God the Father to: P. Chinese group Aug. 19, 2017
When I was young, my father was a hunting guide. My brothers and I helped him with setting up camp, and when we got older, we accompanied hunters to make sure they didn’t get lost in the Utah back-country. We also hunted for ourselves when we didn’t have duties helping our guests.
One Fall day I was hunting alone, walking quietly along a trail through a wooded area on a mountainside in Utah. Ahead of me, I saw a small patch of dense, dark green brush, which stood out because most of the brush in the area was rather dry and many leaves had already fallen, but this patch of brush looked like spring. As I got closer I saw that the green brush was growing around the edges of a SEEP.
In case you are not familiar with this term, a SEEP is where water comes out of the ground, but not enough to run down the hill or do anything more useful than getting an occasional sip of water. A seep is just a muddy area, with maybe a few puddles. A SPRING is where enough water comes out of the ground to run down the hill.
This one was a fairly big seep, with enough water to make the bushes around it grow big and stay green through the long, hot summer. In fact, the bushes around this seep were quite large and spread over the top of it, making a lovely shelter from the sun and wind. I could walk into it upright if I was willing to get my feet muddy. It was open on the down-hill side, and a fallen tree made a nice seat where I sat to rest for a while and enjoy this delightful little spot.
Looking inside I saw that a cow had died, deep inside the shelter. It had died long enough ago that the smell was no longer objectionable, and what was left was literally the skin and bones. As I sat there enjoying a quiet moment to myself I looked closer at the dead cow and realized that it had died while trying to give birth to a calf, which made it out only part way. That was sad, and yet death is a part of life. They died alone, but the cow had selected a lovely spot to spend her final hours, and was probably drawn to it for the same reasons I was – its beauty, its peacefulness, and the sense of shelter inside.
I sat there in peace for perhaps a half hour before moving on. I am sure that I will never see that spot again, for even if I tried to find it I wouldn’t know where to look within perhaps 20 square miles of remote, deep woods. And yet, in spite of only one visit, that spot and the poignancy of seeing the cow and calf inside are vivid in my memory. It is one of only a handful of places I associate with being exceptionally close to God through nature.
We, who are striving to become men and women of God, see his works all around us. I, personally, find great comfort when I see a butterfly wending its way through the air in fits and spurts, weaving erratically, and yet navigating where it wants to go.
I have in mind the monarch butterfly. The monarchs born last year laid their eggs a few months ago on milkweed plants in the Texas countryside. The butterflies born here are smaller than their parents, and they quickly move many miles north where they lay eggs and die. Those too, fly further north and lay eggs before dying. In perhaps 6 or 7 generations, all born during a single summer, they make it to Canada. The ones born in Canada at about this time of year (late summer) are larger than all the ones born in Texas and in between. The large ones are the ones that fly all the way back, past us and on to Central Mexico, where they gather in vast plumes on a few small patches of pine trees in the mountains. We will start seeing them flying past us on their way south next month. They spend each winter huddled together in those same small patches of pine trees.
Nobody knows why late fall monarchs are larger than their peers, although the size is perhaps needed to fly all that way. Nobody knows how they know to fly north all summer, until it is time to fly south in the fall. Nobody knows how they all find those same patches of pines in Mexico each year, year after year, after year. These kinds of things don’t happen by accident. Personally, I see God’s hand in such a complicated life cycle.
There is an Arab saying that I particularly enjoy, “God loves wondrous variety.” I think of it when I see the variety of butterflies. In college, I had to prepare an insect collection and it included many different kinds of butterflies: Tiger Swallow Tail, Purple Emperor, yellows, Pygmy butterflies, Blues, Skippers, Coppers, and Fritillaries. Of course, modern chemicals have cut down their numbers and that kind of collection is no longer appropriate. Long gone are the days of my youth when there were clouds of butterflies in my mother’s flower garden every summer day. I remember butterflies so thick we had to stop frequently to clear their wings out of the car’s radiator to keep it from overheating. Our children think it is normal to see one or two on a day when they are actively searching for them.
