Scheduled for study Mar 18-24, 2019. This is the week of parables, the stories with hidden meanings. This also means this is the week we take a look at what it means to prepare ourselves to understand those things of a godly nature.

Day 1

Matthew 13 – What is “the kingdom of heaven” that Christ referred to in Matthew 13?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The short answer to the question for today’s study is, of course, the Lord’s Church. Well, that was easy. Now that we have finished today’s study, let’s go shopping. Just kidding. It’s never that easy.

The word “kingdom” is mentioned 12 times in this chapter. I got the bright idea to look at how the kingdom is referred to each time. Here is what I found.

  1. kingdom of heaven (verse 11)
  2. the word of the kingdom (verse 19)
  3. kingdom of heaven (verse 24)
  4. kingdom of heaven (verse 31)
  5. kingdom of heaven (verse 33)
  6. the children of the kingdom (verse 38)
  7. his kingdom (referring to God) (verse 41)
  8. the kingdom of their Father (verse 43)
  9. kingdom of heaven (verse 44)
  10. kingdom of heaven (verse 45)
  11. kingdom of heaven (verse 47)
  12. kingdom of heaven (verse 52)

I see a theme here. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom has a “word” that is preached, and that word is the gospel (the good news) of Christ. And this last one surprised me – we are the children of the kingdom as talked about in the parable of the wheat and the tares. All of these parables in chapter 13 are talking about God’s kingdom and His relationship with His children.

So what exactly is this kingdom of God Jesus is talking about? A kingdom is something which is a political structure ruled over by a monarch, in this case our Father in Heaven, our King. The political structure of His kingdom is the structure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the kingdom being referred to is not God’s heavenly kingdom, but the part of His kingdom that is used to provide salvation for His children in mortality. His earthly kingdom if you will. God’s earthly kingdom is just a small part of his eternal kingdom. The authority and nature of the covenants He requires of those who want to return to Him don’t change, but the structure of His earthly government changes with the needs of His children (us). This is why the prophets tell us that the Church will continue to change on a regular basis until the Savior Himself returns to rule and reign on earth.

The Lord’s earthly kingdom is governed, in the absence of its rightful ruler, the Savior, by the Savior’s chief steward, the Prophet (Quorum of the Presidency), the Council or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the First Quorum of the Seventy. These three bodies make up the governing bodies of the Church, the Lord’s kingdom on earth (Doctrine and Covenants 107:22-26).

Do you remember that the scriptures teach us that spiritual things, otherwise known as mysteries, can only be understood by the Spirit of God? In other words, they have to be revealed to us for us to comprehend them or grasp them. This is what Jesus was telling his disciples in chapter 13. Those who are spiritually prepared will have ears to hear and understand. Those who are not spiritually prepared will not only not understand his parables, but what little spiritual knowledge they have will be taken away from them. Why? Because they are not willing to seek for more knowledge.

This tells us that membership in the kingdom of God is a one way relationship. Either we are always seeking to know more of the ways of God or God is taking away from us that which we have already received because we have demonstrated that we are no longer interested in what He has to offer us. Moving in either direction is not in leaps and bounds, but in incremental steps, here a little and there a little. So just as we come to understand the gospel a little bit at a time, so too do we forget what we have learned as we fall spiritually asleep as we slip into spiritual ignorance from our lack of effort.

I recommend you go back and reread this chapter and see if you have any better sense or feel for what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples.

Day 2

Matthew 13:3-23; Luke 8:4-15 – My heart must be prepared to receive the word of God.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

There have been times when I thought the Lord was very capricious – constantly unpredictable. But if there is one thing the scriptures teach us, it is that the Lord is VERY predictable and consistent in his behavior. I believe the word that is used most often is “unchangeable.” If God is predictable and unchangeable then why can’t I see it? I have determined that the answer to this question is because I am not prepared to see the Lord’s patterns of behavior, and the patterns in his teachings. The more I see of either, the more I see that God is completely consistent in all things.

In Matthew 13:13 the Lord explains my problem this way:

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

I read the scriptures, so I see what is being said, but there is such a lack of understanding that I don’t comprehend what is being said. So I physically see the words, but I don’t see the point or the lesson being taught. I hear the lesson, but receive no understanding. Isaiah gives the reason for this happening, and I have no one to blame but myself.

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

What does it mean “their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted,and I should heal them?” The answer, I have concluded, lies in the first phrase of the sentence. If I cannot understand the scriptures I read, it is because my heart has waxed (or grown) gross or cold. In other words, I am hard of heart, slow to listen, slow to see, slow to comprehend, because I am unwilling to follow the Savior’s commandments and seek the Spirit of the Lord. For it is only by the Spirit that comprehension of spiritual things can be grasped. My very lack of desire to understand is what prevents me from being able to understand.

When we humble ourselves and pray for understanding, and are willing to live by what we learn, the Spirit opens our eyes and our ears so that we begin to see the spiritual connections in the scriptures that teach us of eternal things. All of it is based on our willingness to do more and be obedient to what we learn. This is what defines a softened heart, willingness and desire to be obedient. So when the Lord says “who hath ears to hear, let him hear” He is saying to me are you willing to let what you see and hear change your life? As long as I am skeptical and unwilling to change for the better, I cannot expect Him to give me greater comprehension.

Why does the Lord withhold knowledge from us unless we meet certain spiritual conditions? Now this is an easy answer. The reason is because if He gives us comprehension we will be judged on what we know. If we aren’t willing to live by what we have been given then He has, in effect, just damned us because we are not going to live up to our knowledge and understanding. On the other hand, if He waits until we are willing to live by what He reveals to us then we are exalted by what we learn, and the riches of eternity become available to us a piece at a time.

It is in this way that those who receive will receive more, and those who are unwilling to receive will have what they already possess taken from them. This is, in all actuality, a mercy of God. This process saves Him from having to give his children knowledge that would only hurt them. But to those who are seeking it, it exalts them. How kind, how gracious, how predictable of His love.

Day 3

Matthew 13:24-35, 44-52 – Jesus’s parables help me understand the growth and destiny of His Church.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

I would like your opinion on this one. As you read the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13, what are your thoughts? Who are the tares? The generic answer is, the tares are the wicked. But the detailed question is are the tares the wicked in the world or the wicked within the Church?

Let’s return to the footnotes once again and see what they have to offer in the way of explanation. Matthew 13:25, footnote a on the word “tares” refers us to the Topical Guide under the heading of Apostasy of the Early Christian Church.  In Doctrine and Covenants 86:1-7 Joseph Smith is told this:

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.

To be driven in the wilderness (verse 3) is to be lost. The Church, as established by Christ ceased to exist. How did Satan do this to God’s Church? He did it by sending wicked men who were members of the Church, or who claimed to be members of the Church, to preach false doctrine to the members. Remember the congregations of the Church were widely dispersed around the Mediterranean Sea, had little and infrequent communication with each other, and the Apostles were being martyred at an alarming rate, and were not able to reconvene to replace those members who had died. There were also Jews sent by the Jewish leaders whose sole purpose was to destroy those who believed in Jesus. They infiltrated the synagogues of the Jewish Christians and deliberately planted doubts and caused them to question their doctrines. This is what caused the Church to be “driven into the wilderness.”

What was left of the Lord’s Church were churches who fought/fight among themselves, still warring over doctrine. In the name of Christ they have slaughtered each other for millennia. These are the tares the angels are so eager to reap and get rid of. But the “wheat,” the members of the young Church Christ has restored, are still weak in the faith and need to grow more mature. Until we become more spiritually mature we would not survive the threshing process of the gathering of the wheat and tares. So until that time comes, we live together.

I would like to make an interesting observation here about the tares. By definition someone who is a tare is a person in whose heart “the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign.” This is not everyone outside the Church. There are many outside the Church who are good, upstanding, people who are searching for the truth. These people have always existed, but don’t know where to find the truth. By the same token, there are members of the Lord’s Church who could be considered tares, but have not yet left the Church. These are they who live to sew contention and dissension among the members of the Lord’s Church. Can you see how this shows us that the wheat and the tares are tightly mixed together? We must all bear with each other for a while longer.

