This is a guest post from Nick Galieti, the author of the new book Tree of Sacrament. I have not yet read the book but hope to soon. It explores deeply the symbolism of the sacrament and related doctrines, a topic we’ve explored previously on Sacred Symbolic. The following is an original article from Nick introducing some of the symbolism, doctrines, and ideas that he explores in-depth in his book. See the bottom of this post for information on how to get a free preview chapter of the book.
Throughout the scriptures there are many symbolic references to trees in a wide variety. “The Tree represents not only life, regeneration, and immortality, but also, “knowledge and wisdom” and “the world or universe.” It is “the most wide spread of symbols, and in considering Christian architecture it can be regarded as second only to the cross.”1 In the Garden of Eden two trees are spoken of specifically: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. In conjunction with these two trees is the fruit that each one bears. Both types of fruit had an effect on those who partook of it. That effect was dependent on, or in relation to, their current state or condition. Partaking of the fruit of the tree of life was offered freely as long as the partaker was clear of wrongdoing.
And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat, nevertheless thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee. (Moses 3:16–17).
Many references to the tree of life can be interpreted as being a representation of Jesus Christ Himself. This use of a tree as a metaphor to teach and instruct man is revisited in many ways throughout the scriptures. The use of the symbolic fruit tree signifies that the tree is a central source of nourishment without which no life could be sustained.
From time to time as we study the scriptures, passages read previously take on new meanings. I read the stories surrounding Lehi and Nephi with respect to the visions they had of the tree of life about 12 years ago and saw these passages in a new light. In the vision was given multiple symbols. Nephi’s account gives additional insight as he was allowed to share with us certain interpretations of those symbols in the vision.
In 1 Nephi chapter 11 Nephi gives the following interpretations to the symbols of his father’s vision:
- The tree: the love of God (v. 21).
- The rod of iron: the word of God (v.25).
- The fountain of living waters: also a representation of the love of God (v. 25).
- The great and spacious building: the pride of the world and all its wisdom (vv. 35-36).
The Savior has described Himself as “living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13) on multiple occasions, with Christ Himself being the source. This was often accompanied by the promise that those who would partake of those waters would never thirst. Elder Neal A Maxwell stated,
The love of God for His children is most profoundly expressed in His gift of Jesus as our Redeemer: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). To partake of the love of God is to partake of Jesus’ Atonement and the emancipations and joys which it can bring.2
Therefore we can draw the parallel that the tree of life represented the love of God, as Nephi was taught, and the appearance of the fountain of living waters is also a symbolic representation of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
The Rod of Iron can be considered a variety of ways. On one level, “word” can mean the teachings of the prophets and apostles along with the words of eternal life found in scripture. The rod could also be a representation of Christ as is referred to in John 1:1–4, Revelation 19:13, and Mosiah 3:17. As John refers to Christ as the word made flesh; in Mosiah we read that no one is able to come to salvation but through Christ. This comes together in considering that no one was able to come to the tree of life accept by the rod of iron – another symbol representing Jesus Christ. Thus we see that all good natured symbols in the tree of life vision have some reference to Christ himself. Consequently, all symbols of our modern day sacrament have reference to the Savior and his atonement as well.
Alma seemed to be aware of some correlation between the tree of life and the sacrament. In Alma 5:34 we see this correlating invitation between the partaking of the sacrament and partaking of the fruit of the tree of life as taught in Lehi and Nephi’s vision; “Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely.”
As the partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life brought about the blessings of the atonement, namely to be made clean and enjoy celestial glory, so the same has been said of the sacrament. In John 6:54 it reads, “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The promises are the same, the warnings against improper partaking are the same, and in many ways historically, the two are a recognition and partaking of the blessings of Christ’s atonement. This parallel should elevate the value of the sacrament in the minds and hearts of the church of the first born.
This comparison as well as other historical and relevant principles surrounding our modern day Sacrament, as well as the correlation to Alma 32 and the Tree of Life born from a a faithful covenant “seed” are all discussed in my book, Tree of Sacrament. The LDS Sacrament is the central ordinance of what has been designated as “the most sacred meeting in the church of Christ,” with the Tree of Life, being a most sacred representation of the life and atonement of Jesus Christ. There is power in this sacred ordinance that I hope to help unlock as you read the book Tree of Sacrament by Nick Galieti – available from Eborn Books.
For more details on the book, visit www.treeofsacrament.com. Also, if you would like to preview the book before buying, email Nick: firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll send you a chapter from the book for free.