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.