Web of Friendship


Richard H. Winkel
Adapted from an October 1999 general conference address.

I’d like to talk to you about a beautiful place. The north coast of California in the United States is home to the world’s tallest trees. A walk through a virgin, old-growth redwood forest can be one of the most awe-inspiring experiences you’ll ever have. These trees sometimes live to be more than 2,000 years old and can reach heights of 300 feet (92 m) and more. The tallest redwood tree ever recorded was 367 feet (113 m) in height. That is about three-fourths again as tall as the Salt Lake Temple. The gigantic redwoods dwarf their other softwood and hardwood neighbors, thus becoming “the Mount Everest of all living things.”

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

“Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:18–21).

Taking Root

The coastal redwoods are truly lords of their realm and a most exquisite creation of our Father in Heaven. They reign over associated trees because of their overwhelming height and majestic beauty. However, there is another feature of these towering giants that is truly remarkable and somewhat unknown to most of us. Even though they grow up to heights of 300 feet (92 m) and can weigh more than one million pounds (460 tonnes), these trees have a very shallow root system. Their roots go down only 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 m) but can spread out several hundred feet (more than 100 m). As these roots extend out, they intertwine with their brother and sister redwoods and other trees as well. This intertwining of roots creates a webbing effect. Most engineers would tell you this shallow root system still would be incapable of keeping the redwoods intact and protected against strong winds and floods. However, the interconnecting root systems are the secret of their strength and teach us a great lesson.

These magnificent giants simply could not make it alone. Without being connected to nearby trees, they would not survive.

New members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot make it alone either. They might appear to be as independently strong as the redwoods, but they need us and we need them.

Supported, Sustained, and Loved

They need our love and support. Whether we know it or not, they are reaching out to us as the roots of the redwood reach toward the Douglas fir, the Western hemlock, the Sitka spruce, and other species as well. We need to reach out to these new members and sustain them in their growth, for truly we are their brothers and sisters. Don’t we all do better when we are supported, sustained, and loved by our families and friends? Even trees do better when they grow close together in groves. They grow taller, straighter, stronger, and produce better lumber.

I am thankful for the web of friendship that has nurtured me throughout my life, for having been born of goodly parents, for my brothers, sisters, and extended family. I am especially grateful for the love and support of my wife and children. I feel very fortunate to have had many good friends through the years, both in and out of the Church.

I know we have a kind and wise Heavenly Father and bear testimony of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of His atoning sacrifice, which touches each one of us. I also bear testimony that the Church is led by a great prophet today. I ask the Lord to bless us all that we might feel more connected and caring of one another.

[illustration] Illustration by Randall Royter