Metaphorical Mormon Smackdown: Iron Rod Edition!

Well, as usual, my inspiration for posts comes from BCC. I was going to discuss the merits of the seer stone vs. the Urim and Thummim, but I just wasn’t as inspired as I was by this idea. Go with me on it.

What metaphor more accurately describes the Iron Rod from 1st Nephi 8: a handrail or a divining rod?

Hand rail: well, the thing extends along a river and a path and people are supposed to hold onto it. What more do you want?

Divining Rod: (I admit I am cribbing this idea from this) I have personally long been unsatisfied with the hand rail approach (do we have any evidence of these in the ANE?). However, we do have evidence of the use of arrows and sticks as forms of divination.

Why is this an issue? Because if the divining rod metaphor is the one that we should be using, doesn’t it make the dichotomy between “Iron Rod” and “Liahona” Mormons discussed here a bit pointless?

Vote and comment below.

7 Replies to “Metaphorical Mormon Smackdown: Iron Rod Edition!”

  1. What is the reasoning behind preferring the handrail model? I don’t think it can be sustained as a contextual reading (although I am open to arguments otherwise)

  2. And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.
    1 Nephi 8:19

    And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.
    1 Nephi 8:20

    And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
    1 Nephi 8:24

    But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
    1 Nephi 8:30

  3. anon, I will give you the first verse as problematic. I think the others can be reread easily with a divining rod in mind. For that matter, if we accepted the divining rod metaphor as more appropriate, then I think that we could easily accept the first verse as simply describing a position parallel to the river. It was lying parallel to the river, pointing at the tree. I don’t see any of these verses as fatal to this interpretation (although, I do admit that the first is troublesome).

  4. Couple of thoughts. Unless this path isn’t very defined and you can’t see the tree from the start, why would you need a divining rod? It seems to me that needing a rod implies you are being led to a spot that you have no other means of finding a way to. This sounds a bit out of place (at least until the mists of darkness come in). However, if the path is uphill and difficult, which it doesn’t say it is but it must be uphill considering the direction the river is running, then a handrail fills a need the divining rod doesn’t. Having said that, I’m not convinced yet.

    Also, it would dramatically change the handrail-liahona argument but not make it moot. A compas, even one that runs on faith, does not lead the same way a divining rod does. If this were true the roles would be reversed because the divining rod would then be the instrument that requires more faith, being more intuitive than a compas. Then the “liberal” mormons would become iron rod people and the “conservative” Mormons liahona people.

  5. J. Watkins,
    My whole point is that I don’t see a fundamental difference between Liahonas and Iron Rods and this was a way to make the supposed difference disappear. In both cases if the end is always clearly in sight, there is no need for a director. However, with both the dream symbol and the historical object, the end is obscured (mists of darkness or other side of the ocean). People don’t cling to the rod until the darkness comes.

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