Mark 4

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Mark 4:2 he taught them many things by parables

David O. McKay

"The word 'parable' comes from the Greek, and means a setting side by side-a comparison. If I say 'He is like a lion,' I make a comparison. A parable, however, eliminates all comparative words such as 'as' or 'like'; it states the comparison as if it were an actual fact, but always has a religious significance. The use of the parable is a most effective means of teaching religious truth. It conveys to the listener or reader just what he or she is capable of comprehending. That is why the Savior used it so freely. He spoke in parables at one time in order that, so He said, some 'having eyes may see not, and having ears may hear not.' He knew that there were others who were sufficiently spiritually minded to comprehend the significance of the spiritual truth which He gave, but to some it would appear merely a story, denoting characters and incidents narrated therein. To another, more enlightened, it would connote fundamental, glorious principles of faith and conduct. Thus, the parable "is suited alike to simple and learned. The variety of its imagery charms many classes and many minds, teaching all to find divine truth in common things.'" (Pathways to Happiness [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1957], 193.)

Mark 4:3-20 The Parable of the Sower

See commentary for Matt. 13:18-23 and Luke 8:13-15

James E. Talmage

"Observe that the prominent feature of the story is that of the prepared or unprepared condition of the soil. The seed was the same, whether it fell on good ground or bad, on mellow mold or among stones and thistles." (Jesus the Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 263.)

David E. Sorensen

"As members of the Church, we have the opportunity to shape the soil in which the new seedlings, or converts, try to grow. We can help provide either a nourishing or a hostile environment. In describing a nourishing environment, President Hinckley has stated that each new member 'needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with 'the good word of God' " (Ensign, May 1997, 47). Each member can help in these three things. If we seek specific guidance and counsel from our Heavenly Father through prayer, He will bless us to know how to direct our efforts toward nourishing our new-member friends." ("Why Baptism Is Not Enough," Ensign, Apr. 1999, 20)

Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see...lest at any time they should be converted

"What were Jesus' purposes in giving parables? The leading quotations on the subject are found in three of the Gospels, two of them giving the impression that Jesus taught in parables in order to obscure: 'that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.' (Luke 8:10; see also Mark 4:12.) But Matthew, who possibly kept an original record of Jesus' teachings, gives fuller information. The Lord stressed that he was quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 and emphasized that he had to use parables because the people themselves were in spiritual darkness. (See Matt. 13:13-15.) Jesus, therefore, did not use the parable to obscure the truth, but often as a subtle invitation to think about it." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "How to Read a Parable," Ensign, Sept. 1974, 58, 60)

Joseph Smith

"The very reason why the multitude, or the world, as they were designated by the Savior, did not receive an explanation upon His parables, was because of unbelief." (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 2:267)

Mark 4:15 these are they by the way side

Bruce R. McConkie

"How sad are the prospects for those by the wayside; those whose souls are so hardened by false doctrines and evil deeds that the seed of the word cannot even sprout and begin to grow in their hearts. These are the scribes and Pharisees of society, the ministers of false religions, and the wicked and ungodly who love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. They were the ones in Jesus' day who bound themselves with the formalisms of Mosaic worship and refused to let the light of a new dispensation enter their hearts. They are the religionists in our day who close their ears to new revelation and choose to believe such doctrines as that men are saved by grace alone, without more, thus leaving them free to walk in worldliness and still, as they suppose, gain salvation. They are the wicked and ungodly in general, the liars and sorcerers and adulterers, the people who feed their souls on pornographic words and pictures. They are worldly people who are carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature, and who choose so to remain. Repentance is always open to all men, but those by the wayside choose to retain their hardened and rebellious natures." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 2: 250.)

Mark 4:16 these are they...which are sown on stony ground

Bruce R. McConkie

"These are they who believe the word; they know the Book of Mormon is true, as it were; there is no question in their minds that Joseph Smith is a prophet; they have the testimony of Jesus in their souls; and they rejoice in the light from heaven that has come into their lives. But they do not press forward with a steadfastness in Christ; they do not continue to learn the doctrines of salvation; they do not pay their tithes and offerings and serve in the Church. They do not endure to the end. Persecution arises; trials and tribulations block their path; their temptations are greater than they can bear. Because their roots are not deeply embedded in gospel soil, the new plant withers. It cannot stand the scorching rays of the sun.

"Luke says 'it lacked moisture.' The sacrifices required of the saints were too great. Though the word, at the first, seemed as a pearl of great price, other considerations waylaid the gospel pilgrims, and the labors expected of them no longer seemed worth the effort. They withered and died spiritually, and the fruit of eternal life never ripened in their lives." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 2: 250-251.)

