We had an excellent stake conference this past weekend. Elder K. Mark Frost, an Area Seventy, was our visiting authority. During one of our meetings he spent some time reviewing the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13 or Mark 4. You’ll remember that the parable outlines various soils and their fitness for growing seeds; the soil representing the spiritual condition of individual hearts and the seed representing “the word” (the doctrines of the gospel) being planted in those hearts. The hope is for our hearts to be quality soil ready to grow strong, deeply rooted testimonies that lead to true conversion and fruitful lives in the Kingdom. In our meeting, we spent most of our time discussing the “stony ground,” those for whom their conversion is weak because their hearts are not completely softened. But I was personally drawn to the next scenario in the parable:
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. (Mark 4:7)
Later, the Savior explains:
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19)
I returned my thoughts to these verses tonight. While not everyone has a “thorny heart,” we (modern church members) live in a time and place where the seeds of these thorny weeds (the cares of the world, the deceit of riches, the lusts of other things) are constantly being tossed into the soil of our hearts. We do not live in a situation where from time to time a “care of the world” might happen upon our hearts and take hold. The cares, the deceits, the lusts are upon us in a constant stream. To add to the challenge, many of these things are not inherently wrong. They become wrong when we prioritize them over the things that matter most. Whatever our personal weaknesses may be, the opportunity to be diverted by “lesser things” appears to be greater than it ever has been before. Granted: Money, power, pleasure - these basic desires of the natural man are not new. But the myriad of ways we can satisfy those desires, and their instant access, must be second to no other time in history.
I have three or four very specific things that I am passionate about, that if I’m not careful, become too important in my life. I know, deep down in my core, that the things of the Kingdom of God deserve my utmost attention and that making him and his kingdom my priority will yield the happiness and peace I desire for myself and my family. I fear that too many of us give our time and attention to lesser things in life, and that we risk inheriting a lesser portion in the world to come as a result. I also know that this world is filled with amazing, tantalizing, demanding things, and keeping my priorities in check is one the of the great challenges of the ages. Vigilance must be constant!
What are the thorns that threaten to choke your testimony? These three talks would likely help you identify any dangerous sprouts lurking in the fertile soil of your heart: