Preliminary thoughts for a sacrament meeting talk
Seeds are powerful metaphors. Much of life seems to be bound up with seeds one way or another. All mammals pass through a seed life stage, as do many plants. One of the Restoration’s most powerful seed metaphors is contained in Alma 32, where the word is compared to a seed. The seed is advertised as that of a large tree, representing a mature and strong faith. But one can be unsure of the seed yet willing to give it a try. But you have to follow a protocol to really test the seed, just like you would with a regular seed. You plant it in good soil, when it sprouts you at least know it is a good seed and so worth caring for a little more. As it grows, you begin to see its utility so you continue to care for it. Eventually it is the promised tree. Such is the word of truth, that it can grow inwardly, and eventually become a sure faith, like a mighty oak.
The Buddhists tell us we already have within in us all the seeds of good and evil, in all their variety, that we see in the world. We have the seeds within us of the worst of the worst of any evil that we see in this world. Of course we also have the seeds of the most saintly behavior that we can imagine. The only question before us is the same experiment of Alma 32: which seeds are we going to water, which seeds are we going to care for, and which plants will we pluck out as they grow?
The idea that we have all these seeds within us is somewhat sobering, and perhaps humbling. It means that we cannot deny the humanity of the worst criminals we can encounter or read about. That is actually frightening is some ways. We you read about people doing really bad things—say, child molesting. That rips my heart out when I think of my own grandchildren when I hear about these kinds of crimes. I would like to think of the perpetrators as inhuman. And yet I have to realize that that capacity exists within me as well. Now that is not a seed I have watered, that I can tell, but it is there, and I could have watered it. How would we end up in a place like that? Usually it is one decision after another, each decision probably very small, but the cumulative effect was to end up in a very bad place. So I can have a little compassion and understanding, difficult though it may be. Molesters are criminals, but they are humans. This is absolutely not to say that child molesters should not be punished—they absolutely must be. But perhaps we can try to focus a little more on rehabilitation when we see our common humanity.
So how exactly can we water the seeds of righteousness, of compassion, and truth and justice?
First is just plain recognition that the bad seeds are there within us and that they are going to sprout from time to time. It is said that when the Buddha was most severely tempted by Mara as he neared illumination, that he welcomed Mara (the devil figure), and in a sense embraced the temptations. Not giving into them, but recognizing that these temptations are a part of life. We must recognize that evil thoughts will arise within us. We can recognize their existence, and not fear them. It doesn’t mean we are bad because bad thoughts may occasionally arise within us. We can accept that these thoughts exist. We can recognize them, welcome them fearlessly, and then let them go. We don’t need to water these thoughts, but we also don’t need to condemn ourselves simply because the thoughts arise. It is when we “entertain” these thoughts that we run into trouble.
Second, we need to learn how to water the good seeds.
We can start by trying to follow the Savior (or the Buddha if you like). WWJD or WWBD. What would Jesus do? We know that he would above all act with compassion, and be ruled by compassion in all things. Not an easy task for us to follow. But we can start small. A simple smile to every one we meet. We can sow seeds of happiness, however small they may be. That power is within us right now. We can listen without judgement to those in need. We can be of simple service. A meal, a visit to the hospital, helping with yardwork. Community volunteering. All of these may be small seeds, but like the seed of Alma 32, each seed will surely grow. We can feel the swelling in our breasts just as soon as we do any of these acts. We can thus prove the worth of the good seeds. We get no such feeling nor peace from the seeds of avarice, of greed, of meanness, etc.
We can water the seeds of goodness by recalling words of truth and repeating them in our minds. These are not vain repetitions. These words might be a passage of scripture, or perhaps a verse or two of a hymn. “To the wounded and the weary, I would show a gentle heart.” I can repeat that, and as I do, thinking about the words, the dews of heaven can distil peace to my soul, and thus help me make decisions that further water the good seeds.
Putting ourselves in another’s shoes may be one of the very best ways to water the best seeds within us. When we are quick to anger with another, we might try to put ourselves in that persons shoes. Anger usually dissipates very quickly when that happens. It is like pulling out weeds!