The parable of the laborers: I do not think that means what you think it means

September 14, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 3:44 pm   Category: Scriptures

The parable of the laborers is an interesting one. Here at the Thang it seems like every time we start making progress in discussions about exaltation and showing that exaltation is more a function of what we become and how close our relationship with God is than of what we get, someone trots out the parable of the laborers as a proof text allegedly showing that exaltation really is a thing that we get (like entrance to the Celestial amusement park) and which is hardly related to our efforts at all. I think this idea that Celestial glory and character can be given to any of us is simply an incorrect doctrine (and that is the problem I have with the implications of Robinson’s popular Parable of the Bicycle). But I can see why the parable of the laborers would lead people to the wrong conclusions. Here it is from Matthew 20:

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

So a standard interpretation might go like this:
The householder = God.
The laborers = Any one of us as individuals.
The wage = salvation/exaltation.

The conclusion that many people draw from this is that whether we serve God all of our lives or if we decide to (or are finally invited to) serve him near the end of our lives the reward will be the same because God is powerful and gracious and further because he can do whatever he wants.

Now just in case it is not obvious to you, there are problems with this interpretation from a Mormon theological point of view. First, if this is truly the way God works then deathbed repentance will lead to exaltation. The scoundrel that repents in the end of his life would presumably receive the exact same Celestial theme park ticket as the saint who devoted his entire life to serving and loving God and his fellow man. The problem for us Mormons with that is that modern prophets have consistently denounced the notion of deathbed repentance [1]. The other thing that doesn’t work is the “election” issue that some Christians read into this parable. That is that those who received the wage in the parable were only those who the householder went out and specifically picked — not everyone got the invite.

Now there are surely lots of ways to look at this parable but I just thought of one that I want to float by y’all. It utilizes some of our modern scriptures to change some of the casting of the characters being represented in the parable.

The thing that stood out to me this week as I read this parable is the seemingly odd conclusion drawn at the end of the story: So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen

This conclusion doesn’t really logically follow the parable if we interpret in the standard way I outlined above. First, the “last and the first” laborers all received exactly the same wages in the end of the parable. There was no difference in the final reward despite the differing lengths of time put in and presumably all got paid at the same time so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to say the first shall be last to me. Second, the parable indicates that everyone who the Householder “called” ended up being “chosen” to work and be paid so saying “many are called but few are chosen” doesn’t seem to fit at all based on the standard interpretation.

My theory is that the problem is that the parable ought to be interpreted like this instead:

The householder = God.
The laborers = various nations or people with the first called being the Jews/Israel.
The wage = The blessings associated with the fullness of the gospel as bestowed on nations. Further it could also include the general blessings the individual people who and keep covenants with God enjoy.

Consider the context in which the concluding statement of the parable “the last shall be first, and the first last” is used elsewhere in scriptures:

And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. (Alma 13: 42)

63 Graft in the branches; begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last, and dig about the trees, both old and young, the first and the last; and the last and the first, that all may be nourished once again for the last time. (Jacob 5)

29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. (Luke 13)

The connecting concept in all of these scriptures is that even though Israel was the first, in the last days the gentiles will receive the gospel. The idea is that eventually both the Jews and gentiles will be part of God’s people. Therefore, I think it is not a stretch to say that the parable of the laborers represents Israel as the early laborers and the nations of the gentiles as the later laborers. The workday represents the history of the modern world.

It seems to me that by interpreting this parable this way the unworkable theological implications of the more traditional interpretation go away.

What do you think?

——————

[1.] “Some of our old traditions teach us that a man guilty of atrocious and murderous acts may savingly repent when on the scaffold; and upon his execution will hear the expression, “Bless God! he has gone to heaven, to be crowned in glory, through the all-redeeming merits of Christ the Lord.” This is all nonsense. Such a character never will see heaven. Some will pray, “O that I had passed through the veil on the night of my conversion!” This proves the false ideas and vain notions entertained by the Christian world” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 157).

77 Comments »

  1. I think your interpretation works and, like you, don’t like the standard interpretations. However, if we wanted to stick with the laborers = individuals model, we could conclude that ‘time’ in the kingdom is not what matters, rather ‘becoming’ something is what matters. Some new converts become disciples of Christ quickly, while some of us lifetime members are slow to see. So His giving of the wages is simply Him recognizing what we have become and ‘whatsoever is right we recieve.’

    Comment by Hal H. — September 14, 2006 @ 4:39 pm

  2. I happen to be one of those who think that despite the apparent injustice, that the classical interpretation you describe is the correct one, and furthermore that the blessings of salvation are indeed a gift that God can justly grant both to those that lived five hundred years and those who lived five, provided they comply with the terms and conditions thereof.

    As evidence I please refer to the following scripture:

    For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion-

    For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven;

    That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.

    For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
    (D&C 78:3-6)

    Now I wouldn’t make too absolutistic an interpretation of this parable, but I think it is safe to say that all that abide the same law will eventually obtain the same glory, regardless of their earthly sacrifice or native talents. I do not see the celestial kingdom as strictly speaking a meritocracy where the greatest blessings go to the most able or talented. It seems to me that the whole point of the law of consecration is so that all may receive the same blessings and bear the same glory (roughly speaking), provided they give everything they have.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  3. Before I respond can you clarify your interpretation on one point. What do you suggest these verses mean:

    10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
    11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
    12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
    13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

    I can’t make sense of this exchange based on your interpretation and it seems pretty critical to the point of the parable. Help me out.

    Comment by Jacob — September 14, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  4. If the laborers are nations, then it would controvert every other parable where all the laborers but the last fall away.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 14, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  5. I think people just don’t want to admit that their own meager efforts don’t count for half as much as they think they do.

    The Mormon religion is full of “self-made-men.” And they sure are insufferably smug about it.

    I think parables like this one are very disturbing for such folk.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 14, 2006 @ 7:03 pm

  6. Hal – Interesting point. I think your version could work to get by in an explanation but it seems to be making a pretty big leap in the analogy.

    Stapley – We do you assume that if the laborers represent things like the Jews and the gentiles in this one parable that laborers must represent the same things in every other parable too? Why not take each parable separately?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  7. Mark: I happen to be one of those who think that despite the apparent injustice, that the classical interpretation you describe is the correct one

    That’s all right. I’m used to you being wrong. ;-)

    furthermore that the blessings of salvation are indeed a gift that God can justly grant both to those that lived five hundred years and those who lived five, provided they comply with the terms and conditions thereof.

    This is an odd thing for a Mormon to say… First of all, don’t all five year olds comply with the terms and conditions of salvation (however you are defining that term) by default? Second, it seems that you are treating salvation like a thing — like a golden ticket in to heaven. That is just incorrect in my opinion. Salvation will a result of who we are at judgment, not as an admission to the heavenly theme park or resort or whatever because God loves us. Even God can’t change who we are in the absence our own efforts (read: repentance) and faith.

    I think it is safe to say that all that abide the same law will eventually obtain the same glory, regardless of their earthly sacrifice or native talents.

    So you assume that the level of sacrifice one gives (or is willing to give) is not correlated the law they are living? I disagree.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

  8. We’ll wash and be wash’d and with oil be anointed,
    Withal not omitting the washing of feet.
    For he who receiveth his PENNY apointed,
    Must surely be clean at the harvest of wheat.

    I think the early Latter-day Saints had a very specific idea about what the penny represented (which was possibly influenced by Mark Masonry, as well).

    Comment by Jeff Day — September 14, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

  9. Seth,

    Do you agree with the notion that we are judged based on what we are? Meaning we are judged based on our fundamental characters rather than on some checklist of to-do’s or on the whim of an electing God?

    If so then you have a serious theological problem with your position.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 8:48 pm

  10. Jacob,

    Excellent question and as ever very perceptive.

    I considered going into more detail in the post but decided against it because of the length. I actually think this parable is probably a precursor to the sermons we later get from Peter and Paul about allowing gentiles into the covenant with God. I think the savior is cryptically telling the Jews and specifically his disciples that just because they as a people were “there first” in the covenant that God can let whoever he wants into his chosen people. So I think the point of the passage you quoted is that griping and moaning about letting the new guys in to chosen people is not their place — God can let whoever he wants in on his covenant.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

  11. Jeff,

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about. But the interpretation of the penny is not really the diputed point here. We all agree it is heavenly blessings in one form or another.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

  12. Geoff, the theme park analogy is irrelevant, as are a half a dozen other red herrings you have attached to the common interpretation of this parable, until and unless you can demonstrate a necessary connection between them.

    I referred you to a very explicit scripture on this subject. I would hope for an argument to the effect that scripture is irrelevant to the topic at hand. And no, I do not consider salvation a thing, but on the other hand salvation encompasses far more than character. No man can be saved all by himself. The celestial kingdom is a divine society. In loneliness no man can have or exercise any divine power worthy of the name. The only true purpose for character is to make us fit to dwell in such a society, a society with one heart and one mind. The blessings of full and equal membership in that society constitute salvation.

    Now we generally understand there are degrees even within the celestial kingdom, and surely obtaining a state of equality within a higher degree requires living a higher law, and hence a higher degree of sacrifice. However what more can be asked of a man than to give all that he has? To consecrate his very life and being to the salvation of others?

    Now suppose two men or women consecrate all that they have, wearing out their (eternal) lives in the service of others. And yet one of them was more talented than the other. Would you consider it just for God to reward the more talented servant with a larger mansion than the rest? Or titles of nobility whereby he outranked the others for all eternity? Where is the self abasement in that? Isn’t it significant that all the righteous are given the same name, the name of Christ? Doesn’t that imply something about the ideal of equality in celestial society?

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

  13. Mark,

    I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you explain how your last comment is connected to this thread or the parable of the laborers? It looks like you are responding to my #7 but I am clearly missing the connection to the subjects at hand.

    Maybe you can back up and explain what you think the word salvation actually means (from your #3) and why you think God can give it as a gift since you say in #12 that it is not a thing. Clearly you are seeing the gift as something beyond previent grace and the offer of a personal relationship (which is the way I see it — largely following Blake’s lead on that actually).

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 9:47 pm

  14. First, a couple of scriptures:

    For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there-and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
    (D&C 38:26)

    And:

    Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

    For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

    But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

    Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
    (Matt 23:1-12)

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 10:00 pm

  15. Geoff, When I say salvation is not a thing, I mean it cannot be carried away with you, nor can anyone possess it by themselves. The fundamental error of Pelagianism is that anyone can save themselves through their own good works, rather than submitting to the direction of and receiving the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    It doesn’t matter what kind of character he has, no one can be saved by themselves. Salvation is a matter of divine sociality – a community enterprise, with the broadest conceivable sense of community. That is one of the reasons why Jesus Christ said that of his own self he was nothing. Or properly speaking divinity is not something that any person possesses of themselves. Divinity can only be possessed collectively.

    That is one of the reasons why marriage and family form the basis of the plan of salvation. No one can be saved in the celestial kingdom except he be sealed / adopted into an eternal family. No one can be exalted unless or until he or she enters into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. These relationships are the backbone of celestial society. Character is not enough. Salvation is receiving all the blessings of membership and participation in a divine society.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 10:16 pm

  16. Three relevant scriptures:

    If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
    (D&C 6:13)

    And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
    (D&C 14:7)

    Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
    (2 Ne 10:24)

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 10:35 pm

  17. Mark,

    I all along have described “salvation” as a byproduct of both our character and the closeness of our personal relationship with God. These two are inextricably connected I think because one cannot improve one’s personal relationship with God without also improving one’s character (aka repenting). So other than through previent grace (meaning God continually beckoning us to enter into a closer and closer personal relationship with him as I have consistently said) how is salvation a gift? You say it is in #2 yet you have not explained how. Your #14 seems rather irrelevant and your #15 sounds a lot like the previent grace view I already described in #13.

    What is the significant difference?

    And how does this tie into the parable of the laborers?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

  18. Geoff (#10),

    Your idea about the dispensation to the Jews first and the Gentiles later has support in many commentaries on this parable. For example, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible includes this:

    Nothing was more a mystery in the gospel dispensation than the rejection of the Jews and the calling in of the Gentiles; so the apostle speaks of it (Eph. 3:3-6); that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs: nor was any thing more provoking to the Jews than the intimation of it. Now this seems to be the principal scope of this parable, to show that the Jews should be first called into the vineyard, and many of them should come at the call; but, at length, the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should receive it, and be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews; should be fellow-citizens with the saints, which the Jews, even those of them that believed, would be very much disgusted at, but without reason. (here)

    I think it is worth mentioning that this parable does have context, which is important. In Matthew 19, the rich man comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all his stuff, which he doesn’t do, and then we get the verse about the camel and the needle. The disciples are stunned (vs. 25) and wonder if anyone can be saved, given what they just heard. Jesus says that with men it is impossible, but with God it is not impossible. So, Peter asks, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (vs. 27). Jesus answers that he doesn’t need to worry, all those who have forsaken all to follow him will receive eternal life, BUT:

    But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. (vs. 30)

    That is the lead-in to the parable. The parable does appear to be an explanation of the statement that the first will be last and last will be first. I agree with you that the standard interpretation doesn’t work particularly well for explaining that. It does seem to me that the parable sticks it to Peter somewhat for his “we have forsaken all” comment. It is a gentle reminder that at the end of the day there will be people who make it to heaven who won’t look like they did as much as him.

    As a generally applicable parable, I have always taken it to be a reminder that things will not look fair from our perspective. The parable reminds me that I can’t look at other people and complain that Jesus deals with them differently than he does me. If the gospel seems like a good deal to me (which it does), then I should mind my own business and be happy for however generous God is with other people.

    Comment by Jacob — September 14, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  19. Geoff,

    The point of the parable of the laborers is that our eternal reward is not some sort of payment where we collect points on a tally sheet, and then receive a reward proportional to the number of points we have collected. Instead all, regardless of ability or talent, (or great works they have performed, or number of people they have converted), who are willing to abide the same law will obtain the same reward.

    Some people may indeed have greater responsibilities, but no one is going to live in bigger houses than other people just because of the number of works they have performed or because they are better speakers or more talented leaders than others. Every person in a given degree of glory will receive the same blessings, so much as is reasonably possible, regardless of talent or ability.

    This is the whole reason why we give glory to God for whatever we do – because we know that we are nothing without him, and that whatever we receive is far and beyond anything that we legitimately earned. So far that the Lord can bless all his worthy children equally and we have no reason to complain, whether we were required to labor through the heat of the day, or in times and circumstances not so burdensome.

    The glory of a celestial society depends on our esteeming every man and woman as ourselves – and the desire for pre-eminence or reward above that of our neighbor is poison to that sort of fellow feeling.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 10:59 pm

  20. Jacob,

    Thanks for the reference. I was certain my personal conclusions were not groundbreaking or anything but it is nice to see a reference to prove that point.

    Thanks for the reminder about the lead in to the parable too. It is an odd transition, but I think it matches my comment #10 very well that this parable was a clear foreshadowing to the disciples that the reviled gentiles were about to be invited to the table of the Lord too. Obviously Peter didn’t fully catch it because it took some pretty clear revelation later to drive the point home to him.

    that at the end of the day there will be people who make it to heaven who won’t look like they did as much as him.

    I don’t know what to make of this because I think we have different ideas about what heaven consists of. But I do know we agree that free will persists and that there is progression between kingdoms so I I agree with the general sentiment you are expressing here.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

  21. This is JFSII’s take on the laborers, and is the reason I rejected him as a false prophet after finding Jesus many decades ago. Anyone who has experienced the miracle of forgiveness understands the reality of the parable. Our goods works are done out of love for the Lord and our fellow humans; they don’t save us, Jesus does. Exaltation cannot be earned. Get over it and praise Jesus.

    Comment by Steve EM — September 14, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  22. Steve EM,

    What is you source for on Joseph Fielding Smith’s take on the parable of the laborers? (I am highly skeptical that JFS2 actually held the position I proposed in this post.)

    Also, what do you think salvation specifically consists of?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 11:32 pm

  23. I think the “last shall be first” principle has at least one more specific meaning than is often recognized. And that is that though the patriarchal order of the priesthood is the way the plan of salvation is administered, there are higher, more equal orders of the priesthood than that, fit properly to govern a community of equals, e.g. the community of the exalted, and that in this order of the priesthood, some sons will come to preside over their fathers. I wouldn’t say that entails more blessings, but definitely more responsibility.

    Now, as specific evidence of this principle I refer you to the following scriptures:

    The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
    (Genesis 49:26)

    While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ [the Messiah]? whose son is he?

    They say unto him, The Son of David.

