In this weeks’ Come, Follow Me study we had the great opportunity to study Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Lehi’s vision is a beautiful analogy of family, choosing the word of God, holding tightly to His promises and finding happiness in this life. Interestingly enough, the image of the Tree of Life is something shared in many different cultures, and throughout history. Despite the different cultures that share the imagery of the Tree of Life, there are many common themes that illustrate the beauty and shared symbolism behind the Tree of Life. Here are some common themes of the Tree of Life in a variety of different cultures to help deepen your study this week:
The Tree as a Symbol of Creation and Protection
The Tree of Life is an image shared by Mayan, Celtic, and even Chinese culture, and is a symbol first and foremost of strength. In each of these culture’s interpretations of their Tree of Life, the Tree is a guardian, protecting the land from danger and harm. In ancient Mesoamerican texts, the Tree of Life is the center from which all of the Earth grew (north, south, east, and west), and at the center a cross is found which was a symbol of all of life’s creation. In Norse mythology, the Tree of Life, or Yggdrasil as it is called, is the gateway between the spirit world and the living world and acts as a guardian of the two worlds.
The Tree as a Symbol of Eternal Life
In both Chinese and Islamic cultures, the Tree of Life, or the fruit of the Tree of Life, is a symbol of eternal life. There is an ancient Taoist story in Chinese mythology of an ancient tree that produces a peach every 3,000 years. Whoever eats the peach is granted the gift of eternal life, and a wealth of happiness. In the Quran, there are many references to the tree found within the Garden of Eden and the tree of knowledge.
The Tree as a Symbol of Knowledge and Longevity
In both traditional Christian culture and Norse mythology, the Tree of Life is a symbol of knowledge. In the story of Adam and Eve, the Tree of Life contains the knowledge of good and evil and presents Adam and Eve with the very first of God’s commandments. In Norse mythology, the Tree of Life teaches that life is found in everything in our world and that the Spirit world has a great deal to teach us about our lives.
The Tree as a Symbol of Family
In the beautiful story of Lehi’s Dream, the Tree of Life takes on the symbolism of family and community. As Lehi partakes of the fruit, his first thought is how desperately he wants his family to share in the joy he feels from partaking of the fruit. Additionally, as Lehi and his family come to partake of the fruit, there are many others who arrive at the Tree and find happiness in being there with those they love. Across the many different cultures that share the image of Tree of Life, the symbolism of family and community is something found in each of the interpretations of the Tree.
The Tree as a Symbol of God’s Love
Throughout the many stories of the Tree of Life, each story has symbols of our Heavenly Father’s love within it. Whether it is His gift of knowledge, His desire for us to share eternal life with Him, or His desire for us to find commonalities with all of those around us, the Tree of Life is a beautiful and unifying symbol taught throughout history. The story of the Tree of Life is something treasured by so many cultures, including our teachings within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As we study the story of Lehi’s Dream, we can remember the deep desire our Father in Heaven has for us to draw closer to Him. The fruit of the Gospel is an incredible gift in all of our lives, and something we can happily share with those around us.
What were some of your favorite insights you had when you were studying Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life?