What Satisfies Hunger and Thirst?

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by Ray DeGraw

Funky Orange Fruit TreeI have been struck more than once by the way our scriptures differentiate between fruits and works.

The Old Testament has 23 references to fruits and 83 references to works; the New Testament has 42 references to fruits and 107 references to works; the Book of Mormon has 9 references to fruits and 59 references to works; the Doctrine & Covenants has 2 references to fruits and 34 references to works. There is an interesting difference in how fruits is used in the Old Testament, but there is a common denominator for each of these words in all of our canon, and it is directly relevant to hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

In the Old Testament, fruit generally is used simply to mean the food that grows from the vine or tree, with no symbolism attached. There are a few instances where there is an allusion to actions, but they are rare. In the rest of our canon, with rare exceptions, fruits and works both deal explicitly with actions. It is the difference in the actions that is instructive.

The following are a few examples that illustrate this difference:

3 Nephi 27:24 – “Write the works of this people, which shall be, even as hath been written, of that which hath been.” (Obviously, referring strictly to actions, regardless of the nature of those actions)

Alma 37:34 – “Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.” (Works needs a qualifier: good.)

Psalms 107:8 – “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Again, needing a qualifier: wonderful.)

John 15:4-5 – “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (Fruit is something that is born or brought forth from a tree or vine.)

3 Nephi 14:17 – “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” (Again, fruit is the product of the tree, and it is the tree that determines whether the fruit is good or evil.)

It is apparent from these verses, and hundreds of others that I might have quoted, that, while works and fruits both refer to our actions, one focuses strictly on those actions (works) and the other focuses primarily on the source of those actions (the vine or tree that produces fruit). The distinction is not always made clear when discussing works, but it is explicit in nearly all references to fruit.

My conclusion from this comparison?

That works are what we do, that what we do is important, that we are judged according to what we do. However, I also conclude that we will be judged not only by what we do, as if we could construct a checklist of Dos and Don’ts and be judged as righteous based on how well we follow our checklist.

Certainly, there are some things we believe are required of all (baptism, basic adherence to the commandments, etc.), but we will be judged primarily on whether or not our works are produced by a real connection to a good tree or vine — whether or not they are the result of the nurture of the Spirit, whether or not they are the works that God desires of each of us individually — that they are not only works but actually fruit.

This means that the full body of my works must be distinguishable from the full body of another person’s works, that I can’t produce works just because someone else produces those works.  Being connected to the true vine also means that my apples can be corrupt if God wants me to produce oranges or pears (or pears during one stage of my life, cherries during another and grapes in a later stage). Just as importantly, if I love apples and dislike apricots, I must be willing to learn to produce apricots if He requests it of me.

Works provide exercise, but only divine works (fruits) provide the sustenance that feeds my soul and satisfies my hunger and thirst.

About Ray DeGraw

I am the husband of my high school sweetheart and father of six children. I basically have no life outside of family, work and church - except blogging, which I have been doing actively, to put it mildly, for the past 5 years. I have lived in almost every section of the United States and currently reside in Carson City, NV. I have written at Things of My Soul, Mormon Matters, Times & Seasons and StayLDS.com - and commented more than occasionally at various sites in the Bloggernacle.

3 Responses to What Satisfies Hunger and Thirst?

  1. Bonnie says:

    It has been interesting to me that throughout your series different points you’ve made have paralleled something I’m experiencing in my focus on the Sermon on the Mount this year. I had an experience yesterday that forced me to differentiate between the world’s good works and fruit from the true vine. I don’t think I’d ever made that distinction before as you have here, and this essay clarified points I hadn’t previously considered. The true vine just seemed a nice metaphor woven through the record, but it’s absolutely crucial to discerning between good and evil, and much more important than I’d ever considered. Satan works very hard to pass off good works as sufficient, making loving our neighbor more important than loving God, as Pres. Benson was fond of saying. Good fruit from the true vine may look no different from fruit grown on false vines, but there is a difference. One year my compost pile had evidently not gotten hot enough to kill off old seeds, and cantaloupe sprouted in the spring. I knew it wouldn’t be good because it had been hybrid seed before, but my kids loved the pretty vines. So we left them and let them grow. They made cantaloupes, a bit smaller, and the kids were excited to see what would be in them. They never fully matured, remaining green, and they had absolutely no flavor whatsoever, with very little fruit and mostly a hollow core full of useless seeds. It was a learning experience for the kids, and one that today I”m applying also to a world that values equality and kindness and hope but refuses to place its allegiance with God first. That equality and kindness and hope is a false fruit, and it behooves us to look carefully.

  2. Deborah says:

    I believe we will be judged by what we are daily choosing to Become for, it is the choice that ultimately produces the fruit. Wonderful article ! Blessings

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