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The following is part 2 of an exploration on the meaning of Fruit in the scriptures. To read part 1, click here

So, are you saying that just because I know some things about Joseph Smith, that either you don’t know or choose to ignore, makes my fruit “wild?”

No, Tom, though I don’t pretend to know everything that you do, I have wrestled with many of those same issues and have to agree with Elder Hafen’s comment that God doesn’t hold Himself responsible to prove anything, and thereby, compromise agency. Rather, He keeps the playing field level so that we are left to choose because of where the choice will lead; what it will make of us. Both sides of most issues can be competently argued. But, we so often ask the wrong questions taking us down roads of inquiry that just distract and confuse, until we quit wondering; sound familiar?[1] Wild fruit comes from confusing the branches for the fruit.

Even science doesn’t pretend to truth, only to incremental discovery. It is the scientific method, empiricism, that is so powerfully important as a tool for discovery and deception-avoidance. Competent scientists continually test the validity of every discovery, while still allowing us to benefit from their progressive stages, as new insight replaces old. But even the empirical scientific method is limited in what it can validate. Some areas of exploration require tools of rationalism because some things just can’t be observed and measured, as required by empiricism.

The rules of logic have been developed over time and assist us in examining the mental models we construct when observation isn’t possible. But if each individual had to both observe, and logic-test every proposal or idea, mankind would be stuck recycling the same basic questions. So, mankind has compounded knowledge by building on each other’s discoveries until we trust other people, accepted as authorities. Most of us inherently use all three of these truth-tests, though some people are more competent than others. We hear or read some proposal, think it through, then if it seems reasonable, we try it out. For example, when searching for an exercise program or health recommendation, the final validity test is whether or not it works for us personally.

It is easy to see why relativism is gaining popularity today. It seems reasonable that if my health needs, metabolism, or genetics are unique, then my health and lifestyle selections should be relative to my needs and preferences. The extension into belief systems about life’s origins, purpose, and eventual outcomes, has led us to insist that “no one dares to molest or make afraid” of anyone else’s choices. Tolerance has risen as the world’s mantra. Of, course we should be tolerant of another’s personal choices unless those choices affect society, including posterity, in destructive ways.

The Savior’s solution, in His instruction to his disciples during the Sermon on the Mount, was to invite investigators to gain their own experience with God. The methodology He taught is similar to what we all use; Listen, study, test. However, He added, God as the ultimate authority whose teachings needed to be studied and tested.

“Say unto them, Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” JST Matt 7:12

Seeking is the rational process of study and logic; knocking requires the same empirical actions of experimentation. Because God loves the truth seeker, He is interactively involved, as we ask God, through prayer. But He isn’t as interested in sharing data, as He is in leading us through growth and character change, so we can use the data we ask for, and then eventually spend eternity with Him. This usually requires paying a high price that filters out the self-focused, the power seekers, and helps us school our natural appetites.

So, the promised receiving, finding, and having answers opened to us, include the invitation to know Him and trust Him, not just know about Him. We are invited to play the believing game for a time and then, in turn, use skepticism to measure the results of trusting something He taught. Three of these measurable results given in Alma 32 are: 1. The results are delicious (If what God is teaching is not delicious, then why seek it?) 2. The results enlighten our minds (answer questions, clarify our mental models, and put the puzzle pieces together) 3. Enlarge our souls (A small souled person is self-focused, a Grinch. As we live the tested teachings, our nature changes to one less self-absorbed, more patient with others, greater meekness, longer spiritual attention span, etc.) These are measurable over time.

After teaching the disciples the process of how to help others know God, and then helping them through the obstacles of learner readiness, He again uses the image of bearing fruit to mitigate self-deception, as did Alma.

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matt 7:17-18, 20

Here is where you could feel slapped in the face in my suggesting that your fruit is becoming wild. But please, Tom, rest assured that I acknowledge your continual efforts to contribute to your family, neighborhood, profession, and mankind. You are honest, hardworking, responsible, politically responsible, and a good friend. So, why am I raising the “wild fruit warning”? First, the fruit isn’t what most of us think. It is more than “good works!” It is even more than the best works we could ever do. We need to follow the context-flow of this great sermon. Please notice that right after the fruit metaphor, He states:

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matt 7:21-23

These people present themselves as those who have borne good fruit and are therefore, symbolic good trees; worthy of entrance. They share that their lives included prophesying in the name of Christ, casting out devils, and many other wonderful works. No one would deny that testifying of Christ, casting out devils (requiring appropriate priesthood authority), and wonderful works in Christ’s name seem like “good fruits.” But then why are they denied entrance into the kingdom? Perhaps, as some have suggested, their acts were actually done without authority or sincerity; they used His name in vain. Or, I personally think that these are not what is meant by “good fruits.”

A clue comes in His response to them; either, “Depart from me for I never knew you,” as in the Book of Mormon. Or, “Depart from me, you never knew me,” as in the Joseph Smith translation. Or, perhaps both are true and connected to what is meant by “good fruits.” Please note:

“For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me (JST) they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand. And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me (JST) come forth and shall stand before me. And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed. And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them (BofM); and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Mosiah 26:24-27

For Christ to know us, we must become “children of Christ”; we have to know Him, inherit His character, belong to His family, etc.[2]

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” Mosiah 5:7

“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” Mosiah 5:13

Note, that knowing Christ requires both works (service) and heart (thoughts and intents). Moroni noted this by quoting his father’s sermon, where he elevated our intentions to the same level as our works:

“For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.” Moroni 7:6

This divine relationship, tied to our ministering to others, is the subject of the master’s instruction in The Sermon. He calls it “the strait gate.”[3] He will reiterate this most important perspective again and again in different metaphors and instructions. To the lawyer inquiring about gaining eternal life he elaborated on the two great commandments to love God and serve your neighbor. To the apostles, He would give them a “new commandment” to not only love others as self, but to love others as He loves. He used the image of the vine, wherein He clarifies the meaning of “fruit” after what seems like several diverse uses from the olive tree allegory, the Sermon on the Mount, Alma’s faith seed, Lehi’s tree of life, and other fruit metaphors. Some seemingly divergent examples include:

  • The Master of the olive tree vineyard is laying fruit up “unto himself”?
  • The fruit taken from the tree of life is an image of partaking of the atonement of Christ.[4]
  • The culmination of planting and nourishing your Alma faith seed is to grow a tree that produces fruit.[5]
  • Fruit in the Sermon seems to be more than just “good works” and includes knowing Christ.[6]
  • A person’s fruits are sufficiently visible that they can be evaluated by others; “ye shall know them by…”
  • The two fruits in the Garden of Eden have differing yet necessary effects in the exaltation of man. One sustains terrestrial life, albeit without growth, the other causes changes that give telestial experiences of good and adversity/evil, opening the door to becoming celestial during a merciful preparatory state.[7]

Even with clues laid herein, it still would be confusing if He hadn’t revealed the manner in which He received the fulness of glory from His Father, as a model for our becoming His fruit.

“And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us. And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” DC 93:11-12

So, receiving “the fulness” of His Father was incremental as a product of receiving grace from His Father and growing from one level of grace to a higher one until a fulness; “continuing from grace TO grace.” But, the process of receiving grace is worded, “receiving grace FOR grace.” As He gave others the grace given Him, He acted as an instrument of the Father, ministering to others of these divine gifts collectively called “grace.” These spiritual gifts scripturally include a vast spectrum of divine endowments beginning with life, continuing as forgiveness through mercy, a growing relationship in His love, divine light that is felt as joy and enlightenment[11], and all the gifts of the Spirit listed throughout the cannon.[12] This was not given to us simply to know about Him. As our model, this was given to us as the only pattern by which He can bring us to His fulness.

I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.” DC 93:19-20[13]

Grace is given as gifts but they more effectively change our natures as we use them to minister to others as divine instruments. Giving grace is not just giving service or money, etc. We are not divine and so have no grace to give, so we must give of His grace, as His instruments. He cannot perfect us unless we are engaged in His work of perfecting others. He changes us by working through us more effectively than by working on us. So, bearing fruit is described in a temple context of DC 97 as an echo from the ancients:

“There are those that must needs be chastened, and their works shall be made known. The ax is laid at the root of the trees; and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. I, the Lord, have spoken it. Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me. For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit.” DC 97:6-9

To partake of the fruit of Lehi’s tree of life was to partake of the atonement of Jesus Christ, He who is the tree and the love of God. But partaking of the fruit only begins His redemptive power. Continually partaking and nourishing the seed of the fruit allows Him to cause us to first grow a tree and then become one that bears to others the same fruit of His atonement. We become his under-shepherds; we become saviors engaged in the ministering, saving work of The Savior[14] which in-turn allows Him to perfect and exalt us, thereby adding to The Father’s glory.

Those that remain self-focused through mortality will one day enter the consuming fires of His glorious presence unprepared, unchanged, because they wouldn’t yield to the process, whereby He could change and perfect them. (see footnote 4) Hence, they are as the tree at whose root the ax is laid. Because the spiritual roots are undeveloped or withered and small, an ax is sufficient to hew down the tree for the fire…not as a punishment, but as a result of entering His consuming presence unprepared.[15] Having never become “other-focused,” (called “meek” by Moroni[16]), we confuse our branches for our fruit, we see our accomplishments as fulfilling our purpose.[17]

On the other hand, the natural effect of balancing our roots in tandem with our branches; our spiritual sources with our visible accomplishments, allows God to work through us as instruments by which He can then change us until we can bear His fruit to others. Becoming a joint heir with Him begins now by ministering His grace to others!



[1] Bruce C. Hafen Fireside at the Salt Lake University Institute about 2005. See also:

“I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law students that those who take too much delight in their finely-honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness, in the church and elsewhere, because they can become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to commit themselves.

All I ask, then, is that we may be honest enough and courageous enough to face whatever uncertainties we may encounter, try to understand them, and then do something about them. Perhaps then we will not be living on borrowed light. “Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” Ensign, 8/1979 ON DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTY

[2] 3 Nephi 12:8-9 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And blessed are all the peacemakers (ministers of His message of peace), for they shall be called the children of God.

“A perverse heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.” Psalms 101:4

[3] Matthew 7:11-14

[4] Alma 5:34 Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;

[5] Alma 32:41But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

[6] Matthew 7:20-23

[7] See author’s previous article on mercy and the preparatory state here

[8]  DC 58:2-4 He that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.

[9] “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten” Elder D. Todd Christofferson; Conference, April 2011 (see
17 below)

[10] DC 132:63…for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

[11] Alma 19:6 …the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul…

Alma 32:28 …it beginneth to enlighten my understanding…

[12] See 1 Corinthians 12; Moroni 10; Elder Marvin J. Aston-Oct 1987 ; etc.

[13] See also Helaman 12:24 And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works.

And, 3 Nephi 12:7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

And, DC 1:10 Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.

[14] DC 103:9 For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;

Jer. 17:8 (7–8) Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

See also Psalms 1:3

Proverbs 11:30 “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”

[15] Moses 1:11 “I would have withered and died in His presence”

[16] Moroni 7:39 “I judge that ye have faith in Christ because of your meekness”

[17] D. Todd Christopherson; Conference, APRIL 2011 | “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten” The parable of the Currant Bush

“As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:

“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’” Quoting President Hugh B. Brown