One in purpose, three trees bear fruit that are some of the symbols of the love of the Godhead.
Trees provide shade, shelter and air. Through the miracle of photosynthesis, trees convert light into life, emblematic of the Savior. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).
Jesus often referred to trees to illustrate good and evil, "For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Luke 6:43).
A Book of Mormon prophet beheld a unique tree, one "whose fruit was desirable to make one happy" (1 Nephi 8:10). Representing "the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:22), its fruit is "most desirable above all other fruits" (1 Nephi 15:36) and "the greatest of all the gifts of God" (1 Nephi 15:36).
Together, the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Crucifixion bear the singular fruit that has the power to "make one happy."
The Tree of Life
In the midst of the Garden of Eden, the Lord planted "the tree of life" (Genesis 2:9). Its fruit is immortality.
When they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, our first parents became mortal. They were subject to disease, decay, death and sin. For this reason, the Lord placed cherubim or a guardian (Moses 4:13) at the Tree of Life to prevent Adam and Eve from partaking of its fruit and living forever in their sins.
The fruit of the Tree of Life is a type and shadow of the Savior, who would overcome death as "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). He bids us to eat of this fruit, "To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life" (Revelations 2:7).
A loving Godhead understood that perpetual existence is not eternal life. Thus, another tree was needed.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is choice.
Choice is essential to God's plan of happiness.
Eve's choice was not "original sin," as clarified by another Book of Mormon prophet who said, "...it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter" (2 Nephi 2: 15). While in the garden, Adam and Eve were commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). They were also commanded to eat freely of every tree. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 2:16-17).
In order to fulfill the first commandment, they had to confront the second.
Once Eve partook of the fruit of choice, Adam partook so that "man may be" (2 Nephi 2:25). Otherwise, Adam and Eve "would have no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin" (2 Nephi 2:23).
Without choice there is no accountability. With choice comes growth, but also sin. To overcome the effects of sin, a loving God sent "his only begotten son" (1 John 4:9).
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Choice are lovingly intertwined with the third tree: the Tree of Crucifixion.
The Tree of Crucifixion
The Tree of Crucifixion is the cross (see 1 Peter 2:24, Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39).
Could the cross bear anything but the fruit of grief? After all, crucifixion is the cruelest death an oppressor can inflict upon a victim.
Yet, as Christ trudged the steep incline of Calvary and willingly gave himself up to the cross, the thorns of Golgotha yielded the ennobling fruit of the resurrection.
To complete man's journey to our heavenly home, Jesus also bore the sins and grief of all men in the depths of Gethsemane. By overcoming the effects of death and sin, Christ became the "author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
Fruit most precious
The Garden of Eden, though idyllic, lacked the saving elements of choice, growth and the opportunity to return to our heavenly home. The Tree of Life made possible the Tree of Choice, which, in turn, required the Tree of Crucifixion.
Seeded in the Garden of Eden and blossoming at the Garden Tomb, three trees are one. Together, they bear the fruit of eternal life and happiness.
When we think of trees, may we remember the three whose fruit is the most precious of all. It is the love of God, laden with the seeds of life eternal, "that (we) might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified" (Isaiah 60:3).
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law in Gilbert, Ariz. A former Phoenix stake president, he serves on the high council for the Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company