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Parables Read from Multiple Perspectives

By Karen Austin

When I encounter a hardship in my life, I benefit from turning to the scriptures for comfort and guidance.  In the second half of my life, I found myself looking at parables from multiple viewpoints. Narratives afford that type of richness. They can speak to us in complex and nuanced ways.

The Prodigal Son

For example, when I was growing up, I would look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32) from the viewpoint of the two sons—the one who rejected his heritage, lived for pleasure, and then finally became penitent after he lost everything.  I also would view myself as the brother who was angry that the prodigal was forgiven.

The elder son explained his anger this way: “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29).

This exchanged illustrated the nature of forgiveness: we should not keep a ledger regarding other people’s infractions and their rewards. Jesus instructs us throughout the New Testament to show charity towards all.  It is God’s place to stand in judgement, which is succinctly expressed in Doctrine & Covenants 64:10:  “I the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

Now that I have been a parent for a quarter of a century, I can put myself in the shoes of the father. Obviously, this parable invites us to see the father in this story as our Heavenly Father. I am not a highly evolved person. Nevertheless, I do have the opportunity as a parent (and with other roles of authority—at church and in my paid job) to respond to people in my charge when they make poor choices.

I can also imagine myself as characters that are on the fringes of this parable: the drinking buddies, the inn keepers, the harlots—any person who took advantage of the prodigal son by promoting his vice and capitalizing on his recklessness.

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Return and report: My River Trip

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

Last month I was nervous about my 5 day trip Salmon River trip in August. Since it was something scheduled many months ahead, I had a long time to fret about my inadequacies, the gaps I have in my knowledge base, and the utter foreignness of the undertaking. Let me tell you how it unfolded. …

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Hurt People Hurt People

By Karen Austin

Sometime in the late 1990s, I was helping organize a Relief Society birthday dinner. Sylvia (not her real name), one of the members of the presidency took the helm. The rest of the committee members had some assignments, but no one was told when to arrive at the church to set up. We just made …

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Heck Is Other People

By Karen Austin

I have started to rejoin society now that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 have plummet in my region. However, I am still adjusting to being around people. After spending several months primarily with just two other people, I find that I am a bit overstimulated by crowds.  Also, studying history and reading the …

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Best Gift

By Megan Wilcox Goates

I’d like to tell you the story of the best Christmas present I ever received. It does not involve a doll, or shoes, or a new dress, or any other tropes from Christmas songs and stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with dolls, dresses, and shoes. They’re great. But they aren’t this gift. This story …

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Natural Habitat

By Megan Wilcox Goates

I recently returned from our family’s annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone National Park, where this weird little vignette transpired: Picture a cluster of rough-rider cabins at Roosevelt, in the isolated northeast corner of the park. I waved goodbye to my sister and her family, who were piling into their car, turned, and walked briskly to my …

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I just realized I’m the kind of mom who lives through her children.

By Michelle Lehnardt

One little mistake cost my son a pretty big scholarship this week. After years of preparation, test taking, running for office, captaining the team and a complex application it all came down to one section of a twelve-part form arriving one day late. Kinda like climbing Everest and turning around 20 yards from the summit. …

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ARE MEN UNKIND?

By Lisa Meadows Garfield

At the adult session of Stake Conference last weekend, our Stake President suddenly and forcefully said, “Now brethren, I need to speak to you right now. This may sound harsh, but you need to hear this. I am hearing from too many of our faithful sisters about the way they are being treated by their …

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Guest Post: We Stand With Refugees

One day about five years ago my family took a marshrutka (minibus) in Kyrgyzstan from Bishkek to the small city we were living in about an hour outside the capital.  Marshrutkas are always a bit of an adventure but one of the best parts of those hour-long rides was talking to people riding with us.  …

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LOVE

By Lisa Meadows Garfield

In a recent Fast and Testimony meeting, Karen came up from the back of the chapel to share her testimony. I’d never seen her at the pulpit before. I’d only seen her herding her rather ragged brood of seven down the church halls — quietly, faithfully. From the pulpit, she told a story of her cousin, who had called her recently for some compassionate counsel, as he dealt with serious depression. She related that she had counseled him to be selective about the music he listened to, to quit using drugs and alcohol, plus a number of other wise and useful suggestions. Then she said, “But I did not tell him the thing I wanted to tell him. I wanted to tell him he needed to come to church, that it would help him a lot. But I couldn’t bring myself to say it. See, my cousin is openly gay, and I could not be sure he would be welcomed and loved and accepted here at church. And I knew that the last thing he needed right now was to feel judged and rejected, even subtly.”

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