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NTO Lehi, a prophet of Jerusalem, who by Divine command had gone with his family from the city into the wilderness, came the word of the Lord in vision.
The man stood by a tree, the fruit of which he found to be sweet, and "desirable to make one happy"; for, as he ate of it his soul was filled with peace and joy unspeakable. Near the tree, separating it from a spacious plain wherein great concourses of people had gathered, flowed a turbulent river of muddy, filthy water. The head of the stream was visible in the distance, and from this to the tree, alongside the river's treacherous bank, ran a narrow path, paralleling which was a rod of iron, firmly secured, and so placed that one could hold to it while treading the pathway.
Numerous people were observed moving toward the head of the stream, striving to lay hold on the iron rod, but dense mists of darkness arose, and enshrouded them, so that many became bewildered, and, abandoning their purpose of reaching the tree, were lost in the murky depths of the river. Of the more faithful and determined, he saw and testified:
"And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree." (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 8:24; read chaps. 8 and 15).
An explication of the vision was given through inspiration. The tree shown to the prophet was the tree of life,
and its fruit the salvation of the soul. Of the rod of iron it is written: "That it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction." (1 Nephi 15:24).
The river of foul waters typified the great gulf separating "the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God", and the state of loss and condemnation, which shall be the inevitable fate of the wilfully and unregenerate wicked.
The present is an age of whirl and swirl, in which many reach out confusedly and despairingly for support, buffeted by the waves of theologic dogma, swept hither and thither by the creeds and precepts of men, blown about by the winds of conflicting doctrines, bewildered by the mists of darkness, which are "the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men." (12:17).
The rod of iron is the Word of God unto man, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith in God, and in His Son Jesus Christ as the Redeemer and Savior of men, and contrite repentance of sin mark the beginning of the narrow path. We must hold fast to the rod, for the mists of darkness are dense and confusing; and it is easy to let go, to slip and slide and fall.
But with firm hand on the rod, stedfast feet on the path, we are led into the clear and purifying waters of baptism, without whose invigorating ablution we are unable to progress. Cleansed and strengthened we press on, even though the mists thicken; and by the enlightening baptism of the Spirit, which is administered by the authorized laying on of hands, we reach the tree, entitled to live thereafter glad
dened and made strong by its sweet and nourishing bounty. The rod of iron is still in place, fast, secure, a dependable support for every soul who strives with full purpose of heart to reach the tree of life. Clinging thereto we make sure progress, though the filthy waters beat hard by the narrow path. Let go, and we slip, then slide, and if we fail through strenuous effort and the aid of an outstretched helping hand to regain our grasp, we are swept away, carried by the torrent of confusion and uncertainty, perhaps into the engulfing Charybdis of fatalism or the dread Scylla of atheistical despair.
Mark you, that rod is unbendable, unbreakable, immovable. The pathway endures, is never in need of repairs by addition, new construction, or reinforcement. These are no product of man's skill. It is sadly true, however, that men have essayed to make roads, the while proclaiming that their broad highways lead to the tree of life. But never has one such thoroughfare been constructed to the promised destination; nor can it be. For a time these manmade roads are alluring in their macadamized smoothness, but they crumble and are worn into pitfalls, unsightly and dangerous.
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:13, 14).
HE Scriptures are equally definite in affirming the existence of both individual Gods and devils.
Of the former we recognize three, the Holy Trinity, comprising God the Eternal Father, God the Son who is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Ghost, these three individual Personages constituting the presiding council having supreme power and authority throughout the universe, and collectively known as the Godhead.
The devils are many, and their chieftain is Satan, who though unembodied is as truly an individual being as is any one of us. He is the personage who in the primeval world bore the exalted title of Lucifer, a son of the morning, and who with his rebellious horde was cast out, prior to the peopling of the earth. (See Rev. 12:7-9; also Doctrine & Covenants 29:36-38, and 76:25-27; and Isa. 14:12-15).
On the best authority, that of the Lord Jesus Christ, we learn something of the character of this fallen son of the morning, the antagonist of righteousness, and the enemy of God and man. In denouncing the false beliefs and evil practises of certain unregenerate Jews, Christ spoke in these definite and forceful terms:
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." (John 8:44-45).
A liar and a murderer from the beginning! He it was who beguiled the mother of the race, and that by the most dangerous of all falsehoods, the half-truth, in the use of which he is a past master.
He it was who taught the awful secret of murder to the fratricide, Cain, baiting the hook of infamous temptation with the lie, that, by slaying his brother, Cain would come into possession of Abel's flocks, and have much gain beside. (See Pearl of Great Price, pp. 22 and 23).
He it was who deceived Israel, by inducing them to revolt against the theo-democracy under which they had prospered, and to clamor for a king. Under kingly rule the nation was brought into vassalage and obscurity.
Primordially he and his angels were "cast out into the earth", and here they have since been, going up and down in the world, seeking whom they may deceive.
He is the author of sophistry and degrading skepticism, and of the whole foul mass of the philosophy and science "falsely so called", by which mankind are led to doubt the word of God, to becloud the Scriptures with vain imaginings and private interpretations, and to narcotize the mind with the poison of human invention as a substitute for revealed truth.
He is an adept at compounding mixtures of truth and falsehood, with just enough of the one to inspire a dangerous confidence, and of the other a toxic portion.
Beware of his prescriptions, his tonics and medicaments. Remember that water may be crystal clear, and yet hold in solution the deadliest of poisons.
He it is who has deceived peoples, tribes, and races, into servile submission to self-constituted rulers, and made of the masses slaves of autocrats, rather than to assert and maintain their rights as free men, whatever the effort and sacrifice be.