Beware the Strangler Fig

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "Stealth Fighters" in the book Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon.)

There is a plant called Ficus Aurea, which is more commonly known as the “strangler fig.” It grows in lush, warm climates such as those in Central and South America. From its beginnings as a tiny seed, this plant can grow to be a hundred feet tall. But the interesting thing about the strangler fig is that it’s a parasitic plant—that is, it needs a host in order to grow.

The way the strangler fig grows is unusual. Certain bats love to eat the fruit the strangler fig produces, but they can’t digest the tiny fig seeds. The bats deposit the seeds in their droppings high up on branches of other trees, where the seeds begin to send out tiny roots. The roots are very thin and delicate at first, and they slowly snake their way down, wrapping themselves around the host tree, until they reach the soil below. Once the tiny roots find the soil, however, they begin to grow rapidly. The plant sends out more and more roots, which grow thicker and stronger, until the host tree is literally strangled and dies. The host tree withers away, leaving the hollowed-out root system of the strangler fig standing strong and tall, ready to produce more fruit and seeds.

Secret combinations (and, indeed, any kind of sin) are like the strangler fig. They may start out small and even go unnoticed at first as they slowly work their way into our society and our lives. If, by our unwillingness to repent and live righteously, we allow secret combinations to take root, they will grow stronger, more powerful, and can destroy our society just as the strangler fig destroys its host tree. It’s no wonder that Moroni warned, “Repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you” (Ether 8:23; emphasis added). Once secret combinations take root, there’s almost no stopping them. Allowing them to operate will mean “your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be” (Ether 8:23).

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “[Satan] uses secret combinations . . . ‘from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men.’ (Helaman 6:30.) His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations. (See 2 Nephi 9:9.) . . . And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us as [Church members] to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe.”

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