Of Sacred Groves and Tree Huggers

The current President of the LDS Church, President Thomas Monson has said, "The boy prophet Joseph Smith sought heavenly help by entering a grove which then became sacred." The term 'sacred' means the giving of "religious respect by association with divinity or divine things." The trees, dirt, rocks, and plants all combine to form a sacred ecosystem that is all that now remains of Joseph's encounter with divinity there.

Sacred Grove, photo courtesy of CaptureThem via C.C. License at FlickrIn discussing the trees of the Sacred Grove, we often personify the trees by giving them the human abilities of eyesight or hearing. "Trees of the Sacred Grove stand as witnesses and sentinels of what took place here." "Mature trees at the time of Joseph still grace the forest." Statements hypothesizing that these trees were here when certain events happened help add to the sacred nature of being in the presence of such trees, i.e., because of what they saw and heard, we will treat them with respect and reverence. In the future, it is probable that even being a seed from a tree that witnessed those events will have significance.

While a visitation of deity shares a commonality with other sacred groves throughout the world, "The precise location where Joseph prayed and experienced the marvelous vision is not known. This omission on Joseph's part seems intentional."  It appears wise that Joseph didn't reveal the exact spot where the vision occurred, or we might ourselves have been dangerously close to worshipping nature, with sacred trees and shrines. Think about what we might do if we knew the actual spot where he fell to the ground, or how we would treat those select few trees, especially if they were still alive today. It would be hard not to revere such objects. So it's good that we only know the general location where the event took place, allowing us to appreciate and take in the beauty of the Creation and revelation while among nature. Not knowing the actual spot of ground or trees involved, frees us to worship God while among the trees rather than worshipping the trees as God.

Fortunately the LDS Church is serious about keeping this a sacred grove for the many pilgrims who visit seeking spiritual uplift and renewal. "The Sacred Grove is currently healthier, better cared for, and more beautiful than it has been for many years. The Church has for some years been directing a program to safeguard and extend the life of this beautiful woodland that is sacred to Latter-day Saints. New growth and plantings are extending the grove's boundaries to its historic dimensions and strengthening its interior. The Sacred Grove is making a marvelous comeback from the disease and pollution that, until recently, seriously threatened its existence." 

Pillar of Light

According to Joseph Smith's description, his vision in the grove began as a pillar (tree or column) of light descending toward him. Joseph stated, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me."(JSH 1:16) A popular hymn describes the experience as "a shining, glorious pillar" (Hymn 26).

Left photo: photo courtesy of Jeff Hunter via C.C. License at Flickr

Right photo: photo courtesy of fdecomite via C.C. License at Flickr



10/22/2009 4:00:00 AM
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