24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
25 And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed….
29 And now I, Nephi, do not speak all the words of my father.
30 But, to be short in writing, Behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
(1 Nephi 8:24-25, 29-30)
In Lehi’s dream, the iron rod represents the word of God (1 Nephi 11:25, 1 Nephi 15:24) and it leads through the mists of darkness to the tree of life, which represents the love of God. Lehi saw at least four groups of people interacting with these symbols in different ways:
- Some people started walking toward the tree but became lost in the mists of darkness. They never touched the iron rod, and possibly didn’t even realize it was there (1 Nephi 8:23).
- Another group of people moved toward the tree “clinging to the rod of iron,” until they arrived successfully at the tree. After they arrived and began eating the fruit, they became ashamed when they heard others mocking them from a “great and spacious building,” and they “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:24-28).
- A third group approached the tree “continually holding fast to the rod of iron” (1 Nephi 8:30). After this group arrived, there is no mention of them being distracted or troubled by the people who were mocking them.
- A fourth group had no interest in the tree and instead made their way toward the great and spacious building. There was no safe path to the building. Some of them were lost, some of them were drowned, and some of them made it to the building and joined the mockers (1 Nephi 8:31-33).
Elder David A. Bednar found some significance in the action verbs Lehi used to describe groups two and three:
Clinging to the rod of iron suggests to me only occasional “bursts” of study or irregular dipping rather than consistent, ongoing immersion in the word of God…..
What, then, is the difference between clinging and holding fast to the rod of iron? Let me suggest that holding fast to the iron rod entails, in large measure, the prayerful, consistent, and earnest use of the holy scriptures as a sure source of revealed truth and as a reliable guide for the journey along the strait and narrow path to the tree of life—even to the Lord Jesus Christ (“The Scriptures: a Reservoir of Living Water,” BYU Speeches, February 4, 2007)
Today, I will recommit to the “prayerful, consistent, and earnest use of the holy scriptures” in my life. I will remember that the path to the tree of life is an endurance run, not a sprint, and that engaging in a sustainable level of scripture study consistently over time will be more effective, and will enable me to be more reliable in my discipleship than will “occasional bursts of study.” I will recommit to “continually hold fast” to the word of God, knowing that it will lead me safely to the tree of life.