12 March 2014

Words and Seeds

Last night our family read Alma's sermon to the Zoramites' poor about faith in Alma 32, which got me thinking. Vern had so many good things to say, and I wanted to share them (along with a few thoughts of my own). I gave up trying to untangle whose thoughts were whose, and present them here as a coherent whole--a neat metaphor for what we're trying to make our marriage.

Alma begins:
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
It's our first task, as recipients of the Word of God, to make of our hearts good, soft soil into which we can receive His Word. To prepare the garden bed, so to speak. No matter what happens in our lives, we can choose to have believing hearts, ready to receive what the Lord offers us, or unbelieving hearts like hard, stony ground. Seeds may land upon it and sprout, but their tiny roots cannot reach down into the soil and they quickly wither for lack of a hospitable growing environment.
 30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. 
 31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness. 
 32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
We talked together about how God plants seeds. Out in the meadow, or in the woods, seeds fall to the earth. They sprout according to the weather and season, in the proper time. God provides rain and temperatures that coax the seed to life, and it grows and becomes like its parent plant, whether hawkweed or white pine. The soil's only job is to receive the seed. God does the rest to get it started.
 33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. 
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. 
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? 
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
Vern chose the blueberry for an example. If you plant a blueberry seed, and it sprouts and grows, you know you have a good seed. Fairly early on, you'll even be able to know, no longer having faith, that it was in fact a blueberry seed that sprouted and grew. But the fruit won't appear for a couple of years, so you still have to have faith that it will flourish and yet bear fruit.
 37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
Once we have received the word into our hearts, and we know that it's good, that it increases light and life in us, then it's up to us to decide if we're going to invest in the seed--to nourish it with care, turning to God and talking to Him, listening for His Spirit, searching more of His word, trusting what He has said, and believing that He meant it--truly believing that God doesn't lie.
 38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.  
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof. 
 40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
If we choose to change nothing in our lives, though, the word that began its growth in such beautiful ways, that brought goodness and light into our lives, will not have the depth to survive. Our knowledge of God, His nature and His ways needs to increase in order for it to continue to give into and change our lives. Otherwise we'll take more than our meager beginnings can give, and our understanding (the shallow roots of the tender tree) will be exhausted, and then overcome. 
 41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
I love the final promise here, of a beautiful tree thriving, growing quickly and bearing as fruit everlasting life. Patience is important, but it doesn't mean the tree will grow slowly. Alma did say "springing up" . . . it just won't necessarily spring from the seed, fully formed, branches laden with fruit. ;o) We humans usually need a little more time to adjust than that, a more gradual changing of our lives to conform to a more perfected Godly walk.

So, what are you going to do today, or maybe over Lent (which begins today, Ash Wednesday, and ends at Easter) to nourish the Word of God in your hearts?