I was asked to speak today on Jesus Christ, the Master Gardener.
A master is defined as: a person eminently skilled in something.
Most of us not only would trust, but would jump at the chance to either learn to play the piano at the hands of a master pianist, learn to paint at the hands of a master painter, learn to cook at the hands of a master chef, or to swim, run, or play tennis at the hands of a master athlete. Why then, do we not always trust, feel completely secure, or content at learning to become more like Christ at the hands of Christ, himself the Master Gardener?
Christ is striving to make of us something more than we would choose to make of ourselves. He wants us to live up to our glorious potential as daughters of God. We might be content to merely be “a nice person.” He wants us to be like Him and accept and qualify for our inheritance.
Jesus Christ said: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). He proposes to make us holy so that we may “abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22) and “dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57).
During the process of striving to become more like our Master, there are bound to be growing pains that we may not always understand.
President Hugh B. Brown, former member of the Twelve apostles, related a personal experience. He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet high and was yielding no berries.
“I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake…, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying.
“I looked at the currant bush, and smiled, and said, ‘What are you crying about?’ ”
“I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: ‘How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.’
President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’ “
Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, the commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” As the general went into the other room, President Brown looked on his desk and saw his personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.”
What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination.
Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:
“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall.
“And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness…
“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”5
Hugh B. Brown couldn’t have possibly guessed at the time that he was being cut and pruned for the holy apostleship, for his eternal companion and for six children to be married in the temple.
We may not know why we are being “pruned” and “cut down,” but if we look to Christ, our master gardener, with a humble heart, we will be able to draw closer to Him, be strengthened by Him, and become more like Him, which is why we were sent to this earth, and why we are “pruned” in the first place. It would be a shame to be “pruned” and “cut down” and not have something beautiful – our mind, our character, our spirit – to show for it.
With all my unexpected health challenges, I immediately loved the following quote when I heard it for the first time over a decade ago: “The only reason I am upset is because I had the audacity to think I should know what should happen next.” – Unknown
Only Heavenly Father and Jesus Chris know what should happen next to make us who they want us to become. We are not smarter, more experienced or love ourselves or even our family members more than the Master loves us or them. We do not see the whole picture. Christ knows the end from the beginning. He knows what we need for our eternal progression despite our pleas for what we want at this mortal instant.
In (Romans 8:28) we are promised, “All things work together for good to them that love God.”
Bruce C. Hafen expounds: “All things working together for our good is very different from all thing working together for our apparent success or excellence as measured by the standard of this world. Because his making us perfect enough to enjoy eternal life is our ultimate goal, we may need all things to work ‘for our good’ in such a way that there are growing pains, tests, afflictions and the purification by fire. ‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten’ (Revelation 3:19)….We may have had encounters that are harsh, painful, and beyond our ability (let alone the ability of other people) to understand.”
It’s not God’s plan for us to come to earth to experience a perfect life -but rather a perfecting one. As Amulek tells us: This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 34;32) And we must remember it is all going to be worth it!
Unfortunately, Satan, the master of deceit, will do everything he can to keep us from remembering this truth and viewing our circumstances, struggles and heartache with purpose and an eternal perspective. He knows a lack of trust in Christ’s capable hands and only brings sorrow, bitterness, discouragement, defeat and hopelessness.
During out times of seemingly unanswered prayers and bitter cups of heartache, our state of peace and happiness largely depends on how we choose to look upon what we might consider painful or unfair and about our understanding of the great plan of happiness. Do we choose to question and not to trust? Or do we choose to exercise even greater patience, obedience, faith and trust in the Master Gardener and in his ultimate plan for us.
I believe nothing will have a more profound effect upon our mortal experience than deciding to have faith and trust in Jesus Christ, our Master Gardner. Trusting my Savior has blessed me with a perfect peace in my life….come what may…
Elder Oaks said, “Faith means trust—trust in God’s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable.”
Elder Holland stated in this last conference, “In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited.…. when those moments come and issues surface, when these issues the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes…I know that at our peril would we allow doubt or devils to sway us from its path. Hope on. Journey on.”
As we nourish our seed of faith through personal righteousness, learning of our Master, following his example and communing with him, we will be able to say as Elder Holland, “What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life.”
If your faith or trust in Jesus Christ, the master gardener is ever weak or waning, think on how much He has already proved his love for us. Jesus Christ endured the greatest pain that has and ever will been known, first in Gethsemane, and then on Calvary as He took upon Him the sins, sorrows and sicknesses of the world. In doing so, there is no physical pain, mental anguish, heartache, weakness, or infirmity that we experience that the Savior has not already experienced firsthand.
He truly is the master, not only having experienced all but overcome it all. Because Christ suffered for us individually, He understands us completely, loves us unconditionally, and knows how to succor us perfectly.
I have a testimony this is true as Jesus Christ my Savior, has become Jesus Christ my Savior as I have fallen at his feet and wept again and again and again. I could not have made it through my challenges without Him; and now I feel I can make it through anything because of Him.
Something extraordinary happens when we know, without a doubt, that Jesus Christ became our personal Savior because of his infinite love for us. Our questions completely change. Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?” or “Why did you let this happen to me?” We trust the Savior completely because we know he loves us perfectly. We then have the faith to say, “Christ is the master gardener. What does he want me to learn from this so I can become what he wants me to be?”
We then have the faith and trust to accept that despite our prayerful pleadings, not all of our struggles will be resolved soon, or in the way we want, or even in this lifetime. But we know that if we are faithful, EVERYTHING will be made permanently right through Christ, whether in this life or the next. For as President Howard W. Hunter said, “whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives.”
If we wish to spiritually live – if we wish to blossom and thrive, to become like our Savior and to be filled with the Savior’s light, we must fall at his feet and hearken to his voice. As we do so, we will be blessed with peace and confidence that our struggles are for a small moment compared with eternity as we read in Doctrine and Covenants 58:3–4:
“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”
One of my absolute favorite quotes is by Brigham Young. He taught:
“We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful…during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows … ; you would be constrained to exclaim, “but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory…enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and of Jesus Christ our elder brother.”
I absolutely love that, “but what of all that?” We will be able to enjoy an eternity of rejoicing and experience complete fullness of joy. We experience happiness now – happy times and happy occasions – but we will be completely free from all sorrow- able to experience a complete fullness of joy forever.
The Savior, the master Gardener has shown us the way. We don’t have to feel lost, alone or ineffective, He has shown us the way to live, He has shown us the way to love. And He is there to help us every step of the way.
So even if at times it seems we are being “cut down” more than we can handle or want to bear, –when it seems we have lost everything, when everything is going wrong, we still have all that matters. We have an infinitely loving and merciful Savior who wet his face with our tears and suffered for our sins so that we can repent and be made clean again, worthy to live forever with our families in the kingdom of our Father.
I pray that we will not give into Satan’s lies and feelings of discouragement, and hopelessness, but always remember that “Jesus Christ is the gardener here. He knows what he wants us to be.”
Paraphrasing Mormon: “Know ye not that ye are in the hands of Christ, the Master Gardner? Know ye not that he hath all power?” (Mormon. 5:23).
I pray that we can always remember that this is so.
In his very holy name, even Jesus Christ, amen.