    He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?

    If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
    (Matt 22:41-45)

    Or what about Joseph Smith – he lived on this earth for only thirty eight and a half years. And how does it seem rather certain that he will preside over Adam, the father of all, who lived centuries longer, who if anyone truly labored through the heat of the day? Now I do not mean obtain greater blessings than Adam (properly speaking), I simply mean occupy a position of greater responsibility in the presiding council of the kingdom of heaven, on the principle that no one has done more than Joseph Smith for the salvation of mankind save Jesus Christ only.

    In short, I will readily concede the point that ability and humility will have something to do with which offices of administration we may occupy in the eternal world, but I deny the idea that those holding higher office will receive greater blessings than others who are equally dedicated, of any station whatsoever.

    One more scripture on the last shall be first thing:

    Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least [last?] in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
    (Matt 11:11)

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  24. Mark,

    It seems to me that you are seriously conflating the notions of relative and absolute righteousness in your comment #19 (as well as in previous comments). The issues of “the size of heavenly mansions” are only difficult when we are looking at the relative righteousness scale. On the absolute scale all is perfectly just.

    But since I think I remember you also saying you go for the ideas that free will persists and that there is progression between kingdoms there will be plenty of time in the eternities to come for all to move as far up or down the absolute righteousness scale as we choose. We can draw as near unto God over time as we actually want and with any luck we will want what God wants for us — for us to be one with the Godhead.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

  25. Mark (#23),

    Dude — is there proper ventilation in your place? Your comments are getting more and more bizarre tonight. First of all, the scriptures you cited don’t seem to support your conclusions at all. Then you come up with this comment:

    And how does it seem rather certain that he will preside over Adam, the father of all, who lived centuries longer, who if anyone truly labored through the heat of the day? Now I do not mean obtain greater blessings than Adam (properly speaking), I simply mean occupy a position of greater responsibility in the presiding council of the kingdom of heaven, on the principle that no one has done more than Joseph Smith for the salvation of mankind save Jesus Christ only.

    That is crazy talk. John Taylor says in an obituary that Joseph has done more than anyone for the salvation of men besides Jesus and you suddenly have him presiding over Adam as a result? Has anyone in any position of authority in the church ever come out and said such a thing or is this (as I suspect) another one of those ideas that only you believe and preach?

    but I deny the idea that those holding higher office will receive greater blessings than others who are equally dedicated, of any station whatsoever.

    Alright… maybe you do have doctrinal Tourette’s Syndrome as DKL opined after all. Where did that comment come from??

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

  26. Mark (#23),

    You are usually big on the patriarchal order, but this idea that Joseph Smith will be over Adam flies in the face of what Joseph said on that very subject. He said all the dispensation heads will deliver up their keys to Adam:

    He [Adam] is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family. (TPJS 157-158)

    So, I disagree with your assertion that Joseph with preside over Adam. Or rather, Joseph disagrees with it.

    Comment by Jacob — September 15, 2006 @ 12:44 am

  27. Geoff,

    I comment on the principles that seem most relevant. However it is very difficult to explain a complicated proposition in a small number of words, so I usually try to let the scriptures speak for themselves, and hope someone will see the relevance.

    Now I grant that it is my opinion that Joseph Smith has a higher position in the presiding councils of heaven than Adam, but please note that I supplied two scriptures – one that states that John the Baptist was greater than all who preceded him, and another that implies that the blessings [mantle, properly speaking] upon the head of Jacob has prevailed over that of all his progenitors. Adam was a mortal progenitor of Jacob, therefore we may conclude that in the Melchizedek (as opposed to patriarchal) priesthood, Jacob is likely to preside over Adam. Jesus presides over his mortal ancestors by the same principle.

    Now why would this be the case. I suggest it is because the Lord needed to spread out his heavy hitters throughout history, not just send all the heavyweights in the first generation, and all the lightweights toward the end. The Lord has preserved some of the most important roles for those in the dispensation of the fulness of times (or the winding up scene), of which the role Joseph Smith took upon himself was one of them, in my opinion the ‘rod’ mentioned in Isaiah 11:1 and D&C 113:3-4.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 1:03 am

  28. Jacob,

    I think the difference is that between the patriarchal and the Melchizedek priesthood. Adam does preside over all the inhabitants of the earth in the patriarchal priesthood (something of enormous heavenly significance), but he does not preside (for example) over Jesus Christ, who holds a higher position in the Melchizedek priesthood.

    The authority of a patriarch only extends to his own lineal and adopted descendants. Whereas a holder of the Melchizedek priesthood may be called to preside over anyone. Please note that stake presidents preside over the patriarchs in their own stake. Those that are righteous have a natural right to the patriarchal priesthood (as fathers or mothers), but no one has ever had a right to the Melchizedek.

    I have a quote from Joseph Smith on the subject…

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 1:14 am

  29. This is what Joseph Smith had to say:

    There are three grand orders of the priesthood referred to here.

    The Melchizedek Priesthood hold the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of years.

    The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.

    The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath, but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and a covenant.
    (TPJS p. 323, Aug 27, 1843)

    So indeed Adam presides over all his patrilineal descendants in the patriarchal priesthood, and the only man we know of who is not a patrilineal descendant of Adam is the Lord Jesus Christ. But he does not preside over any dispensation but his own in the Melchizedek priesthood.

    I ask, for example, what position do the seven archangels hold in the patriarchal priesthood? By virtue of that calling, no position whatsoever. An archangel is not a calling in the patriarchal priesthood. Neither is apostle, nor a high priest, nor a seventy, or even an elder. Those are all Melchizedek priesthood offices, not patriarchal priesthood offices (of which there is only one, strictly speaking: father).

    By this principle we may conclude that the First Presidency in heaven presides over the hosts of heaven by virtue of the Melchizedek priesthood, and not the patriarchal, per se. The patriarchal priesthood is held by each heavenly father, and is the authority whereby he ministers to his lineal and adopted descendants who are not yet exalted (thus becoming equal with him).

    It is very important to recognize that the patriarchal priesthood as we know it did not exist before the second estate (there being no marriage, nor birth after the present order of things), but the Melchizedek priesthood did.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 1:37 am

  30. Geoff,
    I was 15 when I read JFSII’s take on this, please forgive me for not remembering the source. All I remember is he rejected the basic point that for all who come to Christ, the reward is the same. Having just received undeserved forgiveness after feeling the burden of the judgment for sin, I knew JFSII was wrong. I later understood his weakness for using his position to promote personal opinion. GAs need the atonement just as much as I do. If there are true prophets, there must also be false ones. I choose to be on guard for the latter.

    My take on exhalation? For those who accept Jesus, the judgment passes over them, just as G-d’s final judgment on ancient Egypt passed over the ancient Israelites who marked their doors with the blood of the sacrifice. And were do people with no judgment against them go? Anyone facing judgment is a dead duck. Faith in Jesus is faith that he will protect us from the judgment. We have no hope but Jesus

    It all makes sense when you think about how the tutelage of the Holy Sprit works in our lives. When we think we’re in charge, the HS can’t work with us. When we become as little children, great things start to happen.

    In short, we’re saved/exhalted by faith alone in Christ alone. Our works are too puny vs. the atonement to have any bearing on the matter.

    Comment by Steve EM — September 15, 2006 @ 3:57 am

  31. To me, verse 12 is key, that it is the “hours worked” that is the issue much more than the order in which the workers are recruited (which might serve only to deermine the length and heat of their particular workday).

    To me, this says, “a dilligent home teacher who works 30 minutes a week gets the same reward as a bishop who works 30 hours a week.” And of course they do, because there is no greater gift than exaltation.

    Some might look on a bishop as being “first” in the ward and having great status. He might tell you that he is having to work this longer workday, during the heat of the day, in order to learn things that might come more naturally to others, and he isn’t expecting more than a penny.

    I also think that like any good parable, there is more than one interpretation, so we ought to be careful about calling each other “wrong.”

    Comment by Naismith — September 15, 2006 @ 4:30 am

  32. Steve EM: I was 15 when I read JFSII’s take on this, please forgive me for not remembering the source.

    That’s what I thought. You made that up and then attributed it to JFS2 based on some convoluted decades-old memory. I will be very surprised if JFS2 taught an interpretation of the parable the laborers similar to the idea I outlined in this post. You really ought to be more careful about fabricating positions for former church leaders — it makes everything you say suspicious.

