J. Golden Kimball is reported to have said that the Lord Himself must like a joke or He wouldn’t have made some people. What is God trying to make of you?
Below is a summary of a sermon by Hugh B. Brown entitled “God is the Gardener”
Dr. James E. Talmage sums up the discussion of creation and the universe as follows:
What is man in this boundless setting of sublime splendor? I answer you: Potentially now, actually to be, he is greater and grander, more precious according to the arithmetic of God, than all the planets and suns of space. For him were they created.
I’m reading this because I would like you to feel the dignity of man and to dignify it by your conduct as you go forward as responsible citizens of our country and representatives of this great university.
In this world man is given dominion over a few things; it is his privilege to achieve supremacy over many things.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1). Incomprehensibly grand as are the physical creations of the earth and space, they have been brought into existence as means to an end, necessary to the realization of the supreme purpose, which in the words of the Creator is thus declared:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). [James E. Talmage, address delivered in the Tabernacle, 9 August 1931; “The Earth and Man,” Millennial Star 93, no. 53 (31 December 1931): 862–63; also The Earth and Man (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931), 16]
Some theologians tell us that God is incomprehensible, but He says that to know Him is life eternal. The one view takes hope out of life and the other is an eternal beacon.
Sometimes young people say that we older ones are behind the times, and they are probably right. They are certainly right. But during the time that is behind me—and I bring this to you as a testimony—I have developed a faith in a personal, living God, which I consider to be the most priceless possession. It has been my glorious privilege, progressively, to know Him. Such faith gives order, meaning, stimulus, and direction to life. We cannot know Him by the intellect alone, nor with bodily senses alone, nor by only reading scripture but by inspiration—the illumination of the soul, such as was experienced by Peter when he replied to the question of Christ “Whom say ye that I am?” He said, without hesitation, though it was a surprise to him what he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Christ replied to him, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15–17).
If you will always keep in mind that you are actually the children of your Heavenly Father, that there is something of Him in you, and that you may aspire to become something like that from which you came and cooperate with Him in the unfinished work of creation, you will remember that His plan for the salvation of His children had purpose behind it—a design to be carried out. If you keep these great truths in mind, you will be fortified and sustained, whatever life may hold for you.
It is important not only that you keep growing but that you be versatile, adaptive, and unafraid to venture. In other words, be up to date. Seek to obtain a certain flexibility of mind that will inspire you to listen, to learn, and to adapt as you move forward into a new and ever-expanding universe.
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truths,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us.
In the process of self-discovery you will sometimes stand amazed at what you have progressively become aware of, having to do with your potential range and your abilities. You will not then be discouraged by a failure or two along the way, as long as you are learning and growing. I leave with you my humble testimony in respect to these things.
Now some of you as you go forward are going to meet with disappointment—perhaps many disappointments, some of them crucial. Sometimes you will wonder if God has forgotten you. Sometimes you may even wonder if He lives and where He has gone. But in these times when so many are saying God is dead and when so many are denying His existence, I think I could not leave with you a better message than this: God is aware of you individually. He knows who you are and what you are, and, furthermore, He knows what you are capable of becoming. Be not discouraged, then, if you do not get all the things you want just when you want them. Have the courage to go on and face your life and, if necessary, reverse it to bring it into harmony with His law.
Could I tell you just a quick story out of my own experience in life? Sixty-odd years ago I was on a farm in Canada. I had purchased the farm from another who had been somewhat careless in keeping it up. I went out one morning and found a currant bush that was at least six feet high. I knew that it was going all to wood. There was no sign of blossom or of fruit. I had had some experience in pruning trees before we left Salt Lake to go to Canada, as my father had a fruit farm. So I got my pruning shears and went to work on that currant bush, and I clipped it and cut it and cut it down until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps.
And as I looked at them, I yielded to an impulse, which I often have, to talk with inanimate things and have them talk to me. It’s a ridiculous habit. It’s one I can’t overcome. As I looked at this little clump of stumps, there seemed to be a tear on each one, and I said, “What’s the matter, currant bush? What are you crying about?”
