I’m not too good at growing vegetables. In fact, the tomatoes in our raised garden bed my husband built for me have cost us about $10 apiece so far, figuring in the cost of construction, but I can usually grow some pretty tall zinnias and hardy chrysanthemums.

So a couple of autumns ago I decided to buy three gallon pots of mums-short for chrysanthemums and easier to spell-at a school fundraising project. I didn’t have time to plant them when I brought them home, though, so I put them in front of my house where I knew the rain could hit them and keep them alive until I could get them planted.

Days passed, rain came and went, and I noticed one morning that the mums were getting a little brown around the edges. Hmmm. Maybe it hadn’t rained as much as I had thought, so I dumped some water in them and made a note to get them planted.

Well, that didn’t happen anytime soon. And before you knew it, the mums were past the point of revival, in other words, dead.

I knew it had rained, so I wondered if I could get my money back for having gotten defective mums. I knew the nursery where they had been purchased. The owner was a member of our ward, so surely she would understand my problem.

Then I realized that I had made one little mistake in judgment that had made all the difference. In putting the mums in front of the house where they could receive the benefit of the life-giving rain, I had place them about four inches too far back under the overhang of the roof and they hadn’t received a single drop.

They were so close to the water they needed to live, but hadn’t had a single drop and had died of thirst.

There was a parable there.

Different mums, different problems

I thought of the people I knew in my ward and the Church and world in general who are so close to the living waters of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, yet don’t partake for one reason or another and instead perish.

Some, of course, don’t partake because “they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). It’s our duty to find them and water them.

But there are so many others who know where to find, and who have found it and have drunk thirstily and happily in times past, yet step back from the well and wonder why they are thirsty.

(The analogy falls apart, or course, when you get technical and point out that the mums don’t have legs and can’t walk themselves over into the rain if they wanted, and they don’t have mouths to call out “Mummy, Mummy, come move me over a bit.” Let’s ignore that, though.)

Some of the mums are so close to the rain but choose not to drink because they have been offended. Those mums seem to be found in every ward-so close to the water, yet straining back and refusing to partake until everything and everyone is perfect. And some have in reality been offended-there are plenty of offensive people found everywhere-but choose to cling to their wounded feelings rather than open themselves to the healing of the Living Water that would help them forgive.  


Then there are some who seem to deny their need for water, as if to be dry is the better way. “I was so depressed I just couldn’t come to church” I’ve heard some people say. Maybe I’m just weird, but when I’m depressed, the first place I want to be is at church where the Spirit is undeniable, the covenants are renewable, and the company the kind of people who are striving to be good. Someone else told me not long ago that he has a testimony, but he’s just too lazy to come to church. It won’t take the roots of that mum long to dry up!

Being close, even really close, just doesn’t count when it comes to being watered. Similarly, having scriptures sitting unopened on your nightstand doesn’t engrave their messages upon your soul. Nor does driving by a temple provide a spiritual experience, or mumbling a quick prayer on the way to work in the car forge a deep relationship with your Heavenly Father. You can be surrounded by the outward practices and symbols of your religion ad infinitum, yet if they aren’t written on the tablets of your heart, your heart won’t be changed and in the end, that’s what will matter when you face the Source of the Living Water.

(Actually I learned that lesson better from a dead poinsettia. All the poinsettias but one in the chapel had been watered and it had died a rather definite death, surrounded by so much music, so many prayers, hymn books, emblems of the sacrament, etc.

, etc., and yet it hadn’t drunk.)

One thing is for certain. If you are a dry mum, you aren’t going to get any wetter sitting away from the water.

Some people think parables have morals, but actually those are fables.

But if this parable had a moral it would be: Don’t be a dead chrysanthemum. Reach out and up and wherever and whenever you can and drink.


Susan is a writer in beautiful southern Virginia. Her novel “Miracle of the Christmas Star” can be found on She writes a weekly humor column for the Danville (Va.) Register & Bee on