Thoughts on the Parable of the Sower

I get to teach Primary. For non-Mormons, Primary is our organization or ministry, if you will, for children ages 18 months to 12 years. It’s a wonderful calling to have. I love teaching. I really don’t care what age it is, just let me teach.

Children can be challenging, but teaching them is a unique and blessed opportunity. When we teach children, we aren’t just teaching very young humans. We’re teaching the adults they will become – we’re planting seeds that will last a lifetime, to borrow from the analogy in the very parable this post is about.

Another reason I like primary is that the very basics of the Gospel are being taught there, and no matter how broad our understanding or how much our knowledge of Gospel and Church branches out, it is still the very basics – Faith in Jesus Christ, His Atonement and attendant Grace, our ability to Repent and Forgive, and the Plan of Salvation in general – that that we need and that we still barely understand.

It was as a child in primary when I first learned of the Parable of the Sower. The importance of this parable is illustrated by its appearance in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-30; Mark 5:3-20; and Luke 8:5-15. It is also one of the few parables, along with the Wheat and Tares, that Christ himself explained.

To paraphrase: A sower scattered some seeds to plant them.

  • Some fell by the wayside and got eaten up by birds.
  • Some fell among stones which started growing quickly but since their roots were shallow, they burned up under the hot sun.
  • Some fell among the thorns, and couldn’t grow because they were choked out.
  • And finally, some fell on good soil. Their roots grew deep, and they gave abundant fruit.

Jesus’s explanation: The seeds are the word of God.

  • Those that fell by the wayside and were eaten by birds are those words which are snatched up by Satan, with no chance of taking root.
  • The seeds that fell into the rocks are like those people who receive the Word of God with joy, so that it grows quickly, but they have no real depth of testimony so that when the heat gets turned up (persecution, trials, etc) then their testimony withers away.
  • The seeds that fell into thorny ground are like those who receive the Word of God, but let the cares of the world and worldly riches become more important than the cares of the Kingdom of God.
  • And those that fell into good ground represent those whose testimony grows and flourishes, so that not only do they believe but they bring forth good fruit. In other words, they act on the Gospel teachings and embark in the service of the Lord.

This parable demonstrates that the gospel basics we teach to our young people from nursery on up are just as applicable to adults. Dallin H. Oaks taught it in the April 2015 General Conference. As I child, I remember wondering what kind of soil my heart represented. Was I hard hearted, fearful of what others thought of me, or did I care more about school and toys? Or did I nourish the word of God in my heart so that it grew? I really hoped I had the good ground that would bear fruit abundantly.

Hope was just the beginning. I learned to nourish the seed through study, prayer, and found that the very fruit this bore, obedience and service, also nourished my budding testimony.

Now well down the path of Gospel discipleship, with the battle for our thoughts and allegiances in full heat, this parable helps us to check ourselves:

Are we throwing our seeds to the wayside? We can be long time and well respected members of the church but our hearts will be in the wayside if we decide that we already know enough, and are already righteous enough, and now have the expertise to critique the word of God and the servants He has chosen to give us that word. What are the hard places in our hearts that cause us to ignore the words of our prophets and leaders?

Are we letting the sun scorch them? Or perhaps, we are starting to believe the prideful accusations of others that our faith has been simpleminded, naive, bigoted, holier-than-thou or any other form the mockery takes. In what ways do we let opinions of the world consume our testimony in the fire of shame and anger?

Have we let thorns grow up to choke them? Maybe we’ve slipped into worrying about career, bills, appearances, or perhaps spend a great deal of our time with our hobbies, playing video games, social media or watching TV or reading too much. What are the thorns that we allow to grow in the garden of our soul?

When I work on my garden outside, I have to pull out stones, nourish the plants so their roots grow deep so they can handle the harsh sun in my climate, and pull out weeds – even in the most established places of my garden. If I don’t do this, my garden begins to decline. It’s the same way with our testimonies.

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