Thank God for Mormon Primordialism

I’ve been reflecting this past week on how grateful I am to be a Latter-day Saint. I will confess that some of these reflections are driven by my work on the cultural history of early Mormonism, but–against my better academic judgment–I have been experimenting with the lived aspects of the religion I have been studying, specifically our Eden-emphatic agrarian quest for the primordial state of purity.

In the last few weeks, I have, with my wife[1], ripped up 300sq ft of nasty Kentucky bluegrass[3], spade-tilled the garden plot thereby created, and begun to bury shoots and seeds of various vegetables in it. I have listened with great fascination as my wife describes some of the archival work on the Mormon component of her dissertation on Radical Food in the early to mid twentieth century. I will let her tell the story, in part at MHA this year, but I have been inspired by the radical agrarianism of Leah Widtsoe, her mother, and her husband. I have attended a Slow Food meeting with small ranchers in Utah, sampled the delicacy of braised lamb necks beside polenta, and begun plans to carve out sufficient freezer space to welcome half a pig and half a lamb (and later perhaps a half a side of beef) into our larder.

I will leave the gardening polemics and eloquent flights of fancy to people (from what I can tell my wife likes Barbara Kingsolver and Maya Angelou among the popular creators in this tradition) with much better credentials and wider experience, but I just felt this morning to praise the Creator and our wondrous church for the pleasures of seedlings and earthworms and a soil that is working from dry clay to the motley multiplicity of life-giving decomposition; to marvel gratefully that our stories about the Savior draw deeply from the rhythms, aspirations, and nourishing cycles of agriculture; to whisper stunned gratitude that our heavenly parent has allowed me to participate in creation with my wife; to acknowledge and admire the kindred spirit I see in the rebellious and curious and powerful farmer-prophet who brought God’s message of Eden’s return to me. I Thank Thee, O God, For Eve and Adam and Their Garden.

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[1] As I realized in a “count your blessings” class in Sunday School, my wife is perhaps the greatest blessing I have “received” from Church/Gospel.
[2] This is a freebie. As we were creating the garden plot, I asked one of the kids who helped us create new life in the garden. She seemed confused, so I said, “God.” She answered “Mommy.” Then she countered with “Jesus,” and the youngest piped up, “and Strawberry Shortcake,” a reference to a scented doll with inadvertent red dred locks.
[3] I owe the Kentucky hillsides an apology. I should say “unceremoniously and foolishly transplanted bluegrass.” Clearly KY grass has a wonderful home in KY, where it actually rains. My complaint is that we’ve taken this southern grass that loves water and smeared it over desert clay.

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Comments

  1. This is awesome. Especially this phrase: “the pleasures of seedlings and earthworms and a soil that is working from dry clay to the motley multiplicity of life-giving decomposition.” Phew!

    One question: Will you be as full of praise when April turns to May turns to June turns to July? I’d like to hear your paean to Mormon primordialism then. I’m not being facetious; I really do want to hear your take on the whole “sweat of thy brow” part, too.

  2. Chad Too says:

    As the blooms burst open on my blueberry bushes this week, I can only say Amen.

  3. As a devout member of the Church, I can totally connect with you on your recent agrarian experience. Your post was poetic enough for me.

    However, as a devout member of the Church in Kentucky, I must protest your treatment of the poor Kentucky Blue, and your description of it as “nasty.” It’s not fun to pull up, but you should see it on a misty hillside at daybreak…

  4. I have been studying, specifically our Eden-emphatic agrarian quest for the primordial state of purity.

    Actually Eden-emphatic is hunter-gatherer. Just pick up stuff. What you are pursuing is strictly post-Eden with all the weeds and grass. You have been experiencing the sweat of your brow.

    You are seeking more sweat, less tech.

  5. But Adam took care of the Garden. I wonder what he did… ?

  6. the pleasures of seedlings and earthworms and a soil that is working from dry clay to the motley multiplicity of life-giving decomposition

    Ha! Great pleasures indeed.

    Random anecdote: A few weeks ago when I was scooping composted dirt into my vegetable garden, I ran across a ribbon of cloth with several buttons on it. I was completely puzzled. I’d never owned a ribbon of cloth with buttons like this. I kept tugging on the ribbon and found that the buttons only went up half the length of it, and right in the middle an Old Navy tag, like new. Then I remembered–in a little experiment last year, I threw my husband’s cotton shirt into the compost heap, whole thing as-is, because it had a stain. Every last spec of it was gone except the polyester backing that goes up the front to secure the buttons, around the neck, and back down the front to secure the buttonholes. Amazing.

    Best of luck with your garden.

  7. Janelle says:

    I can’t wait to sample whatever Strawberry Shortcake planted in your garden!

  8. Oops. Turns out not so much with the Angelou (post now corrected).
    The beauty of these symbols is their fluidity. Sweat can happen in Eden.
    #3, see [3] and consider apology extended.

  9. Best thoughts on garden joys I’ve read in a long time. Thanks.

  10. Banned Steve says:

    “Kentucky” blue grass isn’t even a North American native. The Brits brought it with them. The stuff looks great with cool weather and moisture, but it’s not suited for Summer even in the northern USA.

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