The Fruit of the Tree of Life and Joy

Joy and Thanksgiving ButtonJoin me for the next two weeks as we study Joy and Thanksgiving. This is part One of my thoughts as I study the assignments.

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.

Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. :)
Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. 🙂

Lehi’s Dream

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.

The Struggle

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.

Alma’s Analogy

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?

Joy and Thanksgiving Scripture Study Series

A few years ago, I created my first ever Scripture Study Series – about Joy and Thanksgiving.

Study along with me!
Study along with me!

I’ve been thinking about both joy and thanksgiving a lot lately. Of course, this is the season to think of gratitude and giving thanks. (I love this time of year). Additionally, joy and happiness have felt elusive to me lately. I feel snatches of happiness, then there are times when I feel a bit depressed. It is the perfect time for me to remember that happiness is a choice and that through the scriptures I can be instructed on how to choose joy and gratitude.

So, I’m going to complete this scripture study series again. You can download all of the assignments here:

I will be blogging some of my own thoughts throughout the next two weeks. If you start this Scripture Study Series tomorrow, then it will be done by Thanksgiving!

I hope you enjoy it!

Joy and Thanksgiving: Connection – Joy and Thanksgiving!

Well, today is the last day of the Joy and Thanksgiving Study Series. I hope that you have enjoyed it. I have! It has been great to learn more about the true meaning of happiness, how to find it, and how it is related to gratitude. Studying these scriptures has inspired me to make positive changes so I can be happier.

Anyways…today’s scripture block is a connection – between Joy and Thanksgiving.

“And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood; and the mourning, and the weeping, and the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.” – 3 Nephi 10:10

Okay…so the first part of this scripture assignment doesn’t seem very joyful, but I think that one of the biggest things I’ve been noticing about happiness is it’s relationship with pain. Sounds strange, I know, but happiness and misery, joy and pain, are related. They are related – especially in this life – as they are in opposition one to another.

My friend, “Curls” made the best observation…“I think for me the most important thing I’ve learned about happiness is that it is NOT constant. Because happiness comes from God and we are not yet in perfect unity with Him there will be times (sometimes short and sometimes long) where we don’t feel happy or joyful. These times are usually when I have the opportunity to experience serious growth since they try my character and my faith.

I think another important thing I’ve learned is that the world expects happiness ALL the time. So if something doesn’t make you happy constantly then you should let go of it and try something else. I think this is one of the selfish roots of the many problems of our day, divorce, broken families, entitlement, greed, etc.

And finally the scripture in 2 Nephi 2:11 stating that there is opposition in all things. No happiness without misery as they are a compound in one.” Don’t you think that’s great! I love this concept…

Once, I was teaching a class to a group of Young Women, and one of the girls asked me if God is happy. That question still comes to me all the time – is He happy? Will we be happy?

And, I think that the answer is YES! It doesn’t mean that he’s happy in the way the world has taught us to be happy. But He’s really happy. Does this mean that misery does not exist? No. He is perfect though, and as God, he is above sin and everything that misery causes.

So, as we learn to be like Him, we overcome the pains of misery. And, as taught in 3 Nephi 10:10, our overcoming misery and the pains of mortality is through Jesus Christ.

Jesus heals our broken hearts. He brings peace to our souls. He will turn our mourning into joy and our lamentations into thanksgiving. And here’s how it can be done…

“If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful.” – Doctrine and Covenants 136:29

I have to admit, I don’t do this enough. Often, I go through, suffering pain or affliction, worrying, moping, whatever – I do this on my own. I don’t always call on God with supplication. Instead, I think that either 1) I have to suffer or 2) I have to figure it out on my own. or 3) I’m just crazy.

No!

The Lord wants to help our souls to be joyful. We need to turn to Him.

And when we do, our souls are joyful. We are happy, and this is how we should respond to such a blessing:

“If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving” – Doctrine and Covenants 136:28

We give thanks.

One thing I love about this scripture is that we give thanks through creative expression. We give thanks with praise and singing, music, dancing, and prayer! (Prayer – to supplicate the father; Prayer – to thank the father!)…so much prayer!

One thing I’ve noticed, when I’m taking the time to be grateful, I’m more aware of the world around me. I’m not taking it for granted. I’m listening better, observing more clearly. And, when I’m doing this, it is impossible not to be grateful – even for the ugly things. For it is the ugly things that make the beautiful things even more amazing.

So…be happy; be grateful. Be grateful; be happy!

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving. I have really enjoyed doing this scripture study series. I have learned a lot about thanksgiving and happiness. I’m grateful for the love I experience, daily, from my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful for the mercy and blessings He gives me.

What are you grateful for? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as you’ve studied Joy and Thanksgiving?

Joy and Thanksgiving – Gratitude and Blessings

Today, in our study, we are learning about a pattern given in the scriptures. This pattern is given in various places throughout the scriptures.

The first instance of this pattern that we study will be from the life of Christ.

Source

“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.” – Matthew 15:36-37

Christ is always the master example for us, which is why I love this story.

