The prophecies of Isaiah contained in this week’s passages contribute to a rich scriptural tapestry of symbols, in this case, relating to Christ, women, trees and light.
In the prophet Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree, the House of Israel is a “mother tree” (Jacob 5:54), who bears fruit through Christ who “shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6). Christ is the Light of the World who brings forth His redemptive power through members of the House of Israel who receive His Word, becoming “children of light” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). In receiving salvation through Him, in a sense, they likewise become light-bearing trees offering an abundance of fruit to their children for generations.
Isaiah describes an olive tree whose fruit offers salvation in the Last Days when cities are left desolate. He prophesies, “…there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree” that will cause the righteous to sing and glorify the Lord while the wicked fear His judgment (Isaiah 24:13-17). The shaking refers to plentiful fruit that will fall as Mother Israel gathers her children in preparation for the Second Coming.
The fruit of the olive symbolically sustains everlasting light. Anciently, the Israelites were commanded to bring “pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always” into the tabernacle (Exodus 27:20). The olive beaten for light refers to the process of making olive oil by pressing the fruit under heavy stone wheels. President Russell M. Nelson elaborates on this symbol of how the Savior Himself was pressed, transforming the fruit to light. When the mother tree shakes and the olives fall, her fruit gives light to the world through the Savior who was pressed on behalf of the children of the House of Israel (the olives).
As a light-bearing tree, the olive is also symbolic of the Tree of Life. In Lehi’s dream, the Word of God leads the righteous to the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 11:25), while in Alma’s teachings, the Word of God planted in the heart of the righteous grows into the Tree (Alma 32). For Alma, as the Word germinates in a swelling motion in the heart, it brings knowledge that begins to expand and enlighten the mind (Alma 32:34). This is a conceptually upward motion as the trunk and branches extend from the heart through the mind, while roots deepen below (Alma 32:37). When the tree is fully grown, the soul has expanded into a tree bearing fruit that is the most white, precious, sweet, and pure above all things (Alma 32:42). Lehi’s tree is often depicted as light. That fruit is the love of God, the “most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:22) and the greatest of all God’s gifts: eternal life (1 Nephi 15:36, Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). When the tree in Alma 32 is fully grown, it likewise “springs up into everlasting life” (Alma 32:41).
Through the Savior’s sacrifice, covenant mothers receive an abundance of fruit that brings salvation to their children. Like the mother olive tree, we likewise “dar a luz” (“give to light”–the Spanish term for giving birth). We share that light which originates in Him, just as He spiritually bears us and our children to salvation.
With spiritual eyes, we can receive a more complete perspective of our eternal potential as life-bringing trees. Once planted in our hearts, the seed of the Word of God will swell within us, enlightening our minds (Alma 32:34-35) until our souls expand into trees bearing the fruit of eternal life for ourselves and our children. I see a place for our Heavenly Mother in these maternal metaphors. The iron rod guides us to Her, the Tree of Life Herself, offering Her living gifts through her Son. We assume our eternal role of bearing the Light as we feast on God’s love hanging from Her boughs in ever greater measure.
Light Bearing Trees: