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Come, Follow Me (Matthew 13; Luke 8, 13)

This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.

Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)

March 20-26

Matthew 13; Luke 8, 13

Some of the Savior’s most memorable teachings were in the form of simple stories called parables. These were more than just interesting anecdotes about ordinary objects or events. They contained profound truths about the kingdom of God for those who were spiritually prepared. One of the first parables recorded in the New Testament—the parable of the sower (see Matthew 13:3–23)—invites us to examine our readiness to receive God’s word. “For whosoever receiveth,” Jesus declared, “to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 13:10 [in Matthew 13:12, footnote a]). So as we prepare to study the Savior’s parables—or any of His teachings—a good place to start is to examine our hearts and determine whether we are giving the word of God “good ground” (Matthew 13:8) in which to grow, blossom, flourish, and produce fruit that will bless us and our families in abundance.

I would agree that a person must properly prepare to hear the word of God. Stony ground or seed among the weeds are not good places to start from when accepting what God has in store for us in His Word

Jesus said in Matthew 11:15, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 13 (the passage covered here),

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

It almost seems contradictory, for we think the parables were meant for every listener to understand. But, no, what did Jesus say? He said that His message was meant for only those whom He intended it to be understood. It might sound crazy to some, but that’s what He said!

In fact, the message cannot be understood unless God intends it. The apostle Paul said the Gospel can only be understood through the Spirit of God. This is what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:

10 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

Unless you have the mind of Christ, you are incapable of understanding. How this works is a mystery, but it is biblical truth. And this is the purpose of the next section in this lesson.

Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Matthew 13:3–23; Luke 8:4–15; 13:6–9

My heart must be prepared to receive the word of God.

Why is it that sometimes our hearts are receptive to truth, while at other times we’re tempted to resist it? Reading the parable of the sower can provide a good opportunity to think about how well you receive truth from the Lord. It might be helpful to match verses 3–8 of Matthew 13 with the interpretations provided in verses 18–23. What can you do to cultivate “good ground” in yourself? What might be some “thorns” that keep you from truly hearing and following God’s word? How can you overcome these “thorns”?

These are a lot of questions, but let’s talk about each:

What can you do to cultivate “good ground” in yourself?

For one, I think a person has to be open to truth, no matter where accepting it leads. To blind oneself by refusing to hear the truth is a tragedy, allowing one’s presuppositions to take precedence over the evidence. How often have I explained something to someone not of my faith and they turn away, not wanting to hear any opposition to their beliefs. This is a very dangerous position to be in.

I think a person needs to be willing to hear what God’s Word has to say and go with it. Yes, this might even mean to believe God’s Word over scriptures such as the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants, the opinions of religious leaders, and even what is believed by friends and family members. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and He will come close to you.” How badly do you want the truth?

What might be some “thorns” that keep you from truly hearing and following God’s word?

It could be anything, from the things described above to selfish wants and desires. Anything that distracts us from knowing God is something that ought to be battled.

How can you overcome these “thorns”?

Just say no. Whether these thorns come from the world or even religious leaders teaching us doctrines that are contrary to God’s Word, we must not allow ourselves to be persuaded in a way that leads us astray.

Your study of this parable could also influence how you read the parable in Luke 13:6–9. What is the “fruit” that the Lord seeks from us?

We are told that we are to display the “fruit of the Spirit”: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)

How do we nourish our ground so we will “bear fruit”?

Read God’s Word. Pray. Fellowship with other believers. The fruit of the Spirit described above takes work to cultivate, as our spiritual walk must be consistent in following God’s revealed truth.

Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43

The righteous must grow among the wicked until the end of the world.

One way to analyze this parable is to draw a picture of it and label it with the interpretations in Matthew 13:36–43 and Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–7. A tare is a “poisonous weed, which, until it comes into ear, is similar in appearance to wheat” (Bible Dictionary, “Tares”). What truths in this parable inspire you to remain faithful in spite of the wickedness in the world?

Let’s be careful. It’s not just the “wickedness in the world” that can be a tare. These might even what sound like “good” things to some. Like, get baptized. Go to church. Don’t drink coffee or tea. Go on a mission. Get married in the temple. And so on.

A tare can be a religious authority telling a follower to not study the Bible for himself. It can be a spouse saying “if you leave the church, then say goodbye to our marriage.” Or there are any other number of possibilities. I go back to what I said earlier in this review. Anything that takes you away from the truth of God is something that must be avoided. At all cost.

Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening

Matthew 13.

As your family members read the Savior’s parables, they might enjoy thinking of their own parables that teach the same truths about the kingdom of heaven (the Church), using objects or situations that are familiar to them.

Notice the parenthetical two words here: (the Church) when describing the kingdom of heaven. Which church? Of course, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is what was meant. (In the other Gospels, this was referred to as the Kingdom of God, which is the same idea.) Let’s just suppose, then, that “kingdom of heaven” referred to is a reference to the “restored church” as represented in Mormonism. Imagine the following issues:

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said that we are to “seek first the kingdom of god and His righteousness…” Are we really supposed to believe this is referring to seeking after the LDS Church first and, oh yes, then His righteousness? This seems very unlikely.

In Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, it says that Jesus “went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom . . . ” Does this mean Jesus was proclaiming the good news about the church? And that Christians today ought to be proclaiming the LDS Church today? Again, this is doubtful.

In Matthew 13:44, it says that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” The man ended up selling all he had to buy the field. Does this really mean a person should sell out for membership in the LDS Church? Hardly.

In Matthew 19:12, it says “there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” If the LDS Church is all about families, then how can it be likened that the church if the kingdom of God since they stress marriage as necessary for eternal life, not living like eunuchs?

I think the point is made. Jesus was not saying that the kingdom of heaven should be the church. Rather, He made reference to the salvation of the righteous and the redemption of a fallen creation from the burden of sin and evil. Stand to Reason offers three points that are more in line with biblical teaching:

The kingdom of heaven has important applications for us today. First, the message of the kingdom of heaven is a genuine offer from God to rule in the hearts of those who believe in His name. Submission to the kingship of God is what brings true freedom. Those who resist and reject God’s kingdom are in bondage. This may sound counterintuitive, but those outside the kingdom of God are inside the kingdom of Satan (Eph. 2:1–3).

Second, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, believers should be motivated to build the kingdom through proclaiming the kingdom. This was the central message of Jesus and the disciples, and it should be our message too.

Third, the kingdom of heaven provides comfort and hope for Christians who are suffering. God is King over all circumstances. No matter what happens in this life, all will be made right when God’s kingdom comes.

Matthew 13:13–16.

How can you help your family members understand the importance of willingly receiving Christ’s word? To demonstrate “ears [that] are dull of hearing,” you might cover a family member’s ears while you quietly read Matthew 13:13–16. How much did that family member understand from the verses? What are ways that we can open our eyes, ears, and hearts to the word of God?

I read this and immediately thought of more than one occasion witnessing on the streets of Utah. I have spoken to a husband or child about a spiritual topic when the spouse or parent came to gather the person in. I’ve even had people cover the ears of their loved ones in order not to allow them to hear what I was saying. You can know that I wasn’t screaming, repeating curse words, or even being mean-spirited. All I did was explain biblical truth that merely contradicted LDS teaching. Instead of dealing directly with what I was saying, however, the response was to make someone else not listen lest the words change their loved one’s mind.

My friend Peter Barnes, who is now in the presence of Jesus, used to say, “Truth will never run from error, but error will always run from truth.” Even if you don’t agree with what someone is saying, listen carefully and find reasons to disagree. But don’t just run, as that will solve nothing and make you appear to be a closed-minded person.

Matthew 13:44–46.

What do the two men in these parables have in common? Are there additional things we should be doing as individuals and as a family to put the kingdom of God first in our lives?

If the LDS Church really is the kingdom of heaven, then I suppose this passage could be interpreted to mean that a person should give up everything for membership in the LDS Church, which is quite blasphemous. The goal in living a spiritual life is to become more like Jesus, not more like Joseph Smith and Russell M. Nelson.


The kingdom of heaven is not the LDS Church. The Bible never teaches that the “church” and its organizational policies should be the aim of Christ followers. Rather, the kingdom of heaven is seeking after God and His kingdom, both on earth as well as heaven. To bring glory to His name and no other. This is the problem of Mormonism. After all, leaders have made it appear that the Church is the answer to all questions…”Where did we come from? Why are we here? And where are we going?” But in the Bible, the “church” is not the end-all goal. Rather, our relationship with God is what is most important.

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