Of all the parables Jesus told, one of the most familiar is the Parable of the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15. It is a wonderful story of God’s forgiveness as the father rushes out and welcomes home his wayward son.
But, as we place it into its context, we see that the point Jesus was really making was the joy we are to experience whenever we see a lost soul saved. H makes that emphasis in direct response to the Pharisees’ murmuring against him. “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2). In response, Jesus tells three parables about the lost – the parable of the Prodigal Son being the last of the three. And all three emphasize the joy we are to feel when we see the lost saved. (See Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 22-24)
In that setting it is obvious that the complaining elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son represents the Pharisees. His anger over his father throwing a feast for his brother mirrors the murmuring of the Pharisees over Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners. I’m sure that the Pharisees listening to Jesus as he unfolded this parable felt as if he had hit them with a two by four over their heads! In essence, Jesus was telling them that, instead of murmuring, they should be rejoicing that he was reaching the lost.
Therefore I found it interesting to see how Mormonism interprets this parable. In the New Testament manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, it talks about the mercy and forgiveness of the Father. But what I found interesting is that it talks more about the two sons than it does the father. The point it emphasizes is that the father “did not have the younger son restored to all the privileges he had forfeited.” He was received back but now “the farm” is gone. “The ‘father’ himself cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”
In striking contrast, the older son becomes the role model. He is described as the “more dutiful” son. “The father consoled him with the statement: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” In other words, for him “the farm” was not gone. Unlike the younger son, he did not forfeit his privileges. There is not one mention made of the Pharisees and their ungodly murmuring against Jesus.
A beautiful story of forgiveness is turned into a story of making choices. “Every choice one makes either expands or contracts the area in which he can make and implement future decisions. When one makes a choice, he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice.” So much so, that “the ‘father’ cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”
The Bible teaches about a Heavenly Father who can undo the effects of foregone choices and has done so in Jesus Christ. Through the saving work of Christ he has restored all the privileges that we have forfeited through sin. Because of Jesus I’m looking forward to living eternally with Heavenly Father.