A few things to consider:

  • Christ had to feed at least 4,000 people – with seven loaves and fishes.
    • This doesn’t seem like it will be enough food to feed the multitude.
  • With gratitude, He gave thanks for the food that had been provided.
    • He was confident in His gratitude and thanksgiving. He was confident that the multitude would be fed and blessed.
    • Sometimes, I hesitate in gratitude because I feel like what I have been given (ie. 7 loaves and fishes) isn’t enough for what I want. (ie- to feed a multitude). Instead of seeing what I have and recognizing that the Lord also knows what is available, I seem to have a tendency to focus on what I think I lack.
    • Sometimes, I am tempted to think of course it was easy for Jesus to be confident…he was Jesus!…but when I think about it, why should my faith be any different. Jesus believed in the same God I believe in. He had the power of the priesthood, the same power we’ve been blessed with. We can trust in the Lord and in Heavenly Father. So…I can be confident in the power of the Lord, and I can show my gratitude for His love and blessing.
  • The people ate, and were filled, and there was food leftover.
    • When we are grateful, the Lord blesses us and fills us. – and He is capable of doing that – even with only seven loaves and fishes!

Paul teaches us this pattern:

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” – Philippians 4:6

The Pattern

  1. Be confident – in the Lord. – The first part of this scripture “Be careful” – means that we shouldn’t be overly concerned or afflicted about anything. Again, Christ is a great example of this. Instead of fretting about the multitude he had to feed with only seven loaves and fishes, he was confident.

    As I ponder this, I am thinking about the connection between confidence and gratitude. And I don’t mean confidence in ourselves, but confidence in the Lord. Confidence shows that we trust the Lord, which is a key ingredient in our gratitude.

  2. Instead of worry, pray.
    • Supplication – I have always had a “feeling” of what this meant, but just to be sure, I looked it up in the dictionary: ask or beg for something earnestly or humbly. That is how we ought to pray – with humility. And in a sense “begging” – we do kneel, and when we pray, we know that we, in and of ourselves, aren’t worthy of any blessing, so we must ask God to bless us out of His mercy and love for us.
    • Thanksgiving – I don’t think that we can supplicate without thanksgiving. As we recognize the blessings we have already received (even if they don’t seem like they’re enough), we recognize our Need of Heavenly Father. We become more humble. A grateful heart is the fertile ground for faith. Why was it easy for Christ to be confident that the multitude could be fed with such a small amount of food: because His faith was perfect.
  3. Let your requests be made known to God. – Heavenly Father wants to know what we want. He wants us to make requests. He wants us to ask. And when we do, we just need to ask with humility and Thanksgiving – having faith that we will receive.
  4. So – this is the pattern…

    We can find various examples of this in the scriptures.

    Paul follows the pattern he taught, as recorded in Acts 16:25-34.

    Another example is when Nephi is tied up on the boat, as recorded in 1 Nephi 15:18-21

    Finally, an example that I particularly love is in Ether 6:4-12 Throughout their journey, they sang praises to the Lord, even though the winds and storms never ceased. It is interesting to realize, too – that the Jaredites needed these storms to progress to the promised land. We can be grateful for all that we have – even trials, AND supplicate the Lord for needed blessings at the same time. In fact, the most effective way to get the blessings we need in this life is through humility and gratitude. Asking for desired blessings isn’t complaining.

    The Lord wants us to do ask. He wants to bless us. He wants us to Be Happy. He wants us to come to Him. He wants us to make it to our “promised land”, and we won’t be able to do that without Him.

    So, we need to go forward, confidently, grateful, and asking God, in His mercy, to bless us with what we need to overcome whatever problem happens to stand in our way.

    Have you experienced this in your life? How has humbling yourself and being grateful helped you to receive needed blessings? How has this pattern contributed to your overall happiness?
    ***
    For tomorrow’s assignment, click here.

Joy and Thanksgiving – The Commandment of Gratitude

For the assignment today, we read Doctrine and Covenants 59.

This chapter goes out to the saints – those who have already covenanted with God, and have kept many of the commandments. They are blessed for the commandments that they have kept. In verse four, The Lord says something that I find especially interesting:

“And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:4

So, the people who have been blessed because they kept the commandments are blessed with:

  1. Blessings from above
  2. Commandments – not a few
  3. Revelations in their time

Now – I’m accustomed to hearing that those who keep the commandments will receive blessings and revelation, but here we learn that those who keep the commandments will be blessed with more commandments.

I found this intriguing, so I followed the footnote for “commandments” to Alma 29:9

“I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. – Alma 29:9

And here we go! Alma, who had first appeared in the Book of Mormon as antagonistic towards the church – completely uninterested in God’s commandments – was now glorying in the commandments of God. About 26 years or so had passed between these two events. Alma had been converted to the gospel, and had lived according to the commandments. The closer he got to God, the more he learned how to be righteous.

It is the same for us, as we covenant with God and keep the commandments, we receive more commandments. They are not given by a power hungry God, but are given to help fine-tune our path to perfection. And, like Alma, we ought to receive these commandments gratefully.