And I thought I heard that currant bush speak. It seemed to say, “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as large as the fruit tree and the shade tree, and now you have cut me down. And all in the garden will look upon me with contempt and pity. How could you do it? I thought you were the gardener here.”
I thought I heard that from the currant bush. I thought it so much that I answered it.
I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. But someday, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to think back and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Ten years passed, and I found myself in Europe. I had made some progress in the First World War in the Canadian army. In fact, I was a field officer, and there was only one man between me and the rank of general, which I had cherished in my heart for years. Then he became a casualty. And the day after, I received a telegram from London from General Turner, who was in charge of all Canadian officers. The telegram said, “Be in my office tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
I puffed up. I called my special servant. (We called them “batmen” over there.) I said, “Polish my boots and my buttons. Make me look like a general, because I am going up tomorrow to be appointed.”
He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went to London. I walked into the office of the general. I saluted him smartly, and he replied to my salute as higher officers usually do to juniors—sort of a “Get out of the way, worm.” Then he said, “Sit down, Brown.”
I was deflated. I sat down. And he said, “Brown, you are entitled to this promotion, but I cannot make it. You have qualified and passed the regulations, you have had the experience, and you are entitled to it in every way, but I cannot make this appointment.”
Just then he went into the other room to answer a phone call, and I did what most every officer and man in the army would do under those circumstances: I looked over on his desk to see what my personal history sheet showed. And I saw written on the bottom of that history sheet in large capital letters: “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.”
Now at that time we were hated heartily in Britain, and I knew why he couldn’t make the appointment. Finally he came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.”
I saluted him, less heartily than before, and went out. On my way back to Shorncliffe, 120 kilometers away, I thought every turn of the wheels that clacked across the rails was saying, “You’re a failure. You must go home and be called a coward by those who do not understand.”
And bitterness rose in my heart until I arrived, finally, in my tent, and I rather vigorously threw my cap on the cot, together with my Sam Browne belt. I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do to uphold the standards of the Church. I was making such wonderful growth, and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”
And then I heard a voice. It sounded like my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. And someday, when you are ripened in life, you are going to shout back across the time and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Those words—which I recognize now as my words to the currant bush and that had become God’s word to me—drove me to my knees, where I prayed for forgiveness for my arrogance and my ambition.
As I was praying there, I heard some Mormon boys in an adjoining tent singing the closing number to an M.I.A. session, which I usually attended with them. And I recognized these words, which all of you have memorized:
It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
. . .
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere;
I’ll be what you want me to be.
[“It May Not Be on the Mountain Height,” Hymns,1948, no. 75]
My young friends and brothers and sisters, will you remember that little experience that changed my whole life? Had the Gardener not taken control and done for me what was best for me, or if I had gone the way I wanted to go, I would have returned to Canada as a senior commanding officer of western Canada. I would have raised my family in a barracks. My six daughters would have had little chance to marry in the Church. I myself would probably have gone down and down. I do not know what might have happened, but this I know, and this I say to you and to Him in your presence, looking back over sixty years: “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down.”
Now I leave with you my testimony, and I received this testimony from the same source that Jesus said inspired Peter when he said, “Thou art the Christ.”
Whatever undertakings may demand of you and of your attention, I tell you, young men and young women, you cannot make a better resolution today than this: “I am going to keep close to the Lord. I am going to understand Him better, and, understanding Him, I will understand myself and will try to put my life into harmony with His.” For I have come to know that every man and every woman has potential godhood dwelling in him, for God is in reality the Father of us all.
I leave you my blessing: God bless these young people. They are looking forward hopefully and gleefully to the experiences of life. Oh, Father, be with and sustain them, uphold them, deepen their testimonies, keep them true to the faith and true to themselves. Father, bless them that they may live up to the best traditions of our country and be proud of the fact that they graduated from a Church-owned and Church-operated school, where they were taught these precious truths concerning the purpose of their life and their relationship to Deity, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.