Throughout my teenage years, I went through several periods where I would try really, REALLY hard to be Mormon in my heart. Each episode of devoutness would last from six months to a year. During that time, I was towing the line: I confessed to all the bishops and endured the humiliating repentance processes. I took time out of my high school education to take the seminary classes. I poured my energy into completing my Young Women in Excellence (a program that rewards “virtuous young women” with a ruby necklace [which, if you ask me, is the real incentive]). I prayed twice a day and credited God for everything in my life. In addition to reading the Book of Mormon every day, I was also reading the Doctrine and Covenants and the Bible daily. A couple times I was grappling with the decision to become a missionary.
It’s the most terrifying thing to fall out of a religion. I desperately tried to force my eyes closed and pray my blind faith back. I was so depressed I didn’t sleep for most of my senior year of high school. I wish more people knew that.
During my second-to-last religious episode, when I was 17 years old, I was reading through the New Testament in the Bible when I came across the only imperfect thing I thought Jesus had ever done.
Found first in Matthew 21 and later in Mark 11 is the story of when Jesus killed the fig tree. As the story goes, the son of God found himself hungering one morning, and walking up to the fig tree was so mad not to find figs ready to feed him (Note: Figs were not in season, based on Mark’s account), Jesus curses the tree, saying “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” The tree then withers, dead.
I was immediately disturbed. Jesus? Killing a tree because it wasn’t bearing fruit when it factually could not? That sounded like an evil dictator to me. The verses following the episode didn’t explain anything, unlike the explanations that come after all the parables.
I took my question everywhere from friends to seminary teachers. I didn’t get it. What furthered my confusion is that no one could explain it to me—the most answer I ever got was to ignore it and focus on how much power Jesus and prayer had.
Note: I am not a Bible/scripture scholar by any means. You can bash and clarify me all you want, if you have the “divine” answer, but this is my answer. No one else could tell me, and after years of rumination, this is the best I’ve got (yes, I dared to think about it with my own brain).
I finally found an answer in my faith transition support group that makes sense.
Fruit image is rampant throughout the Bible, especially as it related to the theme “And by their fruits shall ye know them,” meaning that you can judge a person by the works and things they produce.
Applied to the cursed fig tree, because is has no fruit to offer (all facts aside), Jesus deems it worthless and prevents it from ever achieving fruition. As there is no spelling out of his reasoning, but rather the whole thing is slipped in, one word comes to mind:
Seeing the fig tree as a person, bible readers are subconsciously taught that if that person cannot give you a religious profit, that person deserves (Jesus did it) to be completely cut out, cast off, and considered as good as dead. No room for compromise. No consideration for the facts of the situation.
This is what Christians everywhere are worshipping without understanding what it is they are reading.
No wonder so many of my Mormon friends turned so bitter so fast without a second thought as to cutting me off, never mind the years of our friendship.