A couple months ago, a friend gave me a cutely decorated writing notebook. The outside cover is brightly adorned with bold colors and inspirational sayings. At the bottom of each inside page is transcribed this powerful admonition:
“Cultivate a good life and record it.”
That’s a really fantastic one liner! What constitutes a good life? Just how do we best go about cultivating one? And why is recording it important?
Having grown up on a farm, I appreciate the mental images that come to my mind when I hear the word cultivate. Prior to cultivation, land is raw, untamed, unworked, unturned, and consequently, weeds aside, unyielding.
Often times the land itself has incredible potential but untouched, it remains barren and unproductive. As the land becomes prepared for planting via cultivation, it moves from a state of dormant unproductiveness to a condition of readiness. Once prepared, it is able to both house and nurture planted seeds. With the necessities of water, sun, and fertilizer, a bounteous harvest can literally be right around the cultivating corner.
And so it is with our lives. A good life requires the constant rays of the Son, being born of water, and making and keeping gospel covenants that make us more yielding in our contributions. Cultivating a good life starts with our decision to daily welcome the Supreme Cultivator into the messes into which we constantly find ourselves entangled. It is the daily choice to follow Him wherever He asks us to walk. It’s a day in, day out sort of work, an unyielding endeavor, a constant effort.
Anciently King Benjamin masterfully taught what it means to engage with Deity in the work of cultivation:
For the natural man is an enemy to God,
and has been from the fall of Adam,
and will be, forever and ever,
unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,
and putteth off the natural man
and becometh a saint through the atonement
of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive,
meek, humble, patient, full of love,
willing to submit to all things
which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him,
even as a child doth submit to his father. 1
As we are, we are natural and unyielding. We may be producing, but the yield is meager and small in comparison to what it could be with the Master’s upturning and oversight.
Being cultivated is often not a fun process, and it can be dreadfully painful sometimes, but if we are interested in cultivating a good life, we know we must invite the Master to do His work with us.
As we succumb to the Holy Spirit’s whisperings and follow His promptings with exactness and urgency, we start to more easily put off the natural parts of being human. Excitedly we find ourselves donning saintly spiritual attire and being clothed in greater humility, meekness, patience, and love.
I love the references in the Bible and the Book of Mormon that talk about the fuller and his soap. Anciently, a fuller had quite an unfavorable job. His task was to take the grubby wool from the sheered sheep, and through an array of techniques, cleanse it. To help accomplish this, the fuller used a very harsh soap. The fuller’s purifying work was dirty and unattractive. Jesus is the one that has the messy job with us! He asks only for our willing hearts, and He, as fuller, scrubs us white and clean. Again, an exchange that seems unbalanced – in our favor! What can we do but fall to our knees and praise God for such a Redeemer, for such a plan, for such meaning and purpose to our sometimes seemingly tough cultivation?
It is Jesus – and his incomprehensible atonement and grace – that make all of this possible, and it is Jesus who asks all of us so He can make us whole, completed, perfected, finished. Our work is to continually yield our hearts to the Supreme Cultivator. He makes barren fields fruitful!
CS Lewis put it this way:
Christ says, Give me all.
I don’t want so much of your time
and so much of your money
and so much of your work:
I want you.
I have not come to torment your natural self,
but to kill it.
No half-measures are any good…
Hand over the whole natural self,
all the desires which you think
innocent as well as the ones you think wicked –
the whole outfit.
I will give you a new self instead.
In fact, I will give you Myself:
my own will shall become yours. 2
That, friends, is what it means to cultivate a good life. Hand over our hearts to Jesus and let Him lead us along, day by day – changing us slowly, perfecting us bit by bit, turning us into exalted and completely perfect beings – eventually.
Good things flow from people who have given their hearts to Jesus. Such souls – wherever they go – cultivate goodness. They are soil softeners, and the Lord works miracles through them.
Adding a dimension of goodness to cultivating is the act of recording. Why the admonition to record a good life? What’s the purpose behind that? Well, for starters, President Kimball said “maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.” 3 As if that isn’t reason enough, he also said:
What could you do better for your children and
your children’s children than to record
the story of your life, your triumphs over
adversity, your recovery after a fall,
your progress when all seemed black,
your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? 4
And I say what could we do better for ourselves? When we record, we remember the Lord’s goodness to us. We see patterns of deliverance, bestowals of strength to endure, and assurances of promises yet to be.
Of us, President Kimball said we are not “commonplace.” 5
…I doubt if you can ever read a biography
from which you can learn something from the difficulties
overcome and the struggles made to succeed.
These are the measuring rods for
the progress of humanity. 6
So let us do as bid by a prophet of God and measure our human progress by cultivating a good life and then recording it. As sure as day follows night, a bounteous harvest awaits.
- Mosiah 3:19, Book of Mormon
- Lewis, CS. (1952). Mere Christianity. Geoffrey Bles.
- Kimball, S., “The Angels May Quote From It,” New Era, 1975.
TamiMarch 23, 2023
Such a great article! I love the notebook(s) that you're referring to and I have purchased multiple copies of them! They were created by our friend, Becky Higgins. The notebooks are such good quality and are the perfect size to carry with you and jot down things on the go! We farm for a living so your article really resonated with me as I have documented something very similarly in our personal modern-day family history. Thank you for sharing your insight on "cultivating" :)