The Rod of Iron

Written by John Carson

What is the rod of iron that leads to the tree of life in the Book of Mormon? Does the illustration of the rod of iron represent the true gospel of Jesus Christ?

1 Nephi 15:24 reads:

“And I said unto them 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.” (Book of Mormon)


The rod of iron represents the Mormon Scriptures (what is taught in their General Conferences, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible).

Those that rely on the Bible alone as their sole authority, are viewed by Mormons as not having the fullness of the gospel. Gospel authority must come by way of what Mormons call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church).

Notice in the illustration above that the tree (#1) is said to represent the “Only Begotten Son”; and that the fruit (#2) represents “eternal life”. This is quite significant, in that Mormons are not depicted as having the Son, nor eternal life. They are still in the midst of darkness (#4), and are taught they must hold onto the rod (#3), which represents full obedience to the teachings of the LDS church unto the end in order to receive the fullness of salvation. Those that are on the other side (#5) are too proud to join the LDS church. 

Is obedience to the teachings of the LDS church the way to eternal life (also called exaltation by the LDS church)?

Harold B. Lee, First Counsellor of the Presidency of the LDS church, gave a talk entitled ‘The Iron Rod’ in the April, 1971 General Conference....

“If there is any one thing most needed in this time of tumult and frustration, when men and women and youth and young adults are desperately seeking for answers to the problems which afflict mankind, it is an ‘iron rod’ as a safe guide along the straight path ON THE WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE, amidst the strange and devious roadways that would eventually lead to destruction and to the ruin of all that is ‘virtuous, lovely, or of good report.’ . . . . 

It may seem preposterous to many to declare that within the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be found a bulwark to SAFEGUARD AGAINST the pitfalls, the frustrations, and the wickedness in the world. The PLAN OF SALVATION formed in the heavens POINTS CLEARLY to the straight and narrow path that LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE, even though there are many who refuse to follow that way.” [emphasis mine]

(Watch video here)

Must we join the LDS church and obey their teachings in order that we may perhaps gain eternal life? Is that what Jesus taught? 

No. Jesus warned the Jewish leaders of His day:

“You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:38-40)

The Scriptures leads to Jesus Christ, Who gives as a free gift (see Ephesians 2:8-9), eternal life. 

Was He speaking about them having that life in the future so long as they hold true to a heavenly plan? No. Notice what it says in 1 John 5:12:

“The one who HAS the Son HAS this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.” (NET)

Notice also in the picture that those Mormons holding onto the rod, are walking in the same midst of darkness as those that are not holding onto it (#4). Christians are believers who have received Jesus Christ. They forever belong to Him and do not walk in darkness. We have the Light of the world living in us! 

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will NOT walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." (John 8:12)