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God’s Forgiveness, God’s Trust  June 9, 2005

Aaron — June 9 @ 8:33pm

I know I promised to post again on worldly learning, there are several things to clear up. But something Mari said sparked a thought that I feel impressed to share first. Mari spoke of some difficulty with her mother, I have no idea what it is. I’m surprised, how much trouble could a middle-aged woman possibly cause? Middle-aged women seem sweet and harmless to me. But anyway the issue that came up is the difference between forgiveness and trust. We are required to forgive all men. But we don’t have to trust them. And from God, we want God not just to forgive us but to trust us. And in this we come to the great things of eternity.

To see this we can look at our great examplar Jesus Christ and even God himself. In the end they forgive everyone, even the telestial are let out of hell and will be clean from their sins. But they do not associate with everyone. The telestial only have the presence of the Holy Ghost, the terrestrial the ministrations of Jesus, and only those in the celestial kingdom with associate with the Father. These he calls “my friends.” But even beyond association is trust. Only those who enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom become sons of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. To them God trusts all that he hath, all things are subject to them, all heights and all depths, they are gods. These great powers and exceeding weight of glory are trusted only to those who have proved themselves at all hazards. For in the wrong hands these powers would be very dangerous. So they are only trusted to those willing to live all his laws, and forsake the world and despise the shame of it.

The meaning of the Prodigal Son is greatly misunderstood. It is not the milk for the masses as presented in the Church film a few years back. The deep meaning was taught I think by President Spencer W. Kimball. Is it a story of forgiveness, yes. But is it a story of regained trust, no. Did he get another inheritance, no. It was irretrieviably lost. The older son, he gets a bad rap. Remember what he is told. My son, thou art always with me, all that I have is thine. For those who have ears to hear, this is the language of exaltation which the prodigal son could not get back again.

And so it is that those who like the prodigal son must come to their senses only in hell, only when it is thrust upon them out of necessity, cannot be trusted or even have association with the Father and Son. And again, those who grumble and doubt and wring their hands and are blinded by the craftiness of men, these are whom the scriptures say are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus. These also cannot be trusted and only have association with the Savior. And again, only those who seek to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God shall have the association and the trust of the Father. Who seek to receive instructions and commandments from him, like Abraham the great type of the exalted father, who achieved it only through his willingness to forsake everything, departing the comfortable world he knew including his wicked fathers, for a land the Lord God would show him.

Dear Mari. In an earthly pattern I don’t know what application this has for you. Do you have to forgive your mother, yes. Does this mean you have to associate with her, not necessarily. Does this mean you have to trust her, again not necessarily.


  1. I take issue with your interpretation of the the parable of the two sons. Both sons have sinned: the younger is waste and avarice, the elder in self-righteousness. I don’t think it’s a parable about eternal rewards; it’s about forgiveness.

    A parable that seems to be more about eternal rewards is the one about the workers in the field. Interestingly, I think that one directly contradicts your argument: the worker who started in the eleventh hour was paid the same as those who worked all day.

    I think you must be confused, because it sounds like you are arguing that those that commit any sin cannot be redeemed and exalted. But we all have sinned, right?

    foxforcefive — June 9, 2005 @ 11:02pm
  2. I must seem pretty sweet and harmless, then. LOL

    annegb — June 10, 2005 @ 8:39am
  3. “Did he get another inheritance, no. It was irretrieviably lost.”

    I don’t know of any scriptural foundation for this claim. It seems to deny the principle of repentance.

    Steve Evans — June 10, 2005 @ 9:52am
  4. Aaron,

    A conference talk entitled “The Other Prodigal”, given in April 2002 by Jeffrey R. Holland, seems to refute your claims.

    Mark — June 10, 2005 @ 10:21am
  5. Regardless of the clumsy way Aaron has laid this out and his different interpretation of the prodigal son story, he makes a good point regarding the difference between forgiveness and trust, in my opinion, and one which I think deserves more fleshing out.

    I would say more, but I type these entries hastily in between reviewing documents. (The life of a first year associate…)

    Jordan — June 10, 2005 @ 10:32am
  6. For us, I think there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. We are commanded to forgive all, not so with trust. God, however, forgives who he will. I tend to think that those who are forgiven are those who repent; if you repent, you are sanctified and worthy of trust. God’s forgiveness is comensurate to his trust.

