Elder Dallin H Oaks said:
"Revelation is communication from God to man. It can occur in many different ways. Some prophets, like Moses and Joseph Smith, have talked to God face to face. Some persons have had personal communication with angels. Other revelations have come, as Elder James E. Talmage described it, 'through the dreams of sleep or in waking visions of the mind' (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 229).
"In its more familiar forms, revelation or inspiration comes by means of words or thoughts communicated to the mind (see D&C 8:2-3; Enos 1:10), by sudden enlightenment (see D&C 6:14-15), by positive or negative feelings about proposed courses of action, or even by inspiring performances, as in the performing arts. As Elder Boyd K. Packer has stated, 'Inspiration comes more as a feeling than as a sound' (Boyd K. Packer, "Prayers and Answers," Ensign, November 1979, pp. 19-20)." (Dallin H. Oaks, "Revelation," New Era, September 1982, p. 38.)
Many symbolic dreams and visions are recorded in the scriptures. Nephi records the vision of the tree of life received by his father, Lehi, and then by himself. The vision of the tree of life is a vision for all who believe in Jesus Christ.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that the tree of life is a symbol of Jesus Christ. He said: "The images of Christ and the tree [are] inextricably linked....At the very outset of the Book of Mormon,...Christ is portrayed as the source of eternal life and joy, the living evidence of divine love, and the means whereby God will fulfill his covenant with the house of Israel and indeed the entire family of man, returning them all to their eternal promises" (Christ and the New Covenant , 160, 162).
The fruit of the tree of life represents eternal life - "most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted" (1 Nephi 8:11) and "The greatest of all the gifts of God" (1 Nephi 15:36). Eternal life is the "most sweet" and "most precious" blessing we can receive. Because of Heavenly Father's great love for each of us, this blessing is available to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
When Nephi asked to know the interpretation of the tree of life, he was shown and understood Heavenly Father's love for us. He saw Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. He witnessed the birth of the Savior of the world. He saw Christ walk among men and minister unto them. And then he witnessed God's great love as He "gave his only begotten Son."
When the Father asked His Beloved Son to pay the price of the world's sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection.
Both Lehi and Nephi were witnesses to the evidence of Jesus Christ's love for us. Their desire for each of us is to partake of the fruit from the tree of life. There is a strait and narrow path that leads to the tree of life. Beside that path is the rod of iron.
Many of us have learned through our youth that the iron rod is the word of God. We have learned this through primary songs and sacrament hymns. The word of God is found in the scriptures. If we desire to come unto Christ and to partake of the sweet fruit of eternal life we need to seek after the scriptures and study them.
The vision of the tree of life shows us that we need to grasp onto the rod of iron and remain fixed. There will come times of darkness and if we have already held fast and have been studying and praying we will not be lost. Darkness can come in many forms: sickness, depression, loss of employment, loss of spouse, parents or children. Even when we make mistakes, we can quickly resume our journey by seeking truth and knowledge and forgiveness.
The vision of the tree of life shows us what we must do to reach the tree of life and eternal life. We must choose to walk on the strait and narrow path. We must choose to grasp the rod of iron and cling to it. We must continue moving forward, even through dark times, towards the tree - towards Jesus Christ.