Those who…plant seeds of peace [will] reap a harvest of goodness.
Something incredible happens when you take a tiny seed, put it under several inches of dirt, give it enough water, light, and nutrients, and – Boom – the earth will be moved. It doesn’t matter that the ground is a zillion times the weight of the seed. The seed will push and grow right through it. It’s a miracle, really. There is amazing power in a seed.
As far as I know, the prophet Alma wasn’t a farmer, but in his great discourse on Faith, he compared the word of God to a seed.
Now, we will compare the word [the gospel] unto a seed.
Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart…
if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and…
as the seed [will] swell and sprout, and begin to grow…
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 enlighten my understanding,
yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
Alma 32:28, 37, 30, 28
Planting the word, nourishing it, and having that seed swell, sprout, take root, and grow – is what we call conversion: having a change of heart. Or put more simply, it’s Faith. Hope. Love.
The principle of Faith is the same as the principle for crops: never underestimate the power of a seed. Every day, faithful people around the world plant seeds of Hope in the overturned soil of the heart. And every day those truths press against impossible odds and blossom.
Now, sometimes a seed of Peace is planted, as James suggests, and we see no harvest. Sometimes a seed is nourished with care, as Alma advises, and we don’t see it take root. Does it mean there is a glitch in the scripture’s promise? No.
Sometimes blossoming just takes time.
Take missionary work in Italy, for example
My daughter, Ashley, is currently serving a mission in Italy (ciaoroma.blogspot.com). Italy’s mission field was first opened to the gospel by Elder Lorenzo Snow in 1850. Because it has been a land steeped in the soils of religious tradition, gospel growth has been labored and slow.
Growth Rate of Church Membership in Italy
1855 = 64 members. 50 immigrated to the United States, leaving 14 members.
100 years later: 1967 = 66 members
1980s = 12,000 members
2012 = 25,000 members
Statistically, this field has been high labor and low yield. What are we to think? Is there something wrong with the land? With the farmer? Not necessarily. Perhaps it means there is something wrong with the seed? Or that miracles have ceased? No and no.
In science, the rule of thumb is: results take time to measure. In horticulture and agriculture – sometimes results just take time. Kind of like Black Bamboo.
Among the varieties of bamboo grown in China, the most beautiful is Black Bamboo. Black Bamboo will spread very quickly from a grown plant, but to grow and harvest this variety from a seed is another matter. The seed comes in a very hard shell, which a hobby gardener can crack and then follow a complex and exacting process to germinate it, but a farmer who wants to harvest acres of bamboo must be patient. He must carefully plant the bamboo seeds at the correct distance, and then nurture them carefully for a long time.
Jim Cecil witnessed the farming of Black Bamboo and shared this:
“Extending as far as the eye could see was an empty field of rich, black, tilled earth. Not a single bamboo plant was in sight, not even a tree. Peter [our guide] explained to us that the field had been sown a few weeks prior. Each of over a thousand farmers carried a heavy satchel of seeds, water and fertilizer on their backs. He explained the great care necessary at this step in the process…
“Once placed in the ground, each seed is individually fertilized with a deep drink of water and a handful of fertilizer from the farmer’s heavy satchel. The process of watering and fertilizing is ritually carried out weekly on a seed by seed basis for nearly five years. No heavy machines, no modern irrigation equipment just individual farmers carefully tending the individual needs of each seedling in the field.
“About a mile down the dusty road was a field that Peter told us had been sown two years prior. When we reached our destination we were surprised to see what looked to us like thousands of farmers working in an empty field.
“Our big surprise was when Peter told us that every week, up until the 11th month of the 5th year the bamboo fields appeared visually barren. In the 12th month of the 5th year the black bamboo would suddenly sprout and very rapidly grow up to 60 feet in just under 30 days.” (From his motivational talk: A Life Dedicated to Nurturing)
Some Planting Takes Time
Some planting takes time. Some cultivating takes care. Some development takes diligence. But when the seed is ready – against great odds – it breaks through and grows. In the case of Black Bamboo, it grows so rapidly you can’t contain it.
But if ye will nourish the word,
yea, nourish the [seed] as it beginneth to grow,
by your faith with great diligence, and with patience,
looking forward to the fruit thereof,
it shall take root;
and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
Up until recently, the growth of the Church in Italy has been, like growing black bamboo: slow. But slow growth isn’t just a metaphor for the mission field. It can be true of our own lives.
Which leads me to ask: How does the landscape of your world look?
In your own heart, have you experienced little growth lately? Perhaps you need to cultivate it with prayer. In another’s heart, has seed been planted with little result? Perhaps you need to nurture it with care.
In science, results take time to measure. In horticulture and agriculture, results simply take time. So, tenderly toil. Carefully nurture. Actively wait. And then watch what happens.
Just because you cannot see immediate growth, does not mean that germination is not occurring beneath the soil. There is more to life than meets the eye. You never know what small seed of faith you can plant in your own heart that will be a game-changer, and you never know what small seed of love you can plant in another’s life that will have great impact.
During the time I was writing these thoughts, the Chard family showed up on our doorstep with a big box wrapped in ribbon with a loving note attached. When we opened the box, we were delighted to find dozens of balloons. We smiled, laughed and cheered, but quickly realized that there was more. Each balloon carried inside it a note. In a flurry of popping balloons, love notes fluttered through the air. Notes with artwork by Xander and Ethan. Some notes saying, “You’re the Best!” Other notes sharing a fantastic joke like:
What did the Gingerbread man have on his bed? Cookie Sheets!
What do you call a meteor that doesn’t hit the earth? A Meteor-wrong!
Now, what the Chards did not know was that I had just been laid off of my job. Ever notice how some trials have highly unfortunate timing? Daughter going on a mission, another going to college, credit cards maxed-out with medical bills, and now one less paycheck. Sigh. Though I am good at distracting myself by keeping busy, I have moments when I focus on the empty field. And on a night when I was seeing a flat horizon, the Chards showed up bringing a box full of seeds of Love.
Planting seed doesn’t always mean preaching. It is kind, loving acts that bring hope in trials, light in darkness, and faith in Christ. Sowing seeds can be as simple as making a phone call to someone sick, on up to bringing someone into the gospel of Jesus Christ. A deep drink of water here, a handful of fertilizer there and – Boom – strength to press against the odds.
Sowing seeds of Love and Peace is like sowing black bamboo. You don’t know why it works; you just know it does. Seeds are planted and nurtured and then – over time – top soils of hurt and confusion are shoved away. Then new life emerges: stronger, focused, purpose-filled, peace-filled, beautiful, blessed.
If you’ve sowed and toiled and find yourself staring at an empty field, remember Black Bamboo.
Though you can’t see it – seeds are germinating.
Though you don’t sense it – roots are being established.
Though you feel alone – thousands of workers, here and beyond the veil, are aiding you with their satchels of seed, water, and fertilizer.
So, keep toiling. Carefully nurture. Actively wait. And then watch what happens. In the right time, the right season, harvest will not only spring up, but come in abundance. “And ye will say within yourselves – [this] is a good seed…for it enlighteneth my understanding, yea, it [is] delicious to me” (Alma 32).
That is the power and miracle of a seed.
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