The Tree of Life

14 April 2017

Charlotte and I went to the library on a beautiful spring afternoon this week.  I picked up a book titled, "Following the Light of Christ into His Presence."

Anything with the word "light" is a guarantee that I'll connect with it.  That's my favorite word.

Also, this book is written by John Pontius who also wrote "Visions of Glory," which is a fascinating read.  Before my good friend Becky moved away, we stayed up late on many occasions talking about that book.

So, I figured this was a good find.

I have barely begun the first chapter, and I want to pause to write my thoughts.  All the writing I have done lately has been about the Atonement or Jesus Christ in some way.  I am just really bonded to this doctrine lately, and it's been really special.

The author is talking about Nephi's vision with the tree of life.  Nephi is shown the tree, and Nephi's like, "Cool.  What's this about?"  So then he is shown Mary, Mother of Jesus, and promptly asked, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?"  Nephi is like, "um, I know God loves all His children."  Then he is shown a vision of baby Jesus. And then it seems that something of a lightening bolt has struck Nephi's brain.  He's asked the meaning of the tree of life again, and this time, Nephi knows.

"It is the love of God."

Not a lot is said about what is going on Nephi's mind between these visions and these questions and how he arrives at his answer, but John Pontius says this, "In seeing the nativity of our Lord, Nephi undoubtedly was filled with an understanding of the tremendous love required on the Lord's part to cause Him to leave His throne (condescend) to be born in the flesh. Further, Nephi was taught how this love spreads abroad in the hearts of the children of men.  He undoubtedly felt that love, felt the power and majesty of it, felt the soul-refining fire it is, felt the eternal worth of souls, and felt the deep compassion it engenders within the recipient.  His whole being was filled with such unspeakable joy that he could only exclaim, 'It is the most desirable above all things!' "


Thus, "the tree of life represents the love of God.  Not the celestial kingdom, not eternal life, not calling and election, or any other spiritual gift or reward.  It represents only the love of God."

And the whole big meaning of the tree of life vision is showing the means and pursuit of people trying to get to this tree.  We are all meant to travel towards God's love.  That is our powerful.  Our pursuit here is only to find the love of God and fill ourselves with it.  All else will fall into line: our characters, our obedience, our pains, our questions - all these things that I "work" on.  I devote so much energy to those things.  When really, my focus needs to be pivoted just a bit, set my mind more towards, "Did I find God's love today?  Do I feel how much He loves me?"  Then I will be naturally obedient; I will be improving as a person; I will get more of the answers and the peace that I seek.  I LOVE that!

Also, back to Nephi's vision and his epiphany.  Before when I read this passage in 1 Nephi 11, I always felt a disconnect of thought - "God loves His Children.  Oh, Christ as a baby!  Oh, now back to the tree of life, what we were talking about in the first place."  Like I'm eaves dropping on a conversation between people that is not connecting.  I'm grateful for John Pontius's thoughts in this book, for teaching me that there's more happening in Nephi's mind that isn't written, and pausing to step into his thoughts is where we find the depth of meaning.  Just in that teeny tiny passage of scripture in the Book of Mormon.

Nephi must have understood the peace and majesty and joy of Christ up in the spiritual world.  It is a good life there.  And for Him to come down to this life in the flesh, to give up such a wonderful place, and enter of world of pain and injustice and fear, it's a huge condescension.  And in that is found a HUGE amount of love.

Last night, I briefly saw a news clip of families in Syria, right after Assad dropped chemical acid on them, and parents were frantically trying to get the clothing off of their writhing children.  It was mortifying to me.  It made me instantly sad, so so sad, and I felt like running to my bed.  Seeing innocent people suffering is so painful.  Thinking about the fear of those children, wondering what is going through their minds as their fearful eyes look up at their parents, wondering why their skin is burning, why their parents are so frantic.  And the pain is not any less for the parents.  Whose focus in life is to give their little ones the best of all they can, going about their business with this great desire in their hearts.  And then acid rains on them from the sky!  It's horrible!

And Christ's condescension is like a man turning from his joyful, happy, peaceful life and saying, "I'm buying a plane ticket over to Syria right now, and I will live with these families for the rest of my life.  I'll give up everything I have to go over to just that one family on the tv screen and help them however I can."

It was no small change of scenery for Christ.  A surplus of sacrifice.  And an overwhelming amount of empathy in His heart for wanting to enter into our state of suffering and do all He could to help alleviate it.  And so Nephi actually sees Him arrive here in the flesh and he's like, "Oh wow.  He bought the plane ticket. He has come!"  And then he felt Christ's immense love.

So then the author says, "If an angel of the Lord appeared to you and emphatically informed you that something was the most desirable and precious thing that could be attained in this life, and that it was readily available, would you not pursue that thing with great vigor and determination?  It is possible to read such promising words, such wonderfully potent language, and ignore its message?  The effect that charity has upon the soul is the greatest of all feelings in this life; it is the loveliest, the most joyful, and the most delightful.  There is nothing to compare with its joyous effect upon the human soul."

And feeling that love He has for us is the ultimate goal and focus of our existence. That's what our daily reach is for.

How humbling and loving and even exciting.  Because it's so incredible to feel that love, so to be given a purpose that results in that level of happiness is really exciting to me.  What a sweet existence that God wants for us.

This love is charity.

"Charity is the love of God for us, not the other way around."

So when we are told to fill ourselves with faith, hope, and charity, the greatest of these being charity - that isn't meaning a "serviceable spirit," or filling myself with love for others, it is filling myself with Christ's love for me!  Reaching out for the tree of life daily.  Letting myself be reminded of Christ's condescension for me.  And then my best self comes out, and I am my best for others.  Everyone wins.

I love the idea of the tree of life as my daily focus and reaching for that love.

Upward and onward,

a little review from my dear friend Allie on her Instagram about this blog post!

image source


  1. I love this! You helped me look at those verses in a different way <3

  2. Love your thoughts! Thanks for sharing the authors thoughts because that helped me with those verses too!! I hadn't ever stopped to think why/how Nephi Would have come to that conclusion, but now it makes beautiful sense!

  3. My favorite part is where you said that it would be better for us to ask ourselves "did I find God's love today" isn't of many of the other things we strive for. What a great perspective change.

  4. Chantel, thank you! This is a post I'll re-read and take notes on! I sure love you and your sensitive, mindful, and wise spirit!

  5. I LOVE that conclusion you came to. Filling myself with charity doesn't necessarily mean I go out and serve everyone. It actually means that because I am so full of Christ's love for me, it will start to spill over into this big puddle of me being able to see everyone else through that same filter of love. Which is where the service usually comes in. YES!