Joy and Thanksgiving: Allegory – The True Vine

Today’s assignment was all about the Allegory of the vine. I really love studying allegories in the scriptures. They are like parables, but still a little different. A parable always stays a story. An allegory seems to slip back and forth between story and application. Or, an allegory is like a souped-up parable.

In this case, it feels woven – sometimes it is an analogy, and other times it is direct guidance.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” – John 15:1-11

So…a few things…

  • We should strive to be branches that bring forth good fruit. We spent some time studying fruit already and know the blessing that fruit is. Now, we learn that if we bring forth good fruit then we will be purged. What does purging have to do with happiness? – It helps us to bring forth even more good fruit. I wonder, also, if purging helps to increase the quality of the fruit. In any case, purging, or pruning, helps us to be more fruitful -which means that, at some point, we’ll experience more happiness.
  • Purging sounds like it hurts a lot. There are other words that are used in the scriptures to describe the same process: pruning, refining, purifying. None of them sound comfortable because they aren’t. But they will make us into better people. It is good to remember this. I love this quote from Elder Packer,

    “We live in a day when the adversary stresses on every hand the philosophy of instant gratification. We seem to demand instant everything, including instant solutions to our problems. …

    It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal.

    Teach our members that if they have a good, miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them. Things will straighten out.

    There is great purose in our struggle in life.” – Boyd K. Packer

    So, this process of purging is challenging. It may even result in a bit of pain and misery. The pain and misery may last several days or maybe even weeks. But this pain and misery will ultimately give way to the production of good fruit – which is happiness.

  • The only way that we can bear good fruit is by abiding in Christ. As I think about this, I think of the relationship between good works and faith. Many people seem to think that good works are unnecessary. However, I feel like we learn from this verse that good works come out of faith. If we have faith in Christ, we are abiding in Him, then we are producing good fruit. And if we aren’t, then we’ll be cut off and burned.
  • It’s not enough to not bear bad fruit. We need to bear good fruit. If we are bearing no fruit, then we will be taken from the branch and burned just as quickly as a branch producing bad fruit. The non-producing branch weighs too heavily on the rest of the plant for it to survive. We need to be potent and prolific – in bringing forth good fruit if we don’t want to be gathered and destroyed. Here, Christ teaches that good works are necessary if we want to abide in Christ and inherit His joy.
  • Abiding in Christ = continuing in the Love of Christ. He will offer us life. He will nurture us. He will stabilize us. He will do all for us that a vine, the true vine, does for the rest of the plant. We can depend on Him, and as we do, then we are able to bear good fruit. I am amazed at how simple the gospel can be. It’s not that it is easy (purging is hard!), but it isn’t complicated. We have faith in Christ, and He nourishes us so that we can bring forth good fruit – or do good works.
  • We glorify God with our good fruit. I love the fact that God is glorified by our good works. When we love and serve others, we glorify God. When we are happy, we glorify God. I love that he glories in our good works! He is such a selfless God. He loves to see us do our best.

    Going to Pre-school. I think I'm even happier than she is.

    I feel like I can relate to this. I have four children. They each bring me so much joy. And when they do something good – when they excel in life, my joy is so overwhelming, I feel like my heart will explode. When the holidays come, I have more fun than they do – I love seeing them happy, I love seeing them excited. I think that Heavenly Father probably feels the same way as we do. He doesn’t want us to bring forth good fruit because he is some kind of greedy god. He wants us to bring forth good fruit because it will make us happy, and when we’re happy, he’s even happier. We have such a loving God.
  • Christ was the pattern for us to follow. He kept the commandments and was able to abide in the Love of the father. When we keep the commandments, then we’re able to abide in the love of Christ. I can’t imagine a better place to abide.
  • Christ teaches us this allegory so that his joy might remain in us, and our joy might be full. That’s the whole gospel – to have joy. To be happy. The allegory of the vine teaches us that we receive this joy only when we abide in Christ, as a branch can remain alive only when it abides in the true vine.

Don’t you love allegories and other elements of the scriptures? They make everything so much easier to understand!

For tomorrow’s assignment, click here.


Scripture Study Tips: Parables, Allegories, and Metaphors/Similes

One of the challenges faced by prophets and spiritual leaders is explaining the abstract ideas of spirituality (such as faith) in a way that we can understand concretely. A solution to this problem is to use parables, allegories, and Metaphors / Similes.

All of these literary elements are very closely related, in some ways they even overlap, but they aren’t the same, so I will discuss each element in this post.

A parable is a simple story illustrating a moral or spiritual lesson. Here is an example:

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” – Matthew 13:3 – 9

In this parable, Jesus tells the story of a sower who sowed seeds in various places. Some of the seeds never had a chance to sprout; others sprouted but died quickly; some began to grow but were killed in the heat of day; there were seeds that were choked off by weeds and thorns; finally there were seeds that came into maturity – bringing forth good fruit.

It seems like a simple story. After the story, Christ pleads, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. This is not meant to be a story about gardening, although I’m sure you can learn a bit about gardening from it, but Christ wants us to open our spiritual ears and hear the true meaning of His story.

Later, the Savior explains the meaning of the parable.

Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” –
Matthew 13:18 – 23

The parable of the sower really has nothing to do with seeds or plants – it is about all of us – hearing the gospel and choosing to either neglect it, receive it for a while but then cast it aside at the first sight of difficulty, or nourish the gospel until we have a testimony.

This abstract idea is very succinctly taught by the parable. In fact, I find it hard to describe without alluding to the parable in one way or another.

The apostles asked the Savior why he chose to teach in parables. Christ responds.

“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” – Matthew 13:11 – 13

We can choose to understand the parables by allowing our spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear what the Lord has to say.

An allegory is very closely related to a parable. Like a parable, it uses concrete images to explain an abstract concept. An allegory isn’t a side-by-side comparison. Instead, it weaves back and forth between the concrete story and the abstract ideas represented by the story.

I hope this definition helps. A good example of allegory is The Allegory of the tame and wild olive trees found in the Book of Mormon in Jacob 5.

You can understand the meaning of an allegory in the same way you understand a parable or any of the scriptures – open your ears and eyes – in other words, Get the Spirit.

Metaphors and Similes
Metaphors and similes are both ways we compare two things. In a metaphor, we say that something is actually something else.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: …” –Matthew 10:16

The disciples are not actually sheep; and the world to which they are sent are not actually wolves. It is understood that this is simply a comparison – Apostles of Christ = sheep; world = wolves. When the apostles see this image, they begin to better understand their assignment – and perhaps even the danger that is involved.

A simile is when something is being likened to another thing, and the words “like” or “as” are usually used. It is a more obvious comparison.

“…be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

The comparison here is more obvious – the apostles need to be both wise and harmless. It is also very obvious that the comparison is not literal.

Jesus Christ gave this advice to the apostles as he gave them the assignment to go and preach the gospel. He wanted them to understand, concretely, the task that was before them.

Additionally, there is a huge difference between him saying Be wise and harmless versus Be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. The simile illustrates how they need to act. It emphasizes these qualities.

When we study the scriptures, and we begin to notice the parables, allegories, metaphors, and similes, we can get a richer experience and understanding of the meaning that is being expressed. We don’t need to shy away from these literary elements. Instead, we can enjoy them!

If you would like additional scripture study tips, check out my free eBook: Getting More from the Scriptures: Techniques and Projects for Effective Scripture Study.