Draw your own spiritual analogy

You know that classic Primary song “Popcorn Popping”?  It goes like this:

I looked out the window and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.

Only if you live in a place where they don’t grow apricot trees, you might say the popcorn grows on some other kind of tree–a dogwood tree, for example.  I believe that when I was living and serving in a Primary in Virginia, the kids might have sung about popcorn on the dogwood tree.  I don’t remember for sure, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is that if you don’t have a particular kind of tree in your neck of the woods (haha–get it?  woods?), you are free to substitute some other kind of tree that sprouts popcorn-esque blossoms in the spring.  No one’s testimony is at stake, nor our theological integrity.

It just occurs to me that I have no idea whether or not apricot trees grow in my neck of the woods, or any of the woods I’ve ever lived in.  Where do they grow apricot trees?  I couldn’t tell you.  It also occurs to me that as a child I never once looked out the window and thought I saw popcorn popping on a tree, apricot or otherwise; nor has my bonny ever lay over the ocean; nor, for that matter, have I ever met a girl (or boy) from Ipanema–which brings me to my actual point, which is this:

Isn’t it just a damn song?

A damn fine song, I mean, regardless of what kind of tree you use.  (I happen to find “apricot” a little more lyrical than “dogwood,” but that’s just me.  You dogwood-lovers have your own reasons for doing things.)

I’m only thinking of this because I dropped my daughter off at Activity Days and noticed that there were popcorn-like blossoms sprouting out of the trees in front of the church.  And that’s when it hit me:  I had no bleeping idea what kind of trees those were.  If I were to venture a guess, I would probably be laughably, hysterically wrong.  I don’t know the names of any of the trees around these parts, even the ones growing in my own backyard.  I do know that Oregon has an abundance of trees called “evergreen” or “pine,” but that kind doesn’t grow any blossoms, or certainly none that the unworldly tot could mistaken for a wholesome snack.

And guess what else?  I don’t care.

Your assignment:  Discuss the possible spiritual applications of this otherwise-pointless anecdote, suitable for a sacrament meeting talk or youth fireside address.  Author of the best analogy wins a popcorn ball that will smell so sweet.

Bookmark Draw your own spiritual analogy


  1. If God knows every sparrow, then surely He knows every tree. You may feel insignificant and that no one knows who you are, but He does. He doesn’t care if you’re a goth or redneck or neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie, He loves you just the same. Don’t you feel better now?

    Here’s my tree question: What’s a fuzzy tree? As in, “Itching like a man on a fuzzy tree.”

  2. 1) Nobody knows exactly what someone else sees, even in the most ordinary and “objective” things around us.

    2) My perspective might be wildly different than yours, but it is real to me – as is yours to you.

    3) Therefore, I don’t dismiss another’s perspective simply because it is different than mine. That other perspective might be exactly what is needed to add color and beauty and magic to my own life – or it might be garbage to me. I’ll never know if I don’t examine it at least more closely than I am inclined naturally to do.

  3. Funny enough I went to a ward in Utah that had a gigantic apricot tree in the front. Apricots for all every few years when it produced.

  4. Oh, and Rebecca, I grew up near a small apricot orchard (the orchard, not the apricots). Fresh apricots are delicious – and the blossoms look nothing like popcorn to me.

  5. My mom wrote an alternate version of Popcorn Popping a few years ago:

    I looked out the window and what did I see?
    Toilet paper blowing in the apricot tree.
    Teenagers brought me such a nice surprise.
    Toilet paper blowing right before my eyes.
    I could take an armful and make a treat,
    A toilet paper wad that could wipe my seat.
    It was really so, and it seemed to be,
    Toilet paper blowing in the apricot tree.

  6. cahkaylahlee says:

    I grew up in the desert, where there really aren’t any trees that blossom. The song made no sense to me whatsoever until my freshman year at BYU where there are a variety of trees that blossom and fresh apricots from a member of the bishopric. Maybe in the same way scriptural imagery cannot really be understood until we understand more about the agriculture of whatever geographic region the scripture was originally produced in. Because there is plenty of agricultural imagery in scripture.

  7. Rebecca you are genius.

    I was a ‘popcorn song’ literalist all my primary years. I thought this was a song about real popcorn popping on an apricot tree. In fact, I didn’t realized that this was about blossoms until I was on my mission and someone illustrated it with a picture. I mean is there a sweeter smell than popcorn? Wouldn’t it be great to get real movie-theater popcorn from an apricot tree? Armfulls? What a bummer to find out it was about flowers.

    #5 Shelly. Very funny!

  8. Latter-day Guy says:

    Re: dogwoods

    They have dogwoods here on BYU campus, and now I finally understand their name––the blossoms smell like wet dog. It’s awful. They look pretty, but they poison the air. Yech.

  9. Latter-day Guy says:

    Strike that. I have just been informed that they are really some variety of pear.

