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 covered in three lessons. 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 and seek justice for those who had crimes committed against them.
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). You probably remember parables the Savior taught during His mortal ministry—the parable of the good Samaritan, the parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the ten virgins, and others.
In today’s lesson, you will study the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees, a parable the Savior gave through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
As you study this parable, consider the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “[The Savior’s] parables had multiple meanings or applications according to the spiritual maturity of the listener. They had a message for both children and gospel scholars” (“Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 8). Look for multiple meanings and applications in this parable (see also Bible Dictionary, “Parables”).
The Lord gave the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees to help His people understand His “will concerning the redemption of Zion” (D&C 101:43). Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:44–45, looking for what the nobleman in the parable instructed his servants to do.
Why did the nobleman want watchmen in the vineyard? Why did he want a watchman on the tower?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:46–50, and identify how well the servants of the nobleman followed his counsel. (As you read verse 50, it might be helpful to know that the phrase “at variance one with another” means that the servants disagreed with each other or were in conflict with one another.)
Why did the servants fail to build the tower?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:51, looking for what happened because the servants did not build the tower.
How do the events described in this parable relate to what happened to the Saints in Missouri?
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How might the tower in the parable relate to the temple that the Saints had failed to build in Jackson County, Missouri?
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What are some principles in this parable that apply to your life? (As you answer this question, consider the following doctrines and principles: 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.)
Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:56–62, looking for what the nobleman instructed the servant to do because the enemy had destroyed parts of the vineyard. Joseph Smith followed the instruction in this parable. He organized a group called Zion’s Camp to redeem the land of Zion. They arrived in Missouri six months after this parable was given. You will learn more about Zion’s Camp when you study Doctrine and Covenants 103 and 105.
Even though the Saints had been expelled from Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord commanded them to continue to build His kingdom. Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:63–64, looking for what the Lord promised He would continue to do.
In this revelation the Lord referred to the parable of the wheat and the tares, in which He described the gathering of His people (see also Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43). Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:65–66, and find the following elements of the parable: garners, wheat, and tares.
In ancient times, garners were places where wheat was gathered and stored for safety. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered one symbolic meaning of the word garners in this parable. He said, “The garners are the holy temples” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 97). Tares are weeds that look like wheat when they are young.
To help you understand this parable, you may want to write the following interpretations in your scriptures: garners = holy temples; wheat = the righteous; tares = the wicked.
In the parable, wheat is gathered into the garners. In what ways do we gather to the temple?
Fill in the blanks to express a principle this parable teaches: As we gather to the , we receive protection and prepare ourselves for .
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How do temple ordinances and covenants provide protection for you and prepare you for eternal life?
In Doctrine and Covenants 101:67–75, we read that even though the Saints had been forced out of Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord counseled them to continue to purchase property there.
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. Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:76–80, and identify the system of laws that would allow the Saints to seek help from government leaders.
According to these verses, why does the Lord want the Constitution of the United States to be maintained?
In Doctrine and Covenants 101:78, notice the phrases “moral agency” and “accountable for his own sins.” Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why is accountability—responsibility for our actions—an important part of agency?
What would you say to someone who says “I am free to do whatever I want”?
Complete the following doctrine: God has given us agency, the power to choose, but we are for our choices.
The Lord used a third parable to encourage the Saints to seek help from their government leaders. It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 101:81–84. (Another version of this parable is found in Luke 18:1–8.) As you read Doctrine and Covenants 101:81–84, think about how the parable applied to the Saints in Missouri. As the parable appears in this revelation, the widow represents members of the Church. The judge may represent government leaders whom the Saints would ask for help.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 101:85–88 to see how the Savior applied this parable to the Saints who had been driven from their homes.
The Saints followed the Lord’s admonition. They asked Daniel Dunklin, the governor of Missouri, to provide military protection for them when they returned to their homes. He refused, saying that the law did not authorize him to do such a thing. They also asked Andrew Jackson, the president of the United States, to restore their homes and possessions and ensure their protection, but he did not help them. At the time, officials in the United States government felt that state governments were to handle such issues. The Saints petitioned the Missouri state legislature as well, but those politicians also refused to help.
Scan Doctrine and Covenants 101:89–91, looking for what the Lord said about how government leaders would be held accountable if they refused to help the Saints. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 101:92–95, looking for what the Lord told the Saints to do for their government leaders.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What does Doctrine and Covenants 101:92 teach you about the Lord?
As you examine these verses and write about verse 92, take time to ponder the Lord’s love and mercy. Note that He does not want to punish people. He wants all people to repent so He can be merciful to them.
In Doctrine and Covenants 101:96–101, we read the Lord’s counsel to the Saints to retain their properties in Jackson County, even though they were not allowed to live there. These verses also include a promise from the Lord that if the Saints lived worthily, they would someday be able to live there.
Doctrine and Covenants 102 contains the Lord’s instructions on how stake presidents, assisted by their counselors and members of the high council, are to conduct disciplinary councils for people who have committed serious sins. “The purposes of disciplinary councils are to (1) save the souls of transgressors, (2) protect the innocent, and (3) safeguard the purity, integrity, good name of the Church” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 37–38). The Lord revealed His will to those who preside over disciplinary councils.