Lehi’s journey is a journey that connects our souls back to the Throne of God from where we came. To make this climb and to embrace the hidden mysteries of the Fathers contained in the Book of Mormon requires that we understand one of the oldest and most sacred of symbols to the House of Israel-The Tree of Life (Etz Chaim). The Tree of Life is both a key and a road map that leads us to the Throne Room of God. Understanding this symbol will unlock much of the knowledge of the Fathers that Nephi is transmitting to his readers.
In using the symbol of a tree with roots, trunk, and branches God gave the House of Israel a physical symbol with its own language that when understood unlocks great knowledge. As we inhabit a physical body our minds more easily grasp the physical to understand the great and non-physical things of God. As we grow in our understanding of the physical symbol, we are able to grasp and process the realm of the spirit. The knowledge and understanding of this symbol has been preserved by various disciplines and schools of thought among Jews to this day. The origins of this symbol are attributed to the Fathers such as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The symbol is multi-dimensional in its applications and yet so simple that a young child can be taught great truths using it.
In the Tabernacle of Israel this tree was represented by the seven branched lamp called the Menorah that is positioned in the Holy Place before the Ark of the Covenant or Throne of God:
The tree was later depicted by a multi-dimensional figure with the spheres of the tree representing the mysteries or the sweet fruit of God. The whole fruits of the tree representing emanations of God or the Love of God:
In Israelite thought the trunk of the tree represents of the wisdom of God and his instructions. The branches represent the servant(s) of God through whom mercy or loving kindness flows. The fruit representing the works and actions produced by the servant. The entire tree symbolizing the connection point between Heaven and Earth.
HOLD TO THE BRANCH- THE IRON BRANCH
In the vision of the Prophet Lehi, he describes what is called a rod of iron:
“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. And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.”
Mormon tradition views the rod of iron similar to a handrail that runs along a path:
The image demonstrated above certainly communicates the message of one holding to the handrail of God’s word as he makes his way up a path. However, in Israelite thought the rod is a branch or offshoot that extends from the Tree of Life and runs along the path by the stream of water. In other words, those who walk the path of the disciple are able to grab onto the iron branch of the tree of life that represents his power which then leads them to the body of the Tree of Life. The iron branch or rod also being a symbol for the Word of God.
If we were to re-translate his words into modern English:
"And I beheld a branch of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the branch of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.... And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the branch of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the branch of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.”
That it is described as a rod or branch of iron corresponds to the attribute of God known as Gevurah or Power. We see this connecting idea in the words of Isaiah as he connects the Messiah to the Tree of Life:
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom (chokmah) and understanding (Binah), the spirit of counsel (chesed) and might (gevurah), the spirit of knowledge (daat) and of the fear of the LORD..." (Isaiah 11:1-2)
That later Nephi connects the rod (branch) of Iron to the word of God also finds support in the word as described by the Apostle John:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1;1)
In other words Messiah is the branch of iron-the word of God- even the Living Torah.
(To be continued).