Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Law of the Harvest

I love the fall season. The temperatures are mild and the nights cool. It is also a time of harvest, a time that we enjoy the blessings of the law of the harvest. Yesterday we pulled up the garden and put what is left of the tomatoes, onions, potatoes and peppers into the greenhouse where we will enjoy the fruits of our labor for a little longer.  We have enjoyed fresh tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, garlic, onions, lettuce and peppers for several months now and the season is coming to an end. Tomorrow we are expecting a hard frost thus the reason for picking the last of the garden and laying it up in storage. Last week we picked the apples off our tree and we will enjoy them for several months this fall and winter. We also enjoyed an abundance of cherries and peaches. We have really been blessed this season.

Each spring when we prepare our soil and plant the seeds in the garden, we never know how well things will grow. We always do our part by continuing to water and pull the weeds. To be honest weeds do not dare grow in our garden because for years my wife has made sure that there were few weeds. Usually if we do our part, we end up having an abundance of fruits and vegetables.  Our fruit trees are a different story. We always pray for a good crop, but things depend on whether there is a frost just as the trees are in blossom. We are also dependent on the bees pollinating the trees to provide the fruit. Last year we had no apples on our tree and very few cherries due to a bad frost that killed all the blossoms. This year made up for the lack of fruit last year.

Growing up both of our families had gardens that provided opportunities for us to learn the principle of the harvest and to see the blessings of hard work. This is a great principle that we tried teaching our children and now our grandchildren are learning it from their parents. Elder L. Tom Perry tells of his experiences as a child and now with his children and their gardens:

“(the) growth cycle has always been a marvel to me—the process of fertilizing, tilling, planting, weeding, and irrigating to produce a harvest. I am continually amazed with the power in a single seed as it multiplies itself many, many times. I’ve tried to perpetuate this understanding in the lives of my children. Each has had his turn in tilling, planting, weeding, and watering. Exposing yourself to the Lord’s system cannot help but give you an appreciation for his bounteous blessings to us. There have been very few years in my life when I have not been responsible for a garden. Even now as a city condominium dweller, I still plant and harvest a garden each year.
“When my daughter moved to Bountiful, Utah, three years ago, we went out to inspect her new home. To my great disappointment, the backyard was too small to produce much of a garden. However, in looking over her back fence, I discovered a vacant lot that was for sale. I quickly made arrangements with the owner to purchase it. Now the Perry family has its own welfare farm. As a family we soon learned to appreciate the parable of the sower. The vacant lot had been used for years by good neighbors as a dumping ground for weeds, grass clippings, rocks, tree limbs, etc. Many hours of work produced only a small garden of minimum yield that first year. The next year more of the good soil was made productive with additional hours of labor. Now, the third year, all but a small hill at the front of the property is bringing forth an abundant harvest. It has removed from us the worry of food cost inflation, for we have been able to increase our yield much faster than food cost inflation has increased.
“The great blessing is that we are only beginning. The yield has no limits on its increase. Our labors will continue to bring forth more abundant harvest each year as we follow the Lord’s law of the harvest. He has bound himself to provide us with abundance so long as we will live his law in righteousness and labor for that blessing.
“Each spring as I look over an insignificant, small seed and place it in a well-prepared seed bed, I marvel at how much it will produce. Then my soul is filled with thanksgiving when I realize what can happen when that small seed begins to multiply itself, and I contemplate my potential as part of the greatest of all creations, man. I am one of His spirit children. If a seed can multiply thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold, what then is my potential if I would but cast out the stones, clean out the thorns, cultivate deeply into the soil for a good seedbed, irrigate, and nourish? It is then that I realize there is no limit to my potential so long as I conform my life to the Lord’s law of the harvest.” (“The Law of the Harvest”, Elder L. Tom Perry, New Era, October 1980)
As Elder Perry mentioned, the law of the harvest applies to our lives as well as our gardens and fruit trees. We will reap the rewards of what we sow in our lives. If we keep the commandants of God and serve our brothers and sisters, we will enjoy the blessings of eternal life with God and His Son. Jesus taught this principle when he told the parable of the sower:

Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. (Mark 4:3-8)

When the disciples asked what the parable meant he said unto them:

The sower soweth the word.

And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. (Mark 3:14-20)

It is interesting to note that even when the gospel seed is sown on good ground the yield is different. I believe that the difference is how much we apply the gospel principles in our lives. Not only must we be careful not to sow in stony ground or poor soil, but also we must not give in to the cares of the world that will choke the spirit in our lives. We must also be willing to serve others and help them nourish the gospel seed in their lives and help them enjoy the blessings of the harvest. As we lose ourselves in serving others, our harvest becomes even richer and fuller.  And in so doing others and we will enjoy the rewards of the law of the harvest.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Which Way Do You Face?

