On December 16 and 17, 1833, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation concerning the Saints in Missouri who had left their homes to escape persecution. Many of those Saints had been forced to leave all their possessions behind. The revelation that the Prophet received, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 101, is discussed in three lessons in this manual. This third lesson includes the Lord’s parable of the nobleman and the olive trees, teaching His will concerning the redemption of Zion. It also includes the Lord’s counsel that the Saints continue gathering together (with a reference to His parable of the wheat and the tares) and seek redress for the crimes committed against them (with a reference to His parable of the woman and the unjust judge).
On the board, write The parable of the …
Explain that a parable is “a simple story used to illustrate and teach a spiritual truth or principle. A parable is based on comparing an ordinary object or event to a truth” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Parable,” scriptures.lds.org).
Ask students to list some of the parables the Savior taught during His mortal ministry. For example, students might mention the parable of the good Samaritan or the parable of the ten virgins.
Explain that in today’s lesson, students will discuss a parable that the Savior gave through Joseph Smith. Complete the phrase on the board so it says The parable of the nobleman and the olive trees.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:43 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the message the Lord said He wanted to communicate with this parable. (He wanted the people to understand His “will concerning the redemption of Zion.”) Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:44–45 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, giving close attention to the details of the parable. To ensure that students understand the story, ask the following questions:
What did the nobleman instruct his servants to do?
Why did the nobleman want watchmen in his vineyard? Why did he want a watchman on the tower?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:46 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how well the servants followed the nobleman’s instructions.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:47–50 silently, again looking for how well the servants followed the nobleman’s instructions.
How well did the servants follow the instructions? (You may want to explain that in verse 50, the phrase “at variance one with another” means that the servants argued with each other.)
Why did the servants fail to build the tower?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:51 aloud. Ask the class to look for what happened because the servants did not build the tower. Invite them to report what they find.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:52–54 to students. Ask them to follow along, looking for the nobleman’s words to his servants.
According to verse 54, why was the nobleman upset that his servants had not built a tower?
How do the events described in this parable relate to what happened to the Saints in Missouri?
As part of this discussion, you may want to remind students that in a revelation given in July 1831, the Lord designated the location for a temple in Independence, Missouri (see D&C 57). On August 3, 1831, Joseph Smith dedicated the temple site in Independence. However, the Saints did nothing to build the temple. On August 2, 1833, the Lord again commanded the Saints in Missouri to build a temple (see D&C 97).
How might the tower in the parable relate to the temple that the Saints had failed to build?
What are some principles in this parable that we can apply in our lives? (Because a parable can have multiple meanings, students may suggest several principles, including the following: When we obey the Lord’s commandments, we are strengthened to withstand spiritual and physical enemies. Prophets serve as watchmen on the tower, warning us of coming dangers. Through temple work, we prepare to withstand the adversary.)
Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 101:55–62. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the nobleman commanded His servant to do.
What did the nobleman tell His servant to do? (Gather an army and redeem the vineyard.)
Explain that the servant mentioned in verse 55 represents Joseph Smith (see D&C 103:21). Joseph Smith followed the Lord’s command and organized a group called Zion’s Camp to redeem the land of Zion. Zion’s Camp will be discussed in lessons 108 and 110.
Explain that even though the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, had been expelled from their homes, the Lord commanded them to continue to build His kingdom. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:63–64 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the Lord said He would continue to do. Ask students to report what they find.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:65–66 silently, looking for a parable that the Savior referred to.
What do the wheat and the tares represent in this parable? (The wheat represents the faithful members of the Church, and the tares represent the wicked people of the world. You may want to explain that tares are weeds that look like wheat when they are young.)
To help students understand this parable, explain that in ancient times, garners were places where wheat was gathered and stored for safety. Referring to this parable and other teachings in the scriptures, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The garners are the holy temples” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 97). Write the following on the board: garners = holy temples.
Based on this parable, what blessings will we receive by gathering to temples and serving there? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: As we gather to the temple, we receive protection and prepare ourselves for eternal life.)
How do you think temple ordinances and covenants can protect us and prepare us for eternal life?
Invite a few students to share how the temple has been a source of protection and preparation for them and their families. You may want to add your testimony of this principle.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 101:67–75 by explaining that even though the Saints had been forced out of Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord counseled them to continue to purchase property there and in neighboring counties.
Explain that in addition to instructing the Saints to purchase property, the Lord told them to “importune for redress” because of the actions of those who had persecuted them (see D&C 101:76). In other words, He told them to seek justice through the government’s legal system.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:76–80 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify the system of laws that would allow the Saints to seek help from government leaders.
According to these verses, the Lord had guided the establishment of the United States Constitution years earlier. Why does He want this constitution to be maintained?
The Lord said that one purpose of “moral agency” is to ensure that we are “accountable for [our] own sins” (D&C 101:78). Why is accountability—responsibility for our actions—an important part of agency? How would you respond to someone who says “I am free to do whatever I want”?
The Lord said that no one should be in bondage to another person. Why do you think it is important that people not be in bondage?
As part of this discussion, write the following on the board: God has given us moral agency, the power to choose, but we are …
Invite students to complete this statement based on Doctrine and Covenants 101:78. (As students identify the following principle, complete the statement on the board: God has given us moral agency, the power to choose, but we are accountable for our choices.)
Explain that the Lord used a parable to encourage the Saints to seek help from government leaders. Invite a student to read the parable in Doctrine and Covenants 101:81–84 (see also Luke 18:1–8). Ask the class to follow along and to consider how the parable applied to the Saints in Missouri. Then ask another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:85–88. Ask the class to look for the way the Savior applied the parable to those Saints.
During this period of Church history, who might the widow represent? (Members of the Church.) Who could the judge represent? (The judge could represent judges and government leaders whom the Saints would ask for help. He may also represent Heavenly Father, to whom the Saints would continue to pray.)
Using this parable, what specific things did the Lord instruct the Saints to do?
Explain that the Saints appealed to judges in local courts but did not receive the support they hoped for. They asked Daniel Dunklin, the governor of Missouri, and Andrew Jackson, the president of the United States, to help them return to their homes and property and to provide protection for them. Both leaders declined to assist them. The Saints petitioned the Missouri state legislature as well, but they refused to help.
Refer to the principle you have written on the board. Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:89–91 aloud. Ask the class to look for how government leaders would be held accountable if they refused to help the Saints. Ask students to report what they find.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 101:92–95 silently, looking for what the Lord told the Saints to do for their government leaders.
What does verse 92 teach us about the Lord? (He does not want to punish people. He wants all people to repent so He can be merciful to them.)
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 101:96–101 by explaining that the Lord counseled the Saints to retain their properties in Jackson County, even though they were not allowed to live there. He promised that if they would live worthily, they would someday be able to live there.
To conclude, share your testimony of the principles students have discussed.