I’ve been familiar with this story since my childhood and have always been touched by the way the father unconditionally loves and accepts the returning child. He doesn’t say, “I will love you if you straighten up and fly right.” He says, “I love you.” Period.
Isn’t that how we all want to be loved by our parents and others who are special to us? Don’t we all want to feel that no matter where we go or what we do, we can always come home to welcoming arms and the proverbial fatted calf? And isn’t this the kind of love that we should offer to others? As parents, we don’t have to remind our wandering children that we “told them so;” they already know that. We just need to remember that love is always open arms.
It doesn’t take too much thought to see the prodigal’s father as our Father, one who will never give up on any of his children, even the wayward ones who have traveled to the “far country.” He continues to look for us, and when we decide to return to Him, we can count on there being a celebration of sorts.
Yesterday I saw this simple, yet powerful quote by Boyd K. Packer on the opening page of LDS.org, and it seemed to fit this parable perfectly.” If you are one who’s been wandering off course, now is the time to return. You can, you know.” When I read it, I was reminded of a similar message (there are actually hundreds of them, I suppose) that Howard W. Hunter gave in the 1994 October General Conference.
To those who have transgressed or been offended, we say, come back. To those who are hurt and struggling and afraid, we say, let us stand with you and dry your tears. To those who are confused and assailed by error on every side, we say, come to the God of all truth and the Church of continuing revelation. Come back. Stand with us. Carry on. Be believing. All is well, and all will be well. Feast at the table laid before you in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and strive to follow the Good Shepherd who has provided it. Have hope, exert faith, receive—and give—charity, the pure love of Christ.
Why these words affected me so powerfully, I’m not sure. I do know that I read them in 1994 and have thought about them many times since. Let’s feast (not snack) at the table of the Most High God (not your ordinary host). The prodigal remembered who he was. Do we?