Massimo's Testimony and Perspectives on the Symbolism of the Fig and Olive Tree
Massimo was a friend of mine, in Italy. I enjoyed his website, and asked him to share a few words and thoughts for my site. The first article is personal stories he has shared about his testimony and his knowledge of the truth about Jesus Christ and His church. The second article is about the symbolisms found in the Fig Tree and the Olive Tree.
Massimo's Testimony -- The Fig Tree -- The Olive Tree -- The Fig
My first 2 years in the Church was really filled with plenty of wonderful spiritual experiences. The church in Italy was at it's beginnings, and the Lord was helping each one of us in unbelievable ways. I am going to make an account of the most important facts that were the base of my spirituality. After 10 months I was called to be a branch president. (I was the only man, this was the main and only reason) In my personal opinion, this is the best calling to learn about love.
I was a young man, only 27 years old. I had no church background, no knowledge, no experience at all. I was depending directly on the Lord, and I received so many teachings that I can't count them. My district president was 100 miles away from me and my first counsellor was an missionary elder, and this was his first experience too. The new converts, like me, had many troubles to face. Italy is a very challenging place to accept the Gospel. Tradition, culture, and your entire background rebel against you so strong that you need a pretty strong testimony to remain faithful. During the first 10 months I was a simple member, but when I became branch president and I had to take care of everybody. The job was not easy. In having interviews with my brothers and sisters I was discovering how weak they were. I was getting upset instead of being humble and lovely. Was I perfect? I remember very well, in this particular emotional state I went to pray thinking that at least I was the best. While I was praying in those feelings the voice of the Lord came to me: "I didn't call you to judge your brothers and sisters, I called you to help them and you can do that only in a way: loving them. If you think to be above them, go down and help them to reach the top of the mountain. They don't need to be yelled at, if you yell to them it means you don't love them. If you will have patience and try to be helpful, I promise to you they will love you and they will follow you and they will do that because of the love not for fear." It was a good lesson.
Another one was with my little son (At that time) Claudio. He was a very lively boy, sometimes he made me crazy. Once I got upset with him and I told him:" I won't speak you anymore, it is useless! You don't listen to me." After a while I went to pray. I knelt and I begun to offer my feelings to the Lord. I felt that He was upset with me, but I didn't pay attention to this, I had many things to ask Him. Anytime I started my questions I could see in my mind the scene when I was rebuking my son, and the words I told him. For 3 times I tried to avoid this vision, but at the end I stopped my prayer and I was silent. Then the voice of the Lord came to me: "If I did like you are doing with your son, from how long should I have finished to talk to you?" Well I had to go to take my son in my arms. I was so sorry.
Another beautiful experience happened 10 years ago. I cannot explain the reason why I decided to leave the church. Maybe it was because it is too personal and involves other people, but I can explain what happened. I was always astonished why people like Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer left the church after they had the vision of the golden plates and the angel. I thought, "It can't happen to me". The Lord gave me a dream soon after I was baptized, in which He told me that it could happen. I didn't pay a lot attention, but after 15 years it occurred. I knew the church was true, no doubt at all. Something happened, like in the dream I had. I made my decision. I called my branch president, my quorum president, the district leader of the missionaries and I told them my decision: "I will pay my tithing, I will keep the commandments, but I won't come in the church." Anyway, I promised to continue to study the scriptures and keep my prayers. After this I went to pray to the Lord and I told Him "Please forgive me, I know that you disagree with my decision, but please, I have to do this, I will take my responsibilities before you."
