“He Spake Many Things unto Them in Parables”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and his Apostles, Instructor’s Guide (Rel 211–12), (2000), 27–28


The parables of Jesus offer a special message to those who are spiritually in tune.

Theme Analysis

  • A.

    Jesus taught in parables for various reasons.

    1. 1.

      The wicked would not understand the parables.

    2. 2.

      The righteous are even better instructed by parables.

  • B.

    There are keys to understanding parables.

    1. 1.

      Look at the question that brought it forth.

    2. 2.

      Each parable has a major message.

    3. 3.

      The parts have special meanings.

  • C.

    We, too, can understand Jesus’ parables if we are spiritually in tune.

Study Sources

New Testament Reading Assignment

Matthew 8:18-34; 9:1, 18-34; 13:1-58; Mark 4:1-41; 5:1-43; 6:1-6; Luke 8:4-18, 22-48; 9:57-62.

Course Manual

Chapter 10, “He Spake Many Things unto Them in Parables”

Standard Works

D&C 45:56-59. How and when will the wise virgins be blessed?

D&C 54:53, 54. What does this contribute to our understanding of the parable of the Virgins?

D&C 86:1-7; 101:65, 66. How is the parable of the Wheat and the Tares being fulfilled in our day?

Basic Library

Teachings, pp. 95-102, 276-78. What keys did Joseph Smith give to understanding New Testament parables?

Jesus the Christ, pp. 281-99. What mistake should you avoid in interpreting parables?

Media Suggestions

Transparency, The Uses and Purposes of the Parable

Some Suggestions for Presentation

(Ideas Other Teachers Have Used)

Chalkboard Analysis

Very few lessons lend themselves more than this one to discussion carried out with listings and drawings on a chalkboard. This is true for that part of the discussion which explains parables in general as well as any discussion which explains parables in this New Testament reading assignment. This analysis can take many forms. One of these might be to write on the chalkboard, “A parable is like a …” and then list some things that are like a parable. The teacher may wish to consult a dictionary before class. James E. Talmage in Jesus the Christ, p. 304, note 10, gives a definition that is very clear: “A brief narrative or description allegory founded on real scenes or events as occur in nature and human life, and usually with a moral or religious application.”

The Parts and Their Meanings

In listing the parts (for instance, in the parable of the Sower the parts would be the seed, the various grounds, the fruits, and so forth) and in giving their meanings, it is well to remember Elder Talmage’s caution (Jesus the Christ, pp. 282-86) about not getting away from the central idea or message by getting bogged down in an explanation of the parts. Most of the parts, as well as the main messages, are given or inferred in the passages. One column on the chalkboard could list the parts and another the meanings. In the parable of the Sower, the teacher might also wish to list the characteristics of the good ground and point out or list the three different bad grounds and three grades of good ground.

Chalkboard Diagrams

The teacher may wish to experiment with ways of diagramming the parable of the Sower. For instance, the various good grounds could be illustrated as follows:


Those who “heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them. …” (Matthew 7:24.)

Good ground (100-fold)

Good ground (60-fold)

Good ground (30-fold)

How might the bad grounds—stony, weedy, dry-be depicted?


The parable of the Sower has many of the elements of what we now call a plan of salvation chart. Nephi gave us another one in 1 Nephi 8, with interpretations in 1 Nephi 15. This is the allegory of the tree, the river, and the rod of iron. How might this be compared in general and part by part with the parable of the Sower? Could students be asked to diagram the similarities? How are the various kinds of people in Lehi’s vision (those partaking of the fruit, those in the spacious building, those drowning in the filthy water, or those wandering in forbidden paths) like the various soils in the parable?