Hold Fast to the Iron Rod
Posted by BrianJ on November 11, 2007
Guest Post by NathanG
In Lehi’s vision of the tree of life he describes two different groups of people and their approach to the scriptures (clinging to and holding fast to the iron rod; Cf. 1 Nephi 8:24-25, 28, 30). He also describes two groups of people and how they partake the fruit of the tree (become ashamed or fall down and partake). A number of years ago, a friend of mine connected the two parts, pointing out that those who were clinging to the iron rod were the same that became ashamed when they ate the fruit. Those who held fast were those who fell down at the tree and ate the fruit.
I immediately thought of my own experience when I climbed the Grand Teton in high school. There is a section of the climb called “the catwalk” because it is a narrow ledge (3-5 feet wide) with a 1,000 foot+ cliff below and a sheer mountain wall above. In my group we were roped together, and slowly, I made my way forward, clinging to every rock I could hold. As we slowly made our way forward, a man who had already reached the summit and was coming back down passed by. He was not roped to anyone, rested his hand on the mountain wall as he walked, and had as much concern as one would have taking a walk in a park. I have never returned to climbing; I’m sure he has.
I paralleled my climbing experience with clinging and holding fast and decided the difference was moving with fear versus moving with confidence. The confident person had familiarity and experience. The fearful person (me) was unfamiliar and lacked experience. The confident approach to the scriptures involved having constant, regular scripture study. A familiarity with the scriptures would then help one move forward with confidence. The fearful approach wasn’t clear to me, but I figured it would be the approach people new with the scriptures, or sporadic studies would take. That wasn’t a satisfying explanation.
Recently I started thinking again about this. I thought about the words “cling” and “hold fast.” (Disclaimer: I am nowhere near a linguist and just relied on common usage of the terms). I thought that “cling” is often used in a negative connotation: there’s static cling where clothes stick to you and feels a little uncomfortable; sometimes people cling to others (not necessarily mutual and also a little uncomfortable). I remembered clinging to that mountain wall. I was fearful for my life. I wanted to save my life.
People can approach the scriptures this way. They hold to it as though the scriptures are the source of life. Not necessarily a bad thing until you complete the story. A person clings to the iron rod and pushes forward. When they make it to the tree and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, they begin to feel ashamed. It’s the tree that gives life, not the scriptures. More specifically, it is Christ who saves our lives. If we look to the scriptures for life we may be using them in a way they were not intended to be used. I wonder if this is wresting the scriptures—making the scriptures something they are not meant to be. I immediately began finding ways that I had unknowingly been wresting the scriptures
What of the word “fast” in hold fast? It made me think of fasten. The first thing I thought of was seatbelts and car seats. We fasten those to make ourselves secure. To be secure is important. With seatbelts to become secure you take two or three parts and connect them as one. A secure approach to the scriptures should result in the scriptures becoming a part of our lives.
I thought I had really gotten somewhere with understanding the scriptures at this point. Then I started thinking about what Lehi or Nephi would have thought of when they understood the iron rod was a representation of the word of God. As good Jews I imagine they would have thought about the Law of Moses. Suddenly it made a lot of sense how someone could cling to the Law of Moses, but when brought to Christ would reject the fruit and wander away. We have numerous scriptures describing just that. The opposite is also described of people keeping the law, but letting Christ be the focus of their lives.
In the church today, there is a danger of getting so caught up in what we are told to do to be good members of the church that we miss out on Christ (looking beyond the mark seems to apply). Being able to focus on Christ seems to be the essence of the change of heart that King Benjamin’s people had.
I realize I have yet to include many other parts of the vision of the tree of life, but I thought it was fun reviewing the evolution of my own scriptural interpretation. It helps me realize that I can learn things now and still expect that there is more to learn tomorrow.
Guest Post by NathanG
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