In grade three each student in my class was given a Styrofoam cup of dirt and assigned to plant and grow a little bean seed. I put my cup in our kitchen window, where it could get plenty of sun, and I could water it daily. After what, for a third grader seemed like forever, a little sprout of green appeared.
Turned out it was a weed. And it was the only thing that grew. That early failure has perhaps contributed to my belief that I lack the “green thumb.”
But there is one seed I have loved nourishing in my life—faith.
The Prophet Alma explains how to nurture faith: “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 … 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” (Alma 32:28).
Experiencing the thrill of spiritual growth—the enlarging of my soul, the enlightening of my understanding, the partaking of the fruits of faith—truly is the most delicious and satisfying aspect of my entire life.
Looking Inward to Grow Spiritually
But maybe you feel like your spiritual garden, like my seed in a Styrofoam cup, is only capable of producing weeds. Alma’s analogy of planting a seed of faith is tactile enough to share with primary children but expansive enough to hold the spiritual interest of even the most seasoned gospel gardeners. It reads like a to-do list: plant the seed, nourish it.
Like those Alma is teaching, we seem to always want to know, “What shall we do?” (Alma 32:9).
Elaine Shaw Sorensen writes: “Latter-day Saints seem naturally inclined to focus upon their works. This propensity to rely so heavily on works that document obedience seems to be an outgrowth of our present technological, behavioristic society, which places so much emphasis on observable achievement … What we need is to extend quietly inward toward humility and upward toward God” (“Seeds of Faith: A Followers View of Alma 32,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, the Testimony of the Word, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), 129-139).
Alma reminds the humbled Zoramites and us that the Israelites were given a simple solution to a dire situation of being killed by venomous snakes. They only needed to look upon a symbol of a serpent that Moses did raise before them, “And many did look and live” (Alma 33:19). Multitudes, however, hardened their hearts and died. Alma explains, “the reason they would not look [was] because they did not believe that it would heal them” (Alma 33:20).
As Alma had explained earlier, the Lord was angry with his people “because they will not understand thy mercies” (Alma 33:16). They would not look to Christ for salvation.
Examining Our Personal Devotion to God
Initially, the poor Zoramites believed that because they had been cast out of their synagogues, they could no longer worship God.
We can relate to that can’t we? Covid-19 has disrupted the way we usually show our faith. We cannot sit in our usual pew or attend our normal meetings and activities. Many of us have really had to re-examine what our devotion to God looks like on a more private, personal, inner plane.
Sister Sorenson elaborates: “As with the apostate Zoramites who lacked the essential humility that leads to faith, the achievements and prosperity that embellish our lives become meaningless trappings of mortality with no eternal significance without faith … [They] can become little more than offerings on the Rameumptom (Alma 31:21), if our hearts are not earnest … Behaviorism alone does not work, however, for those elements that are spiritual in nature: discernment; finding meaning; longing after goodness; having ethical awareness and moral courage; loving learning; having concern for excellence; having love, charity, or humility; becoming godly” (“Seeds of Faith: A Followers View of Alma 32, 129-139).
God is always more concerned with who we are becoming as a result of what we are doing.
Elder David A. Bednar beautifully summarizes the vision behind many recent adjustments to how we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worship: “We should not expect the Church as an organization to teach or tell us everything we need to know and do to become devoted disciples and endure valiantly to the end. Rather, our personal responsibility is to learn what we should learn, to live as we know we should live, and to become who the Master would have us become” (“Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing,” Ensign, May 2019, 54).
Partaking of the Fruit of Christ
So, how do we tend to our individual processes of becoming faithful disciples?
We “begin to believe in the Son of God” (Alma 33:22). We have faith as Amulek promised that “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice” and encircle us “in arms of safety “(Alma 34:16). The seed has to be Christ. What we are to do is to believe Christ. We believe and trust Him. We look and live.
We believe that being “clasped in the arms of Jesus” (Mormon 5:11) will satisfy the demands of justice and leave us free to grow in godliness. As Amulek taught, we should exercise “faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:16). In short, we believe in Christ’s Atonement enough to use it.
The “work” is getting the words of Christ in our hearts so that His power and love can swell and grow and enlarge us in the process. With Christ, we can “Work out your salvation” (Alma 34:37) by making room for Him to work in us.
Perhaps we could take a little more time just being amazed at what the Lord can grow in our hearts. If we give place for Christ, even if that means rearranging some of the priorities of our lives, it will miraculously grow within us. The seed itself will tell us what it needs to grow just as a mother’s body responds to and nurtures to the needs of a fetus.
We need to take a bite of the fruits of Christ. It is so good. It is miraculous. It is precious and sweet, and has the power to fill us, every crevasse of hunger, every thirsty cell.
I may not be much of a gardener, but I can testify of the goodness of the seed.
The way I make room within my heart for the words and love of Christ is to follow Alma’s counsel: “plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen” (Alma 33:23).
We can do this. We can make room for the Savior, His light and His joy. We can be amazed at what He helps our hearts become. That we can do, if we will exercise true faith.