    I knew JFSII was wrong.

    Whatever. Since you have no source to confirm what he said on the subject I can only assume you are full of it with comments like this.

    GAs need the atonement just as much as I do. If there are true prophets, there must also be false ones.

    Show me a GA that feels or felt he didn’t need the atonement. This is just another one of your ridiculous statements. Further, your logic about false prophets is astoundingly bad. Do you really believe there must be false prophets among the leadership of the church? That God couldn’t see to it that false prophets were weeded out? That is preposterous.

    For those who accept Jesus, the judgment passes over them, just as G-d’s final judgment on ancient Egypt passed over the ancient Israelites

    Hold on — you think people who accept Jesus won’t be judged at all?? If so you are wresting the whole of scripture and becoming a light unto yourself. You may not like that the scripturesteach we will all be judged by our thoughts, words, and deeds — but that doesn’t change the fact that we do. But of course you have free will so you can believe whatever you want despite the everwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    And in all of that you still didn’t answer my question: What do you think salvation specifically consists of?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2006 @ 8:05 am

  33. Mark (#28 and #29),

    So, in your opinion, which priesthood organization is heaven organized according to, melchizedek or patriarchal?

    Comment by Jacob — September 15, 2006 @ 8:21 am

  34. Steve EM,

    Your views on salvation sound like they are from a non-denominational evangelical Christian. And, they are just as glaringly bad. You, just like them, are looking solely at Justification, which is the expiation/forgiveness of sins which is by faith alone. But, you are ignoring the Sanctification process and the need to endure to the end, both of which are required for exaltation.

    Mark Butler,

    You are assuming the different orders of the Priesthood dont all have the same root, which they do: The Father. The different orders of the Priesthood on earth are merely different ways and means of dispensing the same sets, or subsets (e.g., the Aaronic), of keys. The keys all go back to the same source, the Father. The notion that they are fundamentally different in an eternal sense, for any purpose, is simply incorrect. The grand orders Smith delineated are merely three different ways in which they are administered on the earth, not in heaven.

    Comment by Kurt — September 15, 2006 @ 8:23 am

  35. Because the terms “salvation” and “exaltation” are being conflated (by all parties), I once again call upon Dallin Oaks’ talk “Have You Been Saved?” to clarify this matter.

    First, let’s consider the laborers’ reward to be salvation from the consequences of sin (Oaks’ definition 2 and my preferred interpretation). Yes, it matters what we have become. Repentance is how we become it. But as far as forgiveness of our sins goes, it does not matter when, in this life, we become it. Whether you repent as soon as you become accountable or the day before you die, you will be just as forgiven.

    In a sense, deathbed repentance is possible if that is when you complete the “becoming” process. But most people, including those who denounce it, understand deathbed repentance to refer to the beginning of the “becoming” process. That is indeed futile, because you will not have time to complete it.

    If we consider the laborers’ reward to be exaltation (Oaks’ definition 6), the “becoming” process is entirely different. Cumulative experience matters in achieving exaltation, but because it is a collective process, it is not necessary for everybody to have every experience. But either the collective experience creates Zion and achieves exaltation or it does not. And if it does, then everybody in the collective enjoys exaltation. As long as members of the collective consecrate all they have, it does not matter whether they contribute much or little. Now peoples’ experience as exalted beings will differ based on their experiences on Earth. (Some would characterize this as “some are more exalted than others,” but I don’t see it that way.) But they are still exalted–they each collect their penny.

    Comment by Last Lemming — September 15, 2006 @ 8:33 am

  36. I like this interpretation, Geoff. But like Hal, I wonder if it also could have personal implications. It seems like the parable could be talking about an Ebenezer Scrooge type of person, who makes just as thorough a change in character as others, but does it late in life. This might explain vs. 10-13 that Jacob refers to, as you might imagine that there could be some people who are upset with the idea that, even if Scrooge is just as good a person as they are, he is at an equal standing with them, despite a former life of wickedness.

    This, of course, assumes that the first and the last had become the same type of person. But if the purpose of the parable is about time, then I think that that isn’t too much a thing to assume. Assuming otherwise just adds to much complexity to the parable.

    Comment by Eric Russell — September 15, 2006 @ 8:38 am

  37. Jacob (#33), I think the correct answer is both, at least as long as there are still children yet to be saved and exalted. A father, whether in heaven or on earth, naturally presides over all his lineal and adopted posterity, at least until the day they both become exalted.

    However, the sovereign authority of the highest councils in heaven is not patriarchal, but Melchizedek. The latter authority (which I understand to derive not from personality, but rather the unanimous consent of the divine concert, aka Elohim) may be assigned to preside over any task or bishopric whatsoever. There is no higher authority.

    It is important to recognize that Jesus Christ, in the manner we are speaking of here, is not a father to anyone. But yet by divine investiture of authority, he represents the Eternal Father (the concert of all fathers) to everyone. So the reason why the Melchizedek Priesthood is a higher priesthood than the patriarchal priesthood is that the ministry of a Melchizedek priesthood office is not unto his own descendants alone, but unto the descendants of any father whatsover.

    A Melchizedek priesthood holder (with the appropriate authorization) represents all of them unto anybody, where a father or heavenly father (note case) represents all of them only to his own posterity. And that is why the highest councils of the kingdom of heaven are run according to the principles of the Melchizedek priesthood, and supervise the work of the patriarchal, or family order of the priesthood.

    That is also where Brigham Young went wrong in the Adam-God theory – he appears to have assumed that the patriarchal priesthood was higher than the Melchizedek priesthood, where in fact the the opposite is the case. Given proper authority, the latter pre-empts the former. That is why Christ presides over Adam, for example.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 9:23 am

  38. That should probably be “not yet a father to anyone” (and yet representing the Father unto all).

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  39. Excellent post and thoughts Geoff. I did not have time to read all of the comments, so if I say something that has already been addressed I apologize.

    I have always had the feeling that what we become has mostly already been determined in the preexistence, with just a short test period here. In this sense the parabe and the interpretation make a lot of sense to me. Short tests or long tests, most of the results of what we are already exist. We are spiritually mature before we come here.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — September 15, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  40. In reverse order:

    Eric (#39) – Thanks. I agrees that the long view of the existence of individuals must be taken in these cases. I think the only thing I would amend from your statement is that our lives before and after this life are part of the repentance and change timeline. I firmly believe we retain free will so progression or retrogression will always remain available to us.

    Eric Russell (#36) – I think we’re pretty much on the same page. I think the parable of the laborers is largely about Jews and gentiles but lessons about individuals can be gleaned fromit as well. As you said, the important part when it comes to individuals is what we become and how close to God we grow regradless of how long it takes us.

    Last Lemming (#35) – Good points and nice reference. I generally agree with your analysis when it comes to individuals. Butas I mentioned, I think the primary gist of this parable is about Jews and gentiles as peoples.

    Kurt (#34) – I agree.

    Naismith (#31) – I agree with your general point that parables like this can be used to illustrate different truths. So while I think the major gist is about the Jews and the gentiles I agree that the patterns the parable outlines can be appliedto various aspects of our lives. (I liked the Ebenezer Scrooge point someone made for instance.) I agree also that we should be careful about calling other interpretations wrong. Of course there are some wrong interpretations — interpretaions that try to use the parable to promote false doctrines — but it is important to be be careful before calling such interpretations on the carpet.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  41. Mark (lots of places) –

    Suffice it to say that I find major parts of your theology completely untenable. For instance, your insistence that the patriachal order established based on birth order on this planet will establish an eternal heirarchy among some forthcoming Celestial society seems ludicrous to me. Therefore many of the points you are making (which refer to your personal theories) are beside the point. I reject foundational aspects of your theological scheme so trying to build more points on that foundation in this thread are both unconvincing to me and threadjacks here.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

  42. Mark (#37)

    I generally agree with your distictions between Melchizedek and patriarchal priesthood, but I don’t think it follows that Joseph presides over Adam in the Melchizedek priesthood.

    If you look at the quote in #26 and the rest of what Joseph said on that occasion, it is clear that the keys which Adam delivers up to Christ are the same sort of keys that all the dispensation heads first deliver up to Adam. You are arguing that these are the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood (what Joseph calls the “keys of the universe”) which would mean Adam presides in the Melchizedek as well as the patriarchal priesthood. For example, from the same discourse:

    The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven, whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority.

