The Three Trees of the Book of Mormon
~ Just Various Perspectives ~

by Don R. Hender

 My mind is getting old, but as I recall it was Sterling W. Sill in one of his motivational addresses to the University of Utah where he spoken concerning how it was that one must eat an elephant. He said something to the effect, 'In order to eat an elephant you must first cut him up into little pieces.' And thus we often spoon feed ourselves those amounts we can handle as not to choak on the whole of it all at once. Then also what comes to my mind in relation to this current topic of the three trees, is that concept of being a 'comparmentalized saint', which was a 'parable' taught in the September and October Improvement Era of 1967. It is not the topic of the parable I draw on, but the concept of 'comparmentalizing our learning', again in order to organize the material into managable smaller segments, yet with the danger of losing the broader sight of the whole of a matter.

But, in so cutting up the elephant into little spoon sized and so 'recipe-ed' spoon size pieces and then separately comparmentalizing those small little pieces each into their nice little neat cubby holes in our mind, we can tend to forget or not even realize that it is or was the elephant at all that we were or are dealing with. This is my wonderment concerning the 'Three Trees of the Book of Mormon.'

What are the three trees of the Book of Mormon? Will there is (1) the Tree of Lehi, there is (2) the tree of Jacob chapter five concerning 'Israel' and there is (3) the tree of Alma chapter 32. And I have had good faithful honest well intending teachers and scholars of the Book of Mormon teach me that these three trees are each a different nicely packaged tree lessons intended to teach a Gospel item each separately and apart and they are not to become confused with that Tree of Life which was and is in the Garden of Eden, as that is again a different tree in and of itself all together. And here it is that I must beg to differ.

I will attempt to present that these and even other 'tree' analogies of the scriptures are but different perspectives or aspects all of the same greater tree, which is the same as the Tree of Life. I believe and will teach that each of these other nicely packaged tree segments are but cut little pieces of the whole that have been compartmentalized into neat little cubby holes of a single perspective of the whole Tree of Life. And it is time that we begin to see and appreciate the larger picture by drawing some of these little cubby hole concepts out and combine them back into the whole of the elephant from which they stem for our greater enlightement and understanding.

The Tree of Life can stand and symbolically represent the whole of the plan of God's Great Plan for Man. From it being the very representation of the Love of God and also of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, to the very symbolization of the whole of God's people as being Israel, as those who do prevail with the Lord. And from a personal perspective, we all may grow in perspective and appreciate of that Tree until it become the Tree of Life developed within our own selves in our achieved greater appreciation and understanding of it. I will proceed, a tree at a time.

The Tree or Trees of Israel Perspective

Actually read from right to left, the name ISRAEL means:
"Triumphant with God" or "Who Prevails with God".
That is, 'he or she, who prevails with God'. And it is the name today recognized as referring to the Biblical 'people of God'. It is the name given to Jacob after his wrestle with God in which he did so 'prevail with God'. It has further reference to the Covenant descendandts of Jacob and his sons, who are also looked to as being the Covenant People of the Lord from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In Jacob chapter 5, the prophet Jacob, the brother of Nephi, draws upon the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees taken from the plates of brass as the writings of the prophet Zenos. These 'two olive trees' are likened to Israel and to the gentiles—the people of God and those who are not the people of God. And though various teachers and scholars will differentiate them from the Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden, there is a parallelism between the two trees of the Garden of Eden, that is the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil which Adam and Eve partook of trangressing the law of God to not partake thereof. And beyond this parallelism of relationship, there is in fact a very well established matter that the righteous tree of Israel is also the same as that very Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden which gives eternal life in the presence of God to those who successfully prevail with God. In one asspect of Zenos or Jacob 5, there is a coming together of the wild and natural trees that give strength to each other and actually allow some of the one to become and be counted as in and with the other. Certainly all are the same unto God, and the gentiles and those of the blood of Israel are children of God and important to him to provide for their eternal salvation and eternal life. And the allegory of Zenos is but one perspective of just how that comes to be in the course of the world.

Isreal is that 'new name' given to Jacob when he comes to successfully prevail with the Lord after haveing wrestled out the matter thereof. Now, though it was a 'new name' to Jacob, certainly that name had existed before and had had its very meaning established before for Jacob to understand what it did mean unto him, that he had come to have prevailed with God. Others before had also come to prevail with God. Two prime examples would be Enoch and his 'city' or whole community of people who did prevail with God and were taken up to heaven. And then also, we have the relatively lesser known people of and case of the city of Melchizedek, who also did so come to prevail with the Lord though at one time they had been wicked in the sight of God. In this same manner has Israel come to have prevailed with God. And I submit that the very name of Israel is that name given unto that people wondered at (Zechariah 3:8) who followed after Jehovah or Jehoshua from the very beginning and have elsewhere in scripture been referred to as the Lord's peculiar people. Thus the faithful Tree of Israel is that same which is the successful tree of life that yield to man happiness and eternal life.

And it is, as in the latter-day, that as all who ever have lived, past, present and future, do join themselves to Israel, that is by that Gospel being taken to the world both in this mortality and in the spirit world, to every nation, kindred, tongue and people by the fulfillment of the very covenant of Abraham and Israel by the leadership and fulfillment by way of Ephraim, so also all become of Israel, having prevailed in and with the Lord unto Eternal Life. Hoorah for Israel! Even the dried dead bones of the earth and of the Jaredites are able to be renewed unto the life of the flesh and be raised as the sons and daughters of God and of the House of Israel!

Thus Zenos' tree of Israel is not a separate tree at all, but an account of the history of the peoples of the earth's dealings with that tree and house of Israel, which is the true and natural tree of the Lord and those who but prevail with and in the Lord as per their wrestlings of life and with God to have achieved that distinction of having become a part of Israel and partakers of the very tree of life of the Lord.

