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Latest revision as of 11:04, 26 April 2013

Jesus Sermon on the Mount Mormon
The gospels in the Bible recount the parables of Jesus, in which Christ used allegorical stories to teach gospel lessons. Sometimes, the messages of His parables were difficult for hearers to understand. Often, He took his apostles aside and dissected the stories to increase their understanding, and He even told them that only listeners who were aided by the Spirit were meant to grasp the meaning of the stories.
And the disciples came and said unto [the Savior], Why speakest thou unto them [the multitude] in parables? He answered and said unto them, [that is unto the disciples,] because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them, [that is, unbelievers,] it is not given; for whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath’ (Matthew 13:10–12).
Now we discover that the very reason assigned by this prophet [Isaiah], why they would not receive the Messiah, was, because they did not or would not understand; and seeing, they did not perceive; ‘for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, their eyes have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.’ [Matthew 13:15.] But what saith He to His disciples? ‘Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear, for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them’ (Matthew 13:16–17). [1]

Some parables are more complex than others, and some have layers of meaning. In creating allegories, Jesus employed common objects and cultural cues—oil lamps, mustard seeds, wedding traditions, sheep, and wine, for example. Taken collectively and looking at the allegorical material, one can conclude that gospel truths can be grasped in the humblest of circumstances, attuning oneself to the nuances available even in the simplest of environments.

Christ's choice to teach in parables is not limited to the Bible. Christ used parables to teach the Book of Mormon peoples when he visited them in ancient America after His resurrection. He also taught His modern prophets through revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, and even there taught in parables.

Parables from the Bible

Scholars list thirty-three parables from the Bible, none of them appearing in the Gospel of John. They are as follows:

Some Latter-day Commentary

Concerning the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Prophet Joseph Smith said,

Now we can discover plainly that this figure [parable] is given to represent the Church as it shall come forth in the last days.” The Prophet then made a particular application of the parable. Not only did the mustard seed represent the kingdom of heaven; the Prophet also compared the mustard seed to the Book of Mormon: “Let us take the Book of Mormon, which a man took and hid in his field, securing it by his faith, to spring up in the last days, or in due time; let us behold it coming forth out of the ground, which is indeed accounted the least of all seeds, but behold it branching forth, yea, even towering, with lofty branches, and God-like majesty, until it, like the mustard seed, becomes the greatest of all herbs. … It has sprouted and come forth out of the earth, and righteousness begins to look down from heaven, and God is sending down His powers, gifts and angels, to lodge in the branches thereof.” [2]

Concerning the Parable of the Leaven:

The Prophet Joseph Smith saw a special meaning in the Savior’s mention of three measures of meal: “It may be understood that the Church of the Latter-day Saints has taken its rise from a little leaven that was put into three witnesses. Behold, how much this is like the parable! It is fast leavening the lump, and will soon leaven the whole.” [3]

Concerning the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price:

See the Church of the Latter-day Saints, selling all that they have, and gathering themselves together unto a place that they may purchase for an inheritance, and that they may be together and bear each other’s afflictions. … See men traveling to find places for Zion and her stakes or remnants, who, when they find the place for Zion, or the pearl of great price, straightway sell that they have, and buy it.” [4]

Concerning the Parable of the Net:

Concerning the fishermen in this scene, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Behold the seed of Joseph, spreading forth the Gospel net upon the face of the earth, gathering of every kind, that the good may be saved in vessels prepared for that purpose, and the angels will take care of the bad.” [5]

Concerning the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares the Prophet said,

Now men cannot have any possible grounds to say that this is figurative, or that it does not mean what it says, for He is now explaining what He has previously spoken in parables; and according to this language, the end of the world is the destruction of the wicked; the harvest and the end of the world have an allusion directly to the human family in the last days, instead of the earth, as many have imagined, and that which shall precede the coming of the Son of Man, and the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began; and the angels are to have something to do in this great work, for they are the reapers.
As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world’ [Matthew 13:40]; that is, as the servants of God go forth warning the nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth, these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony being closed up, … they are left in darkness, and delivered over unto the day of burning; thus being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being made strong by their priests, [they] are prepared for the fulfillment of the saying of the Savior—‘The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 13:41–42).
We understand that the work of gathering together of the wheat into barns, or garners, is to take place while the tares are being bound over and preparing for the day of burning; that after the day of burnings, ‘the righteous shall shine forth like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.’ [6]

Parables in the Book of Mormon

In 3 Nephi 11 an account is given of Christ's visit to the Americas. He said to the people, repeating the Parable of the Two Houses:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth (3 Nephi 11:39-41; also 3 Nephi 14:23-27; 3 Nephi 18:12-15).

In 3 Nephi 12, the Savior says,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;
Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (3 Nephi 12:13-16).

Parables in the Doctrine and Covenants

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 45, the Lord refers to the Parable of the Ten Virgins:

And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation.
For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver (Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-59).

In the same section, the Lord explains the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree:

And when the light shall begin to break forth, it shall be with them like unto a parable which I will show you—
Ye look and behold the figtrees, and ye see them with your eyes, and ye say when they begin to shoot forth, and their leaves are yet tender, that summer is now nigh at hand;
Even so it shall be in that day when they shall see all these things, then shall they know that the hour is nigh.
And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.
And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath (Doctrine and Covenants 45:36-40).

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 86, the Lord explains the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares:
Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed;
And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.
But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—
Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned (Doctrine and Covenants 86:1-7).

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88, the Lord recounts the parable of the Master visiting each of the servants in the field in turn, that each servant glories in His presence for an hour:

And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—
Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;
Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.
Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made (Doctrine and Covenants 88:58-61).

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 101: 43-62 [1], is found the Parable of the Nobleman and the Tower. Christ is counseling His saints to listen to His voice, then heed and obey. The parable is familiar in that it refers to a nobleman with a vineyard. The nobleman employs servants, commands them to dress the vineyard, build a hedge around it, then construct a watchtower from which to watch for enemies who might threaten the vineyard. The nobleman (the Lord) then leaves for a time. The servants do all they were commanded, except that they don't quite finish the tower. It's a time of peace, and when they discuss the command of the nobleman among themselves, they see no reason to construct a tower. The enemy comes and destroys the vineyard, and the nobleman chastizes the servants:

Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the vineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?
Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?
And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer.
And the lord of the vineyard said unto one of his servants: Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry;
And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money (Doctrine and Covenants 101:52-56).

Keeping the commandments of the Lord fully is protective to all who follow Him. Discernment increases, and we are able "to see" the enemy.

Also in Section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says,

Now, unto what shall I liken the children of Zion? I will liken them unto the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, for men ought always to pray and not to faint...
Thus will I liken the children of Zion.
Let them importune at the feet of the judge;
And if he heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the governor;
And if the governor heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the president;
And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers (Doctrine and Covenants 101:81, 85-90).

Again, in Section 101, the Lord refers once more to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares:

Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;
While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire (Doctrine and Covenants 101:65-66).

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 103, it says,

Verily, verily I say unto you, that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., is the man to whom I likened the servant to whom the Lord of the vineyard spake in the parable which I have given unto you.
Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., say unto the strength of my house, my young men and the middle aged—Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion, upon the land which I have bought with money that has been consecrated unto me (Doctrine and Covenants 103:21, 22).

External Links

  • “Chapter 25, Relief Society Lesson Manual: Truths from the Savior’s Parables in Matthew 13,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 292–305.
  • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 98.
  • Teachings, 100.
  • Teachings, 101–2.
  • Teachings, 102.
  • History of the Church, 2:267, 271.