By Virginia Buffett
I would like to tell you a story about a plant named, Fred. This is a true story, mind you; one that has blessed my life and many other’s lives with whom I have shared it. It all started back in 1986. I was walking down the street, thinking to myself about the subject of faith. That week in church, I had heard my pastor preach about faith being a muscle that gets stronger as you exercise it. He talked about body builders and how they have to tear their muscles a tiny bit during each work out in order to build upon them. He admonished his congregation to get a faith project. Just like a body builder, we needed to exercise our muscle (faith) in order to build upon it. I was thinking about this sermon and my own lack of faith, as I was walking along.
By and by, I happened upon a pile of rubbish at the side of the street. Thrown into that pile was a dead plant; well, almost dead. There was one green leaf, still barely clinging to life amid all the other withered and brown ones. As I walked past the plant, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I know the feeling!” I was feeling withered, brown, and cast aside at the moment myself! I continued on, past the plant and pile of rubbish; when the thought struck me, “Everybody needs a second chance!” I stopped, went back and plucked the one living leaf off of the dying plant. I took it home with me, placed it in a glass of water, named it “Fred” and started praying for it!
Silly, you say? Perhaps, but I needed tangible proof that my Heavenly Father answers prayer. So, each time I would bow my head After, I would send my entreaties Heavenward, as an afterthought, I would say, “… And by the way, G-d, please bless Fred! I would like to see that plant grow and my faith along with it.”
You see, each time G-d answers our prayers, our faith grows that much stronger. Since G-d has His own timing for answers to prayers and since I am a person not known for an abundance of patients, I decided that I needed to see tangible proof of an answer to my prayers. Fred became my “faith project.” G-d is so amazing! He takes simple little things like that and He does marvelous things with them! Fred soon sprouted roots in that glass of water and I planted him into soil. I watched him grow and grow! My Fred plant grew to over six feet tall, and I gave many of my friends and family cuttings off of him as he spread out and one little leaf became many!
Now, as I write this story about Fred, it’s May 27th, 2007. Twenty one years have come and gone since I first started praying for one solitary leaf named, Fred. In that time, I have become a convert to the L. D. S. Church. Fred actually played a significant role in that conversion…
… The sister missionaries were over to my house. I was still investigating the church at the time. The topic of faith came up. I suggested that the ladies get a “faith project.” I then told them the story about Fred. Later that night, I was reading in the Book of Mormon that they had given me. I read Alma 32 for the first time. I couldn’t believe it! I had been quoting the Book of Mormon and didn’t even know it! I spent years searching for the truth before I ever thought to investigate the L. D. S. Church. G-d had to prepare my heart to receive the Mormon gospel because I had been taught that the Mormons were sacrilegious and headed straight for Hell!
I had mesmerized 33 chapters of the Bible by this time and the Bible says, “My words shall not return void” Isaiah 55:11. They didn’t, and even though I had never read the Book of Mormon, I had the Word of G-d hidden in my heart and I was quoting it without even knowing it when I was explaining to the ladies about the seed of faith being like a plant. I was SO EXCITED after I read Alma 32! I called the ladies immediately, got their answering machine and proceeded to leave them a very excited message! I later learned that they both saved that message because they were inspired by it. I knew in my heart that the Book of Mormon WAS the truth! It HAD to be! Because I was quoting what I already had in my heart from previous Bible exposure.
I did not have Fred anymore because my estranged husband had put my beloved plant on the curb while my children and I were in a battered woman’s shelter. I had owned Fred three times longer than I even knew my husband! The loss of that plant hurt me worse than the loss of my marriage!
What I had forgotten about, was that I had given pieces of Fred to my family and friends over the years. But I had no idea if any of them still had their Fred plants. So, the next day, I decided to surprise the missionaries with a Shaflera (that was the kind of plant that Fred was). I looked in several stores, but was unsuccessful at finding that particular plant. I went home, discouraged. Later that week, I was at my sister’s house. I know that G-d was in that because I rarely go to her house! It had literally been several years since I had set foot in her house. I noticed a four-foot “Fred” plant in her living room! I exclaimed, “Juanita! Where did you get that plant?!!” She said, “Don’t you remember? You gave it to me! It’s a baby off of Fred.” I didn’t remember giving her a cutting, but I asked her if I could have five cuttings off of her plant. She gave them to me and I, in turn, gave each of the ladies one. I kept the other three for myself. I was so happy! I thought my beloved Fred had been lost to me! I know that I could have bought a new Shaflera at any point, but it would not have been from off of that original plant and would not have meant as much to me.
Those first missionaries finished their missions and went home, taking their Fred plants with them. I later received a letter from one of them along with pictures, telling me how she used the story of Fred as a lesson in her study group! I gave the other two cuttings (besides the one that I kept for myself) to the new missionaries. One of those plants is still in the apartment of the sister missionaries, along with a copy of the story about “Fred, the faith project.” My cutting grew into a nice plant, which I have since given several cuttings off of to various church members and other missionaries. I even gave one to my sons therapist and one to our family Doctor. Both of those plants are displayed in their offices along with laminated copy’s of the story behind the plant. Pieces of Fred are in California, Utah, West Virginia, Canada, and even in Tonga! After 21 years, several moves, and even my husband’s attempt at destroying him; Fred lives on! And he is still blessing the lives of everybody who comes into contact with him! This all started with one little leaf that I decided to pray for! This is an amazing testament to the power of prayer and the glorious goodness of G-d! Praise G-d!!!