Symbolism of the Candlestick
“For the commandment is a lamp: and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life…”
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7
“…Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up – that which ye have seen me do.”
3 Nephi 18:24
The design of the Golden Candlestick was created in the image of a flowering fruit tree and is therefore a representation of the Tree of Life. The lamps on the candlestick were nestled in gold flowers at the top of the branches, suggesting the fruit of the tree, was the light it provided. This page describes the symbolism of the candlestick, please refer to this link for the physical characteristics.
The Candlestick of the Tabernacle is one of the most richly symbolic vessels. It is both symbolic of the tree of life, and a representation of the tree of life. The fruit of its flowers was the only source of light in the Holy Place. Jesus Christ must be the only source of light in the life of those whom proclaim to be his disciples. The light is equated by Jesus Christ with His law, and is the means whereby we can discern between truth and error, light and darkness, as well as between good and evil.
The Nature of a Fruit Tree
In order to appreciate the symbolism of the candlestick as a representation of the Tree of Life, we will quickly review the nature of a fruit tree. In botany, a fruit is part of a flowering plant that derives specific tissues of the flower, mainly one or more ovaries. In other words, the fruit of many trees comes forth out of a flower. Fruits are the means by which many plants disseminate seeds and thus form a symbiotic relationship with humans and animals. Humans and animals will consume the fruit and either digest or dispose of the seeds thus allowing the fruit species to reproduce. The nature of the fruit tree is thus richly symbolic of many principles of the Gospel and will be referred to in subsequent examples.
Candlestick – Representation of the Tree of Life
The candlestick had many components in its design that were intended to make it resemble a flowering tree. Please refer to the discussion of the design specifics found at this link. The location of the candlestick in the Holy Place and the nature of its design is therefore a representation of the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve were originally prevented from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life (see Gen. 3:24) until they had opportunity to believe on Jesus Christ, repent, and make covenants through baptism. Once this was accomplished, they were worthy of the blood of the Lamb, which in turn made them worthy to receive the influence of the Holy Ghost, which was sent by the Father.
The ability to receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, a member of the God head is thus in principle, indicative of having overcome spiritual death. If spiritual death is defined as being cutoff from the presence of God, then receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost after proper baptism is a ‘spiritual return’ to the presence of the Father. A person who remains in this state until they day they die, will be brought forth in the resurrection of the just, and will be worthy to remain in the physical presence of God the Father. This concept is better illustrated in the Book of Mormon example of the Tree of Life and will be discussed next. This is the great blessing peace as promised by the Lord Jesus Christ; the ability to receive the constant presence of the Holy Ghost in this world despite not being in the literal and physical presence of the Father (see John 14:15-31).
Candlestick – Tree of Life in Lehi’s Dream
Between 600-592 B.C., the prophet Lehi saw a vision of the tree of life and in his vision, partook of the fruit thereof (see 1 Nephi 8). The scriptural account also states that the tree of life in Lehi’s vision, is a representation of the love of God (see 1 Nephi 11:22, 25). This distinction is important and instructive. For a person in the vision, could partake of the fruit of the tree of life, but then become ashamed, turn away, and join the wicked in the great and spacious building (see 1 Nephi 8:25, 27). This would not be possible if this were the literal tree of life, as those who overcome are promised that they will have right to the tree of life and will not be hurt by the second death (see Rev. 2:7, 11). The right to the literal tree of life occurs after a person has overcome through Jesus Christ and been resurrected, after which they will never choose to turn away.
This distinction in my opinion, confirms the literal tree is in the Most Holy Place, and a representation of the tree of life in the form of the candlestick, is in the Holy Place. The candlestick gives light to the Holy Place as the only temporal light source of that room. The Most Holy Place had no temporal light source, as the light was provided by God himself, in whose presence stands the literal tree of life. The prophet Lehi described what it was like to partake of this fruit in his vision:
“And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof: and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I have ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy…” (1 Nephi 8:9-11).
I testify that these blessings are real. When I strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ, my soul is filled with exceedingly great joy. This blessing is available to all.
Fruits of the Spirit – Light of the Candlestick
The fruit of the candlestick, (i.e. the light it provides to those who are in the Holy Place), is equivalent to the fruits of the spirit as described by Paul to the Galatians.
“…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
In other words, an individual who follows the example of the Son of the Living God, will receive the Holy Ghost; they will feel love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith. The nature of the fruit of light is such that anyone who entered into the Holy Place would partake of its influence. Spiritually speaking, a person can only enter the Holy Place when they have exercised faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, when they are willing to submit to all things he has commanded, when they have offered a broken heart and a contrite spirit, when they continually remember that Christ ransomed their physical body with his physical body, when they continually remember that Christ shed His blood so that you could be cleansed from all sin, when they choose to be properly baptized by an authorized agent of the Lord, and when they are willing to renew their covenant on a weekly basis through partaking of the sacrament. Then and only then can a person enter into the Holy Place (spiritually speaking) to enjoy the full fruit of the spirit.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Perfection is not required by the Lord in order for him to bless us with His spirit. As we strive to do our part, and approach the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, he will bestow His spirit in increasing abundance upon us. Former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson spoke of some of the blessings, or fruits of the spirit:
“The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we become increasingly more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things more clearly.” (Source)
When I strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ, I feel the peace promised by the Savior. It is real. The fruits of the spirit are among the greatest blessings we can enjoy in mortality.