    Comment by Jacob — September 15, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

  43. Geoff,

    I will tone it down, and I confess the “last shall be first” thing was a bit of a threadjack. Although in each case, I have supplied actual arguments from the scriptures or other apostolic authority. The point that you particularly complain about (the patriarchal order of the priesthood in the eternities) has been well established by virtually every prophet from Joseph Smith until now, most recently (I beleive) by Ezra Taft Benson in a talk given at the Logan Temple re-dedication in 1984. Ask any temple president, if not any stake president.

    The irony here is that I have been arguing from the writings of Joseph Smith in favor of a principle that balances patriarchal authority, a principle sufficiently important that it is implemented in every stake in the Church.

    Now as far as obscure doctrinal principles are concerned, there is rarely a way to answer complex questions without giving a complex explanation. I don’t think there is any way to answer your question except by appeals to personal inspiration, opinion, or scriptural principles generally counted among the mysterious and the obscure.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

  44. Jacob,

    The status of Adam was somewhat in flux during Joseph Smith’s own life – the questions are complex, occasionally he even distinguished between Adam and Michael, Adam seems to be a type of the Most High (or even more than one man), and so on, so how seriously I take a quote from Joseph Smith on this particular subject depends a great deal on the date on which the statement was made.

    Setting aside the last shall be first thing, my basic point remains that God may appoint someone to preside over any number of fathers or over any portion of their descendants (associated by dispensation, geography, etc.) in the Melchizedek priesthood, and this is the only way that a priesthood holder presides over someone other than his own lineal descendants.

    Now if that is not the case, please explain why Jesus Christ presides over Adam instead of Adam over Jesus. And also, and more particularly relevant to this thread, is how can we be equals in heavenly things, if presidency is distributed in the eternities solely according to the principles of patriarchal supremacy, such that Adam has an infinite head start on say Jesus Christ. That doesn’t sound like a kingdom of equals (cf. D&C 78) to me, but rather a patriarchal aristocracy on steroids.

    My point in bringing this patriarchal vs. Melchizedek division up is that it seems to me that the former is primarily useful when we are naturally unequal (parent and child, or father in heaven, mortal on earth), and the Melchizedek priesthood represents a better way for true equals – Anointed Quorum, common consent, rule of consensus, and all that. I don’t know any other way to address the rationale behind what I beleive to be a relatively obvious parable about the ideal of celestial equality.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 3:31 pm

  45. Geoff,

    About every two months, I check in at the bloggernacle, just to see what’s happening. It appears this thread is similar to the last time I wrote in, back in December 2006. Geoff, I agree with some of what you say, (salvation is not a gift) and what Mark has been trying to explain (albeit by your own admission, you don’t seem to get it).

    Obtaining Eternal Life (God’s Life) is not a gift, but a state of being. The gift is that God has not only shown us how to obtain that state of being, but He helps us by providing a Savior, an Ultimate Teacher and Example. I don’t know that anyone knows exactly how all this works, but suffice it say, many people believe it does and therefore engage themselves in the process.

    Mark asks the question, “what more can be asked of a man than to give all that he has? To consecrate his very life and being to the salvation of others? This seems to be the point of the process. It seems there may be more than one path to reach this state of being. How smart we are and how long we have been serving, seem to play only a very small part in the process. You see, we all know people who engaged in the process in their later years, who are not particularly bright, who appear to be way ahead of you and I, on the road to Eternal Life.

    That said, the phrase, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” may have a very simple meaning. It may be that people like you and I, when we see people coming in late or at the last minute, we can’t believe it’s possible and lament the possibility. It’s not fair. You state, “The scoundrel that repents in the end of his life would presumably receive the exact same Celestial theme park ticket as the saint who devoted his entire life to serving and loving God and his fellow man.” Therein lies the problem. We believe that those who repent at the end of their lives are “scoundrels” and those who devote their entire lives to serving and loving are “saints.”

    This is similar to what happened in the parable.
    10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
    11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
    12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
    13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
    14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
    15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

    The ones who came first “murmured,” because they labored in the heat of the day (devoted their entire lives to serving and loving) while the “scoundrels” came at the end of the day. The goodman of the house basically asks, “what’s your problem?” Like you said, the goodman of house still offers everyone the same reward, but he adds, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. ” This to me, is the key to the parable. I believe he is saying to the the ones who arrived early (guys like you and I), “You should be happy and rejoice when anyone makes it to this state of being (consecrating all that one has), regardless of when that might happen. If you’re not happy about it, than you haven’t reached that state of being, and therefore you must go back, behind those who have learned the lesson. When we learn that lesson, we go back to the front.

    Any “saint who devoted his entire life to serving and loving God and his fellow man,” certainly wouldn’t have a problem with his fellow man (the scoundrel, whose time of service is less, but consecrates all), receiving the same reward as him??? It seems we do have a problem with that, hence the parable…I guess it’s to the back of the bus , until we love and serve them (the scoundrels) enough, that we will feel that way (glad they made it) about them. Maybe there are no “scoundrels” in the eyes of those who “consecrate [their] very life and being to the salvation of others.” Maybe that’s a ‘state of being’ worthy of our view.

    Comment by dean — September 15, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

  46. Sometimes I think that the gift-character of salvation and At-one-ment (which are pretty much the same thing) is so critical a concept that both are pretty hollow shells without it. I believe the At-one-ment is inextricably related to establishing a society of grace, a culture of gift giving, where the gifts include love, service, sacrifice, forgiveness and so on.

    So what we might call the value proposition of salvation is the net value to us of the contributions made by every other member of celestial society relative to our own personal contributions. I imagine in a heavenly consecrated society it goes as at least O(N log N), where N is the number of such fully dedicated members, and where any value above one establishes that salvation has a gift character.

    That is one reason why no one can earn salvation – the true, spiritual value of what a beneficiary receives is almost infinitely beyond the value of what he gives. It is also why no one can be saved by themselves – if one gives a gift to himself it has roughly the same value as its cost – there is no synergy of grace, or returns to love, harmony, and sociality.

    I think being saved in loneliness or even due to ones own sacrifice alone is a pretty desparate thing, one that cannot come close to the spiritual value of being saved as a society. So that is why salvation definitely requires a change in character, but why a change in character without At-one-ment is not enough. No one can be saved by themselves – we can only be saved together.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 16, 2006 @ 1:56 am

  47. Dean, I like your points and how you state them. However, the way I read Geoff’s comments don’t suggest to me that he ‘doesn’t get’ what you have taught. I think his ‘scoundrel’ comments are simply to suggest that everyone has to overcome our ‘scoundrelism’ through real repentance. As has been stated, we can only fit into the celestial society if we esteem our brother as ourself. We become that kind of being through repentance. The phrase ‘all we can do’ has always been a little disconcerting to me. I haven’t done ‘all I can do’, at least in one sense. But I’ve come to think it means to repent fully and experience the mighty change which comes from that. Repentance is the grandest, most effective thing I have ever done.

    Comment by Hal H. — September 16, 2006 @ 6:20 am

  48. Great post Geoff. Sorry I don’t have time to read all the comments carefully. I am quite interested in the election of grace as taught by Paul, and I think you’re right to consider this as a foundational text for Paul. What I think is most interesting is how this notion of elecdtion by grace is generalized by Paul and subsequent readers of Paul. I think that interpreting this only in terms of Jews and Gentiles is a bit too narrow and ignores all the interesting (and problematic, as you point out) issues.

    I’m too lazy to look up the source, but Elder Oaks used this parable in General Conference about 5 years ago or so and the context was not about Jews and Gentiles (I think it was about new converts vs. life-long members). I tend to follow Jacob’s interpretation (#18). To try and distinguish between Celestial, Terrestrial, etc. is, I think, to miss the point. Instead, the point is related to grace and has very little to do with works. I think an analogous question to what you’re addressing in the post is what and how our works affect us. But that does not seem to be the point of the parable, and I think worrying too much about how our works affect us is dangerous. It’s the same problem with loving others because we will be rewarded for it rather than loving others because we love others (this is something Kierkegaard addresses fantastically in Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing). So Christ’s point seems to be that we should serve God b/c we love him, not b/c we hope for some reward (even if that reward is becoming a better person).

