Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Parable of the Visiting Lord

This is one of those parables that has always struck me as particularly interesting and mysterious. Since it is in the Doctrine & Covenants, we don’t hit it when we talk about Christ’s parables in the New Testament. And of course, in Sunday School we only have a limited time to go over a number of chapters.

So I want to call your attention to this parable to point out some things that I notice and I hope you will point out things that you notice and maybe we’ll all learn something more.
51 Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.
52 And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance.
53 And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance.
54 And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you;
55 And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
56 And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord.
57 And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
58 And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—
59 Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;
60 Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.
61 Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made. (D&C 88:51-61)
Some things that I notice is that the lord wants to visit his servants. But he wants to visit them all, so he schedules his time with them. I notice they all get an hour with him. And he tells them ahead of time when to expect him and he keeps to his schedule.

Something else I notice is that once the lord gets done visiting the last servant, he starts visiting everybody all over again, but he uses this interesting cycle thing where he visits the second to last, then the third to the last, all the way to the first. It’s that whole “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” thing all over again.

Something else—the servants are not sitting twiddling their thumbs while they wait for their turn. They are working hard.

So what is this parable supposed to be talking about? “Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season” What are these kingdoms? Could they be worlds and the mansions that God has prepared as they are filled with people?

Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will (D&C 88:68).

This seems to suggest that it can be fulfilled during our mortal life as well. We can each be assured of a personal visit from God at some point in our mortal lives, once we have sanctified ourselves and become completely focused on Him.

Now, on to something else related to this issue…

In the New Testament, in the Book of John there are suggestions of this prospect of seeing God.
No man hath seen God at any time, except them who believe.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12, Joseph Smith Translation emphasized)
I found a verse further on which made me suspicious that some kind of narrow-minded changes had been made.
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (3 John 1:11)
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosever continueth in sin hath not seen him, neither known him. (1 John 3:6, Joseph Smith Translation emphasized)

Why did these verses make me suspicious? Because John is very repetitious and even-handed in these epistles for the most part, contrasting very carefully the difference between those who know God and those who don’t, and he consistently uses the same language. (I'm not questioning Joseph Smith's stuff, by the way; I'm questioning the surrounding text.) I’ll give you some examples of this below:
He that hath the Son hath life;
and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:12)
have the Son, have life
have not the Son, have no life

It’s a perfectly parallel construction.
Hereby know ye the spirit of God:
Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God… (1 John 4:2-3)
Confess Christ, of God.
Confess not Christ, not of God.

Another perfect parallelism.
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us;
he that is not of God heareth not us.
Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:5-6)
If you know God, you hear us.
If you don’t know God, you don’t hear us.

Another perfect parallelism.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.
He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14)
Love the brethren, go from death to life
Not loving brethren, stay in death

Another perfect parallelism.
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother,
is in darkness even until now.
He that loveth his brother
abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (1 John 2:9-10)
Hate brother: be in darkness
Love brother: abide in light and avoid stumbling

The contrast is point-for-point.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 2:15-16)
Hate brother: takes other people’s lives: has no eternal life
Love of God: gave own life for us
We: should sacrifice our lives for others
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
Love: born of God, know God
No love: knoweth not God
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:3-4)
The above quoted verses are so that you can see how carefully John constructed these parallel statements.

So then I come across these next verse:
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.
He that doeth good is of God:
but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (3 John 1:11)
What if the order was switched? It might give us a stronger feeling that something was odd.

He that doeth evil hath not seen God
But he that doeth good is of God

Following John’s pattern of making strong parallel statements, I get the feeling it should have said “he that doeth good hath seen God”. If it was like this in the beginning when it was first written, it is understandable that it would be quickly edited. Lots of people would think to themselves, “I do good and I haven’t seen God, therefore this statement is false.” However, as we have seen from the parable of the visiting lord, the Lord’s visits to us (after we have been sanctified with an eye single to His glory) still happen according to His timeframe.

Furthermore, we have modern revelation from Joseph Smith:
John 13:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false. (Doctrine & Covenants 130:3, emphasis added)
Let’s take the next verse from 1 John that seems not quite according to pattern:
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not:
whosoever continueth in sin hath not seen him, neither known him. (1 John 3:6, Joseph Smith Translation emphasized)
Switching the order, we get this:

Whosoever continueth in sin hath not seen him, neither known him
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not

See? The positive part seems too weak in comparison to the strength of the negative portion. And it is practically insulting our intelligence to say that someone who continues to sin hasn’t seen God or known Him, and there doesn’t seem like any good reason for pointing it out unless its positive counterpart had once been there:

Whosoever abideth in him hath seen him and known him.

It is my feeling that these scriptures were tampered with at some point.