Friday, May 28, 2010

Catch hold or cling

There are two different words used by Nephi regarding contact with the "iron rod" or word of God.  Joseph Smith translated the two words as "cling" or "clinging" for one, and "hold" or "holding" as the other.
The different word use raises the question of meaning.  If they meant identical things, then the same word would have been translated.  Therefore, there must be a reason for the different words.
Below are examples of the different words in the context of the record:   
  24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
      •  •  •
  30 But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
Some catch hold, then cling.
Some hold, then hold fast.
So the question becomes why the different description.  Both of these different approaches result in the persons reaching the destination, then partaking of the fruit.  But they are situated differently as they move along the process. Some are "clinging" and some are "holding" as they move toward their destination.
To "cling" implies something frantic, something charged with emotion, and something more desperate than to "hold."  "Holding" seems calm, thoughtfully committed and more methodical than does "clinging."  From this, I conclude that there are at least two kinds of people who will make their way to partake of the fruit of the tree of life in this world.
For one group, the process is unnerving, fearful and emotionally wrenching. They cling on despite earth and hell. They fight to retain their grip, and they make heroic efforts in the opposition they face. They cling because they cannot relent, cannot relax, and know they face peril as they live their lives daily. For them their hopes are kept despite all their fears. They cling because they desire more than the opposition can deter them.

For another group, the process is less emotional, but nonetheless filled with determination. They are not as charged with fear, but face what comes to them calmly and with the assurance that the Lord's word is in their hands and will be a refuge that will bring them to eternal life.
I think there is another, more likely possibility, as well. There is not two groups, but only one. From time to time everyone faces moments of difficulty. The only way to stay with the rod is to cling. Then the seasons change, the storm relents, and calm returns. During those times when life improves, the person can continue to hold and move forward, but they have purchased the season of calm by the things they have endured in faith. Now they know it is only necessary to hold on, and all things will come to them.
I do not know of a life that gets lived without challenge, difficulty and seasons of despair. I believe all of us will at times be required to cling, and at others have the ability to hold the course. Whether it is the one season or the other, however, at the end of the journey you will lay hold on eternal life.  Press on.


  1. The one common result, and pattern that shows up for me in this example is NO ONE ARRIVES AT THE TREE AT ALL ... UNLESS THEY TAKE HOLD OF OR CLING TO THE ROD!! We will not find our way, if we do not seek for further light and knowledge in the scriptures or in the words of Joseph or in the is pointed out in these verses sited...they (those who are seeking) continued to hold to or cling to the rod "even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree." or "until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree." Thanks Br. Snuffer, for making this distinction so clear.

  2. The Book of Mormon contains quite a small corpus of words relative to the size of the book. I always enjoy the patterns one can find with the words therein. Another important point, in addition to what you have shared, is the phrase "pressing forward," which begins in 1 Nephi 8:21. We read that multitudes made their way towards the tree by "pressing forward," although different groups did so in a different manners, as you have outlined. I think it is no coincidence that then in 2 Nephi 31:20 we read that if we "press forward" with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, a love of God and of all men, feasting upon the words of Christ, and endure to the end, the Father shall declare that we shall have eternal life. I do not equate the tree in the dream with eternal life, but see the tree and other objects shown in the dream as not only representative of what they are revealed to Nephi in 1 Nephi 11, but also symbols of eternal progression. By reading 2 Nephi 31:20, I refer back to the dream for the pattern, and view the declaration of eternal life as given by the Father to be one's calling and election.

  3. I notice the "holders" fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree and the the "clingers" just came forth and partook.

    I wonder if that is because the clingers were already down and didn't need to fall down?


  4. Here are the definitions from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, which may be useful to the interpretation as would have been prevalent in 1828 versus 2010. Words are prone to wandering in their definition over time, but here are the 1828 definitions:

    Hold: To stop; to confine; to restrain from escape; to keep fast; to retain. It rarely or never signifies the first act of seizing or falling on, but the act of retaining a thing when seized or confined. To grasp, is to seize, or to keep fast in the hand; hold coincides with grasp in the latter sense, but not in the former. We hold a horse by means of a bridle. An anchor holds a ship in her station. To embrace and confine, with bearing or lifting. We hold an orange in the hand, or a child in the arms.

    Cling: To adhere closely; to stick to; to hold fast upon, especially by winding round or embracing; as, the tendril of a vine clings to its support. Two babes of love close clinging to her waist. To adhere closely; to stick to; as a viscous substance. To adhere closely and firmly, in interest or affection; as, men of a party cling to their leader.

  5. I had a Book of Mormon professor at BYU make this same distinction between Cling and Hold fast.

    To illustrate his point to the students he used dating as the analogy. He asked us all what it's like having a boyfriend/girlfriend who is clingy. It made us all laugh and almost instinctively everyone agreed a clingy boyfriend or girlfriend was draining, insecure, and often makes the other person consider exiting the relationship. As opposed to a person who he related to being more of a steadfast person who is less emotional, more calm, committed, able to see past the ups and downs, and makes for a great relationship partner.

    He then suggested we be that kind of person in our dating life as well as in our spiritual progression.

    I've never forgotten his illustration.

  6. I think that I look at it differently. Those who "cling" according to Nephi eventually fall away, while those who "hold fast" stay at the tree and don't fall away. When I think of clinging, I think of barely holding on as in "clinging to the edge of the cliff." Those holding on are the ones that don't fall. We can cling our way to salvation and then lose our grasp, or we can hold on strong and endure to the end.

    - Anthony

  7. Hmmmm....Have you ever tried to rip a clinging child from the arms of his/her mother? That is what I think of as clinging...not hanging from the edge of a cliff. The cliff analogy may be what someone feels like when they realize that they haven't held on to the word and the sun is setting:) I like Denver's thoughts that WE ALL at times cling...when we don't understand or lack faith or the trials are difficult to bear. And then as we mature in our spiritual growth or walk through times of peace and calm, we can hold fast.

  8. I started as a walker, then a touch'er, then a clinger. I was a touch'er again for a time, then an intense clinger, I think I'm a holder now, though today I feel a bit like a clinger. LOL. Well maybe today I am more of a hanger. You know like with your arm around it holding on for dear life, but just today because I don't want to let go while I sleep because I am tired. Really tired today. I will walk and hold tomorrow. I hope, I intend. If maybe an angel will hold my other hand and sing with me. Which they often do.

    Though recently I have been reaching out and trying to bring others hands to the rod as well. There are many that I would like to walk with me. There are a lot of people that I love and I really want them to stand with and see the well spring of the fruit of the tree fill their soul.


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