"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
August 1, 2012
The Obedience Garden
by Emily S. Jorgensen

When I was growing up, the Prophet told the members to plant a garden. So, my parents being all for following the Prophet, promptly set to deciding which patch of our completely neglected back yard would be the victim of this project.

A spot was chosen. Several Family Home Evenings were dedicated to digging up wet earth (where I grew up it rains 100 days a year). Seeds that likely cost more than the worth of the veggies they ever produced were planted.

You did not want to be at the breakfast table before Dad left for work during summer break, because you would inevitably be designated The One In Charge of Watering The Garden for the day.

The battle against the morning glory invasion was never-ending. The ears of corn were the length of a finger — at harvest. The green beans were pretty good. I think the tomatoes were cute — like little toy tomatoes.

It was an obedience garden. The Prophet said to do it, so we did. It really never added significantly to our table, but it provided opportunities to work together as a family, and taught us lessons about being responsible for living things.

When my first child was about 18 months old, my husband and I decided it was time to start family prayers and scriptures and Family Home Evening.

I know there are on-top-of-it people who get in those good habits as a couple. Largely due to opposing work schedules, we just hadn’t. But, now that our daughter was old enough to start speaking and going to nursery, we thought it was time to make it a priority.

So, what to do with a family so young? We figured at this point family scripture time would basically be an obedience garden.

I thought maybe we should start out with a brief nightly reading of the illustrated scripture stories the Church publishes. Maybe the pictures would help our child stay somewhat attentive.

I was talking about this to a friend of mine, who incidentally had no children of her own. Regardless, she has a lot of wisdom and I respect her opinion. She felt very strongly that children should be exposed to the real, actual scriptures right away.

I was dubious about this plan, but decided to take her advice. My husband would read one verse, I would read one verse, then we would have our young daughter repeat after us at a whopping rate of about five words per minute.

I think if we weren’t so excited about being relatively new parents it would have been pretty torturous. But, we were so happy to be introducing our daughter to the most significant book in our lives — The Book of Mormon.

When we started 1 Nephi 1:1 that night, we had no idea that by the time our family finished reading through the entire book for the first time, we would have three children and our first daughter would be reading her verses without any help.

She is now nine years old and we are nearing the end of our second time through The Book of Mormon as a family. Her younger sister now reads her verses largely unaided. I have high hopes that it will take less and less time to cycle through this sacred book of scripture as we eventually have a family full of readers.

When we finished Moroni that first time, I felt so grateful. I felt grateful to my friend who had advised me to just dive into the real scriptures with my children right away. I felt grateful to have measured my daughter’s development from toddlerhood to childhood in Book of Mormon verses.

Now when I see that my children can not only read the words, but are starting to grasp the teachings of The Book of Mormon as we read together, I see that this obedience garden is bearing fruit much more valuable than I ever thought it would.

We planted this garden with three verses a day, and now enjoy a delicious harvest of the Spirit of God in our home.

It puts me in mind of one of my favorite Book of Mormon verses, Alma 37:6, “…but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Even in obedience gardens.

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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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