At the Tree…

“Twenty-two years ago Monica and I were expecting our seventh child and contemplating our need to build on to the home where we lived, or buy something larger. One morning I was riding my bicycle near our Clovis home, when I noticed a For Sale sign in front of a large overgrown property near ours. I made my way through a high storm-fence gate and started walking around the 2 acre property with a sizable well-built but dated home. I was impressed with what I saw, but always nervous about change, so I was unsure I wanted to show Monica. Then I saw it, the tree, a majestic 400 year-old oak, and I thought Monica will want this home if only for the tree. I decided when leaving for home that I would not tell her about it, at least for a while, because I did not want the pressure of making such a big change. Within a few minutes of walking in the door, Monica looked at me and asked, ‘What is the secret you are keeping from me?’ I did not have a good poker face. Within a short time we had made our way over to the new house, just to look around. She liked some things, she did not like some things. I almost thought I was going to dodge the pressure of moving, then we entered the yard at the rear southwest corner of the property. She saw the tree. It only took a moment. As I recall she stated, ‘This home and property are big enough for our family to grow and be safe, but this tree seals the deal. We will gather here.’ It was like the Tree of Life, where our family would grow to know better the love of God. And so we have, and so we do.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 3 February 2024
The Tree of Life” performed by the Malcolm Family (Danny, Monica, and our five youngest daughters) under our oak tree during the autumn of 2020, created for a children’s program for sacrament meeting for the Gettysburg Ward.

There is no telling how Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life, with the iron rod leading to it, was seen in his mind’s eye, but there is little doubt that in that great and spacious building he envisioned our day. In that alone should be enough for us to understand how important the vision of the tree of life is to our instruction today.

The prophet Lehi was a faithful husband, father of four sons, and devoutly obedient to the laws of God received through Moses and other prophets of ancient Israel. About six hundred years before the birth of Christ, just prior to the Babylonian conquest of Israel, Lehi received instruction from God to flee with his family to a promised land and escape Babylonian occupation, and death. The Lord lead the family of Lehi on their journey and provided revelatory instruction that they might know His word and grace. One piece of inspiration received by Lehi came in the form of a dream vision called the Tree of Life.

Lehi came upon a man dressed in a white robe (the Lord), who lead him through a dark and dreary wasteland for hours to a beautiful tree. The Tree bore fruit white and desirable above all other fruit, and to partake of it filled Lehi with exceedingly great joy. He looked about and upon seeing his family Lehi beckoned them to come join and partake of the fruit with him.

Beside a straight and narrow path leading to the Tree was a long rod of iron. Many held fast to the iron rod through wilderness, perils and mists of darkness to avoid losing their way to the Tree of Life. Lehi’s wife and two of his sons faithfully moved forward and came to know the Tree and partake of the fruit, as did many righteous others.

Lehi’s other two sons refused to come and partake along with minions of worldly others. Most were lost in the mists of darkness, drowned in a muddy river, or made their way to a great and spacious building “filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit” (1 Nephi 8:27). The rejection of the heavenly path by his sons to follow the worldly, was heartbreaking for Lehi.

Many might see this prophetic vision of a prophet known scripturally only in The Book of Mormon to be relevant specifically to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I must declare my witness that the lessons learned, eternal truths taught, make Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life pertinent to all followers of Jesus Christ, any who wish to cleave to His word, avoid worldly temptations and pitfalls, and come to know the love of God and His salvation. I declare these teachings of the Lord to be indispensable in the journey to come unto Christ with our loved ones, with all we would invite, especially in our day.

“Lehi’s Dream” by Steven Lloyd Neal

To youth, President Boyd K. Packer declared, “You may think that Lehi’s dream or vision has no special meaning for you, but it does. You are in it; all of us are in it. Lehi’s dream or vision of the iron rod has in it everything [we need] to understand the test of life” (New Era, January 2015).

As all of us are in Lehi’s dream, so does President Packer’s statement apply to us all, even those of us in the later seasons of life. We are in Lehi’s dream and in it contains everything that we as disciples of Christ need to understand life’s test.

We all have the gift and opportunity to come unto the Tree of Life, be sheltered under the protective branches and shade of God’s love, and partake of the most desirable fruit, the saving ordinances available to us. The ordinances of the priesthood are a true manifestation of God’s love for us, like unto partaking of the fruit that was white to exceed all whiteness, which “was desirable above all other fruit.” Making covenants through holy ordinances such as baptism and in the House of the Lord, has the power to fill one’s “soul with exceedingly great joy” (1 Nephi 8:12).

“The Tree of Life” by Avon W. Smith Oakeson

The Tree of Life represents the very love of God. Elder David A. Bednar taught, “The fruit on the tree is a symbol for the blessings of the Atonement. Partaking of the fruit of the tree represents the receiving of ordinances and covenants whereby the Atonement can become fully efficacious in our lives” (Ensign, October 2011).

We, as in Lehi’s dream, have the iron rod of the word of God in which to hold fast. The scriptures — Bible, Book of Mormon, and all of the revealed word of God — are freely available to us. We need to be careful not to take these sacred things lightly, nor to only consume the word of God in occasional bursts of study, or we risk returning to scriptural and therefore spiritual apathy. Such apathy will lead us away from the light of truth even after once partaking of the fruit and ordinances of the gospel, thus falling away into forbidden paths and becoming lost, or taking up residence in Satan’s great and spacious building.

Even as once Father Lehi called upon his beloved sons to follow the Lord and to come unto and partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life, for truly “he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent” (1 Nephi 8:37), I exhort you now. Hold fast to the word of God. Study the the scriptures daily. Follow the rod of iron throughout life’s journey. Be sheltered in God’s love, partake of the fruits thereof, and never depart from them, no matter the temptation or distraction. I invite you, I exhort you, even with all the tender feeling of one who loves you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Something to laugh with. Funny outtake of “The Tree of Life” performed by the Malcolm Family when two of our daughters fainted. It was kind of a warm day. Edited with music by Joseph Malcolm.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.