Monday, May 29, 2023

The Parable of the Ultimate Father

The parable of the prodigal son should be renamed something closer to the title of this piece. Kenneth Bailey, long time Christian theologian living in the Middle East, makes the following statement in his seminal book Jacob and the Prodigal:

For JESUS, sin is desiring the death of GOD and desiring to take [your] gifts without reference to the giver. 

(page 137)

This truth hit me right between the eyes this weekend. I, as a sinner, am like the younger son asking for his inheritance before the rightful owner is deceased. I want GOD to bless me right now for any small thing I might actually or accidentally do correctly. I want my reward NOW. 


1. Me:  "I just gave some money to a beggar so I should get a raise soon."

2. Random Mormon: "I pay my tithing, so when do I get to retire?"

3. Today's college graduates: "Why is my starting salary so low, I have a college degree!"

4. Random Return Missionary; "I worked hard for 2 years in Tucson, when do I meet my future bride?'

5. Today's High School Students: "Why is my high school diploma basically worthless? I only missed 77 days of school in four years!?"

The better attitude for each of the above examples would be:

1. "God, please give that suffering person, a life as great as mine. I am have no idea how I ended up being wealthier than 95 percent of the people on this planet, but I know it was not because of any personal righteousness."

2. "What if I just gave this huge sum of money directly to the poor instead of a corporate church?"

3. "Why did I just waste 5 years of my life only to get into debt just so I get a degree that will likely not ever be related to any job I get?"

4. "There were hundreds of harder places to go than Tucson, but I am still not sure why the Apostles are not out delivering the good news like they did in the New Testament."

5. "I am lucky to have this diploma, which is better than not having one, and I better show up for work on time or I will be a homeless high school graduate."

Let us stop wishing for blessings for our supposed good works, and focus on having a relationship with JESUS and His Father.

They are not dead, and we will never be out of their debt. We owe GOD the Most High for the first atonement made in all the worlds ever created. We now owe JESUS for the most recent atonement that can save all of us from death and hell.

Friday, May 5, 2023

The Rich Young Ruler

 I was inspired by Michael Austin's majestic essay this week on the rich young ruler ("I am the Rich Young Ruler"). You can find his wonderful words at Please take the time to read his piece, it is far better than anything I can come up with. There were also some good comments that followed.

1. What if they way we think the story ends says more about us and less about the rich man in the story?

If I think he went away sad, (which the text says he did), and that he did not sell his stuff (which the text does NOT say), then perhaps I am the type of person who would also not do what GOD knows is best for me. I have always read this story as ending tragically for the young man, but what if he was intially grieved at the potential loss of his beloved riches, but eventually decided to follow JESUS? 

We are left like Jonah sitting outside of Nineveh hoping that GOD will not save the people of the city.

Probably not the best attitude to have. I am guilty of such bad judgement.

2. Joseph Smith adds a lot of text to this encounter. 

He first changes "murder" to "kill" in Matthew 19 to match up with the correct versions of the verse in Mark 10 and Luke 18. 

The people of Ammon in the BOM would rather be killed than kill, even in self-defense, so there is a lesson here about taking life in general, and not just the premeditated kind. Self-defense is certainly justified, but there is no question the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were following a higher law. 

Joseph also adds to the disciples amazed questions after the encounter that "those who trust in riches" are not going to advance as far or high as possible, but that those "who trust in GOD" will be saved. Joseph's change to all three Gospels are beautifully consistent. It is worth the time to read each one and see for yourself.

3. Peter asks basically "what's in it for us" (meaning the chosen 12)? It is not just general authorities who can receive eternal life.

Jesus promises the original 12 apostles thrones on which to judge Israel. These men did leave their lives behind to follow CHRIST. They were at times knuckleheads, but their sacrifice of everything ensured that 11 of them will have eternal life. 

At the end of this episode JESUS assures anyone who has ever left their comfortable family and home life to serve HIM that they will be better off both in this world, and that they will inherit eternal life in the world to come. 

I believe this promise is referring to any Christian missionary. I know the Mormon church is not true, but it would be perfectly just that the young men and women who sacrifice their time and money during their prime, will be included in this promise. The vast majority are trying to bring people to JESUS. I also feel this promise extends to any missionary of any CHRIST-based faith. This sacrifice shows they are trusting in GOD.

The rich old rulers in Salt Lake should be the ones scouring the world for converts to CHRIST. Instead they fare sumptuously and steal the widow's mites to add to their untold billions. The modern 12 are trusting in riches. We know for sure how that ends.