Dearest Family and Friends!
Another week has already gone by, and I'm here at the library once again! This week was doozer. Transfers came and went. The sisters that came from the MTC with me are all gone home, as well as Elders Batson and Madsen, my first companion and first District Leader back in Tomsk. But the work still goes on! A few of our investigators have seemed to drop off the face of the earth, another dropped us, and of the meetings we still had this week, I'll just say that a lot of patience was needed. Even with the active members we visitied, it's been a little tough. You'll have to see my journal some day because I don't want to go into it much right now. I do, however, feel love for the people. Regardless of who they are, their backgrounds or their personalities, I haven't interacted with a single person this week without feeling that they are important, and that God along with his Son have an infinite love for them. I feel blessed to feel that love for them. I feel that with the calling and setting apart that comes with any calling in the church, but especially that of a missionary, comes the blessing of being able to have deeper, greater love for other people. It's so evident that everything evolves around God's love for us. Especially at this time of year, we can see that as hearts are softened because of the Christian spirit felt during Christmas.
We read all throughout the Scriptures about the "Tree of Life". (I want to share this becaue it fits in with my thoughts lately, as well as with the Christmas season!) In fact the Bible appropriately starts, and ends with references to this Tree. In Genesis 2:9 we read about the creation:
9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The tree of life goes on to play an important role as we read about Adam and Eve. In the very last chapter of the Bible, the Tree is also referenced by the revelation received by John in Revelation 22:12-14. Christ is the voice in this passage.
So this scripture tells us that there is some kind of reward for EVERY man that is evidently granted by what we do in this life. Verse 14 makes it seem as though the Tree of Life holds the key to everything. It is afterall the blessing we receive after following "his commandments".12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they mayhave right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
So what IS the Tree of Life? Why does a righteous life lead us to a tree? Thanks to the Book of Mormon, we have another source that can take us a little deeper. The Prophet Lehi in the Book of Mormon has a dream towards the beginning of the Book. The Tree of Life is the center point of Lehi's dream. Nephi, Lehi's son, didn't fully understand what his Father said, and desired to see it first hand. As a result of his faith, his father's dream is also later revealed unto Nephi in a vision. From Nephi's record we get many insights.
1 NEPHI 11: 14-23
14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi,what beholdest thou?15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children;nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest isthe mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away inthe Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for thespace of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child inher arms.21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea,even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, whichsheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men;wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to thesoul.
I underlined what I feel are the most important parts to understand. Why would the angel ask Nephi the meaning of the Tree of Life right after showing him the birth of Jesus Christ? What relation does that have? The chain brings us from the Christmas story, or the Birth of Christ, to the Tree of Life, to the love of God. Like us, Nephi already knew that God loves his children. Like us, Nephi does not know the meaning of all things. The important thing is that we follow Nephi's example and seek for an understanding, and to seek for knowledge from the source of all knowledge; Our Loving Father in Heaven. John 16 ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but haveeverlasting life. God's love is evident to us through the gift of his Son. The Christ Child, whose birth we are celebrating this Christmas season, is a pure sign of love. The Tree of Life represents the Love of God, as does the birth, life, sacrifice, and resurrection of our Savior.
The Love of God is a gift given to each of us. Let us all actively seek to Discover, Embrace, and Share this gift with those whom we love. Let us keep the commandments, and hold true to our covenants that at the end of our lifes here, we may have the right to the Tree of Life, or in other words that we may have the right to the Saving powers of Christ's Atonement, and enter in through the gates into life eternal.
I know Christ is our savior. That He lived, died, and lives again. Everything that God does, he does because he loves us. I hope you all realize how belssed, and loved each of you are. Seek Heaven't help in all that you do, and take time to thank God for your blessings. I love you all and pray for you often.
Elder Benjamin Moore