When King Benjamin called the people of Zarahemla to come to the temple to hear his final words, the people came and pitched their tents facing towards the temple (Mosiah 2:6). They did that so they could remain in their tents and still see and hear the prophet speak to them. Elder Robbins spoke of an experience he had when first called as a member of the Seventy. He said Elder Packer asked him which way do you face? Then Elder Packer said:

“A Seventy,” he continued, “does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people. Never forget which way you face!”  (“Which Way Do You Face”, Elder Lynn G. Robbins, General Conference, October 2014).

This is a question that we need to ask ourselves often. Are we facing the same direction that the prophet is facing? Are we facing the temple? In other words are our thoughts and actions in line with the teachings of the prophets and the Gospel of Jesus Christ or are we aliening with the philosophies of men and the world? Elder Robbins continues:

“Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments (see Matthew 22:37–39). It is forgetting which way we face. And yet, we have all made that mistake because of the fear of men. In Isaiah the Lord warns us, “Fear ye not the reproach of men” (Isaiah 51:7; see also 2 Nephi 8:7). In Lehi’s dream, this fear was triggered by the finger of scorn pointed from the great and spacious building, causing many to forget which way they faced and to leave the tree “ashamed” (see 1 Nephi 8:25–28).

“This peer pressure tries to change a person’s attitudes, if not behavior, by making one feel guilty for giving offense. We seek respectful coexistence with those who point fingers, but when this fear of men tempts us to condone sin, it becomes a “snare” according to the book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 29:25). The snare may be cleverly baited to appeal to our compassionate side to tolerate or even approve of something that has been condemned by God. For the weak of faith, it can be a major stumbling block.  (“Which Way Do You Face”, Elder Lynn G. Robbins, General Conference, October 2014).

If the teachings of men and the world are in contrast to the commandments of God as is often the case and we agree with those teachings, we find ourselves facing away from God and his prophets and we lose the spirit of the Holy Ghost. This is a precarious position to be in and leads to apostasy. If we do not repent and turn again to God and his commandments and teachings, we risk losing the spirit completely and will be cut off from the presence of God and lose the blessings that come from obedience. Elder Robbins said:

“When people try to save face with men, they can unwittingly lose face with God. Thinking one can please God and at the same time condone the disobedience of men isn’t neutrality but duplicity, or being two-faced or trying to “serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24; 3 Nephi 13:24).

“While it certainly takes courage to face perils, the true badge of courage is overcoming the fear of men…

“Courage is not just one of the cardinal virtues, but as C. S. Lewis observed: “Courage is … the form of every virtue at the testing point. … Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”1 King Herod was sorrowful at the request to behead John the Baptist but wanted to please “them which sat with him at meat” (Matthew 14:9). King Noah was ready to free Abinadi until peer pressure from his wicked priests caused him to waver (see Mosiah 17:11–12). King Saul disobeyed the word of the Lord by keeping the spoils of war because he “feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (1 Samuel 15:24). To appease rebellious Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai, Aaron crafted a golden calf, forgetting which way he faced (see Exodus 32).” (“Which Way Do You Face”, Elder Lynn G. Robbins, General Conference, October 2014).

The Apostle Paul set the example when he said: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). We must be willing to go against the traditions of men and their teachings when they oppose those of God. Although we have our agency, if we are to remain in favor with God we need to choose his standards and commandments and not those of the world. Elder Christofferson recently said:

“God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, “that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” It is His plan and His will that we have the principal decision-making role in our own life’s drama. God will not live our lives for us nor control us as if we were His puppets, as Lucifer once proposed to do. Nor will His prophets accept the role of “puppet master” in God’s place. Brigham Young stated: “I do not wish any Latter Day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ,—the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves.” (“Free Forever, To Act For Themselves”, D. Todd Christofferson, General Conference, October 2014)

While God expects us to follow him and his prophets, we are not to do it blindly. As Elder Christofferson quoted Brigham Young above, we are found out the truth of what the scriptures and the prophets are teaching for ourselves. The way we do that is to test it by obeying the commandments and teachings and then pray to ask God if it is right. The scriptures teach that if we do this we will know if the principle is true or not.

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10: 3-5)

While the world and the philosophies of men become more like the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, we must have the courage to stand firm in keeping the commandments of God. We must have the faith to face towards God and His prophets and other leaders that are called of God to lead His Church. If we this we will never be left alone we will have his spirit to always be with us and will always be rooted in the path that leads back to our Heavenly Father and his Kingdom.

Your questions and comments are welcome.