While parables can simplify confusing doctrine, the parables themselves have complex layers that require the reader’s full attention in order to grasp the full doctrine.
Jesus’s parables are practically magic; through them, we can see ourselves in almost every character, apply them to current situations, and understand complex doctrine. The Savior’s parables are an almost effortless way to learn more about many things, from our relationships with others to God’s plan for us.
Sometimes, though, we become lax in our learning. In Frank F. Judd Jr.’s Ensign article “Parables of Jesus: The Priceless Parables,” he shows us, step-by-step, how to gain greater understanding of the underlying principles of parables. Judd first sorts parables into two groups: parables of instruction and parables of rebuke. These categories tell us whether the parable in question is straightforward or enigmatic. Next, he interprets the parable within its context before applying it to personal circumstances. Discovering who the Savior is speaking to or what question prompted the parable will give us insight into the true meaning of the parable.
Learning the context within parables, in addition to learning the principles behind the parable, may seem silly or tiresome. But putting forth the effort to do so will allow us to know “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11).
Judd quotes Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Parables are a call to investigate the truth.” Asking questions and gaining context—essentially, investigating the truth—will get us closer to the Savior. There are more steps in learning Christ’s parables and even more layers in understanding them. As we move away from a lax form of learning and start to investigate the truth, we will understand parables in greater depth and gain better answers to our questions.
Whether we identify with the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, or even the currant bush, the parables will help us know that we are part of a greater story and a greater plan.
Read Frank F. Judd Jr.’s article “Parables of Jesus: The Priceless Parables” for additional steps in understanding parables more profoundly.
—Natalie Kokol, Mormon Insights
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Find more insights
Practice gaining greater context and understanding by pondering the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:29–36.
Watch a Bible video about the good Samaritan.