The Iron Rod is the Word of God — Not Just the Scriptures

August 7, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 11:59 pm   Category: Personal Revelation,Scriptures

When Nephi was explaining what the Rod of Iron represented to his brothers he said:

And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.

Since member retention has been a hot topic in the Bloggernacle over the last few weeks I thought this might be useful to bring up. Nephi explains that the sure way to remain active in the gospel (and thus presumably in the church as well) is to hold fast to the iron rod. We often assume this applies to the scriptures only; but the scriptures are in fact the indirect Word of God to us. How do we even know if the scriptures like the Book of Mormon are true? – Only through the direct Word of God to our minds. In other words, we can only know through personal revelation. Therefore I submit that personal revelation is at least as important as the scriptures when it comes to the iron rod in our own lives.

It is often preached in this Church that when Christ told Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it“, that the rock referred to was actually the rock of revelation. I will go further to say that that revelation from leaders is not enough – it requires regular personal revelation to truly be built on that rock referred to here.

Why are we having a retention problem? Apparently because, as promised, the adversary is sending forth his temptations and fiery darts and many are being overpowered unto blindness and led away to destruction.

What should we do about it? Nephi’s promise is that the solution to cling to the word of God (not just scriptures, but all of it). Perhaps we will have no choice but to become a nation of prophets just to survive the temptations and fiery darts of the last days.

What do you think?


  1. Geoff,
    I think you’re right. However, how do you temper that idea with the seemingly increasing amount of rules the prophets are giving us (I don’t know if I can objectively say that they are increasing, but to me it seems like they are). If you’re right, then wouldn’t you think we would be given more autonomy to follow the Spirit than less?

    Comment by Rusty — August 8, 2005 @ 5:47 am

  2. In our ward yesterday we were read a letter from the First Presidency asking church members to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.

    Comment by Susan M — August 8, 2005 @ 7:20 am

  3. It occurred to me that perhaps people who are leaving the church are leaving for legitimate reasons, in a way. I don’t know if I can explain this. We are learning things that can validate concerns about the gospel. But perhaps these things are also there to test us. There are many things that bother me, but I choose to remain faithful. I always go back to my source and ask myself if I believe God actually appeared to Joseph Smith. And I do. Then I tell myself the rest will be worked out and try to put my concerns on a back burner and rely on faith and figure that God will explain all this to me, personally and patiently, when I see Him. Or His representative, should I not make it that high. I’m content with my lot that way.

    Comment by annegb — August 8, 2005 @ 7:27 am

  4. Anne,

    That sounds like you end up going back to the iron rod just like Nephi directs. You think about the experience that Joseph describes (in scripture) and that reminds you of the revelation you received that it is true (the direct word of God to you). And it is likely that even in that process God is speaking peace to your mind — another subtle but powerful form of revelation. Remember what God said to Oliver about that “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”

    So what you describe is just what I’m talking about. When you feel temptations and fiery darts you turn to the iron rod — both the indirect word of God (words of prophets) and direct word of God (direct personal communication with God) — and it allows you to weather the storm. But it is only the direct communication that makes the words of prophets powerful to you on a personal level.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 8:15 am

  5. I’ve always had issues with the “Iron Rod” imagery. It simply seems incomplete. Sure, in the dream there is only one rod to grab, but in real life there are VERY many. People might think they are clinging to the real iron rod and find themselves quite virtuous in this, not realizing all the while that they aren’t heading in the right direction. In fact, I would suggest that there are as many rods as there are people, or close to it.

    This is why I prefer the Liahona imagery where people are shown the way and then have to follow it. It seems more complete, whereas the iron rod one could actually justify pretty much anybody, right or wrong, in willful, stubborn bigotry.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 8, 2005 @ 8:17 am

  6. Susan,

    I think that message was probably read throughout the church yesterday. The basic promise is that those that follow the counsel to read the BoM before the end of the year will indeed have a firm grasp on the iron rod and will not falter. Reading the BoM does seem to have a powerful effect on people. I think because by studying the indirect word of God there is an almost inevitable outpouring of the Spirit (the direct word of God) on the reader. In our stake we are trying to make a special effort to get less active members to join in the reading. If anything can re-ignite can faith and testimony it is prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon.


