In our Sunday School class today, the parable of the nobleman and the olive trees in Doctrine and Covenants 101:43-62 was brought to our attention to help teach about following the prophets. I hadn’t paid much attention to this story before, but it strongly underscores some things on my mind lately.
This parable is meant, in the strictest context, to illustrate to the early Latter-day Saints the importance of helping to gather and establish Zion, as opposed to their general reluctance to do so previously. The story has a nobleman with a field of olive trees, which he gives to the care of a staff of servants who are charged with building hedges and towers around it for security. The servants promptly overanalyze their orders, debating its merits; after all, they say, this is a time of peace, and couldn’t the money be better spent on humanitarian projects (D&C 101:47-49)? While they discoursed with each other, an enemy did come in and destroy the trees.
Like all parables, this one would seem to have a broader application, as well. If the Lord’s intention in telling this story was to impress upon us his “will concerning the redemption of Zion,” we could extend this to mean Zion in general, as in each of our families, wards, stakes, and the church’s spiritual condition overall.
How often, especially in the age of the Internet, do we receive instruction from our leaders and, instead of “straightway leaving our nets” and “immediately following him,” (Matthew 4:20,22) we blather endlessly about the philosophical pros and cons of the commandments? It’s fashionable among us, practically to be expected. Any simple directive will be instantly picked apart into infinite shades of gray by some.
“And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they harkened not unto the commandments of their lord.” D&C 101:50
In the parable, after a stern talking to from the nobleman, hopefully the servants were much more pliable, much more willing to be proactive and assertive in going on the spiritual offensive against the world and completing their assigned work post haste. The nobleman–speaking to his servants in the parable and literally as the Savior to the early Saints as well as to us–tells us to “go ye straightway, and do all things whatsoever I have commanded you….inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation” (D&C 101:60,63).
I for one receive this teaching as an injunction against turning the gospel into a needlessly complicated caucus race (a la Alice in Wonderland). I will do my best to remain vigilant against undue irreverence in my blogging, and won’t invest inordinate time in blogging about spiritual things until I’ve done the work: until I’ve been to the temple for that month, done my home teaching, made progress in my calling, and raised my family well that day.