Vertically Connected Blog
In the prophet Lehi's magnificent dream, a tree bearing brilliant white fruit stood in the middle of an open field. This tree, Nephi later learned, represented Jesus Christ and the fruit was a manifestation of His love. There was a path with a handrail of iron running alongside it providing a guide to this glorious tree. And Lehi could see multitudes of people trying to make their way to it (see 1 Nephi 8).
However, the way to this tree was not free from obstacles or distractions.
There was a great building in the distance full of finely dressed people who were loudly mocking those trying to reach the tree.
A filthy river divided the path from the building.
Strange roads leading into darkness awaited in the distance.
And a mist of darkness hung thick and heavy over the path.
It is no wonder, then, that although many wanted to, very few actually reached the tree. Instead, many were drawn away from the path by those in the building, some drowning in the river or wandering down a strange road. One group even got on the path, but because they didn’t grab hold of the rod of iron, they lost their way in the darkness.
But then we learn of two groups who got on the path, held to the rod, and made their way through all of the obstacles and distractions to the tree.
When the first group eats the fruit of the tree, however, they immediately did something interesting: “they did cast their eyes about . . .” (1 Nephi 8:25).
They were standing in front of a tree that was whiter and more precious and more beautiful than anything Lehi had ever seen. It offered a fruit that was "most desirable above all things" (11:22). Indeed, they were standing at the feet of the Savior.
And they looked around.
Lehi even explains it seemed "as if they were ashamed." And so, they soon left the tree and "fell away into forbidden paths and were lost" (v. 28).
Another group pressed forward on the path through the same circumstances and when they finally got to the tree, they also did something interesting: “They came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree” and did not leave (v. 30).
There are so many lessons to take from these ten short verses in the first book of Nephi, but one question must be asked: What made these two groups different from the rest of the people who never made it to the tree?
Interestingly, it was the same thing that made these two groups different from each other.
It was where they were looking.
For where they were looking determined what they did - indeed, it ended up determining everything.
One thing to notice is that the fate of these two groups was not determined by being a member of the Church or not. Both groups who made it to the tree were more than likely followers of Jesus Christ, for they were both on the path holding fast to the word of God and then both partook of His gifts of grace and mercy and love. But one group chose to look horizontally in their experience and one chose to look vertically.
One group chose to "cast their eyes about" for support, guidance, and approval and one chose to keep their focus on the tree and what it represented.
This miraculous account also seems to reveal one of the great challenges of our day: where are we going to look?
God stands ready to help us. He is pouring down His divine knowledge, approval, peace, guidance, and love from the heavens.
The world, however, is also throwing opinions, ideas, popularity, pleasure, and "likes" our way - pulling at us from all sides, beckoning us to cross dangerous rivers and walk into seemingly innocent darkness.
Now more than ever before, its loud incessant voices want to tell us who we are, what we should be doing, and what is important in this life.
We have to decide which direction we are going to look to fulfill the needs in our lives - and also evaluate where we are already looking for those things - for that focus will end up determining the choices we make - indeed, it will, in the end, determine everything.
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.