The scriptures, like any form of literature, is rife with symbolism. One symbol used often is the tree of life and it’s fruit. Studying this symbol will help us to learn more about joy and how to obtain it.
Before I really talk about Lehi’s dream, I want to discuss the end result: Lehi and others partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Nephi teaches us about this fruit:
“Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
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.
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” – 1 Nephi 11:22-23
So, not only does Lehi partake of the fruit of the tree of life, but this fruit is amazing. It tastes great and fills him with joy. He desires to share it, and many other people partake of the fruit.
Now, as this dream opens, Lehi is suffering in a dark and dreary waste. He suffers in this state for many hours until finally, he decides to pray. I wonder, is there a point that the Lord would have just shown him the tree of life, even if Lehi didn’t pray? I doubt it. I think that Lehi only progressed because He prayed, and the Lord answered His prayer.
Additionally, the Lord didn’t simply hand Lehi a piece of fruit after Lehi uttered his prayer, instead, Lehi had to embark on a journey. But the path was laid out before Him, and he was taken from the dark and dreary waste thanks to the mercy of God.
After going to the tree, Lehi was able to experience the opposite of what he suffered before. He partook of the fruit of the tree of life which was sweet, desirable, and better than anything he had ever tasted. It filled his soul with joy.
I love this example because it is a reminder to me that we must struggle a little bit before we are able to partake of the fruit of the tree. And when I struggle, I know where I can turn: the Lord.
We learn a little bit more about obtaining the fruit that Lehi ate. There are a few struggles that must be endured before partaking of the fruit.
The Mist of Darkness
Before partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, we must pass through the “mists of darkness.” In my life, I guess I could say that there have been mists of darkness that I have passed through–depression, difficulty, the death of loved ones, divorce, loneliness, sickness, etc. These are dark times, and it can be easy to feel lost as trial seems to choke your ability to see even the next step ahead of you.
The Great and Spacious Building
Not only do we pass through tribulations as we press forward to the Tree of life, but we must also endure the temptations of the world. This seems especially hard these days. We are bombarded with images and ideas that tell us if we just buy x then we’ll be happy.
An interesting thing to note, even when we partake of the fruit of the tree of life, we have the agency to accept it. Some of those who partook of the fruit then chose to feel embarrassment and shame as they allowed the voices of those in the great and spacious building to interrupt the joy of partaking of the sought-after fruit. As a result of this distraction, they left the fruit of the tree of life, then wandered off into strange paths and were lost.
The Lord won’t force us to choose happiness. It is always our choice.
Later on in the Book of Mormon, Alma taught the people about faith. He compared faith to a seed. Often, we think of this story solely as a story of faith, but it is so much more than that!
The seed of faith will eventually sprout, and if we nourish it, it will turn into a tree that produces fruit. Alma describes the fruit:
“the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” – Alma 32:42
Does this fruit sound familiar???
The sermon given by Alma is basically amazing. There is one part that especially struck me this time:
“And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.” – Alma 32:40, emphasis added
Looking forward with an eye of faith is the real way to one day partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This is the way that we will be able to make it through the mists of darkness. Having an eye of faith will help us to discern that the taunts of those in the great and spacious building are nothing but lies. We won’t be overwhelmed or distracted when we keep our eye on the prize: the fruit of the tree of life.
I struggle with this at times. I’m not the best at visualizing or imagining my success. I just think, “geez, I hope…” and then proceed with naivete. But the thing is, I realize that won’t be enough to get me to the tree of life. I want to partake of this fruit. It is the most difficult thing that any of us will ever do. It requires constant attention and effort. And, at this point in my life, I can see how we get burned out. I can see how, if we don’t have this vision in our hearts, then we can be overcome by the constant barrage of Satan’s temptations and distractions. We have to be able to envision this fruit if we want to someday experience it.
What have you learned about Joy through the symbol of the fruit of the tree of life?