So besides that God loves wondrous variety, what else do we know about him?
D&C 130:22 says:
By that we know that he is like us. At least he is like us as much as a mother is like her baby. We are mere larva compared to him, but we hope to grow so that at some point we WILL be like him.
I like this scripture in 1st Nephi: 10:18-19
Good! That means someday I will understand why monarch butterflies do what they do. From this, we also learn that God has good intentions for us, but that he expects US to make good decisions and follow his directions. I too, expected my children to make good decisions and follow in my footsteps, and for the most part they did. None of them became biologists, but that is not one of the important things. They are trying to grow spiritually, and raise their own children to be good people, too. This is the part about, “the course of the Lord is one eternal round.”
One of my 6 children has chosen to ignore spiritual things. He married a nice girl, who is not a member of our church, and he does not participate in our church (or any other) in any way. I still love him, and like to spend time with him. I try to teach him the true way as much as he will let me. But I also love him enough to let him choose his own path. We call this “Agency.” He is free to make his own choices. And if he doesn’t choose the way I know to be the true way to God, well, He IS free to make his own choices.
We also know that God helps us, and sends teachers to us. In Moroni 7:22-23 we read
And, of course, we know that he works almost all of his works for us through his begotten son, Jesus Christ.
Another thing that makes me think of God is keeping honeybees. I have always been fascinated by honeybees. Of course, I didn’t create bees. I just cared for them. Being a beekeeper is all about taking care of one of God’s creatures.
If you do it right, they aren’t very aware of what you are doing. You have to pay attention to make it so.
First, honeybees need a place to live. When I decided to keep bees, the very first thing I had to do was build a place for them. I built a long wooden box. I made an entrance hole so they could get in and out, and some ventilation holes. I made a top so that they would be sheltered from wind and rain. I built a stand so their hive would be up off the ground so they would be safe from predators and floods. And I made bars where they could attach their comb.
I wanted them to feel like they were at home, so I got some lemongrass oil. Lemongrass is very attractive to honeybees because it smells like the pheromone they make to signal their fellows that a place is suitable for starting a new hive. I put just a tiny amount of the oil inside the hive, and when I added some bees (which I bought) they settled right in because it smelled like home to them.
From that point on, the hardest thing I had to do was leave them alone. I wanted to watch them, but I knew that each time I opened up the hive to watch, it disturbed them and threw them off track.
I did have to monitor them. It is important when keeping bees to be able to see how they are doing, and for that you have to remove some combs so you can see into the hive. That’s how you tell if the queen is laying eggs, and if the baby bees are healthy. And you can see how much honey they are making.
At the end of the summer, it is time to harvest honey. That takes some thinking. The honey is the winter food for the bees. If you take it all, the bees will die during the winter. It is better to leave a little more than you think they will need. But if your estimation is wrong and they get short during the winter, you have to give some of it back to them. So you have to monitor how much they are using during the time of year when it isn’t so fun to be outside.
And finally, in spring you have to remove old, darkened comb and get it out of their way so they can make new clean comb.
If I do all those things, the bees allow me to have amazing gifts: honey, beeswax, and increased understanding of life. But do they thank me? Never! In fact, one wrong move and they will sting me. That hurts! On a good day, they ignore me. On a bad day, they come after me to hurt me.
In a lot of ways, taking care of the Bees gives me insight into how God sees us. How he helps us without getting in our way. We go about our lives largely unconscious of what he is doing, even though he is doing the things that make it so we can live as we want.
Brothers and sister, God loves us, because we are his children. He has given us the things we need, and the things to make us happy. He gave us this world and put interesting things in it – things like butterflies, and honeybees, and sunsets, and solar eclipses, and little children. And his two most amazing gifts: chocolate and almonds.
By these things I know that God is real, and that he lives.
And I say this . . .