What do you think? Can a “tare” be just certain groups of people, or can anyone who let’s Satan reign in their heart be a tare? And that means in or out of the Church.

Matthew 13:31-32 – These verses compare the kingdom of God in the last days to a mustard seed. It is actually pretty difficult to find a picture of a real big adult mustard bush (they are all bushes, not trees). But this is what I feel most confident about.

A female hand holding a mustard seed.

The adult black mustard bush can reach 20 or more feet in height, with a spread of 20 feet.

The idea here is that from very tiny, insignificant beginnings, the kingdom of God will grow to be very large in comparison. Of course this is only referring to the size of the Church in Time, before Christ’s return. By comparison of other trees/churches the Lord’s Church will always be relatively small in mortality. The point Jesus is making is that the growth will seem almost miraculous, like the transformation of that tiny mustard seed into something large enough for birds to perch in.

Matthew 13:33 – the story of the leaven is subtle. We are the leaven the Lord is using to influence the whole world for good. That requires us to become agents of change and ministers of righteousness.

Matthew 13:44-46 – Both of these examples are of the value of the gospel of Christ in a person’s life. It is worth any cost to obtain it, even if we have to lose everything else we possess in order to obtain it. This harks back to the Savior’s teaching that we must be willing to give up mother, father, sister, or brother in order to be worthy of what he has to offer us. There simply is nothing more valuable to our souls than the gospel of Christ.

Matthew 13:47-50 – The gospel net will gather in people from all the nations of the earth. Most will be good, but when the parable of the wheat and the tares is fulfilled, there will be those within the Church who will be removed in the threshing process as well as the wicked without the Church. This points out to us that we are not immune from Satan’s influence if we are not careful.

Matthew 13:52 – Below is the text using the Greek wording.

52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

My wife and I had an interesting conversation about this verse. I didn’t recognize it at all, and neither did she. As we pondered over what it might be referencing, she offered the following explanation of verse 52. Since implementing the Come, Follow Me program, haven’t we all become scribes in that we all record our impressions of what we are reading in the scriptures? A scribe is one who writes, and now, more than ever, this fits the description of the members of the Lord’s kingdom. The description of the householder who brings out his treasures, both old and new sounds very much like a description of what happens when we study with the Spirit and he brings old things to our remembrance so we can cherish and appreciate those valued truths. He also reveals to us new truths that become our favorites in our studies.

How else would you link this parable to the latter-day work and Church?

What are some of your observations from these parables?

Do you see other ways in which these parables mirror the growth of the Church in the latter days?

Day 4

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – The righteous must grow among the wicked until the end of the world.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

To those who have a trained eye, a stalk of wheat and a stalk of tare look different enough that they can tell which is which, even while they are young. But to those with untrained eyes, they are almost identical, which would make trying to weed them out difficult. It would be difficult not only because the one weeding might make a mistake and rip out some wheat, but because when plants are still seedlings any disturbance to their roots can cause them to die. This is why the Lord has said that we will just have to wait until both those who bear righteous fruit and those who are poisonous to those around them have matured sufficiently for the harvest to take place. Then, and only then, will it be safe to separate the two groups from each other. The one to be exalted, and the other to be burned.

In the world of biology a plant is either a wheat or it is a tare. One cannot turn into the other. But what about in the world of humans? Is it possible for a wheat to become a tare, and a tare to become a wheat? Can apostasy and repentance truly make such a difference?

If we can individually change from one to the other, is it a blessing or a punishment that the Lord is waiting until the last possible moment to bring judgment upon the world? Why?

What do you think makes the difference between those who bear 30 fold, vs. 60, vs. 100 fold?

Are there qualities we can seek after that will change us from being 30 fold bearers to 100 fold bearers?

What part may active ministering play in such a change?

Day 5

Luke 8:1-3 – In what ways did “certain women” minister to the Savior?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The following quote comes from the manual entitled Daughters in My Kingdom. It is primarily a book about the Relief Society and its growth since the beginning of the Restoration. But to give us a perspective on the work women have always done, they have included extensive examples of New Testament service rendered by women. This is just a portion of what is in the manual.

