The Sugar Beet Farm

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“The Sugar Beet Farm,” Ensign, Aug. 1995, 69–70

The Sugar Beet Farm

In June 1964, rain had been falling intermittently for days when the bishop, with whom I served as counselor, called one Sunday morning to ask me to conduct the day’s meetings. “We must remind the ward that the beets need to be thinned,” he told me, “or the stake stands to lose the crop.”

In those days, stakes had assignments for welfare production projects. Our particular stake farm had been growing sugar beets for the Church welfare program for years. Early each summer, we used hoes to thin the crop before the beets became too large to thin; if beets were not thinned, an inferior crop or no crop would be produced.

Our ward had already passed up several opportunities to complete our assigned rows, and now I was worried that the rain would prevent us from meeting our deadline, only a week away. Despite my personal dislike of sugar beet thinning, I resolved to help the ward fulfill its duty.

As the men of the ward assembled for priesthood meeting later that morning, I heard the rain intensify, and I feared that the ground would not dry out enough during the week for us to work. Nevertheless, when I made announcements I pleaded for as many brethren as possible to come to the farm at five o’clock the next morning to finish our assignment. I was surprised to hear myself say that it didn’t matter what the weather conditions were; if the men would show up in the morning, they would be able to thin the beets.

As I sat down, I wondered why I had allowed myself to make such a promise. Silently praying, however, I felt calmness and recognized that I had been inspired by the Spirit.

Later, when I stepped up to the podium to dismiss Sunday School opening exercises, I stood for a moment watching the rain fall outside the open windows. Then I announced in a confident voice that we needed everyone at the farm in the morning to thin beets. I reaffirmed that it didn’t matter what the weather forecast said; if the ward’s able-bodied members gathered at the farm in the morning, we would be able to thin the beets. This time I felt no doubt that I was guided by the Spirit.

As I went outside to my car, the sky was still overcast, but it had stopped raining, and I noticed a streak of blue in the gray clouds. I could feel my spirit lift with gladness, knowing that we would be able to fulfill our assignment. As I stood by the car, I could see in my mind’s eye the field of beets and the ward members completing the thinning.

Suddenly I felt drops of rain on my face, and when I glanced skyward, the blue streak of sky had vanished. But my hopes remained strong.

It rained most of the afternoon before we drove back to the chapel for our evening sacrament meeting (at the time, the consolidated meeting schedule had not been adopted). Nevertheless, I hoped that we would see the sun before the meeting finished. As I opened the meeting, I again reminded the congregation about the assignment in the morning. At one point, sunlight did indeed fill the chapel’s stained-glass windows with beautiful colors, but by the time the meeting ended the sky was dark again, and it was raining harder than ever. I repeated the assignment again when I announced the closing song.

As I knelt by my bed that night listening to the rain hit our steel patio roof, I poured out my heart to the Lord. What had gone wrong? Was I foolish, or had I been directed by the Spirit to make the promise? All through the night, I awoke each hour to listen to the rain and ask the same questions.

When my alarm went off at 4:30 A.M., it was still raining. I sank into an overstuffed chair in the living room and put my head in my hands. How would I face the ward members, and what would I say to them? As I stared at the clock, the phone rang. The elders quorum president told me that he had driven most of the way to the Church farm and then had turned around and come home. He reported that water had collected all along the highway. He said that he had seen no other cars headed to the farm. I thanked him and hung up.

I was sick at heart. What was the matter with me? How could I have been so wrong? Why did I make those promises? Feeling unworthy to pray, I went back to bed to listen to the rain and waited for the morning light.

Later, as I drove to my work, the rain stopped, the sky began to clear in the east, and the sun broke through. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed one of the brothers from the ward arriving at the same place where I work. Remembering what the elders quorum president had reported, I blurted out, “I didn’t see you at the Church farm this morning.”

He turned and looked at me with surprise. “I didn’t see you at the Church farm this morning,” he said.

My heart sank. This brother had been there! He continued: “When you promised us that if we came to the farm this morning we would be able to thin the beets, I felt the Spirit and knew you were right. I was the only one there, but the ground was just right for the work at hand. I could see it raining all around, but it didn’t rain on the farm except for some light sprinkles. The conditions were perfect.”

Feeling humbled and out of place in this man’s presence, I mumbled some response and walked away. He had been the only one to follow the prompting of the Spirit. Where was my faith? How could I have been so blind?

Years have passed since that beautiful June morning when I learned that the Lord does speak through his servants. Since then, I have tried to listen and act when prompted by the Holy Spirit. This experience changed my life, and I will ever be grateful to the Lord and to the one believing elder who had the faith to follow the Spirit.