Thorns and Thistles

Eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden had immediate consequences. One of them was that it became harder to eat. Instead of living in a garden full of beautiful trees with delicious fruit, Adam and Eve entered an existence which would demand more from them.

“Cursed is the ground for thy sake,” said God; “in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:17, Moses 4:23). The word translated “sorrow” in this passage—itsavon (עִצָּבוֹן)—refers to pain and hard work. It will no longer be easy to acquire food, God was saying. It’s going to require effort. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19, Moses 4:25).

In this new world, some plants would still grow on their own: thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18, Moses 4:24). Adam and Eve could no longer rely on the goodness of the garden. They had to intentionally cultivate beneficial plants.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong reminded us that we all experience pain and sorrow in this life: “Like Adam and Eve, we come into a world of thorns and thistles,” he said. We ought therefore to be kind, to serve one another, and to lessen one another’s suffering (“Room in the Inn,” General Conference, April 2021).

Thorns and thistles can also be a metaphor for our own development. The Savior compared false prophets with those prickly plants:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Matthew 7:16, 3 Nephi 14:16

What’s true of nature is also true of human nature. It’s easy to become a prickly plant that produces bad fruit or no fruit at all. It requires effort to cultivate a Christlike character which generates good fruit.

Today, I will make the effort to produce good fruit. I will remember that this world naturally produces thorns and thistles, and so I will be compassionate toward those who are dealing with difficult trials, and I will do what I can to relieve their suffering.

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