Plowing the Fields

In Primary, I learned the story of the Whitmer’s fields being plowed mysteriously by strangers.

“When he went out to start plowing the soil in the morning, David discovered that someone had plowed part of the fields already….The next day David went to the place he had left the plaster, near his sister’s house, but the plaster was gone. His sister told him that the day before, she and her children had seen three strangers spreading the plaster with great speed and skill. She had assumed they were men David had hired, but David knew they were helpers provided by the Lord.” Primary 5, Lesson 9 “Witness to See the Gold Plates”

This story captured my imagination. Who were these helpers? Angels? The Three Nephites? It was a great miracle and it followed me for years.

Later I found myself with a new baby. It was my first and everything was new and difficult. I was too far postpartum for help- I was “supposed” to have things together by that point. Our sink was overflowing with dishes in our studio apartment. The baby was needy. I only saw chaos around me. It was the middle of the day and I didn’t know where to turn. And the story came back to me. I looked around myself. I had heard stories of visiting teachers and other showing up just when needed, after someone prayed for help. I God can send angels or people to plow a whole field, what’s 20 minutes of doing my dishes? So I prayed. I threw all my faith in and asked for someone to get me out of my mess.

Woman Plowing, Golden, CO No one came. 

Part of my wasn’t surprised. But then part of me felt betrayed. I really had put everything into that prayer! But maybe my lack of surprise meant I really was lacking faith. Maybe I wasn’t being righteous enough for divine intervention. But non-righteous people get divine intervention. Maybe it was too frivolous to ask for help with my dishes. God only helps you do things “after all you can do…” right? I guess I could have done my dishes, but in that moment in paralyzing abandonment, no, no I couldn’t.

In some ways, experiences like that hardened me. I have stopped hoping for someone to come and help me. Just do it myself or not at all. I’m not going to get divine intervention for my fields. I’m not David Whitmer, special Witness of The Book of Mormon. I’m not an Ensign article or conference talk example. I just got to do what I got to do.

But sometimes help does come. Yesterday I had posted my plans for the day in a Facebook status. It involved biking 9 miles after having had a fever the night before. Posting the status, I wasn’t looking for help just camaraderie with my fellow biking family friends. After seeing that status, I got a random message from someone offering to help me with the errands. I was unsure on whether or not to take him up on the offer, but decided to and he drove us to my daughter’s class and the grocery store and helped me bring everything and everyone home. It was really nice. I could have done the biking- I was feeling much better, but I didn’t have to.

I’m not sure if there’s a lesson here. I was not as in need yesterday as I was when I was alone with my first baby. Yet I got help. I don’t remember, but I probably had shot out an “overwhelmed by the dishes” message on Facebook that time, too, (I’ve been on Facebook for a guiltily long time). What’s the difference? Am I more righteous this time around? Doubtful. Is this friend more “in tune” than my friends those years ago? Maybe? Was my need mysteriously greater this time, but not last time? No.

I come away with two thoughts. First, should “faith promoting stories” like the Whitmer story be tempered? But then is it fair to tell people, “Well, God probably won’t respond to you similarly?”

But I think this also means I need to be more in tune to others’ needs and make sure I follow to Camilla Kimball’s suggestion to “Never suppress a generous thought.”


TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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6 Responses

  1. Christi says:

    The lesson I learned from no one coming to do your dishes is that I need to have my eyes more open to others’ needs. I would hate for someone I know to go without the help they need because I wasn’t paying attention, or was too busy.

    Thank you.

  2. Em says:

    That is a good reminder about longer term needs. Recently a friend had her fourth baby, but unfortunately it was during finals week for me and I was mired deep in grading. I told the coordinator that I could not bring a meal this week, but I was free to do so the following Friday. She turned me down and Id idn’t think another thing of it. I should have just done it.

    I have had many good experiences with the power of facebook as a bat signal for help. Sometimes even when i’m not really looking for it — a few years ago I expressed that I was pining for a cookie. Half an hour later, a plate of cookies showed up. I wasn’t angling for it.

    Maybe God did inspire someone to do dishes, and maybe that person wasn’t receptive or didn’t follow through. God is only working with imperfect people. I like the Witnmer story but I like stories that happen because real people do real work much better. I mean angel stories are cool, but when you hear of real people doing work for others it is inspiring from BOTH ends — you could receive, or you could give.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    I love that you don’t know if there’s a lesson in these stories. I think grappling with all the possible answers is far more satisfying than coming up with one correct black and white truth.

    I’ll be thinking about this post all day. Thanks, TopHat!

  4. April says:

    I never know what to do with these little miracle stories. On one hand, I like them. And i like recognizing the hand of God in small things, you know, “tender mercies” approach. On the other, I feel like I am being insensitive to those who really need big miracles but don’t recieve them.

  5. Jen says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This article has reminded me of the many times I have had someone come and do something for me, sometimes when I wasn’t sure it was needed. Those times have carried me through others because I knew I had some type of support system if I needed it. Ironically, I have also had an equal number of times that my pleas to God were not answered by another and I was left to face some of my hardest and most difficult trials alone. Those are the times I was brought closer to my Heavenly Father, closer to the Savior, and learned to listen to the promptings and the peace sent to me by the Spirit.

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