God. 

See also John 5:
39 ¶ Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 
40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
I have always thought that I had a grasp on the Iron rod. I am LDS! Once you are baptized you automatically grab hold...right? These thoughts of mine were vain and gave me a sense of pride that only caused me to stumble later. It was only when I asked the Lord in sincere prayer where I stood in my return to Him that I could know of my standing before Him. It is only when you know where you are in relation to the path back to Him that you can ask for Him to correct you and lead you to the Tree of Life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him. (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 6:8)
Someone once got me thinking by asking: Are you seeking to know the Lord, and love Him to a greater degree than ever before? What are your motives? Is it to be His servant or to gratify a curiosity? Do you trust Him? Most will give up and needlessly wait until the next life before they choose to come to Him. The Lord shows us over and over the path that leads to Eternal Life. Lehi and Nephi saw it. Many prophets in the scriptures have described it. 3 Nephi chapters 11-12 give great detail of the path back to the Father and the Son. 

If you set out to experience the Lord in the way the ancients have experienced Him - face to face, intimate, and personal (Abraham 2:12) - then you will have "an exceedingly great mist of darkness" and what you once set out to do will then become so fearsome to you, all but a few will lose their way. These are they who have "wandered off and were lost". Lehi doesn't say where they went to, only that they wandered off and were going down "strange roads". 

To conclude, I want show a short clip from a movie about Batman (bear with me!). In the story - Bruce Wayne (who later becomes Batman) as a small child accidentally falls in an empty well on the Wayne manor property. The fall is far and dark. While he is waiting for help to come, he hears a noise coming towards him when suddenly - he is surrounded by bats swarming him. This traumatizes BruceIt is this fear that will lead to his parents later getting killed. 

A few days after the ordeal, Bruce's parents take him to an opera. Bruce sees characters on stage who remind him of the bats he'd experienced earlier. Having fearful flashbacks of the cave, Bruce asks his father if they can go. They do go out the back door of the theater and encounter a thief who robs and kills both of Bruce's parents. Bruce spends the rest of his childhood and early adult life living in that fear. But it is only when Bruce faces his fear that he becomes who he truly could be. 

This clip illustrates, to me, what the mist of darkness feels like. Though Bruce overcomes his fears quickly in this scene, it took me much longer to wrestle with the Lord to overcome my fear of losing everything in order to find Him (Matthew 16:25). 

Notice that as Bruce does overcome his fear (experiences the mist of darkness) - he clings to something. And you too, in your return to the Father, will need to find the rod and cling to it.

If you want to commence on the path in your return to Him, you will experience great fear. Mist of darkness so thick and so heavy it either cause you to run the other way, "wandering down strange roads," (v. 32) or to drop to your knees and cry out for the Lord to have mercy on you. 
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.
I am not suggesting to go out and find the mist of darkness. Not at all. All those who diligently seek the face of the Lord will find themselves automatically in the mist of darkness. It is the one and only way you can prove you Love God more than anyone or anything else. That you truly do love Him with all your Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength. Once the midsts of darkness come - cry out as Adam and Eve did in the Lone and Dreary World...cry out until you grab hold of the iron rod (receive pure revelation from God). And then follow that pure revelation even until you come and partake of the fruit of the Tree - in the flesh. Just like the ancients.

I Shall Not Want
Audrey Assad


  1. This is so awesome thanks great work

  2. Beautifully written. It is hard to deny these witnesses (and so many others) that Christ IS the fullness. He is amazing!

  3. I've shared this with multiple people now because it is so well written. Thank you.