Monday, January 2, 2017

The fifth soil

There is a parable given by the Savior in the New Testament, commonly referred to as the parable of the sower. The vision of the tree of life given to Lehi in the Book of Mormon has a similar theme. Both stories describe the various ways in which people interact with the gospel, both when they first hear it, and as they grow and develop. There is a focus on why people leave the gospel, both parables have far more people that leave then stay.

One of the first categories is the seeds that falls by the wayside. The wayside is the hard, packed ground next to a road. The seed doesn't get a chance to grow or sprout, and is immediately stolen away by birds. This is described as the person that hears the gospel, and immediately discards it without due consideration. In the tree of life this is the people that never leave the dark and dreary wasteland.

The next category is the seed in shallow ground. The seed grows, but because of its shallow root it withers in the sun. This is described as the person that finds the gospel, and meets it with eagerness. But they don't develop a deep understanding of the principles, and when things get hard they give up. These people grasp the iron rod, but only lightly, and are soon drawn away.

A third category is the seed on thorny ground. The seed grows, and even begins to bare fruit. But its soon choked out by weeds, and dies. The weeds are described as the cares and riches of the world. But they can be anything that is put ahead of the gospel. The church doesn't fall away due to lack of testimony or knowledge, but because there are simply other things put ahead of the church. In Lehi's vision this is the people who come and partake of the fruit, but are afterwards ashamed and leave for the great and spacious building.

The fourth category is the good ground. The seed grows up and bears fruit. Its not overcome by weeds or the sun. And everything is good. Some people join the gospel and reap the blessings, and are happy for it. In the vision this is those that partake of the fruit, and continue to do so.

I want to propose a fifth type of soil. The fifth type of soil is good ground. The seed takes root and develops. It brings forth fruit. This is the person who holds onto the rod, gets to the tree, and partakes of the fruit. And yet the fruit isn't 'delicious above all else'. In time the plant is uprooted and the tree is left. Not because of thorns or neglect or birds. But because the fruit is not worth maintaining. This is the faithful member who becomes disillusioned with the church. The person may continue with the gospel for a long time, attempting to endure to the end. But eventually they leave.

This fifth type of soil is one that isn't very well tackled in the scriptures or doctrines of the church. The scriptures and prophets teach that the gospel brings blessings. Period. The very idea that church membership might not be the ideal mode of life isn't considered. Reactivation efforts focus on a person that has been offended, or that is suffering from addictions, or that simply cannot get out of bed on Sunday mornings.

Nowhere is it acknowledged that for some, life might genuinely be better outside of the church.