Holding to and Following Christ—The Iron Rod

Jesus' wounds

This year I have made a renewed effort not just to read, but to try and absorb something new and helpful from my reading. I’m trying to do that. Nephi suggested, “liken all scriptures unto [ourselves]” (1 Nephi 19:23). I want to make my study more meaningful for my day-to-day living. I want new inspiration and revelation in my life, and I think it’s working.

Looking for Christ

Recently, I was blessed to watch a BYUtv production on the life of the musician George Frideric Handel. It showed his work on what is arguably his most famous oratorio, the Messiah. While I watched movement 12 “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” I was reminded in the text of that great music of the many names of the Savior: “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Click to view the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square sing “For Unto Us a Child Is Born”: https://www.thetabernaclechoir.org/videos/for-unto-us-a-child-is-born-messiah.html

nativity scene

The scriptures are full of names we associate with our Lord: the Firstborn of the Father, Jehovah, Messiah, Jesus, Christ, Redeemer, the Only Begotten Son, etc. So, as we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began studying the Book of Mormon in 2020, I had these names on my mind. As the Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families resources recommends: “The scriptures teach us that all things testify of Christ (see 2 Nephi 11:4; Moses 6:63), so look for Him in the events, stories, and teachings of the Book of Mormon.”

Renewing My Understanding of Lehi’s Dream

I once again studied Lehi’s familiar words: “And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him” (1 Nephi 8:5-6). This time, I questioned who this man in white was. I thought about the act of following. Then I read further: “And I beheld a rod of iron … and I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree … and they did press forward … and they came and caught hold of the rod of iron … and did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron … and fell down and partook of the fruit” (1 Nephi 8:19-20, 24, 30; italics added).

Lehi's dream

From there, I went to Nephi’s vision and interpretation of his father’s dream. After seeing the tree of life, Nephi beheld “a man descending out of heaven,” and he bore “record that it is the Son of God” (1 Nephi 11:7). And then, after showing Nephi the birth of the Savior, Nephi is told: “Behold, the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father” (1 Nephi 11:21; italics added).

It suddenly was striking to me that, immediately after this powerful revelation to Nephi, the angelic visitor asks Nephi what the meaning of the tree was. I think it was now clear to Nephi, more than it had been, that the tree is “the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:22). In other words, the Savior Jesus Christ is the central element of the tree of life.

tree of life

Envisioning the Word of God

So, I started reading further into Nephi’s vision and interpretation of his Father’s dream until I came to the famous line, “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God” (1 Nephi 11:25). That was not news for me. I had read that a hundred times before, but this time, I was thinking about how the whole experience of the tree of life must be pointing to the Savior. This understanding seemed much more evident to me. Then it hit me: Inspiration came!

The word of God surely can mean the scriptures, as I have frequently been taught. In the context of my new way of reading the scriptures—where Nephi was shown how the pinnacle of God’s love for his children was embodied in His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ—I suddenly now saw only one word standing out on the page, and it was these four letters:

W O R D.

That was it! Just as Handel’s Messiah glorified holy names that we attribute to the Savior, I realized another name. The Gospel of John declares: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1; italics added). Another way of looking at the iron rod could be to see it as a symbol for our Savior—the Word.

Jesus Christ

I re-read the passages of scripture recorded in Lehi’s original dream, and this time, every time I read the phrases rod of iron or word of God, I inserted the Savior. For example, this is how I read the following verse, “and they did press forward … clinging to the Savior (rod of iron), even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree” (1 Nephi 8:24; italics added). This way of reading Lehi’s dream opened my eyes to the power of this great vision. It particularly enabled me to gain a better understanding of our need for the Savior in our lives. It also helped me realize our Father’s great love for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

iron rod

Increased Gratitude for Jesus Christ

I read Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions differently now. I see a pattern of teaching us about the Savior, and His role in our eternal lives. I see my own personal need to hold to Him, to follow him, and let Him guide my steps to the fruit of eternal life. The iron rod can be a lot of things, but I have now learned that it can also be a reminder that the path to eternal life that can be reached in and through Jesus Christ. If I but hold onto and follow my Redeemer, I will taste the fruit we all desire.