As I was reading in Mark Chapter 4:3-20 about the parable of the sower, I had two main impressions.
The first is that there needs to be a sower to sow the word. Without anyone broadcasting the "seed," there would never be a harvest. Each of us has to do our part to sow the word, and we shouldn't be as concerned about the quality of the "soil" that it lands in. The sower in the parable didn't carefully place his seeds in only the best part of his field- he freely sowed the seed without worry about where it would end up or how well it would grow, while still keeping an eye on it to see how it fared.
Secondly, for a seed to grow it needs good soil, sunshine, and water. To relate these things to ourselves (which the soil represents) I began to wonder how we could create good "soil," since that is the only factor that would mostly be under our control.
Obviously if soil is rocky, shallow, or filled with thorns, it isn't going to produce well, if at all. But if we want to improve the soil, what would most farmers do?
First of all, the ground would be plowed. I liken this to the challenges we face in our lives: those things that stir our lives up, make us move out of our comfort zones, and reveal deeper levels than we had known before. These trials often help us to recognize the weeds of distraction, worldliness, and selfishness and kill them off so that the seed isn't struggling to even germinate.
The next step would be to "dung" or fertilize the soil. Maybe I take this a little too literally, but I can't help but think that this is the crap that comes into our lives. It's the stuff that we don't want in our lives but that if accepted and used as a growth experience, will help us become more productive.
It could also be the nourishment and improvement we gain through contact with God and His word. God puts spiritual nutrients into our souls through prayer, scripture study, and sincere worship.
The last things our "soil" would need are sun and water. I think the sunshine represents what we are all given at birth- the light of Christ, which creates an innate desire for light and good. The water could be baptism and taking the sacrament to renew that covenant, which nourish our souls and keep our testimonies and spirits from drying out.
When any of these improvements are made in the soil the seed has a better chance of growing into a valuable part of a crop. And when all of the conditions are right, the harvest is bountiful and each plant yields great fruit.
As with the soil and seed in the parable, if we turn our lives over to the great Creator, He will open up to us a view of what we can become, often to a level that we had never imagined. He will nourish us, help us weed out the things that keep us from growing, and help us reach our full potential. We can be mighty like the mustard plant, even when we start with only a tiny seed and less than desirable soil.