The Lord told me: "Don't worry I can't push anyone to do something different from his will, it is contrary to the plan we have chosen to support." I felt Him very sad anyway. My decision was taken. It was a Sunday. The next Wednesday I was reading the Book of Mormon in third Nephi 11:10 "Behold I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophet testified shall come into the world" I was thinking, "sure He was presenting Himself." "And Behold I am the Light and the life of the World: and I HAVE DRUNK OUT THAT BITTER CUP WHICH THE FATHER HATH GIVEN TO ME......... I HAVE SUFFERED THE WILL OF THE FATHER IN ALL THINGS FROM THE BEGINNING." While I was reading this part of the verse, I really felt what He meant, and His voice came to me clearly: "Many times in my life I did things that I would have preferred not to do them, but I did them to accomplish the will of the Father. Do you remember my prayer in the Gethsemane? Please if you want take away this cup. Do you remember my words in D&C regarding this, it was a real terrible agony, it was not a pleasure and I fear it so much and when I was asking to take away the cup I was sincere. See now the consequences, I am like the Father, I won the world, I am God, it was well worth to do, do you agree? Nobody has a different choice. That was the path for me and it is the right path for everybody, so think about your choice and the consequences. You are building your eternity right here, right now, nobody is responsible for that only you. Think about it."
Well the next Sunday it was fast Sunday and I was asking to be forgiven from everybody, only the leaders understood what was going on. The church is true and I am so grateful that the Lord didn't abandon me, notwithstanding I was making the wrong decision and he gave me another proof of His love and mercy.
What great symbolism there is behind the fig tree. Many times the Lord uses parables and symbolism to stimulate men in their search for truth. In this article we will analyze both "The Fig tree" and " the Olive tree", because, in my opinion, they go together. Let's start from "the Olive tree". This has obvious reference to the House of Israel. In the words of Paul to the Romans we read 11:13-24,
"For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and flowering a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou barest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graphed into their own olive tree?"
This is perfectly consistent with the book of Mormon. In Jacob 5:3 we read "For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive-tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard; and it grew, and waxed old, and began to decay."
I don't have the time and the space to go ahead in reading the whole chapter of Jacob, but if you do you will be blessed with a great amount of knowledge. This is another point in which the Book of Mormon helps to give greater understanding to the Bible and the Plan of our God.
So according to both books the Olive tree represents the House of Israel. According to the Book of Mormon, the Vineyard represents the whole world. In the Bible the Vineyard sometimes represents the House of Israel and sometime the whole world. Either way it is not important for this study.
The Olive tree is a plant that produces a great quantity of fruit. It requires that the farmer prune it constantly, because without this operation the Olive tree would soon become wild. The fruit of a wild Olive tree is small and has a bitter taste. This perfectly symbolizes man when he falls into apostasy
To be productive once again, the wild Olive tree must be completely re-cleansed and prepared to be ready to receive a graft coming from a tame olive tree. After careful cultivation and careful pruning, the wild olive tree will become fruitful again after seven years. Even though this may seem like a long time, once it becomes fruitful it will produce good fruit for a very long period of time. Several olive trees produce fruit for more than 400 years.
When an Olive tree gets old and dies, from its roots come a good number of new green buds, which if cultivate correctly, will become a new olive tree. In this way, the same tree can continue to reproduce itself for thousand of years. Does this not also illustrate the resurrection and eternal life?
Another symbol connected to the olive tree, is the pure olive oil. We know that we anoint people to heal them when they are sick, or to make people Kings. We also know that water purifies us. We are baptized to purify ourselves. We take the water during to sacrament to help us purify our life. In the same way oil purifies or sanctifies.
There is a beautiful meaning behind this. To understand what it is, let's take a look at something from the Bible. What was the most glorious event in the history of all ages? The Atonement! What was its purpose? To give everyone the opportunity to be resurrected and obtain eternal life - symbolize by the olive tree.
But there is more. Gethsemane is a Greek word which means "an oil press" (Strong's concordance). Now, think about this. All Christian churches teach that the Atonement of Christ happened on the cross, but our church teaches that it happened in Gethsemane. We believe that's where He really suffered for the sins of the world. But how was that a blood sacrifice? Remember His pain was so great that blood came out of every pore as great drops of sweat? What pain is there that can cause such a reaction? Not even when He was nailed to the cross did Jesus sweat blood from every pore. Obviously the pain and agony Jesus suffered on the cross was mild in comparison to what He endured in Gethsemane.
