Sunday, July 29, 2018

What is the Iron Rod? (Part 5)

In the last three posts, I have looked at the scriptures, prophets, and personal revelation. These are the three primary means of communication between God and man. However, all three of them are flawed in some way. In each case, there must be individual discernment of truth and error. None of them can always provide the pure, unspoiled word of God. Therefore, they all fall short of the standard of the iron rod in Lehi’s dream. The iron rod was able, without fail, to guide all who lay hold upon it to the tree of life. Where can one turn to find something that true and perfect in this corrupt world? What is the iron rod really?

This question had troubled me for many months. I prayed earnestly many times for wisdom. I saw so much confusion in the religious world, and so many flaws in what has been left behind by previous dispensations that I couldn’t see how there could possibly be an iron rod. But, I believed James 1:5 to be true. I believed God could give me wisdom to see what I couldn’t see for myself.

In order to share the answer I received to my prayers, I first want to recount a recent personal experience. It may seem unrelated, but bear with me. There is a point.

My family has two pet cats. One cat is about 14 years old. He’s our grumpy senior citizen. The other cat is only 4 years old, so he’s still young and spry. I have often, in the past, picked up the younger cat by the scruff of his neck in order to carry him around and he’s never had a problem with it.

Several weeks ago, my wife was out of town with my daughters, so it was just me and my son at home. I was putting the two cats away for the night. Tonight, however, my older cat was sitting in a spot that made him a little difficult to pick up any other way, so without thinking, I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and picked him up. At first he complained only a little, but as I started walking him over to the room where they go at night, he freaked out on me. He started acting crazy as if I was trying to kill him; screeching, twisting, biting, and scratching me in whatever way he could. At that moment, I panicked. I didn’t understand why he was acting this way. I assumed that if I let him go he would continue attacking me. So, my split-second decision was to not let go of him and put him in his room (which was only a few feet away) as fast as I could.

However, as I made this decision, I started feeling sharp pains in my left calf. I looked down and found that my younger cat had come to the “rescue” of his older feline friend and was proceeding to viciously bite and claw my leg. All I could think to do (while still holding the furious older cat in my left hand) was to reach down with my right hand and grab the younger cat (also by the scruff) and then throw the both of them into their room and shut the door. This all happened in a matter of seconds.

Once the two cats were safely put away, I examined myself and found multiple bite marks and scratches on both hands and up my arm. I also found several bites on my legs, one which was very deep. By this time, I was exhausted. So, I tried to clean myself up by taking a shower and hastily applying some bandages. Then, I went to bed.

The next day, I went to the office as usual, but by midday I was feeling foggy in the brain. I also started feeling body aches, like what is common with a fever. I realized I was getting an infection. So, I checked out of work and went straight to an Urgent Care facility. I was in the lobby for some time, waiting for them to call my name. Then, after the nurse had seen me, I waited again in an empty office for what seemed like an hour, waiting for the doctor to come look at me.

As I sat there - humbled, in a daze because of the fever, and feeling sorry for myself - I remembered once again what I had been praying for. I decided to pass the time by praying once again for understanding. I prayed to know what the iron rod is.

The answer came quickly, in a flash of understanding. I believe it came then, because I was now humble enough to receive it. The answer surprised me. It was something that I had never considered before. Yet, at the same time, I immediately knew it was true; because as soon as it came, a flood of scriptures came to mind that confirmed it to me.

The iron rod is Jesus Christ. I wasn’t given to understand that to mean Christ’s words, which can be altered, or knowledge about Christ. The iron rod is Christ Himself or the person of Christ. I didn’t comprehend what that meant, at first. How can someone lay hold upon a person?

Then, these scriptures came to mind.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not...
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 10-14)
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
See also John 15:1-10, 2 Nephi 9:41-43, Alma 37:38-46, and Lectures on Faith 7:9.

Among the many titles that apply to Christ are these: the Word of God, the Cornerstone, and the Sure Foundation.

The answer to my prayer may seem like a subtle distinction to some, but to me it changes everything. The path to salvation lies not in becoming a scholar of the scriptures, or in following the sayings of some man who claims to speak for God, or in receiving revelatory experiences by opening your mind’s eye through some drug. The path to salvation is literally Christ. Not only is He the prototype of a saved being, He is also the one who will guide you to salvation, if you allow it. He is the perfect standard, who can and will lead anyone who clings to him to the tree of life.

But, once I received this answer, another question immediately presented itself. If Christ is truly the iron rod, then what does it really mean to be “clinging to the rod of iron” or “continually holding fast to the rod of iron”? It must be something that many multitudes have done in the past, or will do in the future.

This is the question that I want to try to address in my concluding post next week.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Daren, I hope you are well. Thanks for this series. I have been reading it and waiting for your conclusion.

    The word of God cannot be "altered," only misrepresented.



    The iron rod is, indeed, the word of God:



    "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 life; which 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." (1 Nephi 11:25)



    You are absolutely right that all channels are subject to misinterpretation or counterfeit. But shifting the goalpost to some abstract entity of "Christ" that is divorced from these other channels is at least as big of a challenge. What is the point of trying to seek Jesus if the testimony of others (including those in the scriptures) cannot be trusted sufficiently to test them?



    God bombards us with light and truth as quickly as we are willing to seek and obey it. There is opposition in all things, but we are told that we can tell the difference between what is good and what is not as clearly as we can tell the difference between day and night. Rather than meaning that we can easily and instantly tell the difference, this phrase shows that it takes practice to learn what eventually becomes obvious. An infant does not know the difference between day and night. What changes? The infant is told by people that have more experience what these things mean, and through repetition in their own experience, these things become second nature. So it is in our journey for more light and truth.

    Holding fast to the rod means to completely reconcile yourself to God's commandments as you sincerely understand them. If you do that--which requires complete, unrestricted submission--for long enough, you will find yourself at the tree. What is the tree? It is another process, the process of obtaining the character of God. That is a subject that is too big for this space.



    Coming back to scriptures and other messengers: we have a duty to test the teachings of those who claim more light and truth than we hold. We will be held responsible for what they teach. There is no shortcut, and mistakes will be made.

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    1. Is the tree of life symbolic for the baptism of fire?

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  2. Thanks Rob for your comment. I'm grateful for your insight.

    The thing that motivated my prayers, as mentioned in this latest post, was the frustration I had begun to feel in trying to reconcile the idea of an "iron rod" as given in Lehi's dream, with the sheer confusion, ambiguity, and deception that is so prevalent in the religious world, even among those who are really trying to take it seriously. You are right that the word of God, per se, cannot be altered. However, our perception of what the word of God is can very easily be altered. Given the vast diversity of religous thought in the world, it's apparently possible to zealously adhere to all kinds of beliefs, none of which have the power to save. So, how does a person (someone like a 14 year old Joseph Smith, for example), who is earnestly looking for truth, find their way? How would they ever know enough to be able to discern and cut through the deception and lay hold only upon the truth, when every means of communication from God has inherent flaws and dangers attached?

    What good does it do to have an iron rod that is within the reach of none or only a few? Given that multitudes were able to lay hold upon it in the dream, I have to assume that it is well within the capacity of all men to lay hold upon something solid, firm, and unerring, even while living in this unstable and corrupt world. This series of posts is just my way of cataloging what I have been learning along the way, hoping that it may bring hope to any who read whose faith might be wavering.

    I know that saying "Christ is the iron rod" sounds like too much of an abstraction. I'm still seeking understanding. But, in my upcoming post I will attempt to put some "meat on the bones" and clarify what I believe that means.

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  3. Is the tree symbolic for baptism of fire?

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