In one of the Savior’s parables, a farmer plants wheat in his field. In the middle of the night when no one is watching, his enemy plants tares in the same field. A tare is “an injurious weed resembling wheat when young” (Oxford English Dictionary). When the farmer’s servants realize what has happened, they ask if he wants them to remove the tares. He says, “Not yet.” He’s worried that, in the process of removing the weeds, they’ll pull up good plants at the same time. Better to wait, he says, until the plants are more mature. Then you’ll be able to distinguish the good from the bad. (See Matthew 13:24-30.)
When His disciples later asked Him to explain the parable, Jesus provided the following interpretation:
- The farmer is the Savior.
- The field is the world.
- The good seed represents righteous people.
- The bad seed represents the wicked.
- Satan is the enemy.
- The harvest is the end of the world.
(See Matthew 13:36-43.)
In 1832, while working on a translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith asked for further information about this parable and received the following additional insights:
- The sowers were the ancient apostles.
- After they “fell asleep,” the church was choked by tares and driven into the wilderness (the Great Apostasy).
- Now, as the church is beginning to emerge, the angels in heaven are anxious to remove harmful influences and clear room for it to grow. But God is telling them to wait. “The blade is yet tender,” He says, “(for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.”
- Once the plants are ready, the angels will gather the wheat first, then the tares can be burned. (This is the opposite of the process outlined in Matthew, in which the tares are gathered first.)
Here’s what I like most about the 1832 interpretation:
The Lord is expressing tremendous confidence in the members of His young church. They may be just beginning their spiritual journey, and they may face significant obstacles, but they are up to the challenge. They don’t need to be rescued; they need time and space to mature and grow.
As Alma explained to the people of Ammonihah, the Lord had similar confidence in our first parents, Adam and Eve. After they partook of the forbidden fruit, there was a possibility that they could partake immediately of the fruit of the tree of life, which would have spared them the pain of mortal life and the certainty of physical death. But if that had happened, “they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated” (Alma 12:26).
We need time to grow, and we need to face significant challenges. When Alma later explained to the Zoramites how to increase their faith, he explained that the process would require “diligence, and patience, and long-suffering” (Alma 32:42). Don’t give up on the seed. Continue to nourish it, trust that it will grow, and give it some time.
Today, I will remember the confidence God has placed in me by not removing every “tare” from my life. I will recognize that He is giving me room to grow, and I will trust that my faith will grow stronger during this preparatory time He has given me.