As I have considered this month's resolution to hunger and thirst more after righteousness, especially in light of how this applies to our actions, I have been struck once again by the way that our scriptures differentiate between "fruits" and "works". The Old Testament has 23 references to "fruits" and 83 references to "works"; New Testament has 42 references to "fruits" and 107 references to "works"; the Book of Mormon has 9 references to "fruits" and 59 references to "works"; the D&C has 2 references to "fruits" and 34 references to "works". There is an interesting difference in how "fruits" is used in the Old Testament, but there is a common denominator for each of these words in all of our canon, and it is directly relevant to my resolution this month.
In the Old Testament, "fruits" generally is used simply to mean the food that grows from the vine or tree. There are a few instances where there is an allusion to actions, but they are rare. In the rest of our canon, with rare exceptions, "fruits" and "works" both deal explicitly with actions. It is the difference in the actions that is instructive.
The following are a few examples that illustrate this difference:
3 Nephi 27:24 - "Write the works of this people, which shall be, even as hath been written, of that which hath been." (Obviously, referring strictly to actions, regardless of the nature of those actions)
Alma 37:34 - "Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls." ("Works" needs a qualifier - "good".)
Psalms 107:8 - "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" (Again, needing a qualifier - "wonderful".)
John 15:4-5 - "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (Fruit is something that is born or brought forth from a tree or vine.)
3 Nephi 14:17 - "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." (Again, fruit is the product of the tree, and it is the tree that determines whether the fruit is good or evil.)
It is apparent from these verses, and hundreds of others that I might have quoted, that, while "works" and "fruit" both refer to our actions, one focuses strictly on those actions ("works") and the other focuses primarily on the source of those actions ("fruit"). The distinction is not always made clear when discussing works, but it is explicit in nearly all references to fruit.
My conclusion from this comparison? That "works" are what we do - that what we do is important - that we are judged according to what we do. However, that judgment is NOT simply about what we do, as if we could construct a checklist of Do's and Dont's and be judged as "righteous" based on how well we follow our checklist. Certainly, there are some things that are required of all (baptism, basic adherence to the commandments, etc.), but we will be judged primarily on whether or not our "works" are produced by a real connection to a good tree or vine - whether or not they are the result of the nurture of the Spirit - whether or not they are the works that God desires of each of us individually. That final point is the key, imo.
This means that the full body of my works must be distinguishable from the full body of anyone else's works - that I can't produce gala apples just because someone else produces them - that my apples can be corrupt if God wants me to produce oranges or pears (or pears during one stage of my life, cherries during another and grapes in a later stage). Just as importantly, if I love apples and dislike apricots, I must be willing to learn to produce apricots if He requests it of me.
Works provide exercise, but only divine works (fruits) provide the sustenance that feeds my soul and satisfies my hunger and thirst.
When they believe, then they shall believe!
14 hours ago