My wife and I planted a garden this month. Squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons, bell peppers, and strawberries. I figure that before I risk raising a child, I should at least be able to raise a few plants. We’ll see how it goes. Seeds are interesting things, though. As I’ve tried to grow them in the past I’ve noticed something I find rather counter-intuitive: When left alone, most seeds just don’t die. They’re resilient. Stash them on a shelf for two, three years, and they’re still good to plant. But once they’ve sprouted, that new plant is much more vulnerable than it would have been had it just stayed as a seed. Now, it can die hard, and die fast.
The vulnerability of potential
Seeds, though resilient, are pretty much useless unless you plant them. They don’t do anything. I mean, I guess you can eat some of them (pumpkins, sunflowers, peanuts), but ultimately their purpose is to bare fruit.
But as soon as you plant that seen, you’re putting it in danger. That’s kind of surprising to me. You’d think that as you nourish a seed into a plant, it’d only get stronger and stronger, right? Wrong. As soon as that seed starts to unlock its potential, failure looms large. It sheds its protective casing, and reaches for the sky.
In order for a seed to fulfill the measure of its creation, it must be planted and therefore be placed in harm’s way.
What Alma 32 adds
Alma 32 treats the word of God as a seed, so we’re going to roll with that example. But keep in mind what the ‘seeds’ in your life might be.
The word of God (books of scripture) sitting on a shelf is just as useful as an unplanted seed. Its potential is enormous, but it’s useless until you crack it open and start to study. Once you do start to study, a few things happen. Alma 32:30 says,
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.
OK, so at the very least we know that the seed is viable. It’s growing. What is it growing into? We can’t be sure yet, but it’s a good seed. Something is happening.
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.
… 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…
There’s an exchange of dormancy going on here. First, the potential within the seed is dormant, and faith is active. Once we plant the seed and start to see it grow, we no longer have faith that the seed is viable, because we see it growing before our eyes. We have knowledge. Now, faith (in that aspect of growth) is dormant and growth is active. But our journey isn’t over yet.
…and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
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.
All we’ve done so far is plant the seed. We haven’t seen the fruit yet, we just know the seed is growing. So faith does not cease to exist, it just transitions into its next natural stage.
Levels of faith
Now, your faith will be tested at a new level. First, you noticed the seed on your shelf. It’s been there for a while. You decided to throw it in the ground and see if anything came from it. A low-risk investment. But then something actually started to grow. Now you have to make a choice:
And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
Now you have to decide whether or not your’re going to see this thing through. Will you give up on the budding sapling, or will you try to unlock its full potential? It’s a much larger investment.
Once you’ve planted that seed and it has sprouted, you are now accountable for its growth. You have put that seed in a position of vulnerability. You know it’s growing, but now it’s your responsibility to make sure it does grow. As the verse mentions, IF ye nourish it, it will bring forth fruit…
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…
Yes, the sun is dangerous. It’s an impersonal danger factor. But the real reason the plant fails is because you neglected it. It’s not the sun’s fault, and it’s not the seed’s fault. It’s your fault. This is also clear in the following verse:
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.
What are your “seeds?”
OK so how are we supposed to apply all of this? What’s the moral of the story? That’s up to you. I’ll give you a few ideas of how I think these principles apply in my own life, but take a few moments to figure out how it applies in yours.
- Whatever my seed is (faith, forgiveness, a new skill, a good habit), I can’t just hope it bears fruit. I have to purposefully nourish it—weed it, water it, give it sunlight—consistently. It’s vulnerable, and I am its protector.
- I shouldn’t be too quick to blame the seed when it’s the gardener who has been negligent. Just because I see someone else’s sapling fail doesn’t mean the seed I’ve planting is bad. Just because I see someone else lose faith in the restored gospel doesn’t mean my seed (or even theirs) was bad. I shouldn’t compare my seeds to someone else’s.
- My seeds are the product of someone else’s fruit. Once I’ve nurtured my seed to the point that it bears fruit, that fruit will then bear seeds for others to plant.
- Looking at the Plan of Salvation from a macro perspective: In the pre-existence, I was a seed. Resilient, full of potential, but unable to fully realize it. In order to unlock that potential, I chose to be planted on Earth. But now that I’ve been planted in a mortal body on a fallen planet, I’m vulnerable. There’s danger at every turn. Some of us will nourish ourselves, some of us won’t. Some will grow strong, some will wither. The choice is mine, and God is ready to lend a helping hand.
Figure out what your seeds are. Have you planted them yet? What’s stopping you? Are you nourishing the ones you have planted? Are you protecting them from the harsh rays of the sun? Have they brought forth fruit yet? What kind of fruit are you looking for? How will you use that fruit to help others plant similar seeds? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.