I started reading this morning in Matthew chapter 13, but instead of reading straight through I decided I want to study each parable a little more in depth. Before studying the parables, though, I want to study parables in general.
Whenever I read parables, or read about parables, I am reminded of my days in high school English classes, reading great literature and writing papers about what the author was actually saying. I remember getting annoyed at this once my junior year of high school. In fact, I wrote a poem, trying to make it sound all allegorical, when in reality I was just writing about the topic at hand. I remember having my English teacher read it and tell me what He thought it was about. I don’t think he fell for my little trick, but I do know that my attitude about analyzing literature got a lot better my senior year. I was really good at it, after all. I got to the point where I actually enjoyed reading literature and analyzing it.
I didn’t realize how perfectly that skill would translate into my gospel study until I got to Brigham Young University and took my first Book of Mormon class. My professor was not a religion professor – he was a Mechanical Engineering professor, and his class was probably one of the best religion classes I took my entire time at BYU. He really taught me how to study the scriptures. In his class, we had one assignment each day. We were to read an assigned section of the Book of Mormon, and then write a one page paper (didn’t matter what font size, margins, spacing, etc – whatever got our thoughts to fit on one sheet of paper, and take up the whole paper) asking a question about what we read, and answering it. Our midterm was a paper on the words of Isaiah, and our final was a paper about our own personal testimony. I learned so much about studying the gospel from following that pattern – ask a question, then find the answer.
Another thing I learned in high school (from a seminary teacher? from a Young Women’s leader? a Sunday School teacher? my parents? not sure…) was that truth can be found anywhere, and that the Spirit will help us discern truth. It was during high school that I started seeking for truth in all of my studies. As I would read textbooks and other reading assignments, as I would listen to my teacher’s lectures, I would carefully listen to the Spirit to discern what was true, and what was simple man’s philosophies. It wasn’t always easy, and I am sure that I wasn’t always accurate, but developing that ability to find truth in all things has been a real blessing in my life.
Between these two skills – being able to ask questions and find answers, and being able to find truth in all things – I have felt my study of the gospel has been greatly enriched.
One of the places I feel I have really been able to apply these two skills are in studying the words of Isaiah, and in studying parables.”
The word parable means “setting side by side, a comparison”. In a parable, gospel principles and doctrine are described by ordinary things – things in every day life. The Lord often taught this way (in parables) – and more so during his Galilean ministry. This is not really surprising, since the Savior was a Galilean, and His teaching was a lot harder to stomach by people who knew Him, and knew His family. Such an “ordinary” person could not be the Savior. Could he?
Why did the Savior teach in parables? He tells us in Matthew 13. “Because it is given unto you [the disciples] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [people who don’t believe Christ] it is not given.” We get as much truth from parables as we are ready to receive. I feel like we get as much truth out of life as we are ready to receive. My husband and I were recently talking about finding meaning in everything, and one of us made the observation that life must be more worth living if you can find meaning in everything. I think that is a true statement – because the more truth we are willing to see, the more truth we will find, and the more truth we have (light and knowledge) the closer to Heavenly Father we can be.
Do you find meaning in parables and the words of Isaiah? Are you able to find truth and meaning in everything? What is your favorite parable from the Savior? What is your favorite Latter-day parable?