Questions, Truth, Pineapples, and Poetry

It’s summer. I wander through life thinking thoughts and saying to myself, “That would make a great M* post!” And then someone in real life has an urgent need, and I put the thought on the back burner. So today, with all my IRL concerns sorted, I am going to that back burner and pulling off things that still feel fresh and relevant.

Questions

I enjoyed the 12 July interview the Mormon Channel (Amy) held with Steve Harper from the Church Historical department. There are no answers to specific questions (unless you still believe in Santa or didn’t know Mark Hofmann was a fraud and inept bomber). But Steve Harper talks about how he was taught to approach troublesome issues having to do with history. Specifically, he talks about how our expectations are the cause of our difficulties.

While Steve Harper didn’t say so, it’s a bit like expecting something so much that you are disappointed in the actual thing, even when the actual thing is amazing and wonderful.

Steve Harper makes the great point that questions are perfectly acceptable, even scriptural. I would quibble a bit, in that as a teacher at Church in the 1980s (give or take), there was a policy discouraging teachers from incorporating any extra-curricular material in lessons. So it isn’t just random cultural habits that have made people loath to look outside of official Church publications. However, the Church has migrated to a more open and transparent model, so we should remember that our culture is to go and do as directed, not bask in the comfortable ignorance of the past.

Truth

The gospel is true. When I say this, I mean that the gospel is aligned with God’s purposes. But so often people presume that “the gospel is true” means that every word and action of any individual associated with the Church must be entirely factual at all levels, else the Church/gospel is necessarily not true.

There are folks I know who have become disenchanted with the LDS Church. They hang out on the internet and tell one another that the Church must be honest. By this, they expect a Conference Address (better, a press conference) in which the prophet grovels and admits to every wrong and supposed lie that has ever been attributed to any Church leader since the birth of Joseph Smith. They feel themselves to have been abused, misused, and traumatized.

They’ve lost the big picture in the weeds of their discontent. The big picture is that the gospel offers the mechanism by which all mankind may be saved. That is glorious and full of joy. That is aligned with the will of God, or of any God worth worshipping, at least.

As to groveling admissions of past wrongs, I leave it to those in authority to act as they see fit. I’ve got better things to do with my time than catalog every time someone errs, and I certainly have better things to do that wait for the possibility of a groveling admission of the errors.

Pineapples

My missionary daughter asked me to send her information on how pineapple fields are burned, and that this improves things. She had heard somewhere that a vindictive farmer had burned the pineapple field of another farmer, and that this intended destruction had actually turned out to be quite beneficial.

I wasn’t able to find an online account regarding a vindictive pineapple arsonist, but it is true that fire and smoke are used to enhance pineapple production.

The horticulture folks in the Azores get credit for discovering that smoke can force pineapple plants to bloom. This is important for two reasons. First, a pineapple is actually a collection of fruits, so uneven flowering would result in a misshapen pineapple. Second, smoke allowed growers in the Azores to produce fruit in greenhouses on a staggered harvest schedule, allowing pineapple to be ripe at any time of year.

I’m not sure if it was a vindictive farmer or merely drought and something like a lightening storm that first torched a ripe pineapple field. But the fire burns away the spikey guard leaves without harming the fruit. The char enhances the fertility of the field for the next crop.

Pineapple farmers have taken this one step further. Starting about six weeks before the planned harvest, they start weaning the plants off the steady watering the plants have enjoyed for the past two years. The simulated drought causes the plant to speed the fruit to ripen. Not only does the drought hasten ripeness, the plants produce sweeter fruit because of these final weeks of hardship.

The final point is how pineapple symbolizes hospitality, at least here in Virginia, home of George Washington. The fruit takes two years to mature, and can only grow in warm, equatorial conditions. And the fruit doesn’t travel well unless you have air travel and refrigeration. So having the luxury of a pineapple to grace a table was a sign of great sacrifice of time and resources. Often the pineapple wasn’t even eaten, but re-used as a gracious table decoration until it became too rotten to pass.

There’s a lesson there, about the uses of adversity, the fruit of patience, and the value of sacrifice. And I’m sure my daughter will be able to figure out the appropriate lessons as time gives her the opportunity to serve in her field of endeavor.

Poetry

Years ago a bright thirty-something man desired to court me. And eventually the Spirit conked him over the head and demanded that he propose. This was frightening, for the bright thirty-something man was deliberate.

We arranged to attend the temple together before Choir practice. And the bright thirty-something man proposed to me in the Celestial room. With fond togetherness, we walked together to change into street clothing for the rest of our evening.

I finished and found that the bright thirty-something man was not yet in the hall. I sat and waited.

And waited.

Eventually I became concerned that maybe he’d gone on without me. So I went down to the lobby. I may have gone to the parking lot to ensure the car was still there. Or maybe I returned to the upstairs hallway merely hoping that the bright man hadn’t left without me.

After a time, the bright man, now my fiancé, emerged. I no longer remember when, but he presented me with a poem he’d written in the time between proposing to me (I did say yes) and emerging.

I’d lost track of the poem over the decades since that day, but I stumbled across it this past week.

To my partner in the body
whose gaze fills me with love,
in whose arms I am blessed with peace;

To my partner in the heart,
with whom I hare the delights of life,
with whom my voice and feelings sing;

To my partner in the mind,
who can understand, share, and
spur on my ponderings;

To my partner in the spirit,
in whom my own spirit rejoices,
to find a soul with whom I may
love and serve our God:

I now pledge to be your partner,
until death and throughout eternity.
I look forward to having you
as a partner through the dance of life,
growing, teaching, learning,
mourning, celebrating, rejoicing,
mind and body,
heart and spirit,

Until we meet with our loved ones
at our Father’s and our Savior’s feet.

All my love
to Meg
from Bryan
May 27, 1993

May our questions remind us of the love God has for us.

May we find that truth that will reunite us with God.

May our lives be sweet, despite the sacrifices.

And may we capture in our own words how much we love, even if it slightly inconveniences folks in the now.

PS – I’ll be in Utah in the next week. Anyone want to have a mini M* reunion?

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

One thought on “Questions, Truth, Pineapples, and Poetry

  1. Meg, I like these paragraphs:

    “The gospel is true. When I say this, I mean that the gospel is aligned with God’s purposes. But so often people presume that “the gospel is true” means that every word and action of any individual associated with the Church must be entirely factual at all levels, else the Church/gospel is necessarily not true.

    There are folks I know who have become disenchanted with the LDS Church. They hang out on the internet and tell one another that the Church must be honest. By this, they expect a Conference Address (better, a press conference) in which the prophet grovels and admits to every wrong and supposed lie that has ever been attributed to any Church leader since the birth of Joseph Smith. They feel themselves to have been abused, misused, and traumatized.

    They’ve lost the big picture in the weeds of their discontent. The big picture is that the gospel offers the mechanism by which all mankind may be saved. That is glorious and full of joy. That is aligned with the will of God, or of any God worth worshipping, at least.”

    It goes without saying, I suppose, but I will say it anyway: the Gospel is true regardless of how individual Mormons may treat you. We are imperfect humans in an often difficult world — so, no, we will not always act perfectly.

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