Hedging the Law: Two Variations on a Theme


The Problem with the Precepts of Men

hedge-rowThe 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.

roll-toilet-paperThe 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.

abinadi-king-noahA 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.”

And

“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”not-even-once-club1

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.

Here’s how.

Moses 5
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.

adameve.jpgThose 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.

prodigal-sonThat’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.

Bonus questions:

  1. 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?

  2. What was the inheritance the Prodigal spent?

Addendum:

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.

In the interest of community participation, I won’t be commenting on this post.

15 Responses

  1. Maybe the inheritance the Prodigal spent was everything that was Telestial: land, money, and property. In losing that inheritance, the Prodigal gained something that cannot decay: love and loyalty to his father.

    When the father dies, the Elder Brother will be left to administer the estate with jealously, fear, and unrighteousness. The Prodigal will be tested to see if he can treat his Elder Brother with the same type of love that was shown to him by his Father.

    The Family will only be healed when the Elder Brother realizes that he also has squandered away his eternal inheritance. This is only likely to happen if the Prodigal stays humble, meek, and willing to submit to his Father’s wishes.

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  2. Log,

    To date this is the wisest and most influential paper I have read of yours. You have given me a great deal to think about, expounded the scriptures, and allowed me now to teach the truths I have learned from God because I had to wonder at the word you wrote. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

    Victor

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    • Log,

      Best yet. Thank you for your words

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    • There’s a lot of truth in this paper, and a lot of it’s been known and taught for centuries.

      We have here the parable of the prodigal son, the scope of which is the same with those before, to show how pleasing to God the conversion of sinners is, of great sinners, and how ready he is to receive and entertain such, upon their repentance; but the circumstances of the parable do much more largely and fully set forth the riches of gospel grace than those did, and it has been, and will be while the world stands, of unspeakable use to poor sinners…the mercy and grace of our God in Christ shine almost as brightly in his tender and gentle bearing with peevish saints, represented by the elder brother here, as before in his reception of prodigal sinners upon their repentance, represented by the younger brother.

      Matthew Henry (Protestant commentator, circa 1710 A.D.)

      What then is the object of the parable? Let us examine the occasion which led to it; for so we shall learn the truth. The blessed Luke therefore had himself said a little before of Christ the Saviour of us all, “And all the publicans and sinners drew near unto Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.” As therefore the Pharisees and Scribes made this outcry at His gentleness and love to man, and wickedly and impiously blamed Him for receiving and teaching men whose lives were impure, Christ very necessarily set before them the present parable, to show them clearly this very thing, that the God of all requires even him who is thoroughly steadfast, and firm, and who knows how to live holily, and has attained to the highest praise for sobriety of conduct, to be earnest in following His will, so that when any are called unto repentance, even if they be men highly blameable, he must rejoice rather, and not give way to an unloving vexation on their account.

      Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop of the undivided Church (before the split of 1054 A.D. that produced the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches), 4th century A.D.

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  3. Loved it, very good points, things I can see I need to apply in fatherhood – allow my children to make choices and suffer because of them so they too can learn. We have to stop being over protective. Our society is that way, over protective, I think that is part of the problem and mindset of people today, but yet it is also very damaging to control everything. It harms us emotionally, and in this case it is spiritually and eternally damaging us.

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  4. I have been studying Romans and the possibility that the Law, given by God, could provide opportunity for sin. It is the recognition of sin that gives motivation for repentance and the experience of Christ’s grace. Log, you have presented a very clear warning against man’s tendency to get in the way of the learning experience that is given of God.

    You asked about what the prodigal spent. I am not sure exactly what it was. But, to the prodigal son, it was everything his father had given him. Understanding the prodigal may be related to understanding what it is to be rich or poor. After all, the prodigal felt poor after he lost all that his father gave him. A few thoughts come to mind that may be related.

    The first is the conversation with the Pharisee, Simon, who questioned Jesus about allowing a woman to anoint his feet. Jesus said, in Luke 7:

    41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
    42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
    43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

    Gratitude is associated with having had much forgiven. It is not likely that the exact number of pence is important, rather, it is important that it felt like there was much to be forgiven.

