"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
November 19, 2012
Strangling on Spiritual Kudzu
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Despite all the gloom and doom in the news reports, Hurricane Sandy didn’t have much of an effect on Planet Kathy. We got a little rain (well, we got a lot of rain) and a little wind, but not enough wind to excite our wind chime. For us, Sandy was pretty much a non-event, and I’m glad about that.

The big effect we saw was that before the hurricane, we were enjoying a lovely autumn. The East Coast does autumn well, and we really enjoy driving around and clapping for the trees that have gone all out to make our world beautiful.

After the hurricane — well, let’s just say that autumn is gone, and everything is barren and bare. The wind may not have been strong enough to inspire our wind chime, but it was certainly strong enough to denude the trees of their autumn foliage. It almost looks like January around here, except that the trees that hadn’t started turning yet still have their green leaves.  Thanks to those late-turners, we may yet have Autumn:  The Sequel.

When we were driving to the temple for our post-hurricane temple assignment, we were dismayed to see the change. The saddest part was seeing the kudzu, that evil vine that is choking out all the vegetation around here.

The thing about kudzu is that it swallows everything. If you look at kudzu from afar at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn, it looks like a healthy stand of vegetation. Here’s a picture:

Look at this pretty green scene, taken near Dahlonega, Georgia on October 3 by a person I can’t credit because there wasn’t a name on the internet.

It is only when the leaves fall that you see what a menace that kudzu really is:

Here is the same picture, taken on March 4 of the following year. Who knew there was a house under there? All the trees behind it are covered in kudzu vines, too.

Here’s another picture of kudzu in the winter, featuring another engulfed house. See how the vines have taken over the entire landscape:

This was taken by a guy named Randy Cyr, somewhere in North Carolina.

All winter long, I fantasize about being a giant. I’d like to walk the entire Eastern Seaboard and pull that stupid kudzu up by the roots. I curse the day that a homesick Japanese person planted the noxious vine in the United States, because it has taken over our otherwise beautiful landscape.

Kudzu gets its tentacles everywhere. It doesn’t just swallow up abandoned houses. It engulfs fences and gates and anything it comes upon that can’t outrun it. It covers shrubbery and trees and eventually kills them because it steals all their light. Once the bushes and trees are dead, the kudzu thrives even more because it uses the soil that was formerly used by the bushes and the trees. It grows like crazy.

Every winter, as I look at the devastation caused by kudzu, I think about the pervasiveness of that plant. To the casual observer, everything looks green and healthy — at least during the summer months. It is only when the leaves fall off that we see how endangered the trees are that are underneath the kudzu. The trees are in a struggle for their very lives. It is a struggle they will eventually lose, because they have been deprived of the light.

Sometimes I think we are fighting similar battles. We allow ourselves to be distracted by kudzu-like menaces in our own lives. Some of those things are vices we know that are wrong — things like pornography. Other vices are a lot more subtle. We may be lured by the siren song of too much television or too much time on the computer, or even too much texting or social media.  It could be a fascination with sports or a favorite team.  One friend of ours threw over everything to be foster mother to dogs, and another abandoned all her friends in an effort to get into the Junior League.

We allow ourselves to be drawn into these artificial worlds at the expense of concentrating on the things that we should. It is only when the winter comes in the form of crises or personal trials that we realize we have been so engulfed by our personal kudzu that we don’t have the emotional or spiritual resources we need to allow us to weather the storm.

Like the kudzu-engulfed trees, we have allowed ourselves to be deprived of the spiritual Light we need — not because of any intentions on our part, but because we haven’t been vigilant. We need to bask in the Light. We need to sink our roots into heavenly soil. We cannot afford to be distracted, because if we do we will not have the resources to withstand the adversity that inevitably is a part of life.

If we see tendrils of spiritual kudzu growing around us, it’s easier to uproot them immediately. If we wait until tomorrow, it may very well be too late.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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