Thursday, June 09, 2011

Testimony Garden

I haven't mentioned it here yet, but I'm now a panelist for the new podcast Daughters of Mormonism. It's going to be a weekly-ish podcast that covers various Mormon topics from women's perspectives and experiences. I was first on the Finding the Divine Feminine panel because of my Mutual Approbation blog and I'm going to be on various future panels! So to introduce me to the listeners, Sybil interviewed me about my life story. I talked about lactivism, unassisted birth, some eco-friendly endeavors and some other stuff. It was recorded over a week ago and I keep remembering things I should have mentioned but left out! Alas! That's why I have Inquisition Monday here, though, right?

One of the things I talked about was an analogy of Testimony Gardens. It's an analogy I came up with last winter when I was approaching my testimony in new ways and I thought I'd elaborate here. On the podcast, I was a little disheveled: we had just moved and I hadn't had time to make notes or an outline!

The idea of looking at a testimony as a garden originated in Alma's discourse about faith being a seed- and that it can be a tiny little seed of just wanting to believe.

When I think about Testimony Gardens, I see the different things we can believe in as different plants. And I don't think it has to be Mormon or even religion-related. You can have a belief that prayer and meditation is good for your body and spirit without needing someone/thing to pray to. You can believe in exercise or good food. You can believe that you time needs to be spent doing things for others. This garden represent the mores and beliefs on which you build your life.

In Mormon terms: a person might have a really strong testimony plant of tithing because they've had experiences that affirm the truthfulness of tithing. Another person might not have the same testimony- maybe their plant is just a seedling or the seed is still in the packet. That's ok. They might have a strong fasting plant. Or scripture-reading plant. Or a prophet-following plant. Or anything else. And that's ok. I know that there are times in my life when I spend a lot of energy on only one part of my testimony. In early 2005, I did a lot of study about the concept of faith and what it meant for me- and if you had been in the ward I was in at the time, almost every comment I made in a class had to do with what I was discovering about faith. And other people focus on other plants in their gardens at different times. It's ok.

When you are a child, your parents and the adults around you help you plant your garden: they might feel like honesty is really important, so you have an honesty "plant." Or that prayer is important, so you have a "prayer" plant. Or any number of things. And that's good. It's helpful to have people who show you how to live and give you ideas of good habits and beliefs to focus on and develop as you grow.

Over the past few years and especially this past winter, I looked at my testimony garden and saw that it wasn't something that I liked. It represented what my parents and family thought was important, what my teachers thought was important, what my friends thought was important, but it didn't represent what I thought was important. I needed to figure out what I actually believed. So I started tearing it up a lot of it. I am going to believe in things that I want to believe in. And my garden has changed dramatically over these years: if you knew me in high school, you might not recognize me on this blog. Well, you would, but some of my major beliefs about the world has changed- I mean, I had my babies without any medical attention! I can guarantee you that in high school, my attitude was, "Give me the drugs!" And it's not just my attitudes about what my body can do- my beliefs about the gospel have changed. And I've uprooted a lot. Last December, I straight-up told McKay, "Love, I'm uprooting my testimony garden and it's going to look like I don't believe in much of anything for a while, but I'm keeping a few of the plants to hold on to (maybe, sometimes a fresh start sounds nicer) and I'm re-planting everything how I want it to be and it'll be good in the end. If everything looks like a mess in the meantime, it's because that's the nature of gardening and life."

And now, it's spring in my life and I'm planting things again. And I'm hoping it'll be a garden that I can recognize as my own. There are plants I really want- things I really want to believe in. And it surprised me that there are plants I do not even want to touch- beliefs that I do not want a testimony of. And I think that's ok, too. It's my garden and I have big dreams for it.

What I love about this analogy is that it allows for differences. We don't all need to have identical gardens. In fact, we shouldn't have identical gardens. Some of us live in a lush metaphorical "California" and some of us look out at what life has given us and only see Arizona. That happens and you need to plant accordingly or drain all the water from 4 other states so you can have okra. Either way works, but one is going to take a lot more time and work. And hey, if you have that time and okra is important to you (it is for me!), then do it.

So that's my analogy. Don't judge your neighbor's garden. It's ok to just have a few seedlings and it's ok to have a forest of oak trees. And it's ok, and even necessary, to burn your prairie every couple of years.

And check me out over at Daughters of Mormonism from time to time. If you like it, subscribe, if you don't, then don't. The readers of this blog are very diverse and at the moment, I'm not going to use this blog to plug every podcast I'm on because I'm sure some of you would rather I talk about other things. Like breasts.


  1. I would just like to say that Arizona actually grows things year round, too. So there. *B

  2. Ah- Yes, but at a great price to the water table. ;)

  3. I like your analogy a lot. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. I LURVE when you talk about breasts.

    Plus, I love this idea. Thanks for posting it, I needed it.

  5. brilliant analogy. your podcast was great!


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