    Still disgusting.

  10. Heidi Burton says:

    The Primary chorister in my ward said she found out one of the Primary kids was under the impression that the song “Little Purple Pansies” in the Children’s Songbook was actually “Little Purple Panties.” I’ve never forgotten that!

  11. We are divorced from the earth and the enriching sense of being located somewhere, of knowing the smells and textures and names of the natural entities that surround us. This alienation from Eden is so profound that we don’t even care anymore. Only by drinking unsweetened lemonade and running our fingertips over the bark of the trees whose names we now know will we ever be saved. And it will turn out that Obama is one of the archangels. And Wendell Berry will be heaven’s gatekeeper. But no one will eat popcorn. Maybe sweetcorn dipped in butter and with some fresh ground black pepper and sea salt (but without the SSRIs).[1]

    [1]A reference to the recent unsettling discovery that the seas and their organisms are slowly beginning to accumulate detectable levels of the antidepressants we urinate and/or toss into communal sewage systems.

  12. Left Field says:

    I think I was a grownup before I figured out what “Give Said the Little Stream” was supposed to be about. As a kid, I took “Give, oh give away” to mean “give way.” As in “surrender,” “collapse,” “cave,” “throw in the towel.” It did seem an odd sentiment to be teaching Primary kids.

  13. This post made my day, because lately we’ve been singing about popcorn popping on our very particular type of tree: a Thomas tree.

    A few weeks ago we were singing Popcorn Popping for FHE (which we do every week, because with 2 toddlers and a baby, songs that include gestures are a really good thing). We were partway through the song when my 2yo started screaming “Stop singing! Stop singing!” We did, and asked him what was wrong. His reply was a wonderfully vague and confusing, “Thomas popcorn” (said in a suitably scowly and pouty voice). I racked my brain for what to do, and asked hesitantly, “You want to sing about popcorn popping on the Thomas tree?” He nodded decisively and said “Yes, Thomas tree.” So we started the song over and sang about popcorn popping on the Thomas tree.

    He repeated the “Stop singing!” screaming when we moved on to another song, at which point he insisted on “Thomas popcorn” again. We sang it a few times before we decided we were done. And he is very vehement about popcorn popping on the Thomas tree, and will scream “Stop singing!” at you any time you try to make popcorn pop on any other kind of tree. Except one time when he requested the Lightning McQueen song, and not knowing what he meant by that either, I asked if he wanted to sing about popcorn popping on the Lightning tree, and he agreed. So we sang about the Lightning Tree.

    Luckily I warned the nursery music leader about the incident, because he repeated it in nursery (the screaming and all), so she kindly sang about the Thomas tree as well. I’m not sure what we’re teaching the other little children in there, though. (Oh, and just in case anyone is wondering, the need for a Thomas tree is because he’s in love with Thomas the Tank Engine. And Lightning McQueen, of course. Perhaps fewer videos would be a good thing.)

  14. Norbert says:

    1. I’ve always hated that song. If you’re going to get excited about apricot trees, get excited about the apricots.

    2. For every ‘dogwood tree’ singer, there are seven ‘apricot tree’ purists.

  15. (My great-grandmother had an apricot tree in her backyard. This was in Price, UT. I’m sure they grow in CA as well.)

    Virtue is the holiest gift you own. If your boyfriend’s “popcorn” “pops” on a date, you’ve gone too far, young ladies. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please come see me in the Bishop’s office.

  16. Molly Bennion says:

    Possible avenues of spiritual application: We grow many kinds of fruit trees, but the apricot is the first to bloom, the first sign of new fruit to come. Because it is early, it is also the most susceptible to late freezes and the total loss of the crop. The apricot is also the whitest of all our fruit blossoms, the purest, if you will. Peaches, plums, cherries, apples, nectarines…are all more colorful—though, comparing pure and colorful might not make the sale you want at Church.

  17. #15 – Sorry, but that’s just creepy.

  18. #! — Never heard the expression “itching like a man on a fuzzy tree.” Is that a common expression and I’m oblivious, or a pop culture reference and I’m too old to know about it?

    Ok here’s my try to apply the greater meanings behind Popcorn Popping: Just as a young child looks at the blossoms of an apricot tree and sees popcorn, we can look at the wonders and beauty of the world, as well as the curious, strange, and even ugly, and see possibilities. We are all creators by nature and we need to practice and develop our creative talents if we’re going to be gods over our own worlds after we’re stewards over this one. Looking at God-designed creation around us with new eyes and experiencing it with all our senses — drinking in the smell of those blossom-balls — will help us appreciate the infinite variety of the creation around us and help us develop the creativity deeded to us with our divine nature.

  19. Also — #5 — really funny rewrite, though I’ve never found TP hanging on MY trees to be a nice surprise! I always felt kind of aggravated by it.