Mark 4:17 they...have no root in themselves

"The provisionally converted are those who just haven't found a reason to leave-yet...Such individuals need to become converted, to receive the witness of the Spirit and the conviction that accompanies faith...a truly converted member says: 'I am a member of this church. My lot is cast with the Apostles and prophets-no matter what. Above all other issues, loyalties, agendas, and commitments, this is where I stand.'

"Without such a prior commitment, some new policy or required sacrifice, some imagined (or real) offense on the part of Church leaders, might challenge our endurance. Of those who fluctuate in their commitment, the Lord said that they have no 'depth of earth' in which to sow the word of the gospel, and when trials come, by and by they are offended. (See Matt: 13:18-21; Mark 4:3-20.) We must not fear to send the roots of the gospel deep into our hearts." (Stephen E. Robinson, "Enduring to the End," Ensign, Oct. 1993, 14-15)

Mark 4:18 they which are sown among thorns

Bruce R. McConkie

"They hear and receive the word among thorns! The seed is good and the soil is good, but they choose to let thorns and thistles continue to grow along with the seeds of righteousness. They seek to serve both God and mammon at one and the same time...True saints seek, not the pleasures of this life-the things that money and power and learning confer-but the eternal joys born of the Spirit. The Lord wants no part-time saints. His people cannot have one foot in the kingdom and the other in the world and expect to survive spiritually. The Church and its interests must always take precedence in their lives; otherwise the thorns will choke the precious gospel plant; it will die and in due course be burned with the thorns." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 2: 251-252.)

Mark 4:19 other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful

Neal A. Maxwell

"The Savior was also quite specific in indicating the major and usual causes behind the falling away of Church members: The cares of the world, temptations, tribulations, persecution and fear of persecution (Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13; D&C 40:2). ("Thanksgiving for the Fulness of the Gospel Granary.")

"Those who believe for a while make only a brief tour in the kingdom, though thereafter they often feel qualified to inform those who know even less about the Church; but the fact is they were really only tourists-not natives who really knew the kingdom's countryside. ("'True Believers in Christ,'" p. 135.)

"A few will be deceived by defectors. Likewise, others will be offended, for sufficient unto each dispensation are the stumbling blocks thereof! A few will stumble because, in their preoccupation with the cares of the world, they do not have oil in their lamps. And again and again, those who refuse to eat their spiritual spinach will come off second when they wrestle with the world. (Ensign, November 1982, p. 68.)" (Cory H. Maxwell, ed., The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 15.)

Mark 4:21-22 Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed?

This doctrine is reminiscent of the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, but his application in this instance is different. In Matthew, the Lord says, 'Ye are the light of the world...Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick' (Matt. 5:14-15). In Mark, the Lord is speaking about his doctrinal message-specifically, his use of parables. What then does he mean? He means, "my teachings are not intended to be hidden like a candle under a bushel. They are meant to be a light unto the world. Though I teach in parables, my message is meant to be understood, but some, through the hardness of their hearts, will not understand."

Hence, the promise to the faithful is that there will be 'nothing hid, which shall not be manifested.' On an individual basis, this prophecy has immediate application depending on the readiness of the individual. On a universal basis, the Lord has spoken of, 'A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ' (DC 121:28-29).

Mark 4:24 with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you

With respect to learning gospel principles, this passage is applied to indicate that the reward depends on the effort put into it. To paraphrase, "with what effort you put forth, spiritual knowledge shall be given unto you." You can't expect to reap the mysteries of godliness if you haven't sown the seeds of faith and diligent study. As Robert J. Matthews put it: "The spirit craves knowledge as the body craves food, and he who seeks sincerely to satisfy those spiritual cravings will find a bounteous feast at the Lord's table, all based on that person's willingness to receive." (A Bible! A Bible! [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 93.)

Mark 4:28 the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear

L. Tom Perry

"I marvel each year as I witness the system which the Lord has provided to supply for the needs of His children here on the earth. Each spring I follow a piece of string tied between two stakes to make a straight line, and with my hoe in hand I proceed to drop two or three seeds into good, fertile soil. Each fall I am overwhelmed with the bounteous harvest. Those few seeds have grown into tall plants, and each seed for the most part has produced a full golden ear containing more than a hundredfold of the original seed which was dropped into the soil a few months earlier. Each season of harvest one must be overwhelmed with humble gratitude for the blessings of the Lord to His children.

"The Savior must have appreciated this process, for He used the example of this growth cycle many times as He taught in parables during His earthly ministry. We find lesson after lesson in His teachings using examples from the Lord's supply system. We find parables concerning the sower (see Matt. 13:3-23), the seed growing by itself (see Mark 4:26-29), the tares (see Matt. 13:24-30), the unfruitful fig tree (see Luke 13:6-9), the fig tree's leaves (see Matt. 24:32-33), treasures hidden in a field (see Matt. 13:44), and many, many others. Is it any wonder we found His disciples teaching after His earthly ministry, 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap' (Gal. 6:7).

