Revealing Parables: A Call to Action within the Doctrine and Covenants


doctrine and covenants, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Call to action


Figurative language and images communicate in ways that rational arguments cannot. By teaching in parables, Christ ignited his listeners’ imaginations and made many difficult ideas comprehensible. Yet at times, Christ also used parables to conceal his message. Expanding on the sentiments Christ expressed in chapter 4 of the Gospel of Mark, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “When opposition to his message became bitter and intense, the master Teacher chose to present many of the truths of salvation in parables in order to hide his doctrine from those not prepared to receive it. It was not his purpose to cast pearls before swine.” [1] The function of parables differs widely within the New Testament. Some are straightforward and require little explanation, while others are indefinite and have been copiously analyzed and debated. Centuries later, Christ again employed parables in the Doctrine and Covenants; however, the camouflage aspect of these parables is absent. This change invokes questions about the audience and the function of parables in the Doctrine and Covenants. How did Christ’s latter-day audience differ from that of his day, and how do parables help the Lord communicate with his people? While his presentation of parables in the Doctrine and Covenants differs markedly—at times he references them briefly, and at times he offers an extended explanation—each instance reveals the Lord using parables to expand the Saints’ understanding and to call them to action. This article focuses on the seven parables in the Doctrine and Covenants, with a particular emphasis on the three original to the text. By examining the content and form of these parables, we may identify principles of how the Lord works with individuals in addition to the doctrine revealed and the actions required.

Original Publication Citation

“Revealing Parables: A Call to Action within the Doctrine and Covenants.” You Shall Have My Word: Exploring the Text of the Doctrine and Covenants. Eds. Scott Esplin, Richard O. Cowan, and Rachel Cope. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center 2012. 149-66.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Religious Studies Center




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor