Trees of Life

February 12, 2011 at 6:29 am

A package I received on my doorstep yesterday has filled my heart and mind with trees… ’cause here’s what was inside that box:

This beautiful little bonsai was sent to me as part of a virtual “mother blessing” gift from my book collaborators.  As soon as I opened up the box and saw what it was, I thought, “Of course!  What could be more perfect?” As a group, we have become especially enamored with trees and tree of life imagery since we began the process of working on our book project.  Trees and birth are so intertwined in my mind.  So this little tree is a beautiful represenation of many of the things I want to keep in focus as I bring my baby forth in birth.  I have trees in my living room, family room, bathroom, and kitchen… and now I have a tree in my bedroom (soon-to-be birthing space).  When I see it, I think of…

The Placenta “Tree”

“[R]emember to value the life [your placenta] has helped you
nurture and bring forth. It is, after all, the Tree of Life.” -Robin Elise Weiss

Mother Eve

Homage to Humanity's First Mother by Janet Polsky

“Eve, first woman of earthly creation, companion of Adam, and mother and matriarch of the human race, is honored by Latter-day Saints as one of the most important, righteous, and heroic of all the human family. Eve’s supreme gift to mankind, the opportunity of life on this earth, resulted from her choice to become mortal.” -Beverly Campbell

“Remember that when Adam named Eve he gave her the name ‘life-giver.’  In fact, in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible he taught that, ‘God breathed into Adam his spirit or the breath of life; but when ‘rauch’ [Hebrew word for God’s holy spirit] applies to Eve, it should be translated lives.'” -Heatherlady (via personal correspondence)

Mother Mary

"The Apocryphal Meeting..." by Benedetto Cervi

“[A] text discovered in Egypt in 1945 described the tree [of life] as beautiful, fiery, and with fruits like white grapes. I don’t know of any other source which describes the fruit as white grapes, so you can imagine my surprise when I read the account of Lehi’s vision of the tree whose white fruits made one happy; and the interpretation of the vision, that the virgin in Nazareth was the mother of the Son of God after the manner of the flesh.” -Margaret Barker

“When Nephi was told by his father Lehi about the vision of the Tree of Life, he sought an interpretation of the Tree of Life. He was not even directly told what the Tree of Life symbolized. He was given an image, and this image evoked a meaning for him. What was the image? It was the image of a mother, Mary, holding a baby, the Christ child. Then Nephi knew that the Tree of Life symbolized the love of God. Joseph F. Smith said that a mother’s love comes nearer to the love of God than any other love.” -Celestia Shumway


"Gethsemane" by Adam Abram

“As one stands in the olive groves, struck by the gnarled tree trunks that are at once ugly and beautiful, it is hard to avoid the impression of travail—of ancient life and renewing life. . . . The garden on the mount is called Gethsemane. Geth or gat in Hebrew means ‘press.’ Shemen means ‘oil.’ . . . As one stands in this Garden of the olive press—the setting for the Atonement—it is sobering to visualize the purgation of the olive and the intense, seemingly unending pressure which caused the precious oil to flow. Indeed, the symbolism of the place is inescapable. . . . The pressure worked upon [Christ]; as the olive press worked upon the olive. . . .  An angel came, “strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43.) . . . At the last, a spear was thrust into his side. Out of it flowed water and blood, as oil flows from the purged and pressed olive.” -Truman G. Madsen

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” -Luke 22:42 (emphasis added)

“[I]nasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of my Only Begotten.” -Moses 6:59

“I love the deep meaning of these 3 elements of giving birth—blood, water, and fire/spirit—and their interconnections with birth, baptism, the sacrament, and the atonement.  As much as a lot of the church is male centered, the deepest, most meaningful ordinances are intimately infused with the symbolism of childbirth.  I find that so lovely.” -Rixa Freeze (via personal correspondence)

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow . . . but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” -John 16:21

Heavenly Mother

“[I]n ancient Israel, the Tree of Life was understood to represent both the King of Israel and also the Queen Mother. . . . [T]here was a common ancient image of the Tree of Life, as a mother goddess, nourishing the ‘new born’ king.” -David Larsen

“[T]he full breasted tree divinity is one of the many epiphanies or divine manifestations of the Great Mother Goddess known in mythology the world over. As the Earth Mother (Tellus Mater) she embodies the regenerative powers contained in the earth and the waters . . . . [She is] a perpetual source of cosmic fertility. Woman and Tree alike embody this Great Earth Mother for both are visible manifestations of her fruitfulness.” -Roger Cook

“[K]nowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose [our Heavenly Mother’s] influence on us as individuals to be less?” -Spencer W. Kimball


“For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit.”  -Doctrine and Covenants, section 97, verse 9

“All women are life-givers, we are the source of all life.  We have within us the divine capacity to bring new life.  What a great blessing it is to be a woman.  What a great power we have been given.”  -Heatherlady (via personal correspondence)

“I believe that a woman’s love, her light, and her liberty are best expressed and achieved, when she follows the form of a tree. A tree has soil, roots, functions, and fruit, and seasons, and so do women. A woman’s soil is her self-nurture culture, her roots are her husband and God and other relationships, her functions are to give food, to protect, and communicate, her fruit are her good works and her children, and her seasons involve seasons of mothering, seasons of reproduction, and seasons of time and ‘career’ outside the home. . . . Be a tree of life to your family.” -Celestia Shumway

My Mothers are trees of life,

a tree of life is within my womb nourishing my baby,

and I am a tree of life for my family…