The Parable of the Cocoa Bean

Repentance means changing and cultivating our environment so that we may thrive.

In the 16th century, European explorers brought shiploads of new foodstuffs from the Americas back to their homelands. These foods were new and exciting and delicious, and one of the most desirable was cocoa, bursting with flavor and stimulants. It didn’t take long before the wealthiest in England and Spain were uprooting cacao trees to plant them in their own gardens back home.

What they didn’t know at first was that the trees could only thrive in a particular environment; soil nutrients, acidity, humidity, and temperature all factored into whether the tree would produce the fruit pods they were after. The very American dirt they grew in had to be transported to Europe, with its unique volcanic makeup. Entire gardens were altered to accommodate cacao trees. Greenhouses were built and maintained. It was a costly and demanding pursuit, but the end result was worth it.

There’s a spiritual principle in this story: if we want the best for ourselves–the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ–we have to change ourselves and our surroundings to accommodate it. Consider President Russell M. Nelson’s remarks during the priesthood session of the April 2019 General Conference:The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.

Europeans changed everything to get that sweet savory cocoa. Likewise we must constantly change and make course corrections throughout this turbulent life so that the seeds of our faith can yield righteous fruit. It doesn’t matter how much we want it if we aren’t tending to the soil, monitoring the temperature, the moisture, and the nutrients that the tree needs. Fortunately God has provided us with centuries of scripture–and even more important, living prophets–to help us keep our personal gardens in order so that the Spirit can thrive.

Examine your life, your choices, your behavior, and see what changes you can make to align your own will more closely with God’s. The fruit will come, if you will make the conditions right.

Supplemental reading:

We Can Do Better and Be Better” – President Russell M. Nelson, April 2019

“Cocoa and Chocolate: Their History from Plantation to Consumer” by Arthur William Knapp


Graham Bradley is a truck driver and a novelist. He served a mission in Barcelona, Spain, from 2003-2005. You can follow him @GrahamBeRad

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