The Problem with the Precepts of Men
The Jews taught for doctrines the commandments of men and built a hedge around the commandments of God. The reasoning is understandable – if you have to keep the commandments of God to be saved, and if the commandment says not to labor on the Sabbath, then if you forbid your congregation from doing even so much as separating toilet paper on the Sabbath, there’s no way they can drive close to enough to the edge of the cliff to be in danger of falling off.
The problem is, this is like sheathing the sword of God. You may suffer guilt by tearing up toilet paper on the Sabbath, because of the creeds and traditions you’ve been raised with, but you will not be convicted of your sins by the Spirit of God, because this isn’t one of the commandments of God, therefore you will not feel to cry mightily to be forgiven and cleansed from your sins, that you may experience the mighty change of heart and the joy of God at your return to him. And being ignorant of the actual laws, when you do break a commandment, you do so ignorantly, and again, aren’t convicted by the Spirit – ignorance is an excuse with God. Thus the purpose of the commandments gets blunted, and the law no longer serves the function it was designed to.
And then the commandments of men are what get taught, and not the commandments of God. Thus hypocrites, and not saints, are produced by the Church – guilt-ridden perfectionistic pretenders. That was the state of the Jews when John began his preaching.
This impulse – to sheath the sword of God, building a hedge around the law, for the safety and protection of the flock – is common in every age.
A hypocrite is one who is playing a role he has been taught. The word simply means “actor.” We’ve seen fake love. That’s hypocrisy. We’ve seen “friendships” which are struck for the purpose of conversion. That’s hypocrisy.
These are the wolves, the goats, the older brethren, the wild olives, the tares.
A saint is one who has cried mightily unto God from the depths of their soul and been cleansed from their sins by fire from heaven.
These are the sheep, the prodigals, the tame olives, the wheat.
That is why priests are to teach the commandments of God that the children of men may likewise enter into his rest, rather than the precepts and commandments of men.
That’s why Abinadi had some harsh words to say about Noah and his priests.
Teaching Vs. Hedging
There are eternal worlds of difference between these two sentiments:
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat; nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee. But remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
In modern LDS terms, we might liken this last unto ourselves as: “Not even once.”
The first affords opportunity for obtaining wisdom and knowledge through experience, while the other damns people quite literally.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
Those who do not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil are yet children. Sometimes, they are adult children, who have even borne children, whose children themselves have borne children, but spiritually they are yet children, or less (Isaiah calls them miscarriages). In eternal worlds, they do not have seed, they are not exalted. Because children in adult bodies are actually kind of unpleasant to be around. They lack self-control and must be dictated to in every trifle, being belligerent and aggressive, or passive and apathetic. They can’t keep God’s law, neither are they his friends.
That’s the reason the prodigal got the ring, the robe, the shoes, and the party – here is one who knows by experience the good from the evil and has chosen the good and returned to God; the depths of his depravity convinced him of his fallen and sinful state and motivated his return. In the eternities, he will have seed. The elder brother is one who “not even once” transgressed the commandment of his father. He doesn’t know the good from the evil, doesn’t understand the way the outside world actually is, and resents his brother. He’s unpleasant to be around, and hostile – he doesn’t even bother going to the house to find out why there’s a party going on (since it wasn’t his and he wasn’t invited – it indicates his stand-offishness and sullen pride), but instead asks a servant the meaning of things. He gets to rule the house and property, but the prodigal gets the love and unity.
These are two types in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Until the Elder Brothers realize that everyone is fallen, and all are under sin, they cannot repent and call upon God for deliverance from their sins and fallen state, for they will perceive themselves as just and righteous, even while they mouth the common platitudes that “nobody’s perfect” and “everyone sins.” They don’t really believe that. That’s why they take anti-depressants; their guilt doesn’t make sense to them, since they never transgress.
It’s still not too late to pray mightily to God to be cleansed from all stain and have one’s guilt wiped from one’s soul. But if you don’t believe he’ll answer, or if you don’t believe you have sinned, you won’t even try. And thus you have been damned by those who taught you “not even once,” who built a hedge around the law lest you should at any time transgress.
Hence, the role of a priest is to teach the commandments of God unto the children of men, that they may likewise enter into his rest, and it is not to build a hedge around the commandments of God for safety, lest they damn the children of men.
- What do you suppose will happen between the Prodigal and the Elder Brother once the Father has passed away and sole control of the house and property falls to the Elder Brother?
What was the inheritance the Prodigal spent?
The Parables of Jesus and the Interpretation of the Scriptures, TPJS pp. 276-277
In reference to the prodigal son, I said it was a subject I had never dwelt upon; that it was understood by many to be one of the intricate subjects of the scriptures; and even the Elders of this Church have preached largely upon it, without having any rule of interpretation. What is the rule of interpretation? Just no interpretation at all. Understand it precisely as it reads. I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable? It is not national; it does not refer to Abraham, Israel or the Gentiles, in a national capacity, as some suppose. To ascertain its meaning, we must dig up the root and ascertain what it was that drew the saying out of Jesus.
While Jesus was teaching the people, all the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him; “and the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” This is the keyword which unlocks the parable of the prodigal son. It was given to answer the murmurings and questions of the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were querying, finding fault, and saying, “How is it that this man as great as He pretends to be, eats with publicans and sinners?” Jesus was not put to it so, but He could have found something to illustrate His subject, if He had designed if for nation or nations; but He did not. It was for men in an individual capacity; and all straining on this point is a bubble. “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.”
And he spake this parable unto them–“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them doth not leave the ninety-and-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons which need no repentance.” The hundred sheep represent one hundred Sadducees and Pharisees are in the sheepfold, I have no mission for you; I am sent to look up sheep that are lost; and when I have found them, I will back them up and make joy in heaven.” This represents hunting after a few individuals, or one poor publican, which the Pharisees and Sadducees despised.
He also gave them the parable of the woman and her ten pieces of silver, and how she lost one, and searching diligently, found it again, which gave more joy among the friends and neighbors than the nine which were not lost; like I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons that are so righteous; they will be damned anyhow; you cannot save them. (Jan. 29, 1843.) DHC 5:260-262.
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