"One must be impressed with the great message of the Lord's law of the harvest. His system produces growth, multiplication, and abundant rewards. Surely as we watch the blessings of this growth cycle each year, we would expect His children to catch the vision of their mortal potential." ("For Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap," Ensign, Nov. 1980, 7)

Mark 4:30-32 the kingdom of like a grain of mustard seed

"Jesus loved a contrast, even a hyperbolic contrast, to teach a lesson. He called the mustard seed 'less than all the seeds that be in the earth.' (See Mark 4:31.) But he likened it to the kingdom of God, 'which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.' (Luke 13:19.) Though the mustard seed is tiny, mustard plants can grow to a height of fifteen feet.

"Thus, the seed can denote the strength and power inherent in even the smallest particle...That the glorious kingdom of God would begin in such a small and obscure way was a very un-Jewish teaching-that the kingdom would be 'the least' of all kingdoms was near heresy. Most Jews in the days of Jesus expected the Messiah to come and champion their cause, overthrow the Romans (as Judas Maccabaeus had overthrown the Greeks), and reestablish a mighty kingdom with the Anointed One ruling as king. Jesus, however, implanted a different concept of greatness arising out of something small." (D. Kelly Ogden, "A Sampler of Biblical Plants," Ensign, Aug. 1990, 38-39)

Mark 4:35-41 there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship

See commentary for Matthew 8:24-27 and Luke 8:24-25.

Mark 4:39 Peace, be still

Howard W. Hunter

"Peace was on the lips and in the heart of the Savior no matter how fiercely the tempest was raging. May it so be with us." (Latter-day Commentary on the New Testament: The Four Gospels, by Pinegar, Bassett, and Earl, p. 162)

David O. McKay

"The greatest need of this old world today is peace. The turbulent storms of hate, of enmity, of distrust, and of sin are threatening to wreck humanity. It is time for men-true men-to dedicate their lives to God, and to cry with the spirit and power of the Christ, 'Peace, be still. ... ' ("#Mark 4:39Mark 4:39.)" (Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953], 295.)

Joseph B. Wirthlin

"Despite dismal conditions in the world and the personal challenges that come into every life, peace within can be a reality. We can be calm and serene regardless of the swirling turmoil all about us. Attaining harmony within ourselves depends upon our relationship with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and our willingness to emulate him by living the principles he has given us...The phrase 'Peace, be still' (Mark 4:39), that the Savior uttered when he calmed the storm-tossed sea, can have the same calming influence upon us when we are buffeted by life's storms." ("Peace Within," Ensign, May 1991, 37)

Jeffrey R. Holland

"I know some of you do truly feel at sea, in the most frightening sense of that term. Out in troubled waters, you may even now be crying with the poet:

It darkens. I have lost the ford.

There is a change on all things made.

The rocks have evil faces, Lord,

And I am [sore] afraid.

"No, it is not without a recognition of life's tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God's love and the Savior's power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us-as well as the sea-to 'be still.' Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to 'be of good cheer.' Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!" ("An High Priest of Good Things to Come," Ensign, Nov. 1999, 36-37)

Mark 4:40 Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith

Howard W. Hunter

"All of us have seen some sudden storms in our lives. A few of them, though temporary like these on the Sea of Galilee, can be violent and frightening and potentially destructive. As individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, even as a church, we have had sudden squalls arise which have made us ask one way or another, 'Master, carest thou not that we perish?' And one way or another we always hear in the stillness after the storm, 'Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?'

"None of us would like to think we have no faith, but I suppose the Lord's gentle rebuke here is largely deserved. This great Jehovah, in whom we say we trust and whose name we have taken upon us, is he who said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.' (Gen. 1:6.) And he is also the one who said, 'Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.' (Gen. 1:9.) Furthermore, it was he who parted the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to pass through on dry ground. (See Ex. 14:21-22.) Certainly it should be no surprise that he could command a few elements acting up on the Sea of Galilee. And our faith should remind us that he can calm the troubled waters of our lives." ("Master, the Tempest Is Raging," Ensign, Nov. 1984, 33)

Mark 4:41 What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Boyd K. Packer

"I heard President Kimball say on one occasion, as other Presidents of the Church have said, that, while he holds all of the keys that are held upon the earth, there are keys that he does not hold. There are keys that have not been given to him as President of the Church, because they are reserved to higher power and authority. For instance, he said that he does not hold the keys of the resurrection. The Lord holds them, but He has not delegated them-neither anciently, nor to modern prophets. President Kimball mentioned also the authority to command the elements, to walk on the water. The Lord has this power, but He has not given it to mortals, although there are times when righteous men have been inspired to command the forces of nature and have been obeyed." (The Holy Temple [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 151.)