Internal Consistency in the Book of Mormon: The Tree of Life and the Fountain of Living Waters

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi is shown a vision where he sees people holding to a rod of iron while trying to reach the tree of life (1 Nephi 8). Lehi’s son, Nephi, desires to see his father’s vision, and while pondering what he heard he is shown the same vision and an interpretation of its symbolism (1 Nephi 11-14).

Nephi is shown the tree of life and describes the following:

  • And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty” (1 Nephi 11:8)

Nephi sees a vision of Mary giving birth to Jesus Christ, and then the angel who is guiding Nephi in the vision asks if he knows the meaning of the tree:

  • Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (1 Nephi 11:21)
  • And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 11:22)

For some reason, however, a few verses later he refers to the tree of life as “the fountain of living waters”:

  • I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25)

This reference to the “fountain of living waters” seems to come out of nowhere since it is not mentioned explicitly in the description of the vision. While I do not know the significance of using the symbols of the fountain of living waters and the tree of life interchangeably, what is most interesting to me is that this casually alluded to relationship may also be found hundreds of pages later in Alma 32.

Alma explains to the Zoramites that if they exercise faith and experiment upon his words, their faith in the gospel can grow into knowledge which will become a tree of life from which fruit they will be able to partake.

Alma states:

  • And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life. But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:40-41)

Here, there is no mention of the fountain of living waters. However, the phrase “a tree springing up unto everlasting life” is strikingly similar to a phrase used by Jesus Christ when talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and he tells her that he can give her living waters, from which if she drinks she will never thirst again:

  • But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14)

Alma, making no overt reference comparing the tree of life to the fountain of living waters, uses the same phrase to describe the “tree of life” as the Savior does in describing “living waters.” While this connection between Nephi, Alma, and Jesus Christ may have occurred by chance, I believe it is nonetheless an extremely small chance that Joseph Smith arbitrarily used the Savior’s words for Alma’s discourse on faith to support Nephi’s comparison of the fountain of living waters and the tree of life.

To me, it is rather incredible that this synonymous relationship between the tree of life and the fountain of living waters, described almost in passing in 1 Nephi 11, is also found hundreds of pages away in Alma 32. For me, this is one more piece of a larger body of evidence confirming the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

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