Sunday, April 19, 2020

Springing up unto eternal life

The wording of the title is found in Alma 32:41
But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
When I read that the other day, it seemed familiar, and here is why
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)
Before I move on, let me just say something about intertextual connections like these in the Book of Mormon and New Testament, that can be off-putting to many. I believe that the translation of the Book of Mormon consisted of God revealing an English text to Joseph Smith, word for word. The text represents a translation of the Reformed Egyptian on the plates. The nature or mechanisms of that translation is unknown since we don't have the original text and probably wouldn't understand it if we did. But we do know by looking at the English text that God revealed a KJV type language, at least when creating the textual connections to the Bible. I believe the KJV to be a vehicle to gather the scriptures into one, not because there is anything special about this particular version, but just because it was the most common and available at Joseph Smith's time. The Book of Mormon and the Bible go hand in hand as the scriptures themselves state, and these quotes above is one example.

In one case it is the tree springing up to everlasting life. The "springing up" reminds me of yesterday's post with the "out of the ground" symbolism and the Hebrew verb "protrude" as basis for the tree. In the Gospel of John, it is water springing up into everlasting life. Like Alma's tree that starts with planting a seed in the heart, the water is also found within (the water shall be "in him").

Interestingly, just as both the Book of Mormon and the Bible contain this expression, associated with the tree of life and the living water, respectively, both also contain another passage with the idea that these two go together.

1 Nephi 11:25
And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of lifewhich waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.
Revelation 22:1-2
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
We have looked at tree symbolism in the scriptures this week and related it to God, exaltation and covenants. It is not hard to imagine a fountain of running water carrying similar positive symbolism. In general in the scriptures and in ancient Israelite tradition, water carries a multitude of meanings. But running water as opposed to still or dirty water, is a symbol of cleansing and purity among other things.

I think there are some lessons that are learned when we consider these scriptures in the Bible and Book of Mormon together. For instance, we usually find living water and the tree of life in the scriptures as something external: 1 Nephi 8, Revelation 22, the Garden of Eden, Moses smiting the rock, Ezekiel's vision, etc. But Alma 32 and John 4 teach us that we can internalize both, they can become something in us, changing us from the inside.

Another thing we learn is that it is the word of God that brings about this fountain of living water and tree of life in us. The living water offered to the woman at the well was the gospel. The seed becoming the tree of life in Alma 32 symbolizes "the word". This is supported by the passage quoted above in 1 Nephi 11:25: "I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life".

The Book of Mormon and the Bible support each other in beautiful ways.

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