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TOM - Why do we use OLIVE oil when we administer blessings? Does it represent anything? Are there certain properties of olive oil that are symbolic of the Atonement or healing etc? What can we learn from the use of olive oil?

JOEL - In both scripture and early Christian tradition, olive oil is symbolic of the Holy Ghost. This is because the Holy Ghost provides spiritual nourishment, enlightenment, and comfort, just as olive oil in the ancient Near East was used for food, light, and anointing. It is also a fit symbol for eternal life since oil keeps for a long period of time. It was the custom to anoint prophets, kings, and holy messengers as a stamp or token of their official calling. In Leviticus 8:6-12, is an interesting account of the calling of Aaron, and how Moses not only anointed Aaron, but likewise the altar and the vessels, and sanctified them with holy oil.

Olive oil was also used anciently to dress wounds. It prevented drying of the skin and infection. The good Samaritan poured wine and oil into the wounds of the man he rescued in the desert (Luke 10:34). The use of oil in the treating of wounds undoubtedly played a role in its choice for ceremonial anointing of the sick by the early Christians (Mark 6:13; James 5:14-15).

Other than it being a longstanding custom and the symbolic meaning, the other and perhaps most important reason that it be done the way it is, is that it is a commandment from God:

"Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him." (Ex. 29: 7)

"And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." (Mark 6: 13)

"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." (James 5: 14-15)

TOM - In addition to Alma 12, can you provide any further commentary on why The Lord kept Adam and Eve from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life after they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Why didn't he forbid them from eating of the fruit of the tree of life from the very beginning? What if they would have eaten of the fruit before the forbidden fruit? I've been pondering on the phrase "to guard the WAY of the tree of life"...not guard the tree necessarily...but the way. What can I learn from that detail? Have you ever noticed that there were two people and two specific trees? Coincidence? What can we learn from that?

JOEL - After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit they became mortal and capable of sin. The tree of life was guarded so that they would not partake and live forever in their sins and frustrate the plans of God. He did not need to forbid them from taking of the tree of life before the fall because they were already immortal and able to live forever in that state if they wanted to.
God told Adam that "of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 2:16-17). So eating of the tree of life, which they probably did according to the above scripture, would have had no effect on them while living in their Terrestrial immortal state.

The protection of the tree by the cheribum and flamining swords was for a two fold purpose: to bring about a guarantee of death as God had proclaimed, and to allow a probationary time (mortal life) for mankind to repent and serve God. This probationary period was to allow mankind to prepare themselves to meet God at the judgement bar, being cleansed from their sins through the atonement.

The placement of the cherubs serves as a representation of those beings who will test us regarding those things we were to learn in this life (including the Temple ordinances), which are requisite for us to enter the presence of God. President Brigham Young once stated:

"Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Young, in Journal of Discourses, 15:416)

The placement of the sentinels can represent our need for the ordinances and covenants of the temple in order to regain the presence of the Father and the SonóJesus himself being the tree of life. (1 Nephi 11:21-25) I guess you could say that in their fallen state Adam and Eve could not be allowed to even get near the tree of life, because no unclean thing can enter or even get near the presence of the Lord, thus the "way" to it was guarded, rather than just the tree itself. That's one way of looking at it.

The flame coming from the swords can represent the glory of God which no unclean thing can endure.

Not sure if there is any significance to the number two in this case, except that for many things like the two trees, there are two choices that can be made; the tree of life or the tree of death; the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do; the idea of opposition in all things.

"And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter." (2 Nep 2: 15)

The two cherubs who guarded the way to the tree are an example of having two witnesses in things related to God's work , "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." (Matt 18: 16)

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