The magnificent sycamore fig tree grows in the river forests of Africa and parts of Asia Minor.
This giant of the forest dominates its surrounding terrain but is mainly know for its remarkable root structure. The roots are huge, flange-like buttresses that spread out at the base of the tree trunk and sink deeply into the earth. The roots enable the tree to withstand violent floodwaters of the rainy season, as well as to grow to great heights.The stability offered by its roots provides the sycamore fig with a natural advantage over other vegetation in the area.
This root structure offered a wonderful example for the Savior to use when he discussed faith with His disciples. Luke records the teaching moment as follows:
"And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
"And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you." (Luke 17:5-6.)
There also is an obvious advantage for individuals to be deeply rooted in the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Prophet Jeremiah understood this when he wrote:
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
"For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." (Jer. 17:7-8.)
As He taught the parable of the sower, the Master spoke of those not rooted deeply, when He said of the seeds cast in shallow places:
"And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
"But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away." (Mark 4:5-6.)
When pressed by His disciples for an explanation of the parable, Jesus said the seeds sown were the words of truth. He further said:
"And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the work, immediately receive it with gladness;
"And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended." (Mark 4:16-17.)
Luke adds this additional witness:
"They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the work with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." (Luke 8:13.)
Paul, writing to the Colossians, urged deep roots, saying:
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
"Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." (Col. 2:6-7.)
In the Book of Mormon, Alma likened the word of God to a seed and spoke of the need to nourish the seed's growth into a tree:
"And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
"But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out." (Alma 32:37-38.)
Just as the sycamore fig tree is buttressed by strong roots against destructive elements and grows tall among its surrounding vegetation, so the gospel and our faith in Jesus Christ fortifies us against the buffetings of Satan.
As Latter-day Saints we should nourish the seeds of truth within us, tending carefully our spiritual growth, planting our roots deeply in truth, so that in times of stress, adversity, or temptation, we shall not wither or be cast down.