    The next observation is that we can come to feel like we are rich. In reality, there is always someone who has even more, but rich is a relative feeling. And, when we trust in riches, we cannot rely on God. This is reflected in the conclusion to the story of the camel and the eye of the needle.

    JST Mark 10:26 … With men that trust in riches, it is impossible; but not impossible with men who trust in God and leave all for my sake, for with such all these things are possible.

    And, finally, as Jesus taught in 3 Nephi 12:3, “Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To be poor in spirit can be thought of as realizing that we have very little of the spirit that is promised by God to His children. When we feel poor in spirit and come unto Christ we are forgiven and are filled with His spirit. It may also describe the condition of the prodigal who realizes that he has squandered what his father has given him. If he returns to his father, then he will belong in the kingdom of heaven.

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  5. Another reason to not build a hedge around the law:

    “Moses 3:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, 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.”

    God gives Adam the law. Eve is created and Adam gives Eve the law, with just one little bit added:

    “Moses 4:9 But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

    We know the rest of the story–a serpent comes along, possibly contradicting the hedge that Adam added to the law–the serpent convinces Eve that she will not surely die. It is possible that Eve was convinced that she wouldn’t surely die because she saw the serpent touching the fruit and not dying.

    We cannot improve on God’s commandments.

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  6. I think it’s a bit naive to assume hedging is done with good intention. From what I’ve seen in myself and others, hedging is usually done to make me feel better about myself, better about my parenting compared to another’s parenting. Hedging demonstrates a lack of trust in the Lord and his commandments.

    I appreciate your descriptions of how hedging can confuse people about real guilt. This is a new idea to me and it’s a thought I can relate to.

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  7. Thank you, this post was an answer to prayer.

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  8. I have long understood that the story of the prodigal son is the story of the Man we now refer to as Jesus Christ, who came only to do the will of the Father because he finally understood the Great Love of his Father. The elder son, Lucifer kept all the law, was a charter member of the not even once club, and felt justified in the law. As one who has sinned with impunity, repented frequently and has had need to cry mightily to the Lord from the edge of the abyss – myself a prodigal daughter and experiential learner, I thank you Log for this gift. And it most assuredly is a gift.

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  9. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness , and by love unfeigned;
    by kindness, and pure knowledge , which shall great enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile–
    Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love towards him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
    That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

    Church leaders, do you hear it? Parents, do you hear it?

    Perhaps then will the prodigal remember and turn toward home and return after he has had surfeit of riotous living and corn husks and wallowing with pigs.

    Thank you brother Log.
    JRU

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  10. I just heard this exact same principle taught in GD class last week.OK, so I lie. But tell me how great it would be!
    Oh wait I’m teaching that class this week. Hmm, I WILL be using parts of this in some way this Sunday!
    Nicely done Log, thanks for your work!

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  11. First I want to say you nailed it with these insights.
    So as to your bonus questions:

    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?

    The eldest brother didn’t want to take the risk in the lone and dreary world, relying on the merits of a “redeemer” who might not be able to guarantee the rescue of all. The eldest brother wanted a controlled environment, he wanted people to acknowledge his just being “good.” After Father left, he has taken over planet earth and the property (life on the planet) and is ruling with ultimate control. In fact when the prodigal Son came back to the house, the elder brother had his most devoted servants kill the returned son.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  12. What was the inheritance the Prodigal spent?
    The prodigal spent all that he had including the only possession he had complete control over, his will. He laid all he had on the alter. He took the greatest risk of any of God’s children and descended below it all and came back to the Father. Bold meekness at its finest hour.

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  13. Perhaps the greatest “revelation” in Log’s post above is that those who think themselves virtuous (the self-righteous) are hopelessly damned because they never repent and are consequently never forgiven. They never feel overwhelming gratitude for their recovery and consequently never sense overwhelming love for their Redeemer. Needing no physician, neither to be cleansed, they do not come unto Him. And being thus estranged from God, they are cut off (they cut themselves off) from all development and progress in righteousness.

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