Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Eternally Durable Iron Rod

The word of God is eternally durable.  (D&C 1:38, Moses 1:38, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33, Matt. 24:35, JS-Matthew 1:35)  There's nothing else like it.  Though the heavens and the earth pass away, God's word shall not pass away.  All shall be fulfilled.  Whether by God's own voice or by the voice of His servants, it is the same.

I don't know about you, but that's the kind of durability that I desire to hold on to.  Everything else seems to slip away like slippery spaghetti.  Everything else vanishes like vapor.

In his 1971 talk The Iron Rod, President Harold B. Lee, a true servant of God, reminds us of the durability of the word of God and the veracity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  President Lee speaks of the same iron rod that Lehi saw in a vision.  The iron rod, he explains, is an antidote for aimlessness. It leads to the Tree of Life.

President Lee elucidates vital aspects of Lehi's vision and he emphasizes the durability of the iron rod, but he also sheds light on the nature of the mists of darkness that enshroud men.  He gives particular attention to those who speak of themselves as "liberals" in the Church.  President Lee shares several definitions of a liberal (such a slippery term) in the Church:
  • Those who speak of themselves as liberals "read by the lamp of their own conceit." (President Joseph F. Smith)
  • "A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony." (Church educational leader)
  • "It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth." (Dr. John A. Widtsoe)
  • Liberals in the Church are "those who are blinded by the mists of darkness and as yet have not a firm grasp on the 'iron rod.'" (Harold B. Lee)
President Lee then encourages us to become truly converted to Jesus Christ and to His Gospel, which conversion includes overcoming "the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances."  As bad as it is to not have a firm grasp on the iron rod, President Lee affirms, it is even worse to cause those who are weak in the faith to lose their grasp on the iron rod.  The Lord is clear in His warning concerning those who seek to destroy the faith of others.

In the words of the Book of Mormon Prophet Jacob, President Lee warns against the universal sin of pride:

"… When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. …

"But to be learned is good if they hearken to the counsels of God." (2 Ne. 9:28–29.)

As he warns against pride, President Lee also encourages us to reduce our ignorance, or in other words, to seek learning by study and by faith.  He encourages us to be seekers after truth in many fields, and he counsels us to do so diligently, because "a person never learns anything until he realizes how little he knows":

"From heavenly instructions and added to which are the experiences of almost anyone who has sought diligently for heavenly guidance, one may readily understand that learning by faith requires the bending of the whole soul through worthy living to become attuned to the Holy Spirit of the Lord, the calling up from the depths of one’s own mental searching, and the linking of our own efforts to receive the true witness of the Spirit."

I like that.  This is the kind of learning that takes place when we continually hold fast to the iron rod. It is the kind of learning that takes place when we partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and discover how sweet it is.  It is the kind of learning that is most joyous to the soul.  It is the kind of learning that takes place when we sincerely repent, and exercise faith in Jesus Christ.  It is the kind of learning that takes place when we are humble.  It is the kind of learning that is durable.

Recently my sister shared a beautiful video that she created for the Draper City "Tree of Life."  A lot of work went into draping over 60,000 points of light onto the tree, and a lot of work went into the filming of the project.  Thousands of people gathered to enjoy the lights during Christmas time.  This video and the light bedecked tree might serve as a reminder to visitors that there is a real Tree of Life whose fruit is the most desirable above all things.  It might also serve as a reminder that there is a real Iron Rod, namely, the word of God as found in the Standard Works and in the words of prophets like Harold B. Lee, and especially in the words of the living prophets

I know of very few people who have seen the actual Tree of Life (Adam, EveLehi, Nephietc.), but it was interesting to consider the symbolism in Lehi's dream in light of President Lee's talk and in light of my sister's video. The symbolism is even more vibrant in the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because each LDS Temple is like a Tree of Life.

As President Harold B. Lee taught, the iron rod, which is the word of God, is eternally durable.  It won't slip through our hands like slippery spaghetti, and it won't vanish like vapor.  All shall be fulfilled.  As evidence of its durability, the inspired and inspiring words that King Benjamin taught his sons more than 2,000 yrs ago are just as relevant today as they were then:

"I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.

O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.

And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers." (Mosiah 1:5-7)

More posts on the Sunday afternoon session of the April 1971 General Conference:

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