Unit 3, Day 4: Matthew 13:1–23

New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, 2015


While the Savior was in Galilee, a great multitude came to Him. He taught the people using parables, beginning with the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13:1–17

The Savior teaches the parable of the sower

Think about a garden or potted plant. What are some characteristics of fertile soil? What are some characteristics of soil that is not fertile?

In Matthew 13:1–23, we read that the Savior compared different kinds of soil to people’s hearts. As you study these verses today, consider which kind of soil is most like the current condition of your heart.

Read Matthew 13:1–3, looking for how Jesus taught the multitude in Galilee.

How did Jesus teach the multitude?

What is a parable? (See Bible Dictionary, “Parables.”)

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).

According to Matthew 13:3, what was the Savior’s parable about? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

To sow means to spread or plant seed. Read Matthew 13:4–9, looking for the four types of soil the sower’s seeds fell on.

bird with seed, seedling among rocks, plant among weeds, plant

What kinds of soil did the sower’s seeds fall on?

  1. journal icon1.

    In your scripture study journal, draw pictures representing the four types of soil. As you learn about the interpretation of the parable, add labels to your drawings.

  • A wayside is a path near fields, and it becomes hardened as people walk on it. The hardness of the wayside prevents seeds from taking root in the soil.

  • Stony places are rocky surfaces covered by a thin layer of soil. Though seeds can develop shallow roots, the rock that lies just below the surface prevents the roots from going deeper.

  • The ground with thorns is fertile soil, but the thorns crowd out the plants by depriving them of light, water, and needed nutrients.

  • The good ground is fertile soil with sufficient depth for healthy roots.

Matthew 13:10–11 records that the Savior’s disciples asked Him why He taught in parables. He explained that parables revealed the mysteries or truths of the kingdom of heaven to those who were ready to receive them, while hiding the meaning from those who were spiritually unprepared (see New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 45).

Read Matthew 13:14–15, looking for what prevented the people from understanding the truths the Savior taught.

What did Jesus say prevented the people from seeing, hearing, and understanding the truths He taught? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prophet Joseph Smith

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The condemnation which rested upon the multitude that received not His saying, was because they were not willing to see with their eyes, and hear with their ears; not because they could not, and were not privileged to see and hear, but because their hearts were full of iniquity and abominations.” He also taught, “The very reason why the multitude, or the world, as they were designated by the Savior, did not receive an explanation upon His parables, was because of unbelief” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 296, 298).

The phrase “this people’s heart is waxed gross” in verse 15 means that the people’s hearts had become hard and insensitive. According to verse 15, what blessings can we lose if we harden our hearts? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

From these verses we learn that if we harden our hearts, then we will not understand the word of God or be converted to the Savior and healed. Write this principle near your drawing of the wayside soil in your scripture study journal.

Consider what it means to be converted to the Savior and healed.

When you are converted you become changed and purified through His Atonement so that your beliefs, heart, and life are in harmony with Heavenly Father’s will and you are freed from the burden of sin.

In Matthew 13:16–17, Jesus told His disciples that they were blessed because they had eyes to see and ears to hear.

Matthew 13:18–23

The Savior provides the interpretation of the parable of the sower

Look again at your drawing of the wayside soil. Read Matthew 13:18–19, looking for what the Savior compared to the seed, the wayside, and the birds mentioned in Matthew 13:4. Then label your drawing according to the Savior’s interpretation. In verse 19, the phrase “understandeth it not” may refer to a result of a hardened heart; and “the wicked one” can represent Satan and his servants.

Ponder how the Savior’s teachings about the wayside might help you further understand the principle that if we harden our hearts, then we will not understand the word of God or be converted to the Savior and healed.

Look at your drawing of the stony ground in your scripture study journal. Read Matthew 13:20–21 and Luke 8:13, looking for the Savior’s interpretation of the stony places. The word anon in verse 20 means immediately or soon.

In these verses Jesus taught that the plants that grew in the stony places represent those who have a testimony that is not deeply rooted. Label your drawing of the plants in the stony places Testimony that is not deeply rooted.

According to Matthew 13:20–21 and Luke 8:13, what does the heat of the sun represent? Above your drawing of the plants with shallow roots write what the heat of the sun represents.

Write the following principle next to your drawing of the stony ground: Unless we strive to deepen our testimonies, we will lack the strength necessary to endure tribulations, persecutions, and temptations.

Look at your drawing of the thorny ground. Read Matthew 13:22, looking for what the thorns represent. Label your drawing with what the thorns represent.

What are some examples of the cares of the world that can “choke the word”?

Worldliness, greed, and temporal distractions are a few examples of cares that can “choke the word” and take us away from God. Next to your drawing of the thorny ground, write the following principle: The cares of the world can choke our faith and testimony of the word of God.

Look at your drawing of the good soil. Read Matthew 13:23 and the portion of Joseph Smith Translation in Matthew 13:23, footnote b.

Notice that the Joseph Smith Translation helps us understand that the plants in the good soil endured. Also note that the plants in the good ground were exposed to the same heat of the sun (representing tribulations, persecutions, and temptations) as the withered plants in the stony ground. Consider how you would summarize what the good soil represents, and label your drawing.

many apples on tree

Based on what you learned in Matthew 13:15, what could the fruit mentioned in verse 23 represent?

From the Savior’s teachings about the good soil, we learn the principle that as we receive the word of God, understand it, and endure tribulations, persecutions, and temptations, we will become converted to the Savior. Write this principle next to your drawing of the good soil.

Read the following scenarios. Draw a line from each type of soil to the scenario that best illustrates the principle taught and represented by that soil in the parable of the sower.

  • a.


A young woman used to love attending church each Sunday. However, as she grew older some of her friends began to mock her because of her standards. She has begun to break some of the commandments. She no longer feels comfortable at church and has lost the desire to attend.

  • b.

    Stony ground

A young woman attends church and quietly prays that she can be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. When she receives promptings, she acts on them. She feels close to the Lord and is grateful for the ways she has been inspired to overcome temptation.

  • c.

    Thorny ground

A young man regularly attends church, but he rarely participates and does not open his heart to the influence of the Holy Ghost. He has been reading information on websites that challenge important Church doctrines, and he questions whether he still believes in the truthfulness of the gospel.

  • d.

    Good ground

A young man spends most of his time studying so he can be accepted to a prestigious university. When he is not studying, he is busy working. He tells himself that he doesn’t have time to read the scriptures, pray, or attend church.

It is important to remember that hearts, like soil, can change and be improved.

  1. journal icon2.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      What could be done to make or keep each type of soil a place to grow healthy, fruitful plants?

    2. b.

      How can we liken the improvement of each soil to what we can do to change our hearts to be more receptive to God’s word?

    3. c.

      How has seeking to receive and understand the word of God helped you become more deeply converted to the Savior?

Ponder which soil best represents the condition of your heart now.

  1. journal icon3.

    In your scripture study journal, write a goal regarding what you will do to better receive and understand the word of God and to endure tribulations, persecutions, and temptations.

  2. journal icon4.

    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture journal:

    I have studied Matthew 13:1–23 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: