After enduring captivity for a long period of time, King Limhi received some hopeful news when a search party arrived from their homeland of Zarahemla. As he spoke to his people about these new developments, he encouraged them to turn to the Lord by reminding them that many of God’s blessings are conditional. Their current circumstances were at least partly the result of their own poor decisions: They had ignored God’s laws, fought amongst themselves, and even killed a messenger whom God had sent to warn them. Now, they were suffering, but was that really a surprise? To emphasize this point, Limhi quoted three scriptures, two of which make specific reference to the law of the harvest:
- “I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them” (Mosiah 7:29).
- “If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison” (Mosiah 7:30).
- “If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction” (Mosiah 7:31).
None of these passages appears in our Old Testament, but the metaphor of a harvest to explain the consequences of our actions appears multiple places in the scriptures. For example:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
In both of the passages quoted by Limhi, the consequence of sowing “filthiness” is reaping some form of wind: a whirlwind in the first, and the “east wind” in the second. In the Old Testament, the east wind is often associated with catastrophe. (See Genesis 41:6, Exodus 10:13, Jeremiah 18:17, Hosea 13:15).
And the prophet Hosea spoke of a whirlwind in the context of the law of the harvest:
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has pointed out, the imagery of reaping wind adds another dimension to the law of harvest: We reap what we sow, but we often reap much more than what we have sown. Commenting on the Hosea’s imagery of the whirlwind, Elder Holland said, “We sow a little thistle, and we get a lot of thistle—years and years of it, big bushes and branches of it. We never get rid of it unless we cut it out. If we sow a little bit of hate, before we know it we’ve reaped a lot of hate—smoldering and festering and belligerent and finally warring and malicious hate…. God is just, we really do reap what we sow, and maybe we reap more than we thought we were sowing” (Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU Speeches, “Borne Upon Eagles’ Wings”, 2 June 1974).
Limhi wanted his people to recognize that their current painful circumstances were at least partly a function of their own poor decisions. Why? So that they would feel empowered to change their circumstances by making better decisions:
And now, behold, the promise of the Lord is fulfilled, and ye are smitten and afflicted.
But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.
Today, I will remember the law of the harvest. I will remember that God will give me consequences appropriate to my decisions, and that I can change my circumstances by trusting Him and by following His laws and heeding His warnings.