    Comment by Robert C. — September 16, 2006 @ 6:26 pm

  49. Geoff,
    I agree with your position (especially my disagreement with Robinson’ so-called parable of the bicycle). The ultimate point of God’s “plan” (in quotes because He has no better alternative than to follow eternal, uncreated principles), is to become like Him. He cannot bestow justice or salvation. We simply become what we make as “agents unto ourselves.” The parable of the laborers is pointing out that some can come to this level of righteousness more quickly (having started later?). Two prominent examples would seem to be Saul of Tarsus and Alma the Younger and his four fellow miscreants. Of course, I would maintain that they all had basic good character, the visitations served to change their mindset.

    Comment by Phil — September 17, 2006 @ 7:13 am

  50. Phil,

    I disagree with the whole idea of putting plan in quotes. Surely there are laws that God cannot violate, but why would we need God at all if we could all be saved by following immutable principles? Didn’t God have a say in how the priesthood would be organized, or the structure of the ordinances, or who would come when and do what, and which covenants are effective when, and in the form of all his creations?

    That is probably getting off topic, but I could make a post for further discussion over at Mstar if you or others were interested (unless Geoff wishes to pursue this further here). I happen to think the creative power of God is one of the most interesting parts of the Gospel, something that is paradoxically much neglected in many LDS theologies.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 17, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

  51. Hal H,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree whole heartily. I didn’t mean to imply that Geoff doesn’t get my comment. Knowing Geoff as I do, I’m confident that he understands it and at some level probably agrees with it. I was only restating Geoff’s trouble (ie; #13 and #25) understanding Mark’s comments in this thread.

    Comment by dean — September 17, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  52. I like how you laid this out, Geoff.

    Also, the supportive interplay between the Bible and the Book of Mormon in understanding this parable in this post is very illuminating. It is always neat to see how these two “sticks” work together in giving us a clearer understanding of the doctrines of salvation.

    Comment by Jordan — September 19, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  53. Hey Dean,

    Welcome back. Hal was right (thanks Hal) that it wasn’t what Mark was saying that confused me. I am very (too?) familiar with the nuances and quirks of Mark’s theology. When I said I had no idea what he was talking about I meant that large portions his comments seemed to be unrelated or at least inadequately connected to the subject of this thread. That is a common and now longstanding issue I have complained to Mark about though and I appreciated his offer to “tone it down”.

    So back to your comment on scoundrels (the word I used which is obviously a loosely defined term here); I’m sure we agree that one cannot be a scoundrel and be exalted. Those who live the Celestial law and have Celestial characters are obviously no longer scoundrels. Of course any scoundrel can repent and become a saint, so the question is how long do such repentance take. I imagine that such true repentance take quite some time actually. I suspect that true character change is much like body change. By analogy: I now weigh about 185 lbs. I suspect that it would take a few years and some serious lifestyle changes for me to weigh 350 lbs., but I am confident it is possible. Likewise, I think that it would likely take a few years and serious lifetstyle changes for me to turn around and go from 350 lbs. to 185 lbs. Surgery possibilities notwithstanding, it would be basically impossible for me to get a quick-fix to my weight problem if I got in that deep. I think that character change works on exactly the same principles and so overnight scoundrel-saint change is no more likely than overnight obesity to healthy weight and lifestyle changes.

    Now the difference between the weight example and the character example is that I think character is sort of like and iceberg in that much of it is under the surface and not easily visible. If the 90% of character “under the surface” changes in a person (or if it was always in the right place and never was scoundrelish or something) then I agree that character change can appear to happen very quickly.

    (I’m sort of brainstorming as I go here…)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 10:06 am

  54. Yes, sometimes my adequate relevance discriminator goes haywire. Thanks for your patience, Geoff.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 20, 2006 @ 10:17 am

  55. Hello Geoff,

    I tend to agree with Robert C. and also like the way Jacob said things in #18. Just my two cents worth. Now, at the risk of becoming intellectually bankrupted, I will offer another two cents worth of, well, something. :)

    I have no doubt that all of the parables can have more than one meaning. Certainly this one would be no exception. But when one looks at some of the things said, I think it would not be wrong to conclude that this is a parable about grace more than anything else.

    When the householder returns to look for more people to hire, he keeps taking the ragamuffins that no one else wants to hire. Other wise, they would have been hired earlier in the day. We would always hire the more qualified first.

    So I fail to see why the conventional understanding of this parable would be wrong. Of course I can see why it could pose some problems with the past LDS understanding of earning your way to heaven. But I am hoping that kind of understanding will stay in the past. Of course all of this is just my opinion, subject to change.

    Comment by CEF — September 20, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

  56. CEF (#55): I can see why it could pose some problems with the past LDS understanding of earning your way to heaven.

    Jacob (#18): It is a gentle reminder that at the end of the day there will be people who make it to heaven who won’t look like they did as much as him.

    Alright, since Jacob’s #18 is getting so many amens let me y’all a question: What exactly does “making it to heaven” mean? I don’t think it means what I think you think it means.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  57. I should say that what we know about a Zion society teaches us about what heaven is like, as Zion is a type and shadow of the kingdom of heaven:

    (Isaiah 52:1)
    (Isaiah 60)
    (Hebrews 13:11-14)
    (Rev 22:14-15)

    So I should say that heaven (also known as Mount Zion) is like unto a city, or a divine community of righteousness and peace. And all those who are sanctified through repentance accordance to the grace of our Lord, shall be permitted to enter therein and receive salvation and everlasting life with all those others worthy of the same privilege. And furthermore that if heaven was not a commun-ity there would be no salvation at all. Salvation is a social enterprise, not an individual one. Hence the need for At-one-ment.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 20, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  58. So Mark, is that your response to question to about what “making it to heaven” means?

    Here are a bunch of specific questions:

    You think heaven is an immortal city/community somewhere in our universe right? Any idea what they do there? Also, do Telestials-Celestials all live there? If not why do you mention only “heaven”? Is your #57 applicable only to the Celestial kingdom? Are there three different immortal cities/communities somewhere in the universe? What do you think they actually do in each of them forever? Are they already in existence and fully functioning cities/communities? Are they just waiting for our final judgment to take on the new citizens? Are they building out their suburbs waiting for us? Do you think premortal spirits also live in the same heaven with the resurrected beings?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

  59. BTW – even though Mark responded I’d still love to hear what Jacob or CEF (or others) specifically think “making it to heaven” means.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

  60. Geoff,

    I certainly do not want to monopolize the conversation. Thanks for including me. Now while I agree that heaven has many cities, indeed as many spheres as necessary for divine residency, I should say that Zion as a city is part metaphor, a synecdoche of the pars pro toto or Totum pro parte, whichever you prefer.

    Either way, Zion is a community of the sanctified, and the Messiah is the gate keeper. The Father has committed all judgment into the hands of the Son, by virtue of His sacrifice on our behalf. We shall not enter until He says so. And of course the requirements he has set are well described all over the scriptures: Faith, repentance, baptism, and obedience to all the commandments of God, even every sacrifice which He shall require of us. And that will truly make is fit for the society of the sanctified, where we shall dwell as eternal families as part of one Eternal Family.

    Now with regard to celestial geography it is hard to say. I will just say that in my opinion there is one center place, one true seat of divine governement where the Most High presides, but that there are many other spheres that are or will be types of that one, one sphere not having the capacity to hold the whole population of the kingdom of heaven. I further believe that the “geography” of heaven is roughly or (at least metaphorically) circular in arrangement, with the Most High presiding on a central celestial world, with one of many celestial world nearest to his residence, surrounded by an order of terrestrial worlds, surrounded by an order of telestial worlds, and that administration projects radially outward, like any sane federal government.

    I have been quite convinced (by you among others) that there is no eternal telestial, nor eternal terrestial. This world is one of many worlds in the telestial order, and we shall soon enter the terrestrial order, which shall be the greatest visible event in the history of this world to date, bar none (of which the Flood is a type, as is the parting of Red Sea – except not baptism by water, but by the fire of the Spirit). I have no idea whether the earth will actually be moved, but the scriptures say a new heaven and a new earth with regard to both the millennial and celestial eras, so that seems a live possibility.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 20, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  61. Mark,

    Ok, I have more questions trying to nail this down… so you see a center celestial world (planet right?), with other celestial planets near by, then terrestrial worlds far out, then telestial worlds (like ours) farther out in space… But you think that only the celestial worlds house permanently resurrected people — on your view telestial and terrestrial worlds are temporary (like this world).

    Is that right?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 5:54 pm

  62. Fine, if you are going to rain on my #18 parade, let me clarify what I said.

    I was not trying to comment on the nature of salvation in some technical way, since that would seem to belong in a different thread. When I said “make it to heaven” I had in mind the preceding discussion in which the rich young man asked what he needed to do to “make it to heaven.” It is interesting that at this point Jesus does NOT stop him to say something like “Your whole premise is incorrect because you are talking about earning eternal life.” Instead, Jesus told him to keep the ten commandments. When he said he was already doing that, Jesus told him to sell all his stuff and give it to the poor. When the rich man didn’t, Jesus gave the lesson: that it is nearly impossible for a rich person to “make it to heaven.”

    Next, Peter points out that he has “forsaken all” and wonders if this is enough to “make it to heaven”. Jesus says not to worry, he will “make it to heaven” along with all the other people who have forsaken all.

    This next part seems pretty important:

    28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
    30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. (Matt 19)

    So, first off, given this context, I think the wage must be viewed as eternal life (contra your claim in the post). The context just makes this unavoidable in my opinion.

    On the other side, those who want to say the parable is about how we don’t have to do anything for eternal life also seem to be ignoring the context which was the discussion between Jesus and the rich young man. They also seem to be ignoring that the parable is there to explain the statement that many who are first will be last and vice versa. That statement doesn’t seem to be about grace.

    I suggest something different than both of those interpretations. The first thing to notice about the verses above is that Jesus tells Peter he will sit in judgment over the twelve tribes. The second thing to notice is the “But” at the beginning of verse 30. The statement that many who are first will be last is either qualifying or is somehow opposed to the verse before that says he and all those who have forsaken all will receive eternal life.

    Obviously, the first and the last from Matt 19:30 are portrayed in the parable as the ones hired in the morning (the firsts) and those hired at the end of the day (the lasts). It seem clear to me that Peter is a “first.” The point of the parable is clearly tied up in the fact that both groups got the same reward and that the firsts didn’t think it was fair.

    So, if Peter is a first and they are portrayed as not thinking it is fair, and Jesus just finished telling Peter he is going be a judge, there seems to be a warning to Peter that he shouldn’t get upset when things look unfair. He was called first and followed Jesus from the beginning and gave up everything. He is going to go spread the gospel to people who will be called last. It will look to Peter like they are working in the cool part of the day for the last hour while he has been toiling all day. It may look to Peter like they didn’t have to give up as much as he did. The parable tells him he can’t have that attitude. They have the opportunity to get the same eternal life he was just promised.

    If we liken this to ourselves and put ourselves in the place of Peter, the parable serves rather well as a commentary on how things look from our perspective. Some people are born into the church, some people have a biological predisposition to alcoholism, some people have children die prematurely, and on and on. Life doesn’t look fair. I think the parable speaks to that.

    So, if it seems like I am not answering your question about what it means to “make it to heaven” it is because that question is a red herring as far as interpreting this parable goes. It is not what the parable is about.

    Comment by Jacob — September 20, 2006 @ 7:34 pm

  63. Jacob,

    Interesting comments. I think you are probably incorrect with your interpretation of the context of the parable of the laborers, but they are interesting nonetheless. Let me explain. I think you have hit on the key transition verses in 19:28-30.

    28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. (Matt 19)

    I will probably post on it tonight, but I’ll say here that I think the episode leading up to this was all about the law of consecration. So I think what Jesus is saying in v 28 is “you who live the law of consecration are living the Celestial Law and therefore you will stand with me when the rest of Israel is judged.” So I don’t think the disciples were to be judges of Israel by virtue of their church assignment or priesthood titles; rather they would be judges of Israel by virtue of their living the Celestial Law including the law of consecration. I think verse 29 supports my view on that. So then since “Israel” is the group that Jesus is interested in the transition into the foreshadowing the adoption of the gentiles into Israel through accepting them into the covenant makes a lot of sense. Verse 28 explains that the righteous are those who live the law of consecration and they will be judges of the rest of the covenant people; verse 29 foreshadows the admission of gentiles into Israel and says “everyone” who live the law of consecration fits the Celestial bill; verse 30 goes into the Israel/Gentile discussion of how even though the Jews got the covenant first, the gentiles would soon be let in to the covenant too. Then parable of the laborers warns the disciples (and Jewish followers of Christ generally) not to get bent when the Johnny-come-lately gentiles are let into the covenant.

    So even though the question of who gets to heaven was asked by the young man in chapter 19, I don’t think it carried through to the new subject transitioned into in chapter 20.

    But I am always curious to hear what people actually mean when the talk about “making it to heaven” anyway…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 20, 2006 @ 8:50 pm

  64. Geoff,

    The question from the young man is what led to Peter’s question which is what led to the parable. It is the impetus for the parable, whether you choose to acknoledge it or not. You agree that the parable is tied to verse 30, right? So, are you saying there was a change of topic between verses 29 and 30? 28 and 29? Every verse seems to me to lead into the next because it is all one discussion, including the parable in chapter 20. It seems baseless to assume that verse 30 is context but the questions about eternal life from the young man and then from Peter are not.

    As I said before, I think the Israel/Gentile divide is a legitimate interpretation of the firsts/lasts, but I don’t think it is restricted to that interpretation. Parables hardly seem designed to convey one meaning and that meaning only. My comments above about Peter as a “first” seem like a natural reading to me. All your comments about the law of consecration fit in nicely with what I have said, no disagreements there.

    Comment by Jacob — September 21, 2006 @ 8:34 am

  65. Geoff (#61),

    Yes. Although another geographical possibility is that worlds are exalted in place, making new outposts of celestial civilization in similitude of the center place, or Mount Zion. But the incidents of “geography” do not make so much a difference as the relative relationship between the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial orders in terms of presidency (a federalist hierarchy, roughly speaking).

    And again, I do not believe that any world spends an indefinite amount of time in the telestial or terrestrial orders. The “end of the world” (as we know it in the telestial) is fast approaching, and the transition period is known as the Lord’s strange act. The end of the terrestial era (for our world at least) may be similarly dramatic.

    Of course it is not the planet, but the people who live on it that are the most significant sense of the term “world”. For God so loved the world…

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 21, 2006 @ 8:46 am

  66. Hey Geoff,

    I will be glad to explain my understanding of heaven. First I would like to address your metaphor of weight loss to a person being able to change rather quickly.

    I think we all agree that most all metaphors brake down at some point and become unusable. So I am not picking at you or anything like that.

    I think yours breaks down early on because it does not allow for any kind of a miraculous phenomenon in a persons life. I believe the two most prominent examples in scripture are Paul and Alma the younger of this. I know of no place where it explains a slow tedious process of growing in character and goodness before they had a “mighty” change of heart. It is the mighty change of heart that makes all the difference in the scheme of things. It seems to be a gift, not anything they deserved or earned. Of course they did accept it and did something about it.

    As for my understanding of heaven, I believe it would be much like yours. Or any ones in the Church. I would differ in what I believe the process is and perhaps am willing to make more allowances than was Joseph Fielding Smith and BRM. And yes, both used the scriptures to support their claims.

    Having hung out in places like this and others for some time now, I have learned to be a little suspect about what the scriptures mean or how they can be interpreted.

    I think if a person that dies before the age of accountability can be an heir of the CK based on if he/she would have accepted the gospel/Christ had they had the chance, then it is not a very far step to conclude that “anyone” that does not accept the gospel/Christ here, regardless of age, but would have accepted it, if it had been presented to them at a different/better time, then we have a whole new ball game.

    Of course those that never hear about Christ in this life will receive a fair chance in the spirit world. Will it be easier there, I am not sure. If it is, is that fair? I am not worried about that at all. Christ can do as He pleases with His pennies.

    How do we sort this out where we can have a better consciences among us? In the mission field, I learned that in order to better understand the scriptures, one would have to understand that there are certain scriptures that work as key scriptures.

    For instance, when Christ says that He and His Father are one, you go to (I think it is John 17) where He explains how He and His Father are one. So anytime you come across a scripture that says something about there is only one God, you can go the the key scripture of John 17 to better understand all other scriptures related to the Godhead. I realize this example could break down also, but for simplicity sake, lets go head and use it. :)

    So lets establish a truism. Eternal Life is a gift. As a matter of fact, it is the greatest of all gifts of our Father in heaven. (D&C 14:7) So anytime we come across a scripture that would make one believe we have to “earn” our reward in heaven, what do we do? That’s right, we go back to our truism, and then we try and better understand what the other scriptures mean in light of what we know to be true. Once we do this, then we can embrace Eph 2:8-9 like I have done a long time ago.

