We're going to take a look at an interesting parable that the Savior taught about the gathering of the righteous and the wicked and why that gathering needs to take place before the Second Coming. In the parable a man plants good seeds in his fields. But something terrible happens. While he's sleeping an enemy plants something called "tares" among his wheat. What's so bad about tares? Tares are weeds that look a lot like wheat. They have a bitter taste, and if eaten alone or accidentally mixed with wheat for bread, they can cause dizziness and violent vomiting (Matthew 13:24-29; McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:296).
So how could the man rid his field of the tares? If he tried pulling up the tares while the plants were young, he might end up pulling the good wheat along with the bad tares. That would be tragic. Some of us do that when we're weeding. We accidentally pull up flowers or a vegetable plant because when they're young they often look the same as a weed.
What do you think the owner of the field did? He said, "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matthew 13:30).
What a wise man! He allowed the tares and the wheat to grow together, and then the reapers gathered them separately for either burning or storing. The field represents the world, the wheat represents the righteous, and the tares represent the wicked. Can you see how the same thing is happening today? Even in school you can see a gathering take place. There are drama people, band members, athletes, chess club members, and so on. It doesn't really matter which group or club you belong to. What matters is, are those groups wheat or tares? Generally speaking, good people don't hang out with the rough crowd and vice versa.
The Lord makes another interesting point found in the Doctrine and Covenants: "Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields" (86:5). That verse makes it seem as if the wheat and the tares are now grown and it's harvest time. In other words, it's time for the angels to come and do what they have been waiting to do--separate the righteous from the wicked so that the righteous will be spared and the wicked will be burned.
The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that revelation in 1832. I wonder how much closer we are to the harvest now? And what's going on with those impatient angels, whose job it is to reap? President Joseph Fielding Smith was present when President Wilford Woodruff talked about these angels at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple (Signs of the Times, 112-13).
President Smith recorded that the time of the harvest had arrived:
The Lord said that the sending forth of these angels was to be at the end of the harvest, and the harvest is the end of the world. Now, that ought to cause us some very serious reflections. And the angels have been pleading, as I have read it to you, before the Lord to be sent on their mission. Until 1893 the Lord said to them no, and then He set them loose. According to the revelation of President Woodruff, the Lord sent them out on that mission. What do we gather out of that? That we are at the time of the end. This is the time of the harvest. This is the time spoken of which is called the end of the world. (Signs of the Times, 121; emphasis added)
The time has come. The gathering is taking place. You can see this all around the world-- people siding with either Satan or Christ. Some people are living the gospel and defending it with their testimonies and lives; others don't care and are more interested in following the crowd.
Now is the time to take a stand and choose Christ. You can do it. Maybe you are struggling with certain challenges in your life. Maybe sin has overcome you. Know that you can change. That's the great blessing of the Atonement. Make a decision now to be a better person. Start hanging out with the kids at school who are striving to do what's right. You may not become popular because of that choice, but doing what's right is not about popularity; it's about following the Lord.
Several years ago a young man was asked to sing a solo in a high school assembly. He was somewhat shy but agreed to sing. The day came, and he summoned up all the courage he had and stepped out on the stage. The auditorium was filled to capacity. All of his friends and peers were watching. The music started and he began to sing. About halfway through his song, someone in the back of the auditorium peeled an orange and threw it at him. It hit the boy in the stomach, and he gasped for air. Many in the audience laughed, but many more were upset. With tears in his eyes, the boy finished his song, and with orange all over him made his way off the stage.
At that moment another young man unexpectedly ran to the stage. He was the kind of guy that most people made fun of. He didn't have many friends, and he spent most of his time alone at school, hugging the walls of the hallway as he made his way around. But this day he was different. He stepped on the stage and grabbed the microphone. He began to compliment the boy for singing. Then he told the person who threw the orange how disappointed he was and how he demanded an apology. The entire school clapped and cheered for him. I still remember his name: Rand.
I was the boy who sang the song. Dripping with orange and humiliated, I learned that day what taking a stand meant. It means that even in the most difficult moments of life we are willing to defend our beliefs and other people. I will never forget that experience. I will never forget Rand. That day he became a hero.
May we, like Rand, take the side of Christ in preparation for the harvest. May we be found with the rest of the wheat, gathered together, as we look forward to that incredible day.