My Recent Missionary Moment
It’s been rare while I’ve lived here in Utah, but every now and then I am able to have a discussion with someone about some of the basic doctrines of the Church. These “missionary moments” are enthralling, and take me back to my days in Hawaii when I was able to do this each and every day for two years. I absolutely love talking about the Restoration of the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ, and the blessings that gospel has brought into my life.
Unfortunately, my most recent dialogue of this nature turned out to be less than sincere. I expect my peer was laying the foundation to their own “witnessing” experience, which consisted of (in this instance) criticisms of the Book of Abraham, the Book of Mormon, the deification of man doctrine, the Plan of Salvation, and the personal revelation that comes through the Holy Ghost.
Disturbingly, I’ve never understood the contrast of our respective “witnessing”. Mine involves bearing testimony of my Savior and the things which I know to be true; theirs so often involves bearing testimony of things which they seemingly know to be untrue, and yet have never been experienced or investigated. I’ve seen more logical sense in the fanboy wars between Call of Duty and Battlefield fans.
But I digress.
I bring this up because this experience reminded me of a parable that is sure to comfort any downtrodden missionary.
The Life Cycle of an Apple
Review with me the life cycle of an apple.
It starts out as a seed, which somewhere along the way finds a soft spot of ground and germinates.
What then? This seedling grows into a strong, tall tree which eventually blossoms.
These blossoms soon turn into beautiful, bright red fruit.
Hopefully, each apple is picked while it is still ripe and delicious. But what happens when it is left on the vine too long? In that case it would rot and eventually be discarded. If it was picked too early it would likewise be discarded, and eventually rot all the same. The fruit has to be picked at the right time – not too soon, and not too late – in order to be ripe, healthy, and tasty.
But once it’s discarded, fallen off the tree, it begins the cycle all over again. The seeds within the fruit are ready to germinate and grow trees of their own.
The “Apples” We Pick
How are the people of the world like apples? In sharing the gospel, have you ever encountered a rotten apple? I’m sure you have, just as I have. We meet someone and share with them the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, only to find that they were not quite ripe. Is that an opportunity lost forever?
Of course it’s not! We pick them, move on, and then leave them to regrow and wait to be picked once more.
God and Growth
In our overabundant harvest of rotten apples, do we ever get discouraged with the lack of growth that takes place? I know that I have. It seems like we tend to our orchard, faithfully watering and planting, but we never see a harvest. How can that be fair?
While it’s easy to become concerned, it’s important to remember that God is in charge of seed growth. He knows his children well, and has a unique plan for each of them to receive the gospel. Paul taught,
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase“ (1 Corinthians 3:5-6).
It may be worthwhile to point out just two examples from the Book of Mormon who persevered even after facing rotten apples.
Nephi was himself rejected in Zarahemla. What happened after he picked some rotten apples? The Lord told him,
“And now behold, I command you, that ye shall go and declare unto this people, that thus saith the Lord God, who is the Almighty: Except ye repent ye shall be smitten, even unto destruction.”
And what did Nephi do?
“And behold, now it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord which had been spoken unto him, concerning their destruction if they did not repent.
“And it came to pass that thus he did go forth in the Spirit, from multitude to multitude, declaring the word of God, even until he had declared it unto them all, or sent it forth among all the people” (see Helaman 10:11-12, 17)
Alma also faced rejection, in a city called Ammonihah. The Lord told him,
“Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you.
“And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again unto the people of the city; yea, preach unto them. Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them” (Alma 8:15-16).
We can’t tell by ourselves who is ripe and who isn’t; let us pick as much as we can without regard to the outward man, knowing that God is aware of the heart of each person (see 1 Samuel 16:7). Only then will we get the chance to
“pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you” (see Alma 32:42-43; see also Doctrine and Covenants 10:18).
Don’t be concerned with rotten apples. This fruit that is precious above all else is a soul of infinite worth. The ripe fruit, the elect, are out there; they are even now only kept from the truth because they don’t know where to find it (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:12). Seek those elect. Seek the ripe apples.