Matthew 13; Luke 8, 13: “Who Hath Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear” (March 20-26)

Parable of the Sower (September)” by Marten van Valckenborch

“I will open my mouth in a parable,” wrote the psalmist Asaph, “I will utter dark sayings of old” (Psalm 78:2). Even though the sayings were “dark” or hard to understand, the author’s intention was to make them more accessible. He had learned these things from his ancestors, he wrote, and “we will not hide them from their children” (Psalm 78:3-4).

Matthew saw in these words a prophecy of the Savior’s teaching style. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables,” he wrote, “and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35).

The word “parable” comes from the Greek word parabole (παραβολή), which means literally “thrown beside.” A parable places something we understand side by side with something intangible. The comparison makes the intangible thing less confusing, more relatable.

When His disciples asked why He taught in parables, Jesus referenced a passage from Isaiah: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (Isaiah 6:9, 2 Nephi 16:9). He said that the people had closed their eyes and stopped listening, so parables were the only way to reach them. (See Matthew 13:10-15.) Then, He made the following sobering observation: “Whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Matthew 13:12, Joseph Smith Translation in footnote a). Both Nephi and Alma taught the same principle in the Book of Mormon. (See 2 Nephi 28:29-30, Alma 12:9-11.)

Parables demand something from the listeners. The speaker introduces the comparison, but the audience must work out its implications. Jesus emphasized the responsibility of the listener with a phrase which He used repeatedly: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, 43, Mark 4:9, 23, Mark 7:16, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35). Here’s a blog post on the topic: Hidden Treasures.


Spiritual growth has a lot in common with physical growth, and we can learn a lot from observing nature. Perhaps that’s why several of Jesus’ parables relate to farming:

  1. The Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9, Luke 8:5-8). (Jesus provided an interpretation for this parable in Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:14-20, Luke 8:11-15).
  2. The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). (Jesus also interpreted this parable in Matthew 13:36-43.)
  3. The Unfruitful Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
  4. The Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)
  5. The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19)
  6. The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)

At least two passages in the Book of Mormon compare spiritual growth to tending plants: (1) Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Tree as quoted in Jacob 5, and (2) Alma’s comparison of the word of God to a seed in Alma 32:28-43.

Here are a couple of blog posts about some lessons we can learn from these parables:

The Kingdom of Heaven

The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” appears 33 times in the book of Matthew, and no where else in the Bible. (Mark and Luke use the similar phrase “the kingdom of God” in parallel passages.)

In the Book of Mormon, the phrase appears 17 times, in sermons by Alma and Amulek (Alma 5:25, 28, 50, 51, Alma 7:9, 14, 25, Alma 9:25, Alma 10:20, Alma 11:37), in an editorial note by Mormon (Helaman 3:30), in a statement by God to a group of Lamanites and Nephite dissenters (Helaman 5:32), and in the Sermon on the Mount (3 Nephi 12:3, 10, 20, 3 Nephi 14:21).

Jesus opens eleven of His parables by comparing the kingdom of heaven with something:

  1. The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30)
  2. The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)
  3. The Leaven (Matthew 13:33)
  4. The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
  5. The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46)
  6. Drawing in the Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
  7. The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35)
  8. The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
  9. The Great Banquet (Matthew 22:2-14)
  10. The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
  11. The Talents (Matthew 25:1-30)

Looking at all of these parables, it is clear that the kingdom of heaven has the following characteristics:

  • It may not come as quickly as we hope, and we can’t be sure when it will arrive, but when it does come, we need to be ready.
  • It is worth more than anything else in the world, but it’s value isn’t evident to most people.
  • It is available to everyone who earnestly desires it.

Here is a blog post about the practical meaning of establishing God’s kingdom on the earth: “Thy Kingdom Come”.

Blog Posts: March 21-26

Not Without Honour

Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” Why do we routinely underappreciate the people closest to us? We can approach our relationships with more humility, honoring the ones we know best.

Receive, Find, Be Opened

God answers our prayers in multiple ways. Sometimes we simply receive an answer. Sometimes, He helps us find an answer. And sometimes, doors are opened to us which we must exercise faith to enter. We can be grateful for all three kinds of answers.

Mustard Seeds and Time Management

Jesus and Alma both emphasized that a tree begins as a very small seed. The practical application of this principle is simple: focus every day on making small contributions to big goals. The cumulative effect of those efforts can be extraordinary.

Preparing for General Conference

Jesus and Nephi taught that those who receive will be given more. Here are some impactful experiences that I have had with general conference over the years and some suggestions about how to prepare for conference on April 1 and 2, 2023.

A Little Leaven

Three lessons from the Parable of the Leaven: 1. Leaven has to be in the dough to work, so participate actively. 2. Leaven works over time, so be patient. 3. Leaven is distributed across the dough, so trust that your work is part of something greater.

Wheat Among Tares

The Parable of Wheat and the Tares teaches that God doesn’t right every wrong immediately. We can flourish even when surrounded by negative influences by studying the Savior, making covenants with Him, and safeguarding the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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