    Okay, lets say you “might” be right CEF, what do we do with all of those scriptures that say in no uncertain terms that one has to be a good person and endure to the end? I would say, they are all correct. The way it works is once a person “truly” accepts Christ and repents of his sins, and accepts the gift of grace then you really can have a “mighty”change of heart wherein you do not want to sin any more. The scriptures teach this and I am a personal wittiness of what grace can do to change your heart, and it does not take a lifetime for it to happen either.

    This has gotten too long so I will stop now.

    Comment by CEF — September 21, 2006 @ 9:34 am

  67. Jacob,

    I am not as convinced about the timing of the conversation as you are. You seem to be certain that chapter 19 and 20 all happened in the same sermon. I am not convinced. So yes, I do think verses 28-30 are transition verses in the narrative into a different subject and probably a different sermon.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  68. Mark (#65),

    I gotta hand it to you for being willing to stick your neck out on these sorts of things. Your view of planets literally transforming and becoming immortal sounds way too much like magic for my tastes. I am much too much of a naturalist to follow you down that path.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2006 @ 12:18 pm

  69. Hi Jacob,

    When I first read your comment, I thought you were saying that the parable was not about grace, but after rereading it, I realized that is not what you said. However, I will try and explain how I see the context of what Christ was trying to teach.

    IMO, Christ came to establish a complete change it the paradigm in how we are suppose to understand the requirements of entering heaven. The old law was based upon keeping the commandants, hence the question what do I have to do to go to heaven? His answer represents the paradigm shift.

    The law of Moses was still in effect, so, first was the ten commandants. The rich man says, I have done all of that. Okay, so start on this new order I have come to establish. Namely, I want everything you have, your heart, mind and will. Peter recognizes the obvious. That is hard to do. Christ told him it is impossible to do, but with God’s help anything is possible.

    So Christ gives the parable to help show the new order of things. Getting to heaven is no longer based on what you do as in earning your reward in heaven, but is based on the generosity (graciousness) of God, and your accepting that gift in your life.

    It seems that the acceptance of the gift, ( believing Christ can do what He says He can do, not just believing in Christ) is the heart changing factor. With this new heart, you are willing to give all you have unconditionally to the building up of the kingdom.

    So contra to normal LDS beliefs, the guy laying on his death bed can repent, accept Christ and be received into heaven the same as someone that spent a life time doing good works, because again, it is not about how much you do, but about giving your heart to the Lord that really matters. Hence to all of the Peters of the world, don’t be surprised to see someone in heaven that did not spend a lifetime working in the kingdom, but came in at the last hour.

    Comment by CEF — September 21, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  70. Geoff,

    In #45 I said, “Geoff, I agree with some of what you say, (salvation is not a gift) and what Mark has been trying to explain (albeit by your own admission, you don’t seem to get it).

    In #47 Hal says, “Dean, I like your points and how you state them. However, the way I read Geoff’s comments don’t suggest to me that he ‘doesn’t get’ what you have taught.

    In #51 I was trying to clarify for Hal that it wasn’t “my thoughts” that you ‘didn’t get’ but it was Mark’s thoughts that you didn’t get. I’m pretty sure you get what I’m saying. You may not agree with me, but you understand what I’m saying.

    In your #53, when you say “I had no idea what he [Mark]was talking about” sounds like “I don’t get it” to me, regardless of the reason. I didn’t get all of what Mark was saying either, mostly because of the same reason you stated.

    In the words of my son Nate, the analogy of weight change and character change is, “weak sauce” (chalk it up to brainstorming). CEF seems to explain the problem with your analogy in #66, not to mention that I know of one person who found his way when he was in his late 70ties and I think he is way ahead of me. I suspect that is why Alma describes his father’s conversion as a “mighty” change. I think our nature is to view the issue like weight change, hence the reason for the parable. I’m afraid we’re headed for the back of the bus again…Dean

    Comment by dean — September 21, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

  71. Geoff (#65),

    I do not believe in magic – I majored in physics after all, with an psuedo-minor in electrical engineering. I don’t believe that ordinary material (electrons and protons) is occulted by any sort of intelligence beyond what is acheivable through technology.

    So when I speak of the earth being transfigured, it must necessarily be a metaphor for something that can be accomplished by human or divine intervention, and I don’t believe that God breaks or can break any first order natural laws (e.g. the laws of physics).

    However the greatest transformation is not in the material by any means, but in the hearts of the people. Now while I should say that spiritual unity causes people to literally glow, I should also say there is a natural explanation for that. No magic required, just love – not hormones, but real love – spiritual love. The spirit that couples all of us together, for both good and for evil. There is a decent quantum mechanical explanation for that – it is called nonlocal phase correlation.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 21, 2006 @ 2:46 pm

  72. The laborers = various nations or people with the first called being the Jews/Israel.

    The problem I have is that reading the parable itself, one gets the impression that the laborers who were called first were actually working for the householder all the day long.

    In the case of the Jews/Israel, I don’t think we can say that they were working for the householder all day. More like, they were laborers who agreed to work but then wandered off and did other things as the day wore on.

    Comment by Naismith — September 21, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  73. Naismith,

    It works if the parable is primarily a foreshadowing to the primitive church preaching to the gentiles in the first century AD. I think that is the main thrust. The Jews were there from the start and the gentiles were invited to the party relatively late in the day. (But you are right that is doesn’t take into account the last days and great apostasy and all.)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 21, 2006 @ 4:22 pm

  74. CEF (#66): I know of no place where it explains a slow tedious process of growing in character and goodness before they had a “mighty” change of heart.

    I anticipated someone would pull these conversions out in opposition to my assertion that true character does not change over night. I believe I headed it off a bit in my #53 when I said that character is probably iceberg-like with only 10% showing to most people. (This in contrast to the obesity anaolgy I used because obesity is obvious.) So I would say that Alma and Paul were not through and through scoundrels — they were largely sincere people who were misguided. (The iceberg analogy with them being that they were 90% good characters already but 10% misguided so the mighty change did not interfere with their free will in the least.) For instance, Paul was a devout Jew who thought he was serving God by persecuting Christians. When he received his vision it was not a massive character change for him at all — he just shifted his efforts and began to promote the cause of Christ with zeal instead of zealously opposing it. Further, we have no evidence the Alma Jr. was a lying stealing, murdering, raping, type of scoundrel. Rather that he was a non-believer who was zealously preaching against Christianity. When he saw the light he simply shifted re-applied his skill and zeal in the service of Christ. (He tells his son in Alma 36:14 “Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction;” so I take that to mean he never killed anyone but rather caused apostasy through his persuasive philosophies.)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 23, 2006 @ 4:52 pm

  75. CEF (#69): So Christ gives the parable to help show the new order of things. Getting to heaven is no longer based on what you do as in earning your reward in heaven, but is based on the generosity (graciousness) of God, and your accepting that gift in your life.

    I suspect you don’t mean this. God doesn’t change so the requirements for exaltation can’t actually change either…

    So contra to normal LDS beliefs, the guy laying on his death bed can repent, accept Christ and be received into heaven the same as someone that spent a life time doing good works,

    I simply think this wishful thinking and incorrect doctrine. I mentioned in the other thread that I think that if God were even to try to change our charters in the way you describe here it would be a form of compulsion and therefore it would be amen to his priesthood or authority. If we have free will then change must be a personal choice — no one, including God, can change our characters but us. But the good news is that God is gracious and loves us and will do everything to persuade and help us change for the better and become one with him. The methods he tell us he can use are “by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-“.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 23, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

  76. Dean (#70),

    I actually think the sauce of my #53 obesity analogy has a great deal more kick tho it than you are giving it credit for. See my #74.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 23, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  77. One problem here is that many incorrectly assume that there is not a work to be accomplished beyond the grave. A death bed repentant will indeed be required to do a great work prior to inheriting a place in the kingdom of God. And it rather seems that we will have a work to do after we get their anyway. For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, etc.

    The only good part about repententing (sincerely) sometime prior to death is that it should avoid having a tenure in spirit prison, a primary purpose of which is to help persons realize what the natural state of man is cut off from the presence of the Lord. As soon as one is prison sincerely turns to God, he is saved with a preliminary salvation, generally known as justification.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 23, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

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