So – continuing with Section 59. The Lord then gives us commandments:

  • Love God with all our might, and in the name of Christ, serve God. (This commandment implies many things, but I don’t have time to write them all right now…interesting to think about, though)
  • Love thy neighbor as thyself (The Lord gives a few commandments that falls into this general commandment).
  • Thank God in all things!
  • Offer a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite Spirit.
  • Keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

– So, the Third commandment he gives is to thank Him. We are commanded to be grateful. And he wants us to be grateful in all things – not just our blessings. We need to be grateful in our trials, too…interesting.

A few years ago, I was troubled with a health issue. I had no idea what was wrong. I was in excruciating pain, and my husband felt prompted to give me a blessing (I was in way too much pain to ask for one). In the blessing, I wasn’t necessarily promised I would get better. Instead, I was told to seek medical attention, and to study more about the Savior. I was also told that this physical trial would be given to me so I could learn to be grateful for my trials while enduring them.

After the blessing, I was somewhat comforted, but somewhat surprised. I followed the advice of the blessing – and found medical attention the next day. It turned out I had an ovarian cyst bursting – which was the cause of such intense pain. And after months of tests and finally a surgery, I found out that I had endometriosis (which was the cause of other chronic pain that I was experiencing).

Anyways – I don’t want to sidetrack from the point of this story. I was really intrigued that the Lord would take time to single out the concept of being grateful for my trial – while in the midst of the trial. And I wonder what I learned from that scenario.

I feel especially sheepish recalling this experience as I think about my current situation.

We are always going through trials of one kind or another – at varying degrees of intensity. And currently, my life is great, but I feel like I’m dealing with a few trials of my own (not intense…nothing really to complain about…just learning to adjust to the normal things in life), and I’m forgetting to be grateful. I try to be grateful for my blessings, but I forget to be grateful for my trials, even though I know that my trials bring me strength and purpose, and that, eventually, the trial will be over. We don’t want our trials to make us bitter, and if we wade through our afflictions without gratitude, even when the trial is over, we will be cynical, bitter, and unhappy.

We must be grateful in ALL things…

– now – back to section 59.
When the Lord gives the commandments, he then tells us what our attitude should be.

“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:15

When we work to keep the commandments, we should not be grudging or upset. We shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves, but we should be like Alma – glorying in the Lord – keeping the commandments that God has given us with thanksgiving and good cheer.

Doesn’t this make a world of difference? It almost feels easier to keep the commandments when we’re happy about it.

– Finally –
When we keep the commandments (which includes gratitude), and when we keep them with an attitude of gratitude and cheer, then the Lord blesses us. He doesn’t skimp on the blessings, either.

And then, guess what…we need to be grateful for our blessings!

“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:21

Sometimes, this is the part where we “fall off the wagon.” God will bless us, but we still have agency on how we choose to receive our blessings. When we receive our blessings with thanksgiving, then we really feel joy. We feel the Love that God has for us, and we rejoice in it. We are happy.

I’m grateful for this chapter in the Doctrine and Covenants. I know that gratitude is important, but this section has opened my eyes on how an attitude of gratitude is essential throughout the path – it is a commandments, it is an attitude we need in order to keep the commandments, and it is the way that we need to accept our blessings from God.

Every day, I keep learning that Gratitude is a lot more than just saying “thanks.”

***
For tomorrows assignment, click here

Joy and Thanksgiving – List – Gratitude and Salvation

So, today we’re studying another list that can be found in the scriptures. I really like finding lists. In some ways, I think that I’m a list person, so seeing these lists in the scriptures really helps me know how I can apply the advice given into my own life.

So…before we get into the list, here’s what it’s all about:

“And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God,…” – Alma 34:37

Here, Amulek is advising that we work out our salvation with fear before God – based on our study this last week about happiness – we know that salvation is a really great thing. Salvation is eternal and endless happiness. So, if we want to inherit it, we need to work it out before God.

Amulek doesn’t just leave us hanging without any further explanation. What continues is a list that can help us to work out our salvation with the Lord. (starting in verse 37)

“…and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;

That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” – Alma 34:37-38

So – here is the list that he gives us…

  • No more denying of the coming of Christ
  • Contend no more against the Holy Ghost
  • Receive the Holy Ghost
  • Take upon the name of Christ
  • Humble yourselves
  • Worship God
  • Live in thanksgiving daily
  • Be watchful unto prayer continually (see verse 39)
  • Have patience (see verse 40)

You can take time to study each of these points- because they are really great, but I want to really think about the overall attitude of gratitude.

We can see in the list that Amulek has included to “live in thanksgiving daily.” But I think that gratitude is a general attitude – a way of being – that really can fit into, and help us accomplish, every single bullet point listed here.

For example, if we are living with a grateful heart, then will we deny Christ? Think about denying Christ…Even Peter denied Christ. I don’t say this to slam Peter. I say this because I think that we all deny Christ at some level – even when we’ve covenanted with The Savior.

So – how do we refrain from denying Christ? Perhaps an attitude of gratitude helps. When we remember Christ, when we remember that He was born, a small babe in Bethlehem and placed in a manger…

When we remember that he taught the people...

...when we remember that He called His apostles and organized the Church...

...when we remember how Christ healed the people...