And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
-1 Nephi 8:10
This is from my book, Tree of Life Mothering, Vol. 1. You can read most of the chapters by clicking right here.
What is the greatest mystery for mothers in the scriptures? I found the answer to this mystery after years of pondering and I am so pleased to share it with you. So before I get to the answer, here is the mystery. Please read the following passage, even though you may have read it in The Book of Mormon a thousand times. Please read carefully, with fresh eyes and mind.
From 1 Nephi 11:8-23 of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ:
8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look? And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
10 And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
11 And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.
12 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look? And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look?
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father? Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 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.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
For a time this order of questions and images was a mystery to me. I had some questions about it. Why didn’t the Spirit just come right out and tell Nephi that the tree represents the love of God, as personified by Jesus? Why did the angel show the image of Mary and then Mary holding Jesus? Why didn’t the angel just show an image of Jesus, without Mary?
After some pondering, the answers came to me: The angel showed Mary, and then Mary holding Jesus, because Mary, as the mother of Christ, also represents the love of God, as Christ does. I believe the angel was telling Nephi that:
The Tree of Life = the love of God = Mary, symbolic of all mothers = Jesus
So, here’s the big question, Why?
I believe the reason why is because the Lord wants to teach us what mothering involves by comparing mothering, as represented by Mary, a fitting symbol of all mothers, to a tree of life. The Tree of Life symbolizes the love of God, as embodied by His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Mothering involves the love of God. A prophet of God, Joseph F. Smith, said, “I have often said, and will repeat it, that the love of a true mother comes nearer being like the love of God than any other kind of love.” The idea of a mother representing the love of God to her family has helped me find my way as a mother. The first principle of Tree of Life Mothering is that mothers are like trees. Mothers symbolically have soil, roots, seasons, and fruit. They have the functions of nourishing, protecting, and communicating, as a tree does. A tree of life bears the fruit of the love of God and the love of a righteous mother comes nearer to the love of God than anything else.
Mothering involves being a “tree of life” to our children. The Bible puts it this way, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is everyone that retaineth her.” I love that verse! It is actually referring to a trait, “wisdom,” as the “she,” but I personally feel it can apply to a mother as well. It beautifully sums up the Christ-centered mother.
Our Eternal Father loves us so much that He gave his pure, perfect son to us, so that we might have all of our mistakes and sorrows washed away and live forever in the Father’s Kingdom. Truly Jesus is the only true source of eternal joy and love. He is the Savior of the World. Let us rejoice in this, have faith in His plan, repent, and follow his example by being baptized by someone with the proper authority, giving our lives to serve others, and endure to the end with “a perfect brightness of hope”! (See 2 Nephi 32:10)
Jesus chose a pure, young boy, named Joseph Smith, to restore his gospel in these latter days. He and His Father, our Eternal Father, appeared to and spoke to Joseph in the spring of 1820. Joseph was likened to a tree just like Jesus was. In Doctrine and Covenants 135:6, John Taylor wrote the following words about the martyrdom of Joseph and his brother Hyrum, which happened in June 1844:
Hyrum Smith was forty-four years old in February, 1844, and Joseph Smith was thirty-eight in December, 1843; and henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.
I bear testimony that Joseph was the chosen servant and prophet to bring forth the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. President Thomas S. Monson is his successor today as the Lord Jesus Christ’s mouthpiece on the earth today. We can know what we need to know and be happy, in this life, and the next, by following the prophet.