Among the many varieties of bamboo grown in China is the beautiful black bamboo. Black bamboo will spread very quickly from a grown plant, but to grow and harvest black bamboo from seed is another matter. The seed comes in a very, very hard shell, which a hobby gardener can crack and then follow the very tricky 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 and patiently for a long time.
Quoting from the travelogue of a motivational speaker who witnessed the farming of black bamboo:
"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 need 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. (Jim Cecil, "A Life Dedicated to Nurturing")
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12)
For nearly 2,000 years this famine persisted. The true church was missing from the earth. During this time period, however, hundreds of years before the gospel was restored, the Lord planted seeds and began to water and feed them. Long before Joseph Smith was born, world events helped to prepare the soil for the sprouting of the Restoration.
What were some of these preparations? (Answers could include the Renaissance, the invention of the printing press, the translation of the Bible into everyday language, the Reformers, the discovery and colonization of America, the Constitution of the United States, and the preparation of individuals such as the Smith family.)
THE PREPARATION OF THE SMITH FAMILY
Generations before Joseph Smith was born, the Lord began to prepare the Smith family to nourish the prophet of the Restoration. Joseph Smith's grandfather, before Joseph was even born, said, "It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 27th ed., p. 25).
Joseph Smith's father and grandfather were not Calvinists, as were most people of the time in America, whose basic tenets include believing in original sin, the unconditional election of a few, and a limited atonement, under the rule of a harsh God. The Smith men believed in the much more liberal and kindly Universalist doctrine, in which God is viewed as a loving being who will save all of mankind,. The founder of Universalism in America, John Murray, preached for many years just 15 miles from where Joseph's grandfather, Asael Smith, lived. Asael Smith warned his children not to think themselves more loved by God than "the heathen in the darkest corner of the deserts of Arabia, because God was no respecter of persons." Interestingly, Martin Harris, the Joseph Knight family, and the Hezekiah Peck family were all Universalist in their beliefs as well, prior to the organization of the Church. (See Casey Paul Griffiths, “Universalism and the Revelations of Joseph Smith,” The Doctrine & Covenants: Revelations in Context, Proceeds of the 37th Annual BYU Sidney B. Sperry Symposium.)
- Do you have your own silent, secret, sacred grove? If not, can you find a place--a room, a closet, a secluded space outdoors--that will work for you?
- Have you seen the hand of the Lord preparing you for a conviction of the truth?
- Spend some time today writing about ways that God prepared you, arranged your environment, put people in your path, or brought ideas to your mind that grew your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep this testament close at hand for any times when your faith wavers or when others need to be strengthened. Like Joseph Smith, be careful which parts you share with which audiences--always be guided by the Spirit when sharing sacred stories.
THE PREPARATION OF OUR FAMILY AND ASSOCIATES
Although the Restoration has already taken place in the world, there are still many people who are being prepared for the Restoration to take place in their hearts. Some will be easily reached, but others will be like black bamboo, covered in a nearly impenetrable hard shell. We can help to nurture those seeds through our example, teaching, family relations, friendships, prayers, and missionary work. Suddenly one day, the shell will crack, there will be a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and the seed will sprout and begin to grow. The important thing is that we have the faith and the patient love to continue to water and nurture, despite the fact that there is no outward evidence that the seed will ever sprout.
Thank the Lord for the Restoration!