The account of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life is filled with interesting symbols, adjectives and descriptions. Each offers a unique perspective and can create a new focus and refreshing study with each reading.
This time I didn’t get past the first verse of 1 Nephi 8 before I found my focus: the seeds of life.
This is a verse which I had always skimmed past to get to the “good stuff.” But this time I really read it—a description of the seeds Lehi’s family brought with them to plant in the promised land—and I stopped to ask why Nephi began the account of his father’s vision with these seemingly random details.
The answer I received changed the way I read this story.
This verse in comparison to Lehi’s dream offers a perfect juxtaposition of what man can produce and what God can offer.
Lehi’s family had gathered seeds of every kind to plant all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit. They were prepared to produce anything. They did not leave Jerusalem without thought and preparation for the future, wherever that future may be. They were ready to thrive in the promised land.
So why did Nephi waste valuable time and space writing about the types of seeds? To teach a simple but essential lesson: only God can give the seeds of life.
The Lord shows Lehi a fruit more delicious and desirable than anything he can grow—even with every imaginable kind of seeds. Lehi sees in his vision that his own efforts and resources will never be enough to produce the real fruit of the eternal land of promise.
The Seeds of Life
Only the seeds of life can produce the fruit of the tree of life, and only God can plant that seed. And yet He offers the delicious fruit to Lehi and his family—and to each of us—without money and without price. Nothing man can grow could possibly compare to the sweetness of what God offers.
As Nephi puts it, “it is by grace that we are saved, [even] after all we can do.” No matter our diligence, resources, and desire we can never produce grace. It is a gift, the saving fruit of the tree of life.
Adam and Eve discovered this truth after partaking of the forbidden fruit. They became aware of their nakedness and tried to produce their own covering from an apron of fig leaves. But their own efforts were not enough to cover their mistake. Yet, a loving God gave them a covering of animal clothing—a coat of skin requiring an animal to die in order to cover their nakedness.
Likewise our own efforts at producing repentance will never be enough. The Savior had to die to provide the grace we need, a kaphar—a covering, an Atonement.
No matter what seeds we have, there are things we can never produce on our own. Peace, repentance, resurrection, inspiration, charity, even faith. We can only receive them and nourish them.
We can receive, enjoy and appreciate these delicious fruits of the tree of life, but what is the seed? How does this tree grow?
Anciently the word ‘seed’ most often referred to posterity. God’s seed, His only begotten seed, is His Son Jesus Christ.
While speaking to a group a poor followers, Alma compares the word to a seed. In Revelation, Christ is given the name, “The Word of God.” And so Jesus is both the Word and the seed.
Jesus Christ is the Seed of Life.
As Alma promises, if we will plant the Savior firmly in our hearts and not cast Him out by unbelief, He will begin to sprout and grow within us. He will enlighten our understanding and expand our minds until He has literally transformed us from within.
If we neglect Him and take no thought to nourish the changes He is striving to make within us, His influence will wither and we will cast Him out and thus lose the opportunity to pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
But if we will nourish this tree with faith, diligence and patience, we too will partake of the delicious fruit Lehi described—white above all that is white, pure above all that is pure, delicious and satisfying and filling beyond anything we could possibly produce on our own.
And so it is worth examining our own lives to discover what we are trying to do and produce on our own, and what God is trying to offer to us if only we’ll receive. His fruit is delicious.