WHY DID THE LORD CALL HIS FAITHFUL SAINTS "PLANTS OF RENOWN"?

The Lord commanded the saints to build “a resting place for the weary traveler” arriving in or passing through their city. This building, the Nauvoo House, was also intended for spiritual rest, where one could “contemplate… Zion” and be taught by saints the Lord “set to be as plants of renown.” (D&C 124:60-61.)


This same odd phrase appears in Ezekiel 34:29 (KJV). The Lord was promising Israel that He would eventually “raise up for them a plant [or plantation] of renown” to heal them of physical and spiritual famine. Perhaps this symbolizes Jesus Christ—"the Branch and the fruit of the tree of life—in His mortal or millennial roles. Maybe it’s the fulness of His gospel as shared by His servants.


I put together some loose variations of the Hebrew phrase (1) looking for additional insight. While my alternatives aren’t direct translations, they do give different perspectives on the Lord’s usage in D&C. Here are a few:


The Nauvoo House was to be a place for weary travelers to rest and be taught by those the Lord considered to be…


…gardens of character and honor. (e.g. Joseph Smith opened his heart to growth, his life to integrity, and his home to all in need of nurturing.)

trees of authority and prominence. (e.g. Joseph was a man of strength who was led by God and authorized to exercise His priesthood.)

offshoots of the Name. (e.g. Joseph constantly represented Jesus Christ to the best of his ability.)

Additionally, just prior to these verses in D&C, the Lord repeated His promise that through Abraham’s seed all the world would be blessed. That promise—and responsibility—is renewed in each faithful member of House of Israel, that “branch” the Lord said He planted and made grow to bring Him glory (Isa. 60:21).


Wait, does that mean you and I are plants of renown, too?!


As modern Israel we, too, might be considered “plants of renown” when we are doing any of the things we’ve discussed:

  • seeking spiritual growth for self and others.

  • offering rest, nourishment and healing.

  • striving to represent the Lord as we take His name upon us.

  • developing the honor and character befitting a follower of Christ.

  • drawing upon His priesthood power in temples, callings, families, etc.

  • helping prepare the earth for the return of the Messiah.


Scholar Truman G. Madsen explained that in ancient apocalyptic (end-of-days) writings, “plants of renown” referred to reputable Israelites. These individuals who were “marked or sealed [as the lineage of Israel] belonged to the glorified Messiah, who [in turn] glorifies them” (2).


You chose Him. You are His.


Ultimately, that makes you a “plant of renown” in the eyes of heaven.




NOTES

1. The Hebrew phrase for “plant of renown” in Ezekiel 34 is matta’ l’shem.


The noun matta’ can mean three different things: [1] something planted (a living, growing organism), [2]) a place of planting (e.g. plantation, garden, vineyard), or [3] a specific time when planting took place (e.g. spring planting).


L’ means “of” or “from.”


Shem is the Hebrew word for “a name,” signifying a mark of individuality. It may be derived from the root sum, thereby carrying the connotation of being in a visible, prominent position. Shem is occasionally used similarly to the English idiom, “he made a name for himself,” hence the translation of “renown” in the KJV of Ezekiel. Other words you might see this word translated as are “honor,” “authority,” “character,” “fame,” “glory,” and “reputation.”


2. Truman G. Madsen, “Introductory Essay: The Temple and the Restoration,” in The Temple in Antiquity: Ancient Records and Modern Perspectives, Truman G. Madsen ed., (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 1–18. See also J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1975), p. 400.