Ryan Snarr grew up in Layton, UT. He is a life-long church meeting doodler. He fulfilled a calling as a full-time missionary in the Lima Perú South, and later was called to serve as a musical missionary in the then Mormon Tabernacle Choir (now Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square) from 2008-2016. Other callings in gospel doctrine and in the Elder’s quorum have given him valuable opportunities to lead gospel discussions over the last 20+ years. He currently serves as his ward’s bishop. His home is in Syracuse, UT with his wife and four children. He works as a marketing director by day and a freelance illustrator and graphic designer by night.

Enter Ryan…

In an effort to share some visual insights regarding several gospel truths, this article shares graphics along with the spiritual imaginings that accompanied their creation.

All is Swell, All is Swell

This graphic aligns with a reimagined version of Lehi’s Tree of Life dream in my head. It also incorporates some ideas from the seed mentioned in Alma 32.  All trees start with some kind of seed, right? The central question I’m pondering here is:

  • What if the tree of life doesn’t exist unless I plant it?
  • If I do my part in giving place for the seed, and do all I can to nurture it, wouldn’t the end result have the potential to resemble what Lehi experienced in his vision?
  • What if the planting of the seed, and caring for it, mentioned by Alma, was akin to beginning your journey on the straight and narrow path in Lehi’s dream?

Rather than an iron rod as an adjacent railing-like feature, this pictured iron rod is more like a rake or a shovel. With this iron rod in hand, one can dig, dung, and nurture the growing tree (borrowing language from the prophet Zenos as quoted in Jacob 5) as it strengthens and grows heavenward.

Diligent Effort

Our own individual effort to care for the tree isn’t sufficient as we need both heaven-sent light and water (symbols of Christ) to feed, strengthen and nourish it. It is also through Christ that our special tree will withstand the force of gravity (gravity of sin/natural man) enabling it to stand tall with branches wide, constantly reaching for the sky.

Over time, our diligent effort will allow us to behold a magnificent tree—even a tree of life.

We didn’t search for this tree like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow; but instead, God allowed us the opportunity to bind ourselves to Him in the growing/caring of it.

It is magnificent to Behold

It is strong and standing tall because of the Savior and your effort in strengthening a testimony of Him. You’ve created this tree with Him as you’ve given Him the most prominent place in your heart.

The characteristics of the most desirable fruit on this tree echo the efforts that went into growing it in the first place.

The sweetness of the fruit bears witness to the beauty of the planting/growing/nurturing process.

How Wonderous God’s Plan of happiness!

He allows each of us the choice to plant His word (the seed) in our hearts. We nourish it with our faith and our efforts. Through God’s grace it is allowed to grow heavenward and bear the most delicious fruit.

What good does it do to mentally reimagine this account of the Tree of Life?

How does this help us serve as leaders in the church?

Figuring Things Out With the Word of God

For me, it’s all about encouraging personal accountability and taking an active approach to gospel application in every aspect of life. I’m not simply following a checklist of tasks along a straight and narrow path, but I’m toiling, I’m working, I’m making mistakes and I’m figuring things out with the word of God to guide me.

To me, there is so much more to gain from planting a seed and nurturing it into a fully grown tree than solely setting off in search of one. The resulting fruit, the literal fruit of my labor, would be most delicious partly due to all that I’d experienced through the growing process.

Rolling Up Our Sleeves

God didn’t answer Joseph Smith’s prayer in the sacred grove by simply telling him not to join the other churches. He would become the prophet of the restoration that would initiate the building of the Kingdom of God on earth. He wasn’t just to endure hardship until the Kingdom appeared, he had to roll up his sleeves and get building it. This is something he had to figure out each step of the way. It is a work we’re invited to take part in that continues on a global scale today.

This quote has come to my mind several times as I’ve pondered this idea:

“I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.” Quote from an unknown immigrant

What makes this quote memorable is the irony in this poor immigrant’s realization. Was the idea of streets paved with gold worth him/her sacrificing much to find them? Yes, and for so many, those immigrant journeys were really rough. But would it also be worth traveling to a foreign land, and then unexpectedly have to pave the streets of gold you’ve heard about yourself?

Seeking to Be Builders

Herein lies the real question; a question that I submit Latter-day Saints should be asking themselves. We shouldn’t only be seeking streets paved with gold, we should be seeking to also be builders of these streets.

As it relates to the Tree of Life, we should seek that tree starting with the seed. We should want to plant that seed in our hearts just like Alma described to the poor Zoramites (Alma 32:28). Our faithfulness in giving place to that seed, allowing it to grow tall and strong, and enjoying the fruit it bears is what the gospel is all about.

Giving Place To the Seed

The gift of the atonement, the grace of God, is what enables this to take place. It is the light and water that make the tree grow. Our job is to give place to the seed in soil we condition for spiritual growth.

As church leaders, we can look at church meetings and interaction with members as grand opportunities to “condition the ground” and help members to understand the importance and desire that spiritual growth—to embrace the work of seeing a seed grow into a tree.

The first verse of 1 Nephi chapter 8 confused me because it seemed to randomly introduce seeds out of nowhere. As I ponder this reimagined idea, I don’t find this verse so random anymore.

How do we help leaders

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