May 1-7, 2023
Luke 12-17; John 11
In most situations, 99 out of 100 would be considered excellent—but not when such numbers stand for beloved children of God (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:10). In that case, even one soul merits a thorough, desperate search “until [we] find it” (Luke 15:4), as the Savior taught in the parable of the lost sheep. Then the rejoicing can begin, for “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). If that seems unfair, it’s helpful to remember that, in truth, there are none who “need no repentance.” We all need rescuing. And we all can participate in the rescue, rejoicing together over every soul who is saved (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16).
I am in agreement that “we all need rescuing.” The Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It’s not something that happens when we turn 8, but it happens when we are born, which is called original sin. And there are consequences for sin, which is called “eternal death” in Romans 6:23a. Fortunately, the next part of that verse says that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The question is, how does one “get” rescued? Does the atonement only pave the way for a person to receive the very best God intends for His children? Or is more required? In Mormonism, D&C 1:30-31 says,
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”
Eternal life in Mormonism is based on one’s obedience to the commandments of God, which is different than what is taught in biblical Christianity.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Luke 12; 14–16
I am blessed as I set my heart on eternal things.
Why would God say “Thou fool” to a hardworking, successful man who had built great barns and filled them with the fruits of his labors? (see Luke 12:16–21). In these chapters in Luke, the Savior teaches several parables that can help us lift our sights beyond the worldly to the eternal. Some of these parables are listed here. How would you summarize the message of each? What do you think the Lord is telling you.
The foolish rich man (Luke 12:13–21)
The rich man hoarded what he got and yet he missed out on the most important thing, that is, having a personal relationship with God. Verse 21 says, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” I can only think about the more than $100 billion stockpile the LDS Church has stored for itself. It seems like an excessive amount of money for a church to save for a “rainy day.” Click here for more details.
The great supper (Luke 14:12–24)
Many are called, but few are chosen. In this parable, those who were invited rejected the invitation and so they went to the streets and countryside to fill up the banquet hall.
The prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32)
Who did Jesus give this to? It was the Pharisees and tax collectors…the main reason for chapter 15. In the Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son, the main protagonist is the son who appeared to be faithful and didn’t let his father down. The other son squandered his inheritance. Yet that younger son came home in shame and, amazingly enough, the father welcomed him home. Last week, we discussed the adulterous woman discussed in John 7:53 through 8:11.
Was she forgiven of her sins? I cited Spencer Kimball who claimed there was no evidence that she had been forgiven. Instead, she would have to prove herself by stopping her adultery. Until she was successful in her repentance, Kimball said she could never know she had been forgiven. Is this what the lost son parable is teaching? The younger boy had not proved his repentance, yet it is very important to note how the father welcomed him home with open arms. That is, before he had time to really “prove” he was serious in his repentance. In conjunction with the adulterous woman, this does not sound like hope according to Mormonism that demands conformity to the teachings of the Brethren.
The unjust steward (Luke 16:1–12)
This is an interesting parable. Where the heading reads “the unjust steward,” the NIV puts it as the “parable of the shrewd manager.” The story commends this manager. It is a most interesting (and difficult) parable to understand.
The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31)
Nothing here is said about the rich man and Lazarus, just a mention of the story. It is really a parable? Many commentators believe it actually is a true story because otherwise it would be the only parable with a proper name (Lazarus) in it.
These are all important passages, but I find it interesting the passages that were left out, including:
Luke 12:49-53: Not Peace but division
Mormonism teaches that “families are forever,” but in this passage Jesus teaches that “there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” I do not find Jesus ever teaching that heaven is a place where earthly families are meant to spend eternity together forever. He certainly does not allude to this in this passage.
Luke 13:10-17: A Crippled Woman Healed on the Sabbath
Just like last week’s lesson, a passage that described Jesus breaking the Sabbath is ignored in the lesson. Yes, it’s true, there is a lot of material in the chapters that have been selected. But what response would a Latter-day Saint have on this passage? After all, no work is allowed on Sundays (the LDS “Sabbath”) as I described last week. And perhaps this is why this passage is completely ignored in the lesson.
