Finding God in the Garden: Planting, Pruning and the Plan of Happiness (Paperback)(edit)
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From the Savior’s parable of the seed and the sower to Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree, Latter-day Saints have a wealth of scriptural connections to nature and even to gardening.
In Finding God in the Garden, authors Brent and Wendy Top relate the lessons they’ve learned both about growing plants and about growing in the gospel from the vegetable and flower gardens they’ve kept since they were newlywed apartment-dwellers.
Whether it’s the figurative pruning we receive from the Master Gardener or such advice as “don’t spray Roundup on your tomatoes,” the authors show us with wit and wisdom how well the worlds of gardening and gospel living intertwine.
Filled with color photographs, many from the authors’ own gardens, Finding God in the Garden is a beautiful addition to the library of both the amateur and the master gardener — and of the earnest gospel seeker.
- Size: 7x7
- Pages: 144
- Published: 2010
About the Authors
Brent L. Top is a professor and the chair of Church history and doctrine at BYU, where he has also served as associate dean of Religious Education. Brother Top has written numerous books, including co-authoring LDS Beliefs: A Doctrinal Reference, and is a popular speaker at BYU Education Week. He served as mission president of the Illinois Peoria Mission and is currently serving as a stake president. Brent and his wife, Wendy, are the parents of four children and live in Pleasant Grove, Utah.
As soon as the snow melts and the sure signs of spring begin to appear, we are out in the yard and the garden. It feels so good to once again work the soil and do yard work. As excited as we always are when spring arrives, we are quickly reminded that good gardens require work—a lot of it. Gone are the days of Eden when flowers bloomed and trees and vines bore fruit spontaneously. All you have to do is look at your yard and garden in early spring to recognize that! Remnants of winter can be seen all around. There are those pesky leaves that fell after the last autumn raking or blew into corners and crevices with the icy winds. In the flower beds are dead plants—summer annuals and the foliage of perennials killed by old Jack Frost—that have to be removed. Unfortunately, winter almost always kills some branches in trees and bushes. Good gardeners know that summer growth, no matter how vigorous and vibrant, can’t totally cover up unsightly dead branches and decomposing leaves. As a result, you see the gardeners at Temple Square and grounds crews at other impressive gardens clearing out the old to make ready for the new. Without spring-cleaning, summer gardens fall short of their glorious potential. So it is with people.
The term spring-cleaning is probably more often associated with the cleaning of houses than with cleaning yards and gardens. During the Victorian era, most homes were heated with wood-burning fireplaces and/or coal-burning stoves and were often lighted by oil-burning lamps. These produced soot, which accumulated in the houses on shelves, on window sills, on furniture, and even in bedding. No doubt cold-air inversions in mountain valleys trapped even more of the unsightly and unhealthy residue during the winter months. As the weather warmed, houses were cleaned from top to bottom of the winter accumulation of soot. The annual ritual became known as spring-cleaning.
When our family lived in Israel several years ago, we gained a greater appreciation for the notion of spring-cleaning as it relates to people. A Jewish holy day that occurs each spring is Pesach. We know it as Passover (most of us are somewhat familiar with it from reading the Old Testament). Immediately before this most significant celebration, devout Jews thoroughly clean their homes and places of business. The reason for this is that Passover is also called the “feast of unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:17), and products containing yeast or leavening of any kind are forbidden during this week-long commemoration. Grocery stores remove it from their shelves or cover it so it cannot be sold to anyone, including Gentiles. Restaurants serve sandwiches or pizza made with flat, unleavened crackers known as matzot. It is fascinating to observe. Private residences are also thoroughly cleaned. Every nook and cranny is swept bare from top to bottom so that no yeast or crumb of bread or anything remotely related to leavening can be found. To observant Jews at Passover, leavening represents death, decay, corruption, and uncleanness. This spring-cleaning is a very literal act that symbolically represents the need to continually cleanse from our lives any remnant of spiritual decay.
Each of us has both formal and informal ways whereby we can experience a spiritual spring-cleaning. On Sundays we have an opportunity to carefully examine ourselves, looking for anything and everything that stifles spiritual growth and shades us from life-giving Light. With the sacred sacramental covenant we promise, through the power of the Atonement of our Savior, to clean out the corruption and decay of our lives, whether big and unsightly or small and hidden from view. In a less formal way but just as spiritually significant, we can experience a spring-cleaning as we daily kneel before our Maker in personal and family prayers and as we pray unceasingly in our hearts throughout the day. There we may humbly and continually confess our sins and weaknesses, ask for forgiveness, and recommit ourselves to nourishing our faith by turning from sin and turning to God with increased love and devotion. This kind of spiritual cleaning doesn’t have to be just in springtime. In fact, it must not be. It needs to be persistent and perpetual. Repenting and improving each day through the grace and mercy of Christ makes us more pure and spiritually beautiful to the Master Gardener and more capable of bearing the kinds of blooms and fruits that glorify Him.
Not long ago, we hosted a ward party in our backyard. In preparation, we carefully weeded the flower beds, mowed and trimmed the grass, and discarded all the unsightly things we had cleaned out of the garden. We weren’t trying to impress anybody but wanted it to be nice and pleasing for all who would be there. In a way, it was our offering to the ward—our contribution to the success of the party, a contribution that was offered in love for our friends.
Our lives are like a garden to be presented to the King of Kings as a gift of love and ultimate tribute. As the Book of Mormon admonishes, “Offer your whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26). It goes without saying that we would want that garden to be cleaned and cleared of anything and everything that is unsightly or displeasing to the King. That requires spring cleaning, summer cleaning, fall cleaning, winter cleaning—in short, continual cleaning. Then we can feel confident that our offering is acceptable. As we clear out the winterkill from our garden and flower beds each spring, plowing them under and preparing the soil, we are reminded that every day we are cleaning and cultivating the garden of our souls that we may humbly present ourselves to the Master Gardener, prepared for the seeds of faith He desires to sow within us.