Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

God’s Grace (and Peaches Again)

Dave Dixon’s recent post got me thinking about peaches. I live in northern Utah, and we have two peach trees in the backyard, planted soon after we moved into our house eight years ago. Those Elbertas are about the most delicious fruit I’ve ever tasted, and the anticipation of the peaches coming on brings a smile all year long.

LPeach

The next best thing to a sun-ripened peach in late summer is a bottled one in midwinter. Most of my kids actually prefer the latter, and no sooner have the lids of the Mason jars sealed with a pop then the kids are begging us to open them. Never mind that the branches out back are still heavy with fresh ones.

Growing and preserving peaches connects us to something older than ourselves. I do not love every feature of Wasatch Front Mormon culture. In uncharitable moments I can be snide about most of it, in fact. But I love the deep, rich vein of preserving food in the Latter-day Saint tradition. For me, the washing, the cutting, the peeling, the filling of jars are a sacrament. How many religions can count homegrown food as part of their very theology? Thanks, Brother Joseph,[1] Brother Brigham,[2] President Kimball![3]

I love to think that my grandparents, and even my great-great-great-grandparents, were doing the same jobs in these same valleys, looking forward to the same taste on their tongues and same satisfaction in their bellies. I love that the work of our hands fills our pantry, that in this instance I know exactly where my food came from and that it traveled 75 feet to get it to the dinner table. It’s not a perfect setup—being in Utah means that coal powered my stove to process the jars, and the sugar that gets added has both an unknown provenance and unknown health consequences. But it does more good than harm, and it makes all the difference to my family.

ACanning

A peach tree is a wonderful sign of God’s grace. For a paltry bit of effort—planting a seed or a sapling, watering it, pruning branches and thinning young fruit in the right season—we are rewarded with an overabundance of wholesome, delightful food. I don’t deserve the harvest for the little work I’ve done. Bees and sunlight and the soil composition did far more, not to mention eons of evolution. I couldn’t produce a peach on my own, given a hundred years and a laboratory with every chemical under the sun. A peach tree is a mystery, and a gift from nature and the Creator.

That’s one reason I love the fact that there are actual fruit-bearing peach trees on the grounds of the Brigham City temple; they are a perfect complement to that sacred building. Both are symbols teaching us of God’s love, in “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).

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[1] See, among others, D&C 59:17–20: “And the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.”

[2] See, among many others, Discourse, June 12, 1860, in Journal of Discourses 8:83: “Cultivate the earth and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labours you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations.”

[3] See, among many others, “Welfare Services: The Gospel in Action,” General Conference, October 1977: “I hope that we understand that, while having a garden, for instance, is often useful in reducing food costs and making available delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, it does much more than this. Who can gauge the value of that special chat between daughter and Dad as they weed or water the garden? How do we evaluate the good that comes from the obvious lessons of planting, cultivating, and the eternal law of the harvest? And how do we measure the family togetherness and cooperating that must accompany successful canning? Yes, we are laying up resources in store, but perhaps the greater good is contained in the lessons of life we learn as we live providently and extend to our children their pioneer heritage.”

  • Joanna says:

    Wow. Beautifully written. Gardening in general is not my favorite, but I am slowly gaining a new appreciation for my parents in law who, for nearly a century now, and their forefathers before them, have cared for and harvested apples and pears and plums from their fruit trees. I do believe I will participate in this year’s harvest with more reverence and gratitude than before. Thank you!