    I’m not really seeing an increase of rules. It seems old rules are going away at least as fast as new ones are introduced. (For instance no one tells you to have big families anymore, but they do ask ladies to wear just one pair of earrings. That’s a trade in “rules” I suspect most women gladly accept…)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 8:28 am

  7. Jeffrey,

    I think that there is only one iron rod, but that it is much more inclusive than we commonly describe it in the church. The iron rod is the word of God — all of it. That includes the direct word of God to us combined with revelations others have received and which the community of saints has accepted. Therefore, the full iron rod represents exactly the same thing the liahona represents. It represents the combination of revealed written words and direct revelation to triangulate the true “word of God”. My point is this post is that without the direct revelation part the written portion is of very limited use to us. Without direct revelation we have no way of knowing if the written words are true and we have no way of knowing how to interpret or apply any of it in our lives.

    When it comes to member retention, I suspect that we lose people because they may never get good at that crucial aspect of grasping the iron rod — the personal revelation part. That means their grip is weak to begin with so it only take a few fiery dart to send them sprawling into the mist of darkness or over to that big and enticing building across the way.

    So basically, my suggestion for improving retention is for us to focus more teaching energy on constant personal revelation. Those that get revelation have a firm grip on the true iron rod. Those that read scriptures but have bad spiritual ears are in great danger of slipping, or, as you mentioned, misinterpreting the scriptures and justifying wicked behavior.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 8:49 am

  8. “Only through the direct Word of God to our minds.” –

    How can these thoughts be enough? What of the religious fanatic who uses his own visions and “direct” communication with God to justify control over others and evil acts?

    Comment by Nick — August 8, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

  9. Nick,

    I comment #7 I further clarified by saying that the iron rod “represents the combination of revealed written words and direct revelation to triangulate the true “word of God”.”

    Comment by Geoff J — August 8, 2005 @ 11:00 pm

  10. I honestly never understood the difference until you explained it, guys. I’ve got a copy of that article, I’ve read it, and they sounded the same to me. Maybe they are, in a way. Also not. Tricky. Maybe there is a middle ground somewhere in between. Hmmm…..

    Comment by annegb — August 9, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  11. Speaking as an Iron Rod and not a Liahona, I fail to see the difference described by Eugene England in his famous essay What the Church Means to People Like Me. By that I mean, it takes faith in Christ to cling to the iron rod (of the Word of God) in Lehi’s dream. And it takes faith in Christ for the Liahona to work. What’s the difference? England’s analogy is not a good one, in my opinion.

    With that said, I agree completely with Geoff that we need to cling to the whole Word of God, not just the Book of Mormon or the scriptures. We also need to cling to the personal revelation that he mentions. And we also need to cling to the teachings of the living prophets too whenever they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. That means we read and believe the conference talks and the First Presidency Message in the monthly Ensign.

    The Savior clearly teaches this principle in D&C 68:4 when he says,

    “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”

    When God’s chosen servants, all those who hold the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, what they say is the Word of God just as much as the standard works are. How can we tell when they are speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost? Well, that is when we have to receive personal revelation. Otherwise we won’t know. This is the Law of Witnesses. (See Law of Witnesses in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

    Do we really believe the words of the hymn, We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet? If not, why not?

    Comment by John W. Redelfs — August 9, 2005 @ 9:32 am

  12. Thanks for the links John.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 9, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

  13. Without diverging into a whole discussion surrouding the reliability of revelation, I would like to offer a few brief corrects to what John says.

    1) It was Richard Poll, not Eugene England.
    2) The “speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, what they say is the Word of God” dichotomy isn’t quite so black and white, though I’m sure John recognizes this.
    3) There are some differences in the imagery which I find significant. In the iron rod it does take faith to hold and follow the rod. but no advice is given as to how to find it, or how to recognize if the rod a particular person is following is the right one or not, for surely there are lots of sources of counsel and lots of “gospels” out there. It also present the “following” as being far too black or white for my taste. In my opinion the liahona imagery is far more complete and accurate. It takes faith and righteousness to even get the thing to point in the right direction, which also means that we must have faith that a direction is the right one. This means we must also have faith to follow that direction, an imagery which allows for all shades of grey and is therefore more similar to experience.
    4) Poll’s labeling people iron rods and liahonas didn’t have very much to do with the imageries anyways. He was describing members, not scripture.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 10, 2005 @ 10:17 am

  14. Your are right, Jeffrey. I meant to say Richard Poll. I don’t know why I stuck Eugene England’s name in there. Must have been a momentary lapse.

    Comment by John W. Redelfs — August 11, 2005 @ 1:40 pm