Reaching for the Higher Hanging Fruit

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Elder Neal A. Maxwell used the image of a fruit ladened-tree to illustrate an important point that church members need to ponder on often:

“Happily, many of us have already picked and been greatly nourished by the low-hanging fruit from the gospel tree. Yet, on the higher branches, much fruit still remains, unreached for and unplucked.” Neal Maxwell; Whom the Lord Loveth P 7-8.

This clever analogy turns our thoughts to the importance of fully embracing gospel principles versus a partial embrace. After reading this, I can’t help but think of the awful arithmetic used in the parable of the Ten Virgins—50% failed to qualify to enter the wedding feast.

Properly exercising faith is the key to receiving the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit. Following are some ideas on how to increase faith so that we will be able to reach for and pluck the higher hanging fruit.        

To begin, I’ll list a few random thoughts I have on faith:

1. The words faith, belief, and trust can be use interchangeably. 

2. There are as many ways to increase faith as there are to diminish it.

3. Faith exists in our minds and hearts and influences our attitude and outlook on life.

4. Faith is like a living thing, it needs to be cared for, if it is neglected it fades, when nourished it increases.

5. Faith can be thought of as a talent. I think of it like a music talent. Everyone has some degree of music talent. Some people (like myself) possess less than average ability, while others have average ability, and still others have superior ability in music. 

6. If a person doesn’t have sufficient faith to do one thing, s/he may have faith to do another thing.

7. When someone describes themselves or someone else as having a strong testimony, I think they are describing faith. 

Faith can be increased by doing certain activities. The following list is near and dear to me because of the results I have experienced with it over the years. 

Eight Ways to Increase Faith

1. Pray (with faith in Jesus Christ)

2. Study and Ponder (Scriptures, talks, and other good books)

3. Understand the relationship of the fall and the atonement

4. Repent (Understand the difference between reformation and repentance)

5. Fasting and Prayer (with specific purpose)

6. Diligently seek the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit

7. Service (especially for the poor and needy)

8. Endure trails of faith

This list contains some tried and proven ways to maintain and increase faith. Your favorite list may differ, but what really matters is RESULTS. The only result that really counts is acquiring the companionship of the Holy Ghost (oil for our lamps).   

There is no message repeated more in the scriptures than the promise that our prayers will be heard and answered. As we seek to draw near to the Lord, prayer is the foundation of our effort. That’s why it is number one on the list. How can we study, understand, repent, fast, seek for the Holy Ghost, serve, and endure trials without prayer?  

There is nothing that I have ever experienced in life that is as sublime and beautiful as receiving a manifestation of the Spirit in response to prayer. With each answered prayer, evidence accumulates that God is not only there, but that He is personally there for you and me, just as the scriptures promise. 

Nephi’s brother Jacob said:

Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. Jacob 4:6

I’ve never needed to have the trees, mountains, or the waves of the sea obey my command. However, I have experienced miracles when the Lord has answered my prayers for those things I’ve brought before Him. Like Jacob, my faith is becoming unshaken as answers to prayer accumulate. Faith is increased when we experience the manifestations of the Spirit.

We need to have results when we call on Heavenly Father for help. Each answered prayer is a witness that we are being heard. With each answered prayer, our faith is increased until we like, Jacob, “having all these witnesses we obtain hope, and our faith becometh unshaken…”.

If we’re not able to identify a pattern of receiving answers to our prayers, there’s a reason. Should this be true for you, then I hope you will resolve, here and now, to “diligently” turn to God using the tools listed above to open the channels of communication with Heavenly Father.

Over the years, I have frequently fasted and prayed to gain greater access to the things of the Spirit. I’ve asked Heavenly Father to teach me how to pray and how to recognize answers to my prayers. I’ve prayed for the companionship of the Holy Ghost and for the gifts of the Spirit. He has heard my prayers. I’ve been surprised at the many different ways the Lord answers prayers.

The word, “diligent” is used extensively in the scriptures. It is often used to teach the followers of Christ the kind of effort necessary to acquire the manifestations of the Spirit.

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost…  1 Nephi 10:19

One of the great mysteries of God is know how to communicate with Him. As the scripture above teaches, “diligently seeking” is one key. Another scripture teaches an important truth about drawing near to God.

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

At first, it is easy to think this scripture only applies to those who never heard of God or if they have, it wouldn’t include active church members. I believe this scripture can and does apply to active church members. This occurs when a member is active in the church, but is inactive in the gospel.

Elder Uchtdorf referred to this condition saying:

“The Church…offers many important activities for its members aimed at helping families and individuals to serve God and each other. Sometimes, however, it can appear that these programs and activities are closer to the center of our heart and soul than the core doctrines and principles of the gospel.” Ensign, Nov. 2005, p. 100.

I invite those who desire to draw nearer to the Lord to make the necessary adjustments in their daily activity so they include the Lord in meaningful ways every day. The Eight Ways to Increase Faith listed above is a good place to start. 

I’ll close with two scriptures that describe how others have included the Lord in their daily walk, thereby increasing their faith so they were able to draw on the powers of heaven when needed. I’ve learned for myself, just as they did, that God hears and answers prayers according to our faith.  

“And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked.  And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.”  Jarom 1:4

“…they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation…” Alma 17:2-3

We often hear about the faith of the pioneers. We see their lives in retrospect and marvel at their faith. Faith for the pioneers, and for each of us, can be seen over the long haul, and most especially during the tough times. It is in the response to adversity that we can really gauge the quality of faith. 

 

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