So also is the two trees or two branches of the olive tree as seen by Zechariah in Zechariah chapter 4, they being the those of the prominant two houses of Israel, of Judah and Ephraim and/or Joseph, which is and or will be but one house of Israel in the Lord as the combining the two sticks into being one in thine hand (Ezek. 37). And who are the Gentiles, but those who are of Ephraim if not by blood, by the companionship of adoption and being those to stand with and amoung the house of Ephraim and also Judah as their companions and thereby also of the House of Israel? And thereby the whole of the earth is so blessed with the blessing of the Lord's Eternal Life in, through and by Israel and partakers of the very Tree of Life.

The Tree of Personal Perspective

Setting the arguement of the 'literal' tree aside for the moment, we will consider here the very concept of a Tree of Life in a gospel relationary asspect, that indeed there is a concept of a 'Tree of Life' that is that of Eternal Life giving from the fruit of all the precepts, teachings, commandments and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And as one pertakes of these fruits of the living tree of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one will receive of Eternal Life and live in the presence of God. There is therefore a very personal persepctive of the Tree of Life that matches with the Tree of Life as it stood literally in the Garden of Eden and also in the Dream of Lehi.

Now as to Alma's personal experiment beginning with a seed of truth, there are many truths of the Gospel that may be put to the test, but all such things do all related to, depend upon and are consolidated in Jesus Christ. And that witness of the truth of Jesus Christ may also be one of those seeds that may be planted within one's soul, mind and heart. But lets begin here with a bit of a differenct seed, though we will bring it right back to Christ in the end. Lets persume that the 'seed' of question is of some other matter such as the truth of the Book of Mormon being true and being the scriptural Word of God. Yet one may observe, like the other precepts and concepts and doctrines of the Gospel of which one might 'test', the Book of Mormon does readily turn to Jesus Christ, it being 'Another Witness of Jesus Christ', as do all such principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In testing that 'seed' of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon one will begin to read the words of the Book of Mormon and hopefully thereby write them upon his mind and perhaps even into the fleshy tablets of his heart. And as one reads the words of the Book, the spirit that is within that man begins to see and understand the words of truth that are in the Book of Mormon and the actual Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, may begin to speak/whisper to the mind, heart and soul that these words are the truth, particularly those the speak of Jesus Christ. And the seed doth swell and begin to grow within the heart, soul and mind of man. And at the same time you are beginning to come to a knowledge that the Book of Mormon is the true scriptural Word of God and it is growing in you a 'tree of life'. And you are beginning to desire the fruits of that tree to learn more.

Now particularly with the Book of Mormon there are many truths of God and Christ that are within the pages of the Book of Mormon and just what particularly is that which is convincing you of the truth of the Book may seem to be one thing or another thing or many things. Now that tree which is grown up from that seed has also become a tree bearing much fruit which is desirous, that you want more of. And though the seed did have its effect upon you internally, mind, heart and soul, you now see and understand that the tree is a 'Tree of Life' standing apart and separate from you that all others may partake of as well as you have so partaken. And they along with you and Lehi and others are in the process or even may have obtain from the seed the very precious fuit of the Tree of Life which is Eternal Life.

In fact you come to see and understand that this tree which you have grown to accept personally is actually that Tree of Life offered to all men that they too may come to and accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ through as well as you. It is not just your own personal tree alone. You have made it yours, that is you have accepted in your inner heart, mind and soul, but indeed it is a free standing tree that all may come to and partake of as they too come to believe, understand and know of the truth of the doctrines of the Tree of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is the Tree of Life Everlasting of the Love of God through the Gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

And now, once you have seen how the tree may grow beginning internally as 'if' from a 'seed' within your self or your own acceptance, you are ready now to go to the Tree of Life as seen by Lehi and Nephi in their dream and vision of the Tree of Life.

The Dream Vision of the Tree of Life

Most closely related to that Tree of Life as portrayed in the Garden of Eden comes that Tree of Life as represented in Lehi's and Nephi's dream. It is the 'Tree of Life' that stands center stage in the midst of the Garden which may be freely partaken of and is open to the coming forth of all men. That is what Lehi did see in his dream, a field or land representing the earth with a 'way' or 'path' that led straight and directly to that glorious tree. And the fruits of the tree were most delicious and glorious to partake of. And thus whether in the midst of the Garden of Eden or in the midst of the field representing the whole of the earth, that Tree of Life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his mission of bring life to man does stand open to all men to find. And now more than many other times when the gospel is being taken to the world under the inheritied role and mission of the tribe of Ephraim as a part of that great promised covenant with father Abraham and with his an our ancient fathers as well even all the way back to father Adam. The way back into the paradise of God is there before us. The way is Jesus Christ and the various perspectives of the way are contained in the scriptures whether it be those of the allegory of the olive trees of Zenos, the Dream of the Tree of Life of Lehi and Nephi or even as the planting of the seed presented by Alma. The Tree of Life is there for us to make it our own through Jesus Christ our Lord and that love of God which has given it to us.

Read the accounts of the 'TREES' of the scriptures and let then swell within you. Read the Dream of Lehi and Nephi with the greater perspective that it is the way to that Tree of Life of the Garden that God prepared for Adam and Eve. Understand the allegory of the olive trees that the way is there and available for all to make their way to the Fruit of membership with the access to that Tree. And know as set out by Alma that you can have it grow and become a very part of you unto Eternal Life and your return to your Father in Heaven. Learn the individual lessons of the trees in the scriptures and relate them all back together in bring you back to the fruit of that tree of life, of immortality and eternal life and heaven with God. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen