When the regrafting begins there is still more work to be done. In addition to the initiation of the regrafting, there is also the need to “dig” about the tree. (5: 64.) There will be disturbance. The tree and the grafts will also need to be “pruned” because fruit will not come unless some considerable growth is cast away. (Id.) The Lord is interested in His “fruit” and not in the tree, mind you. Worshiping the tree, celebrating the tree and idolizing the tree are distractions. The result has always been focused on the “fruit” alone. But, of course, you cannot produce fruit if you lack a tree. Elder Hallstrom’s talk was correct. There is a difference between the Gospel and the church, but you do not produce, protect or preserve the Gospel without the church. It is the church that preserves and publishes the Book of Mormon (the very text we are now considering). It is the church where we assemble together to edify and instruct one another. It is in the church we offer service, receive ordinances, fellowship, offer our tithes and offerings, bear testimony and discharge our obligations to God and one another. The tree is essential. But the tree can exist for a long time without producing fruit. And the Lord of the vineyard will destroy the tree if it fails to produce fruit, because it is then “good for nothing.” (Jacob 5: 42.)
The Lord also provides “dung” or nourishment for the tree. Soil gets tired and its nutrients depleted, and therefore He must introduce more vitality to the environment of the tree to stimulate growth and vigor. This is designed to provoke the right kind of effort by the tree.
The Lord and His servants watch over the “grafts” to see whether they “shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit.” (5: 64.) This is a careful, deliberate work.
Though it may take some time, eventually the great initial effort to restore the tree should result in some signs of life in the grafts. “And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit.” (5: 65.) There will be trauma to the tree and to the grafts. Much of what remains after the initial restoration will still bring about “bitter fruit.”
Paul wrote a letter about the difference between fruit coming from above, and the bitterness of the flesh:
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5: 16-23.)
It is a matter of survival that we avoid the bitterness of these sins, and produce the kinds of things that will make us suitable for adoption as God’s sons and daughters. At a minimum, this will require us to possess love, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and, in a word, to become godlike.
The patient work of the last days will not result in the Lord “clearing away the bad thereof all at once.” (5: 65.) There will be bad, bitter fruit in the restoration. Generations will need to be removed from the vineyard before it will be possible for the natural fruit to return. If it were all corrected at once “the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish.” (Id.) The doctrine Joseph was attempting to restore was confusing and offensive to many in the church. It seems a difficult thing even today, with generations entrenched in the traditions in which they were raised. The doctrinal roots of Mormonism are overwhelming, and even now tend to choke the grafts who find our beginnings riddled with difficult, challenging and offensive teachings. We have not humbly, meekly, faithfully or joyfully reexaminied what was originally offered us. My last book attempts to discuss that origin and how it has fared in our history. The reaction to that retelling of our history has been hatred, wrath, strife, and anger.
The allegory suggests we have a good deal of work to do if we want to produce fruit. That work will necessarily require us to not only endure the roots of our faith, but to accept the nourishment which flows from it.