Luke 13:22-29: The Narrow Door
If there really are three degrees of glory, as Mormonism teaches, then this passage doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Describing how many will try to enter the narrow door and not be able to, they will ask the owner to open the door. But he will say he doesn’t know them or have a clue as to where they come from. The next verses read:
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
Notice the harsh response of the owner. Is the terrestrial kingdom really supposed to be a place of “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth”? Listen to how 10th president Joseph Fielding Smith explained this kingdom:
“Those who were honorable men who will be permitted to go to the terrestrial kingdom will be blessed with ministrations from the celestial kingdom. They will be privileged with visitations from Jesus Christ but will be denied the presence of the Father. Thus we learn that our Eternal Father will do all that he can for the inhabitants of the earth according to their works. The inhabitants of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms will be given a measure of salvation, but not the fulness. They will be redeemed from the power of Satan after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions and have learned to be obedient to divine law.”Answers to Gospel Questions 1:81.
A church manual puts it this way:
“This kingdom is not as wonderful as the celestial kingdom. Even though Jesus will visit the terrestrial kingdom, those who live there will not live with our Father in Heaven, and they will not have all He has. Those who go to the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people. Some of them will be members of the Church, and others will not. They will be those who did not accept Jesus on earth but later accepted Him in the spirit world. The people who will live there will not be part of an eternal family but will live separately, without families. Our Father in Heaven will give these people the happiness they are prepared to receive.”Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, 202.
If what Jesus is talking about in Luke 13 is true, then the place separated from the very best destination (supposedly the celestial kingdom) will be gnashing their teeth for eternity. Yet the manual says that “our Father in Heaven will give these people this happiness they are prepared to receive.” It doesn’t make sense.
Luke 14:25-35: The Cost of Being a Disciple
I notice these verses were not cited in the lesson, including verses 26 and 27:
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.
If Jesus believed in “eternal families,” how would the Latter-day Saint account for such language?
Heavenly Father rejoices when those who are lost are found.
As you read the parables Jesus taught in Luke 15, what do you learn about how Heavenly Father feels about those who have sinned or are otherwise “lost”? How should a spiritual leader—or any of us—feel toward them? Consider how the Pharisees and scribes would have answered these questions (see Luke 15:1–2). Jesus’s response can be found in three parables in Luke 15. As you read, think about what Jesus was teaching the scribes and Pharisees with these parables.
You might also consider making a list of similarities and differences between the parables. For example, you could identify what was lost in each parable and why it was lost, how it was found, and how people reacted when it was found. What messages did Jesus have for those who are “lost”—including those who don’t think they are lost? What messages did He have for people who seek those who are lost?
Luke 15 is very clear how Jesus cares for the lost. There is a Savior. A person just needs to open their eyes to that reality.
What was Christ teaching in the parable of the unjust steward?
Elder James E. Talmage explained one lesson we can learn from the parable: “Be diligent; for the day in which you can use your earthly riches will soon pass. Take a lesson from even the dishonest and the evil; if they are so prudent as to provide for the only future they think of, how much more should you, who believe in an eternal future, provide therefor! If you have not learned wisdom and prudence in the use of ‘unrighteous mammon,’ how can you be trusted with the more enduring riches?” (Jesus the Christ , 464). What other lessons do you find in this parable?
You know, Talmage actually had a correct assessment of this passage.
Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.
The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead was a powerful and irrefutable testimony that Jesus was truly the Son of God and the promised Messiah. What words, phrases, or details in John 11:1–46 strengthen your faith that Jesus Christ is “the resurrection, and the life”? What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the resurrection, and the life”?
What a great miracle! Jesus raised Lazarus in the same way He would raise Himself from the dead soon after. I love this passage and enjoy visiting Bethany in Israel every chance I get.
I’ve said it in previous lessons, but sometimes it seems like there is so much material in each lesson that much ends up getting missed. In this review I asked why those passages that talk about family members being divided were not discussed. Why was the passage on Jesus working on the sabbath not brought up? Or how does the narrow door keep people out of the kingdom where they will suffer the gnashing of teeth if there is not a place called hell?
Of course, the church ignored these passages, which is what I had predicted when I read the chapters before looking at the lesson. It seems very obvious. For those who are Latter-day Saints, you must read the entire passage and ask why the church misses those difficult-for-Mormonism verses that would be very hard to explain.