Luke 15: A Time of Parables

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 66

A parable is a short story that teaches an eternal truth. The parables of Jesus were about ordinary things, but they taught important religious truths. Parables help people understand truth by the power of the Spirit rather than by the power of intellect. Many of the parables in Luke 15–16 teach about the worth of souls, and the responsibility we have to help and bless others.
father embracing prodigal son

Understanding the Scriptures

Luke 15

Riotous (v. 13)Uncontrolled 
Fell on his neck (v. 20)Embraced or hugged him 
Intreated (v. 28)Pleaded with 

Luke 15:3–32—The Sheep, the Coin, and the Prodigal Son Were Each Lost for Different Reasons

President David O. McKay compared the things lost in these three parables to the ways some of God’s children become lost today:

The Lost Sheep: “How did that sheep get lost? He was not rebellious. If you follow the comparison, the lamb was seeking its livelihood in a perfectly legitimate manner, but either stupidly, perhaps unconsciously, it followed the enticement of the field, the prospect of better grass until it got out beyond the fold and was lost.”

The Lost Coin: “In this case the thing lost was not in itself responsible. The one who had been trusted with that coin had, through carelessness or neglect, mislaid it or dropped it.”

The Lost, or Prodigal, Son: “Here is a case of volition, here is choice, deliberate choice. Here is, in a way, rebellion against authority” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1945, 120–21, 123).

Studying the Scriptures

Do one of the following activities (A or B) as you study Luke 15.

Activity A iconComplete the Chart

Copy the following chart in your notebook. Fill it in from the information you find in Luke 15.


Verses Where Found

Main Idea

Modern Example of Parable

How Were They Helped in the Parable?

How Could You Help This Type of Lost One Today?

Lost Sheep


People wander from the Church and are lost.


The shepherd left the ninety and nine and rescued the lost sheep.



Luke 15:8–10


A careless or rude remark hurts someone’s feelings and that person stops coming to church.



Prodigal Son


People rebel and leave the Church.




Activity B iconWrite a Letter

After reading Luke 15, write one of the following types of letters in your notebook. (You may want to mail it to the person you wrote it to after the assignment is returned.) As part of the letter, include at least five verses of scripture you think will help the person who will receive the letter.

  1. 1.

    A letter to a missionary you know. Express your encouragement and gratitude for the missionary’s service in trying to find those of Heavenly Father’s children who are lost.

  2. 2.

    A letter to someone you know who is preparing for a mission. Tell what you learned from Luke 15 and how it can help prepare him or her for missionary service.

  3. 3.

    A letter to yourself that you will seal and not open until you are missionary age. Record the feelings you had from studying Luke 15 and your goals concerning missionary work.