“The Lord Gives the Meaning of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares”

Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–7

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares:
2 Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed;
3 And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.
4 But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—
5 Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
7 Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned.

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

“In this revelation [D&C 86] the Lord has given a more complete interpretation than He gave to His Apostles as recorded by Matthew [see Matthew 13:24–30, 37–43]. The reason for this may be accounted for in the fact that it is to be in these last days that the harvest is gathered and the tares are to be burned. In Matthew’s account the Lord declares that He is the sower of the good seed, and in the Doctrine and Covenants it is stated that the Apostles were the sowers of the seed. There is no contradiction here. Christ is the author of our salvation and He it was who instructed the Apostles, and under Him they were sent to preach the gospel unto all the world, or to sow the seed, and as the seed is His and it is sown under His command, He states but the fact in this revelation and also in the parable.

“After the death of the Apostles, the ‘great persecutor of the church, the apostate’ filled with all manner of iniquity and filth, and who made the nations drink of her cup, under the command of Lucifer, Satan, the dragon, he sowed the tares and crushed out the wheat so that the Church was forced into the wilderness [D&C 86:3 and Revelation 12]. This John saw in his vivid vision and he has given a very clear account of the attempt of the great red dragon to devour the man-child (priesthood), who was protected and ‘caught up unto God and to his throne,’ while the woman (Church) fled into the wilderness where a place was prepared for her until the time should come when she and her son, who is ‘to rule all nations with a rod of iron’ (the gospel), should be restored again [Revelation 12:5]. After the departure of the priesthood and the Church, due to the persecutions of the dragon and the ‘apostate’ [D&C 86:3], the enemy continued to make war with ‘the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ’ [Revelation 12:17]. This is a very important and wonderfully descriptive record by prophetic vision, of the great apostasy and the persecutions which were poured out upon all who endeavored to keep the commandments of the Lord until most of these were also crushed and destroyed.

“In these latter days, when the woman and her son (i.e. the Church and the priesthood) have again been brought back to the earth, the dragon once more raises his head and endeavors to plant the seed of evil and destruction among the wheat which has been newly planted. To some extent he is successful and we find the tares once more among the wheat which has been newly planted in the present dispensation. The angels were to permit the wheat and the tares to grow together until the end of the harvest, and then the Lord would give them the liberty and authority to go forth and reap down the earth. These angels are to be commanded to ‘gather out of his kingdom [the Church] all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear’ [Matthew 13:41–43].

“While the field is the world and the wheat represents the righteous who hear the gospel and the tares the rebellious and workers of iniquity, let us not forget that even in the Church the tares are to be found. It is the tares which are to be gathered up and burned from all over the world, but those in the Church will also be gathered out and find their place in the fire. The Savior also bore witness of this when speaking to the Nephites He said: ‘For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from my people, O house of Israel’ (3 Nephi 21:20).

“In the early days of the Church the Lord said the harvest was great and the laborers were few, and the field white already to harvest, and when the missionaries were sent forth they were able to convert the lost sheep by the scores and by the hundreds, for they were ready and waiting for the harvest. Today it is not so; it takes both time and effort to bring to repentance one or two souls while the great majority of men refuse to give ear to anything which is said by the missionaries.”

(Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:353–55.)

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