Today, I’m reading the talk Roots and Branches, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2004 General Conference.
Let’s see. When this talk was given, I was living in a basement apartment in Ogden, Utah – with my ex-husband and our two children. I was nearing a pretty low point in my life and in my relationship then. There are happy memories (my kids, my friends) and I’m so grateful that the Lord lets us experience morsels of joy even in our dark times.
I don’t really remember much of this talk, specifically. But it has been good for me to review it.
Roots and Branches. It’s an intriguing topic – our personal roots and our personal branches – truly we are each a part of a whole, both spiritually and physically.
President Nelson stated:
“Personal roots are really important.” – Russell M. Nelson
Often, when we think of our personal roots, we immediately think of our DNA; our ancestors, the genetic imprints that our ancestors have made on our lives and the genetic imprints we make on future lives.
And of course there is something to this. But I have had a bit of a different experience. On my mom’s side, I can look back at my ancestry. They are my blood relatives and my personal relatives.
My Dad’s side of the family is where it gets a little tricky. I have my dad that adopted and raised me. Through my adoption, his roots are my roots. His personality, beliefs, hard work, and life has shaped who I am. His ancestors have also shaped who I am, and I when my dad adopted me, I was “grafted” into their family tree.
A little over 9 years ago, I miraculously found my biological father (on Facebook!). Now I have come to know a little bit about my physical roots and branches. This is half of my DNA that I finally got to know!
So, we each have personal physical roots. But there is more. President Nelson stated:
“Because we have a spirit as well as a physical body, we also have spiritual roots that go way back. They shape our values, our beliefs, and our faith. Spiritual roots guide our commitment to the ideals and teachings of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson
I have been blessed with really amazing spiritual roots. On my mom’s side of the family, I have pioneer ancestors. Some of them gave up their lives and died while crossing the plains. They lived the gospel until their dying breath.
My father’s family came to the U.S. for the most part from Ireland. My dad’s side of the family has always valued education, hard work, and a sense of humor.
These principles of faith and work, of sacrifice and a sense of humor – and of so many more things – have shaped me. They make me who I am. And I hope that my works will make my own ancestors feel that the hard work and sacrifices that they made for their future generations were worth it.
Not only do we have personal roots, but we have religious roots. These roots are the truths, laws, and principles of the gospel. President Nelson explained:
“Truths from previous dispensations have now been gathered, amplified, and clarified. For us as parents and teachers, we have an excellent teaching resource in the Articles of Faith…What a treasure-house of truth is this precious document as we teach of our religious roots.
Other revealed doctrines at the root of our religion include the Creation, the Resurrection, the law of tithing, prayer, and the consummate blessings of the temple. As we teach of these doctrines, we realize how very firm is our foundation. As we apply these doctrines in our lives, the roots of our religion become part of our own spiritual strength.” – Russell M. Nelson
I find this whole analogy interesting. Even though we sometimes look at “our roots” as our ancestors, or in this case a set of principles and beliefs – it is easy to feel somewhat distanced from the roots. The roots are underground, unseen. Yet, the roots must be tended or else the life of the entire plant could be jeopardized.
Not only do we have roots, we also have branches. So, what is significant about a branch? Well, leaves…and fruit. President Nelson stated:
“Just as our roots determine to a significant degree who we are, our branches are also an important extension of our identity.” – Russell M. Nelson
What comprises our “branches?” The first, most obvious thing that may be considered a fruit on our branch would be our children. But, not everyone has children. And those who do have children aren’t only their children (does that make sense?)
The fruit we bear is any way that we may multiply and replenish the earth. Multiplying and replenishing is more than simply having kids. We replenish the earth through seeking and cultivating our talents, serving others, through our professions, and more. So – what does this look like? Being an artist, a scientist, baking bread, growing tomatoes, babysitting children, running a 5K, writing a poem, hugging a grieving friend, etc. etc. etc. I can’t even list the many ways we can, personally, make good fruit that will adorn our branches.
Just as we have “religious roots” we have “religious branches.” The fruit that we bear in this way will be related to and reflect what we consume through our roots. If we are focusing on learning and living the principles of the gospel, then the fruit we bear will be sweet. If we are focused on the cares of the world, then – who knows what kind of fruit we will bear. If we are allow ourselves to be rooted in pridefulness and sin, then there is no doubt about it – we will bear bitter fruit.
President Nelson’s Testimony
President Nelson closed his talk with his testimony. I liked it and will include it here:
“Personal identity is much more than a passport photograph. We also have roots and branches. Divinity is rooted in each of us. “We all are the work of [our Creator’s] hand.” We are eternal beings. In premortal realms, we brethren were foreordained for our priesthood responsibilities. Before the foundation of the world, women were prepared that they may bear children and glorify God.
We came to this mortal experience to acquire a body, to be tried and tested. We are to form families and be sealed in holy temples, with joy and loving relationships that endure eternally. To these everlasting truths, we are personally rooted.
Branches of our families and of the gospel bear fruit to enrich our lives. God’s work and His glory—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”—can become ours. We can dwell with Him and with our families forever. Those blessings will be granted to the faithful in His own way and time.
God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith is the revelator and prophet of this last dispensation. The Book of Mormon is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom established once again upon the earth…If rooted to these truths, the fruit of our branches will remain. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson
I’m so thankful for a prophet who understands who he is – root, trunk, and branch. I’m grateful that he has learned of his true identity and that this understanding has led him to increase his talents and testimony. I’m grateful that He leads and guides our church today.