Each Summer, we spend occasional Sunday afternoons going blackberry picking. There is a hike not too far from the church that has at least a mile of blackberry bushes overflowing on each side. When this hiking area was first discovered by our family, it was winter. To us, the privacy and sweeping views were enough to keep us happy. Imagine our surprise and joy when the thorny bushes started to bear fruit in the warmer months.Our first experience picking berries would be considered humorous if watching as a silent onlooker. There would be a cheer when a large cluster of ripe berries was discovered, a yelp with every scratch on the arm and a whoop of triumph with every single juicy berry in the bucket. Periodically you’d hear louder screams when one of the family members would get tangled in the bushes, requiring outside help. Needless to say, our first trip to pick berries was a noisy one.
As our first Summer of picking had come to a close, Jimmy, Kate and I had very specific jobs- we had gotten efficient.
Jimmy reached up in the very high spots or within the tangles that only his long arms could reach.
I would plow through the middle or use a stick to hold a particularly tall branch low and still to help Jimmy reach it.
Kate would pick all the berries near the ground and had gotten to be an expert at quality control.
Not only had our jobs become defined, but the experience gained was valuable.
First, we had learned to protect our arms. Even though it can get hot in the Summer, having longs sleeves was worth the heat. We would much rather sweat than be scratched.
Second, we always went together and worked as a team. Each of us brought our own bucket and found our own stick. Regardless of the fact that we had our own tools, we still helped each other in the tight spots.
Third, we became familiar with the nooks and crannies with the very best fruit. We always knew to start towards the back of the hike and work forward because other hikers usually quit before getting to the end.
When one is in search of perfect, ripe, juicy summer blackberries, following those three standards will suffice. Have you ever tasted a fresh, perfectly ripe, juicy summer blackberry? There is nothing like it.
Much is the same with life.
When we seek the sweet fruit of our labors, there is nothing like it.
And so, if the knowledge I gained to yield many blackberries at each harvest was applied to life’s experiences- I would hope to reap great benefits.
In the Book of Mormon, Helaman sends his sons Nephi and Lehi to teach the Lamanites. Helaman sent them with this admonition:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the arock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your bfoundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty cstorm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
When Nephi and Lehi were discouraged, they remembered what their father had taught them and gained the courage to continue teaching the people.
“And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did apreach with great bpower, insomuch that they did confound many of those cdissenters… insomuch that the dissenters came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance.. And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority… they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites… abaptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the bwickedness of the ctraditions of their fathers.
And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were taken by an army of the Lamanites and cast into aprison; And after they had been cast into prison many days without food, behold, some of the Lamanite army went forth into the prison to take them that they might slay Nephi and Lehi. And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were encircled about aas if by bfire, even insomuch that the army durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest some of the army should be burned. Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.
I love the scriptures.
I love the stories of strength and faith. This story is amazing.
I testify that it did happen. It is the truth, just as the rest of the Book of Mormon is the truth.
When Helaman testified to his sons about Jesus Christ- there was a promise included. Again, let me read some of what Helaman shared with Nephi and Lehi before their mission- speaking of the foundation of Christ Helaman states- “a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
They CANNOT fall- Meaning IT IS NOT POSSIBLE.
Heavenly Father’s will was for Nephi and Lehi to continue teaching when the Lamanite armies had the intention to take their lives. Because of their faith and foundation in the Lord, those missionaries were protected and DID NOT fall. Brothers and Sisters, to protect ourselves from falling, we must be prepared and build our foundation on the Son of God, even Jesus Christ.
The next truth we learned in berry picking was
the importance of team work.
As many of you know, I love to cook for people. We invite people to our home often to eat dinner. For each visit, there a list of tasks needed to be done before our family is ready to welcome our guests.
It used to be that we used the old standby method known as the stuff and shove. Although this method is primarily rewarding, the work required after the guests leave to get things in proper working order are not worth the haste in preparation. It wasn’t too long using this method before we decided to change our ways.
There are clear responsibilities for each of our family members when company comes to call. Kate is always responsible for the shoe closet, her bathroom, setting the table and general clutter control- because as most parents know, the clutter is usually the kid’s anyway.
Jimmy takes care of the vacuuming, assisting me in last minute kitchen prep and filling the water pitcher. That may not seem like a lot to do- but he is a busy man, because his responsibility is also to clean the kitchen after the guests leave. My first task is to give the rest of my family a good head start by making sure the house does not look like a bomb went off before they even get home from work and school. I also do the cooking.
When we know someone is coming to dinner, our family is well prepared because our jobs are pretty clear cut. Sometimes, I may have gotten ambitious in my menu choice and need extra help. In most cases, Kate and I pitch in with clean up. Sometimes there are just too many shoes spilling out of the shoe closet for our little girl to handle……………………
that’s my fault.
In all cases, we help each other where needed. It makes dinner with guests fun and relaxing because we work together.
When a family or ward family works together towards a final goal, great things come to pass. Our leadership and missionaries are planning a great event inviting the community to learn more about our beliefs. I encourage all to attend. I feel like this event is a culmination of all we have worked for in our ward goals this year. I am so grateful that we have been reminded often of what we should be working on to provide Heavenly Father with the best. We love God. We want to build up His kingdom. And we can do it by accomplishing the ward goals.
The ward goals set before us: To read the Book of Mormon, Hold Family Home Evening, Bring a name to the temple and invite a friend to church are excellent. Striving to achieve these goals has brought much joy to our family and to our ward. It is so important to work together.
The final lesson learned in picking blackberries was to know our route and endure to the end.
Jeffrey R. Holland shares this story in the October 1999 General Conference,
“Every one of us has times when we need to know things will get better. My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. Thirty years ago, a little family set out to cross the United States every earthly possession they owned packed in the smallest space trailer available. Bidding their apprehensive parents farewell, they drove exactly 34 miles up the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted. The young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children—the youngest just three months old—to wait in the car while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kanarraville, population then, I suppose, 65.
Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered a drive back to the stranded family. The car was attended to and slowly—very slowly—driven back to St. George for inspection. After more than two hours of checking and rechecking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again the journey was begun. In exactly the same amount of elapsed time at exactly the same location on that highway with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under the hood, the car exploded again. Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time the man providing the water said, “Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.” He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family.
“How far have you come?” he said. “Thirty-four miles,” the father answered.
“How much farther do you have to go?”
“Twenty-six hundred miles,” he said.
“Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make it in that car.” He proved to be prophetic on all counts.
Just recently, Elder Holland drove by that exact spot where the freeway turnoff leads to a frontage road, just three miles or so west of Kanarraville, Utah. He thought,
“In my mind’s eye, for just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children making the best of a bad situation there. Just ahead of them I imagined that I saw a young fellow walking toward Kanarraville, with plenty of distance still ahead of him, the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: “Don’t give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come."
Brothers and Sisters, the blackberry jam in my freezer is more than that. That jam is the harvest of a job well done because of practicing the experiences and principles we learned. When those same principles in blackberry picking are applied to life- we reap something far, far sweeter.
I am grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who has given me the tools and knowledge to build a sure foundation upon the Redeemer. I am grateful for the loving family and friends He’s given me to work alongside with. I am indeed grateful for the desire and will He has placed in my heart to endure to the end. It is with this testimony that I close my talk in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.