Now think about this. Jesus was not just any ordinary person. He was perfect. He was the Holy one. He was the best there ever was. We can therefore compare His pure blood to that of pure olive oil. But how do you get olive oil? It has to be squeezed out of the fruit. And how do you do that? By putting it in an oil press! It was in Gethsemane (an oil press) that the pure, holy blood of Jesus was forced out of Him. That's where His blood flowed to sanctify, purify and anoint all of creation. What a beautiful symbol the Olive tree is for Christ.
This is one of the oldest symbol given to the mankind. It was used even in the beginning of the Bible. Genesis 3:7: "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."
I won't explain this symbolism now but I will later. But here it is interesting to note that God replaced the aprons they had made out of fig leaves with a Garment that He Himself made for them. Again, I will comment further about this later on.
Matthew 21:19 "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away."
I was surprised when I read this verse for the first time, but now knowing what the symbolism of the fig tree means, I am no longer bewildered. You see, it is related to our own salvation Let's look at another account of this event. Mark 11:13-20 "And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots."
I find this very interesting, because after Jesus had cursed the tree, He then went to the Temple and purified it by cleansing it of iniquity. And immediately after that He and his disciples went back to the fig tree. When we see that all of this is related, then we will find there is a beautiful meaning behind this event.
Luke 13:6-9 "He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
What is the point of this parable? The Lord will work with His people to help them be fruitful in the gospel, but if they still fail to produce fruit, they will not receive any mercy and will be cast out of the Lord's kingdom.
Now, let's analyze the combined symbolisms. The Olive tree represents the House of Israel. The Fig tree is clearly something associated with the House of Israel but has some important and distinct feature about the house of Israel. We also see that if the fig tree only has leaves, but has not fruit, then it is to be cursed. What is it that the House of Israel only has leaves (symbolically speaking) but no fruit? I suggest to you that it is the Priesthood!
Look at it this way. Leaves make the tree appear full, but they are designed to prepare the way for fruit. But, without fruit, regardless of how many leaves it has, the fig tree is barren. The leaves represent words. Words are suppose to lead to good deeds. But if all there are is words, what good are they? They are useless if they don't produce good deeds. The Israelites had the Aaronic priesthood, but it did them no good. The law of Moses, with it's priesthood, was meant as a school teacher to bring people to Christ, but the Jews didn't use it properly. Thus, as a nation, they were full of leaves (the priesthood) but barren of good fruit.
It was Jesus who said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:16-21).
Let's go back to Adam and Eve. Instead of the fruit of obedience, they only had words to offer in excuse for their actions. As a result, they used fig leaves to cover their nakedness. How did they know they were naked and should feel ashamed? By following the voice of Satan. Satan's ways lead to bitter fruit. However, notice that God not only cast out Satan from the garden, but also did away with the aprons made of fig leaves and gave Adam and Eve better clothing to wear. What does this symbolize? Instead of listening to the voice of Satan which produces no good fruit, God gave Adam and Eve a new covering, which, in effect was a new covenant to help them remember to always follow God.
At this point I like to share with you another interesting viewpoint about symbolism. Matthew 21:1, 17: "And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples... And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there."
The word Bethphage means "house of unripe figs" (Strong's concordance) and is near the Mount of Olives. The word Bethany means "House of misery." It is interesting to note the meaning of these towns that our Savior went to just before He offered His atonement. It was also during this time that he cursed a barren fig tree and cleansed the temple, as we have previously mentioned.
The symbolism for true salvation was given in the Garden of Eden. The power to put it in force was also given there. So, as members of Christ's church, and especially those who hold the priesthood, be careful and be ever watchful not to listen the voice of the Devil. When he comes into our lives, we have the power to cast him away, if we have been faithful to our priesthood.
Through the priesthood, God has given man His power. And with that power, we are expected to produce more than words (leaves). He expects to see fruit (works). Without that fruit, we will be barren and useless, except to be cut down and cast out from God's presence, as was Satan. But by being a fruitful tree, and using the power of the priesthood to help the Lord save us and others, man can come back to His presence through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.