Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Prophet Said to Plant a Garden

When I was growing up, every spring there was a family home evening in which we would get dragged outside to plant a garden. Our opening song, of course, would be, "The prophet said to plant a garden so that's what we'll do!" And we really had no other explanation except for that.

The way we talked about it, I used to think it was about preparing for the Apocalypse. We had to learn to grow a measly row of potatoes and onions in case of a future famine, war, or some other physical crisis. It was always a little awkward when we tried to salvage a survivor bean or raspberry and realize we were toast in an actual famine. But as the world becomes more uncertain, institutional safeguards fail, and especially as climate change becomes more and more obvious, I don't discount that explanation at all.

But since I have started picking up the gardening tradition again the past couple of years (I am not an expert gardener yet, by any means) I have decided that for me, gardening has been more of a protection against spiritual disaster than a physical one.

I have learned things digging around in the dirt. I have learned about living sustainably, and most difficult of all, all the ways I need to repent. I have learned about diversity. Respect. Humility. I have learned about the conditions required for abundance. I have seen how our spiritual pollution accumulates until it manifests as physical pollution, and how toxins build up over time until they make us sick. I have learned that you reap what you sow. Most of all, I have learned that all life is a miracle. Even weeds.

I confess that these lessons are not easy for me to hold onto in a world hell-bent on depleting every resource available for a dollar, and exhausting every speck of my energy to be a consumer of products. I know that I am complicit in all kinds of devilish systems, and I feel powerless in the face of them. But for me, for a few months of the year at least, I garden. I defy the wasteland and pluck peas. I believe President Benson was right, but not for the reasons I though, or perhaps even the reasons he thought. We need more gardens. It is healing. It is connection. It is hope.

In the end, I believe we are not all that different from a carrot or a strawberry. "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." I believe that we are actually just complicated plants that once broke free from the dirt and are now stuck walking, rooting our way back to earth, severed from the womb until we eventually wilt and withdraw back into it. The harvest is a part of that cycle. So is the burning. But spring comes again.