Guest Post: Letting Go of the Iron Rod

Guest Post by Alma Frances Pellet. Alma is a software developer and living her dream of being a stay-at-home mom to the three remaining children she has in her central Utah home. Her other interests include exploring the great variety of life while learning more of the woman she is, writing, and music.

In the early chapters of the Book of Mormon, two of the Prophets, Lehi and Nephi, has a number of prophetic and instructive dream visions. In the first, Lehi came upon the Tree of Life, with fruit that “was desirable above all other fruit.” (1 Ne 8:12) He looked for his family to join him, and part joined him and part would not. Later, the vision expands to include a specific route to the tree, a “strait and narrow” path and a “rod of iron”

Metaphors can be both expansive and limiting. What can be seen as a warning can also be seen as a source of pride. A simple path of safety through hardship can be construed as the only path that must be adhered to at all costs.

Pieces of these visions are explained. The tree with most desirous fruit, the Tree of Life, is a representation of “the love of God,” the condescension of God in human form, being Jesus Christ. The fountain and river running near the rod of iron is seen as clean for one and filthy for the other, is explained as a gulf separating the wicked from the righteous. The “great and spacious building,” filled with people jeering at those seeking the Tree, is the “Pride of the World,” built high in the air, which will fall. The “Rod of Iron” being representative of the Word of God, the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ and spread by His Disciples.

Too often, we use the imagery of the Iron Rod as a solid, unchanging, absolute that everyone must follow to succeed in life. Quite a number of articles and conference talks emphasize how this is the only way to get through this life, the only way to get to the “love of God.” But even in the scripture verses where the path and rod are described, not everyone needed a path and rod to get to the tree, most notably, Lehi and what family he had who were willing to join him.

I believe we should concentrate less on the rod itself and more of what it represents, the Word of God. The first verse of the Gospel of John, also uses this phrase, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word of God is not only the Gospel taught by Christ but is embodied in Christ Himself.

No longer a path and rod that everyone must journey to and can wander away from, the way to the Love of God, the Tree of Life, and the goal of our spiritual life, the Iron Rod becomes something and someone who is always there, hand outstretched, ready to help guide us in the way we individually need to go. Often, this will be with or near other pilgrims, but no matter where we wander, He is there to guide us on our way.

I know that some think I have wandered into “forbidden paths,” by deciding to medically transition the gender of my body, that others should be shielded from seeing my choices, that I am lost unless I return to the “strait and narrow” somewhere behind them. But I know the feeling of the span length rod in my hand, a treasure I will not relinquish. I know that if I do let it go, He will always be there, waiting, ready to help when I remember what safety and strength He gives me.

I believe that by letting go of the idea of a long, single, immovable rod, we will find that there is more comfort knowing wherever we are on our journey back to God that we are never lost. That we will no longer wonder if others are ahead of or behind us but who we can help along our way. That while we may travel with others for a time, our journey is individual and intensely personal.

He knows each of us, who we are, and where we must travel. Our iron rod.

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