“Lessons from My Garden,” Ensign, Mar. 1982, 50
I planted a garden that summer for one reason only. President Spencer W. Kimball had said that I should. It wasn’t that I disliked gardening or hadn’t gardened before, it’s just that there were so many complications that year. The park rules for my newly acquired mobile home forbade planting gardens, meaning that I would have to rent a plot down the road. And my agenda for the summer allowed me only one free Saturday to get the seeds in the ground. I obediently rented the plot, used the Saturday for planting, and then abandoned the garden to other commitments, hoping to find a few moments later in the week to keep things under control.
The week went by, and half another, before I stopped at the garden again. It was early spring and the sun was just breaking above the trees as reached my corner of the lot. Golden fingers of sunlight burst along the rows of peas that had mocked my neglect by pushing their heads through the soil.
As I stood watching the light touch first one tender shoot and then another, I witnessed something of a miracle-a glimpse of the intricate chemistry of creation bearing annual testimony to the omnipotence of a divine Father.
As the summer progressed, I was drawn to the garden as much by my new insights as by the need to weed and water. My struggle to keep the plants alive in one rocky corner of the garden brought to my mind in a new and forceful way the wisdom of the analogies used by the Savior. Those seeds that “fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth” did indeed sprout early, only to wither under the midday heat. Others, sown too close to the garden’s borders where morning glory and thistle flourished, struggled against the persistent weeds and, despite my steady efforts to rescue them, eventually succumbed. They were, as the Lord noted, like those of us who walk too close to that fine line between the teachings of God and the grasping, smothering ways of the world. I left the garden after each visit a little more aware of the thistles and morning glories that I was likely to run into during the day.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of that summer was one on responsibility. The garden plot I worked was not my own. Neither were the other essentials for a successful harvest—rain, sun, and rich soil. All had been placed at my disposal with the expectation that I would care for and improve the garden plot. I learned quickly that “magnify” meant constant work and attention: day-to-day weeding, dusting, watering, and picking—occasional spurts of energy were not sufficient. I also learned that I could not always pick the times I chose to perform my labors. A spring frost warning meant that I put aside other things to cover new tomato plants. Severe summer storm alerts meant that I give mature tomatoes and pole beans extra support, not tomorrow, but tonight.
My labor quickly became one of satisfaction and love. Each day brought new growth, each hour healthier plants. I drew the rest of the family into the experience, and we talked, as we worked our way down the rows, of other gospel lessons revealed in the garden. Although we had no wheat, we certainly had tares, and we pulled and cast them aside. We saw that tiny seeds when properly nurtured grow into vibrant, productive plants, and we came to better understand Alma’s teachings on faith. By the end of the growing season we not only had gained a great deal of understanding and an ample harvest, but also had enriched and improved the garden for the owner. We all had, in a sense, become joint heirs through our efforts.
As spring comes now—even when the freezer is full and the shelves stocked with canned produce—there is no question but that the family will plant a garden. It may be behind a friend’s home or in planter boxes on a balcony. We may need to double our weekly intake of last year’s dill pickles and chili sauce to make room for this year’s—or give most of our harvest away to a needy family. But we will plant one anyway. We simply can’t afford to go through a season without reaping its spiritual harvest. Kent A. Farnsworth, Muscatine, Iowa