“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

“And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died. …

“And forasmuch as [the city of] Lydda was nigh Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.

“Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, … all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

“But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”

The New Testament mentions other devoted women. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, risked their lives for the Apostles and provided their home for Church gatherings. Paul wrote, “Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

A woman named Mary “bestowed much labour” for the Apostles. A woman named Lydia was baptized along with her household and then ministered to those who had taught her.

A woman named Phebe apparently held an ecclesiastical position of service in her congregation. Paul said, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church … that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many.” The kind of service rendered by Phebe and other great women of the New Testament continues today with members of the Relief Society—leaders, visiting teachers, mothers, and others—who act as succorers, or helpers, of many.

The world has changed significantly in the last 60 years. For the first time in the recorded history of the world, women have begun to be more appropriately recognized for their intrinsic talents and abilities. Though it is happening in societies all over the world, it isn’t happening faster anywhere than in the Lord’s Church. We have even been told by the prophet that women will be playing a large role in the success in the progress of the Church in the latter days.

I don’t say this to play to the sympathies of the women who read this. I say this because I believe that for too many years women have somehow been made to feel like spiritual second class citizens. Nothing can be further from the truth. But alas, many have bought into this fallacy and have not taken the effort to learn of Church government, priesthood administration, and the principles of leadership. The women of the Lord’s Church need to be well schooled in the doctrines of the gospel, just as the men need to be well school in the doctrines of the gospel. The progress of the Church will falter if any of us fails to believe that we are worthy or capable of mastering the doctrines of the plan of salvation. It is obvious that Jesus, and his prophets, appreciate the contributions to the Church the women make.

Family Scripture Study and Home Evening

Matthew 13:13-16 – Willingness

This idea for personal study or Family Home Evening can be a priceless gem in your study arsenal for all time. The key word for these verses is “willingness.” The whole point of Jesus telling his disciples that the people see and hear, but are unwilling to see or hear, therefore they cannot understand, shows us that it is our own willingness that determines what we will be able to comprehend and ultimately achieve in the spiritual realm.

The example the manual gives is to have someone cover their ears while someone else reads from the scriptures. The goal is to see how much the person whose ears are covered understands. But let’s take that one step further. Try having someone who doesn’t want to hear what is being read leave the room, or sing loudly while the reading is going on. Either way they can get precious little if they make sure they are absent or not paying attention when the scriptures are read. How often do people give talks in Church as we sit there thinking of other things, stare at our phone/tablet, or whisper about other things to our neighbor? There are a thousand and one ways for us to ignore truth and testimony when it is presented to us if we aren’t seeking it. Ever have a child tune out your lecture on something? They can stand there smiling or looking serious, as the case demands, yet their mind is a million miles away. No willingness, no desire to hear what is being said.

Note that the Savior’s comment about these people who will not hear and will not see is that if they were just willing to listen and willing to see or comprehend what he was trying to teach them, he could have healed and saved them. They were just unwilling to receive what he offered them with open arms.

Let’s go back to our listening example. What do you think someone who longed to know what was being read, but their ears were covered, would do when scriptures were being read? Do you think they might try to read the person’s lips to get whatever meaning they could from the reading, even though they couldn’t technically hear it? It is all in the attitude and willingness.

It isn’t just our willingness to hear the words or read the scriptures, it is our desire to improve and be better, to know more, to understand how the Lord thinks and feels that matters. Only when we are willing to make the changes necessary in our lives and set aside our own desires is the Lord able to make the needed changes within us to create celestial attributes and attitudes. If we don’t achieve these changes then how will we ever feel comfortable in the celestial kingdom when everyone else there has these attributes and attitudes? God can only help us make these changes when we willingly seek Him with the desire to do whatever He commands us so the Spirit can change our hearts. And none of those changes can be forced on us, as that would violate our agency. We must be the ones to seek them and to apply them in our lives as we can. The changes can only come because they are the desire of our hearts.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 12