CFM Thoughts (1/15-1/21): The Iron Rod as a Via Ferrata

Lehi’s Dream by Steven Lloyd Neal

For my first Come Follow Me Thought, I wanted to share an idea I had that came out of a Sunday School discussion a few weeks ago, while we were discussing Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life from 1 Nephi 8. This was a fascinating vision the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi had, shortly after his family fled Jerusalem shortly before the Babylonian captivity. There are so many interesting lessons you can take from this vision, but I wanted to focus on one new idea I had that relates to one specific element of the vision — the “iron rod” that led along a strait and narrow path leading to the Tree of Life, which is a representation of the love of God.

During our lesson, one of the other members of the ward pointed out that the word used to describe the path isn’t straight with a -ght ending, but strait, which means something very different. Using Webster’s 1828 dictionary, strait means narrow, tight, difficult, confined, strict. As a noun, a strait is a narrow pass or passage, either on a mountain or ocean, between continents or other portions of land. I had heard this thought before, but as I was thinking of the strait and narrow path as being a winding, tight, and difficult path, I remembered a type of hiking trail I had learned about a few years ago called a Via Ferrata.

Via Ferratas

To paraphrase the Wikipedia article on the topic, Via Ferrata (which is Italian for something like Iron Path or Iron Way) is a type of protected hiking trail/climbing route that has metal cables, rungs, or rails anchored into the rock along the path. The anchored metal fixtures allow someone on the path to clip into them using a pair of leashes attached to their harness, which limit any falls that could happen. I found out about them while trying to plan a trip to Banff National Park in Canada. Here’s a few pictures to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Mt Norquay Via Ferrata at Banff National Park
Also from the Mt Norquay Via Ferrata
Via Ferrata in Switzerland (from the Wikipedia page on Via Ferratas)

The Iron Rod and Strait and Narrow Path as a Via Ferrata

Anyhow, I think a Via Ferrata is actually an amazingly good metaphor for the Iron Rod from Lehi’s Vision, which Nephi later explained was a symbol of the word of God:

  • Via ferratas allow you to safely travel what could otherwise be a very perilous path. Allowing even relatively less-skilled climbers to access places that would otherwise be unreachable.
  • Via ferratas provide their safety by being firmly anchored into the rock of the mountain.
  • While I wouldn’t recommend trying it, a Via ferrata could probably allow you to safely reach your destination even if you were caught in a sudden storm, fog, or were caught out after dark.
  • Using a Via Ferrata properly, you are always connected to the fixtures through at least one of your two leashes. To transition across say a cable anchor point, you unclip only one leash, and then reclip it on the other side of the anchor, and only then do you unclip the first. By always keeping at least one leash clipped to the fixture, you’re always protected from accidental falls.
  • While a Via Ferrata protects you from falling, you still have to keep going on your path in order to reach your destination.

I still have never had the chance yet to use a Via Ferrata in real life, but I hope to some day try the one of the ones in Banff. I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to heights, but there’s something reassuring about knowing that you’re being protected by a system that if you follow its rules and keep going, you know you’ll safely reach your destination. It’s hard to think of a more apt metaphor for the iron rod from Lehi’s vision.

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