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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When Someone Is Drowning: Help, Hinder, or Walk by?

By Karen Austin

When I am having problems managing my emotions, I sometimes cause a bit of a scene. “* Helping Hand *” by pareeerica is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 I admire introverts for their ability to keep their conflicts well hidden. But then again, my introverted friends report this downside: stuffing emotions leads to a lot of trouble with the …

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The Parable of the Very Messy Freezer

By Emily Milner

And it came to pass that Mom was making dinner, and lo, she needed frozen peas. And behold, she sent her eldest son downstairs to the deep freezer to obtain the frozen peas. But he returned swiftly, saying, I find no frozen peas. We are out.

And it came to pass that Mom knew they were not out of frozen peas, so she said to her son, Yea, son, indeed we are not out of frozen peas. Go forth and look for them again.

And it came to pass that her son returned and looked for the frozen peas in the downstairs freezer.

Now it came to pass that the downstairs freezer was extremely messy, yea, it was difficult to excavate, for over the years without being defrosted it had become a jumbled mass of frozen meat and bread and ancient freezer jam.

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Filling My Mind with Truth – Sideways

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

Parable of the Sower

Throughout the scriptures Christ teaches with parables. “A sower went out to sow some seed…,” He says. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…,” He says. “The Bridegroom cometh…,” He says.

There is something potent in approaching an intractable problem from a sideways angle. Parables do that. Rather than lecturing His followers about their particular sins or skewed thinking, he told these kinds of potent stories and let His listeners mull, ponder, seek and apply fresh ways of thinking to their challenges.

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