The imagery of an iron rod representing the word of God contains nuances we may have missed, considering God’s word is truth and iron is unbending. And as we believe in God’s word in the scriptures insofar as they are translated correctly, that includes their interpretation, as their misuse or distortion is cause for damnation. Such were Moroni’s words to us after “Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing,” when he warned, “Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls?” (Mormon 8:33, 35)
Many in our day have indeed “perverted the words of the living God” (Jeremiah 23:36) by transfiguring them into “precepts of men” (Isaiah 28:13: 2 Nephi 28:14, 26, 31). All these, therefore, are among those who let go of the iron rod to wander into strange roads and mists of darkness. Or, having once eaten from the fruit of the Tree of Life, grow ashamed of the truth and become lost in forbidden paths (1 Nephi 8:19–32; 15:23–24). Or, clinging to misinterpretations of God’s word surviving from an age of apostasy, fail to discern them and inadvertently perish.
Interpretations, even by ecclesiastical leaders who are not the president of the church—that the doctrine of an end-time servant of God who prepares the way before Jesus’ second coming is a heresy; or that the Lord’s great and marvelous work is the restoration of the gospel, not the restoration of the house of Israel as the scriptures define it; or that acting under divine inspiration is the same as receiving divine revelation as in prophesying of things to come; and so forth, these too constitute misrepresentations of God’s word that lead to or keep others in mists of darkness.
So powerful can precepts of men become that they entangle believers in a web of misinformation to the point of making it almost impossible to extricate oneself or others from them. The more so with those who were once enlightened but whose cumulative actions or inactions alienate them to where their religion itself has morphed into a shadow of what it was. Declares Isaiah to God’s people’s end-time spiritual leaders: “Scoff not, lest your bonds grow severe, for I have heard utter destruction decreed by my Lord, Jehovah of Hosts, upon the whole earth.’ (Isaiah 28:22)
No wonder that at his coming, the Lord, whose “name is called the Word of God,” must rule the nations “with a rod of iron” and the sword of his mouth (Revelation 19:13, 15). Likewise shall his end-time servant—after being “caught up unto God and to his throne” as were the three Nephites—“rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Revelation 12:5). So may those who reign with Christ at his coming: “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron.” (Revelation 2:26–27)
The idea of “overcoming” evil or what is not of God surely includes not being deceived about what constitutes God’s truth as revealed in the scriptures and what are misinterpretations. Paul’s prophecy about our day being a time of deception (2 Thessalonians 2:10–12), and Isaiah’s about God’s testing his end-time people “in the sieve of falsehood” (Isaiah 30:28)—both evident in today’s media—bodes ill for those who at this late stage haven’t figured out scriptural truth from error. Doesn’t spiritual blindness in one area of life go hand in hand with blindness in another?
Hence, Nephi’s injunction to his brothers when asked about the rod of iron their father saw: “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.” (1 Nephi 15:23–24) And Jacob’s: “All ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.” (Jacob 3:2)