P.S. to Prodigal’s Brother

Yesterday I wrote a little something about the prodigal son’s older brother and how he got so angry and resentful when his wayward brother came home to be wined and dined while he, faithful and dutiful, got nothing. While I’d like to think that he got half a fatted calf at some point during his years of conscientious service, I’m not so sure it happened. Still, he had lots of good stuff going on…just like we do.

If we, like the older son, start thinking about how much others have or how favorably fortune seems to shine on them compared to us, we could really begin to feel a bit perturbed just as he did. However, when it comes down to it, we’re pretty fortunate with or without a fatted calf, fancy robe, and big celebrations. I can hear, see, smell, touch, taste a plethora of delightful things. This morning birds were singing, leaves were changing color, and the temperature was in the 70’s (20 degrees lower than a couple of weeks ago). I chatted with some cool people, savored an ice cream cone from Chick fil-A, and listened to some soul-stirring music.

Yes, there’s a lot to be sad and mad and scared about, but there’s a lot to be glad about too. I hope I can remember that the next time I feel myself getting a little resentful or feeling left out. My Father’s been pretty good to me. How about you?

Prodigal’s Brother

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are many layers to this well-known parable. For starters, just look at all of people involved, at least the principal players. While I usually think of the relationship between the wayward son and his father, lately I’ve been thinking about the older brother. He’s been hard working, loyal, faithful, and deserving, and yet his kid brother comes back from his “fun” escapades and is given a feast…and this dutiful son isn’t even told about it. He happens to hear music and laughter and has to ask a servant what’s going on. Being human, he feels jealous, resentful, and perhaps a little forgotten. The scriptures tell us that he was angry, so angry that he didn’t join the party.

“What about me? Aren’t I important?” Were these the questions he asked himself? Aren’t we all just a little like this? What is it that whispered to him (to all of us) that somehow what another person gets or has takes away from what we have? Why do these situations make us feel less worthy, loved, or deserving? We need to remember that we’re all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. We’re all heirs to the kingdom, and what another person has takes nothing from us unless we allow it to.

There’s enough for everyone, something Stephen Covey calls the abundance mentality. When we see others with more fame, fortune, love, prestige, money, success, or popularity and allow ourselves to feel diminished, we’re operating according to what Covey calls the scarcity mentality. Not fun. Not good for our self-concepts. Still, we’re human, and like the prodigal’s brother, sometimes it hurts.

At times like that we need to remember that all He has is ours. As the father of the two sons reminds his elder one, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”

The Prodigal’s Father

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?

Prodigal’s Mother

Let’s get back to the Prodigal’s mother. I can’t stop wondering about her and why she’s missing from this parable. Is it because the story is symbolic of our Heavenly Father’s acceptance and forgiveness of us and our wasteful, prodigal wanderings and not of a female creator and forgiver? Is it because women stayed behind the scenes in that day and time? As a mother in 2007, when any of my children arrive, I do everything possible to make them feel welcome, and as time allows, I really make  a big production out of it.

If anyone knows where this mother was or why she’s missing from the story in Luke, please enlighten me.