    #15 – I REALLY don’t want to be thinking of that when I sing “Popcorn Popping!”

  20. Peter LLC says:

    I’m sure they grow in CA as well

    As with most things, if you water them, they grow in California as well, at least the parts with a “winter” season.

  21. Researcher says:

    Sorry; I don’t have any spiritual analogies. Just a few notes. I’m an apricot purist. Apricots are a very fascinating fruit, both in their history and their uses. They’re not so great from the store. They’re better ripe from the tree. Almost all American production is in California (as Peter LLC just said), Washington state and Utah. If you buy them dried, they’ll probably be from someplace like Turkey.

    Although I prefer to sing about apricots, I do like dogwoods, too. We planted one in our backyard the day that my grandma died. (Do you know how to tell if it’s a dogwood? By its bark.)

    And I’m wondering about the comment, “I grew up in the desert, where there really aren’t any trees that blossom.” Which desert? Antarctica? The Arctic? Believe me, there are blossoming trees in all the deserts of the American southwest. The Sonora Desert in Arizona, for example, has palo verde (yellow flowers) and ironwood (pink or purple flowers). Plus all the imported fruit trees such as peach, apricot, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, etc., etc.

  22. The ornamental tree called a Bradford Pear (does not stand up well to ice storms) it’s blossoms look quite a bit like popcorn. We sing this song quite a bit during the week or so the Bradford Pear is in blossom.

  23. “I looked out my window and what did I see? weeds, weeds , weeds, saying come dig me”. Happy Spring!

  24. cahkaylahlee says:

    #21 Forgive me for being less than articulate. There are trees that blossom, but the flowers look considerably less like popcorn balls than those of trees from other regions. I grew up in Las Vegas, where it gets too cold in the winter for citrus trees to survive. We had some peach shrubs in our yard, but I was taller than them, so they didn’t count as trees. We had a few mimosa trees which flower, but look nothing like popcorn. So spring at BYU was a new experience for me.

  25. Ray (3), cahkaylahlee (6), Molly (16), CAW (18) – you have all given me much food for thought. Not just snack food, either. My husband claims he had a delicious popcorn soup while in France. I can’t vouch for its nutritional or culinary value personally, but I imagine it is more substantial than a popcorn ball. (And spiritual growth isn’t necessarily pleasant, anyway.) At any rate, your analogies are great!

    FHL (1) – That expression is only vaguely familiar to me, but I imagine that a man with an itch who tries to scratch it on a fuzzy tree is not going to get much satisfaction. I’d call that extra itchy.

    Sam MB (11), an analogy that requires a footnote is a special kind of awesome.

    Portia (15), you automatically get points for saying something wildly inappropriate for church. But you have effectively ruined for me not only the popcorn song but also popcorn itself as well as a few species of tree, for the foreseeable future. That’s going to cost you in the final tally. (Just kidding. Like anyone could ruin “Popcorn Popping”–its virtue is ever true!)

    Vada (13) – I appreciated your story. My daughter used to scream in nursery whenever they sang “Do As I’m Doing” (and really, could you blame her?)–but my family routinely bastardizes the Popcorn song (though not to the point of compromising its virtue, as that would be impossible). My son’s name is Scott, so at some point we started singing “Popcorn popping on the apri-Scott tree,” which is pretty cheesy, but he thinks it’s hilarious, so we continue to do it. (Yes, the spiritual lesson here is narcissism.)

    We also alternate between singing “a popcorn ball that would smell like meat” and “a popcorn ball that would smell like feet.” (Which might be a good version for Latter-day Guy and his pear tree? #8-9)

  26. SteveP (7) – I too was embarrassingly old before I figured out they were talking about flowers. I thought it was a magical realism thing.

  27. Elphaba says:

    Well with the weather here in Utah, it is much more practical to currently be singing “Once there was a Snowman” than “Popcorn Popping,” because the weather has been crappy lately.

  28. Natalie says:

    Great post. I actually was looking at a dogwood yesterday and started singing the “popcorn popping” song!

  29. The “fuzzy tree” line is from All Shook Up by Elvis. =)

  30. 27–we were in UT for spring break the last week of March, and it snowed the whole time. Most of the apricot trees were blooming then (fooled by the mid-70s temps of the week before), so my dad was saying there aren’t likely to be many apricots this year.

    Rebecca, in our neck of the woods, if they were really fluffy, probably cherry. Smaller, pinker blossoms are flowering plum. Cherry trees also have telltale horizontal striations on the bark.

  31. Katherine says:

    In the high Mojave desert of California I thought that the Joshua Tree blossoms looked a little like popcorn. When I lived in San Diego, though, i never understood singing about snowmen.

  32. All things denote there is a God.

    Isn’t that how everyone feels in the Spring?

    And since the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me…

    Why not sing our praises with imaginary binnoculars and jazz hands?