    J. Stapley — June 10, 2005 @ 11:59am
  7. Taken in context, the prodigal son represents the sinners and publican which were gathering around Jesus and the “good” son represents the scribes and pharisees who were criticizing him for it. The kingdom of God was represented by the feast (like always) not the inherentance. The good son willingly shuts himself out of heaven, thus allowing (as Jesus said elsewhere) that the harlots and publicans enter the kingdom before the Pharisees.

    That aside. While middle aged women might be nice, mothers are psycho. Be it your mother or even worse, your spouse’s mother. There is way too much emotion involved in the relationship (in both directions) for much of anything to be played out in a rational manner.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 10, 2005 @ 1:15pm
  8. I wonder if I will ever be trusted again after I have repented.

    Although with reservations, I believe that Aaron is correct, at least that we can forgive but not give trust, but I feel that the way God works is different. He forgives at the same rate of trust.

    1. How does he do it?
    What is repentance? Is it praying, asking for forgiveness? Only in part. God will forgive whom he will. What does this mean? Will he not forgive them? He will, but only through repentance. Repentance brings about forgiveness. But forgiveness comes after God feels we have fully done all that we can to right the wrong, including changing our life. Changing ones life doesn’t come in a moment of saying I am sorry, but through the change of ones heart which is a process that takes time. Faster for some than others, but time nonetheless. What about trust from God?. Trust must also be earned. As the sinner shows that he is changing, trust will be earned and God will start giving them blessings as they are earned. I believe this is earned at the same speed forgiveness is granted, through a process. In this case, Gods trust, and Gods forgiveness are essentially the same.

    2. So what about us?
    God works with the individual through the repentance process, we don’t, at least not as God works with them. Therefore, through the commandment to forgive all men, we forgive, but our trust must still be earned the same way God sees it, through a process of righting ones life. If I commit adultry and my wife forgives me and trys to help me, will she trust me? Of course not. If I tell her I will be out late at night that seems aweful suspicious, will she show trust in me and say, “go ahead, have a good time”? Not at first. But after years of showing how much she means to me and respecting her and changing my life that shows that I have changed, will she trust me then. Eventually, yes. how long, I don’t know, but eventually it can be earned, but only if one works towards it. Forgiven? Yes, Trusted? Not at first.

    What do you think?

    N Miller — June 10, 2005 @ 2:44pm
  9. Aaron,

    Do you think, based on your low opinion of dirty scoundrel attorneys like me, that God will ever forgive me for following what I felt was His will in my life to become an attorney? And if so, can he possibly ever trust me after my sinful career choice?

    Jordan — June 10, 2005 @ 3:43pm
  10. Jordan, I can easily tell you the answer: No. And, No.

    Steve Evans — June 10, 2005 @ 4:13pm
  11. Everyone. Am I denying repentence. Of course not, it is one of the first principles. The scriptures say Alma the younger was a very wicked and idolatrous man. Yet he repented and became a prophet. And myself, I committed a HUGE mistake and went through a sore repentence. I would be lost without it.

    I read the Miracle of Forgiveness. Surely I am not the only one. Or maybe I am if everyone here is so perfect they never had to have their Bishop make them read it. Or Stake President in my case. Or if it has been read perhaps it has been forgotten.

    On the Prodigal Son I humbly invite you to read p. 307-311 of the Miracle of Forgiveness. Which sets forth the deeper meaning I gave above. And then those that murmured shall learn doctrine. Regarding Elder Holland’s talk, it is like the Church movie of the Prodigal Son, giving the milk version. Increasingly the Brethren must restrict what they say and speak carefully to a wicked world. But those with the Spirit know what they really think.

    What should not be controversial is that those who go to hell during the Millemium, are irretreviably destined for the last resurrection and the telestial kingdom. And have lost their exaltation worlds without end. This is all I said.

    But in fact President Kimball went further than I was willing to say here. I didn’t want to stir up controversy. But now I am bold to say that President Kimball brought the Point of No Return into this life. Its the title of Ch. 9 of his book. He sites several Book of Mormon scriptures, about everlastingly too late, the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man, the devil doth seal you his, and so on. Man can become so darkened that he does not want to climb back or has lost the power to do so. Don’t complain to me, complain to President Kimball, and Amulek, and Alma, and Moroni. Maybe we dont read the Miracle of Forgiveness but at least do we read the Book of Mormon.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 10, 2005 @ 7:08pm
  12. Jordon. Did I not say I believed in repentence. Don’t listen to Steve. Steve have you read the Book of Mormon. Don’t you remember that Zeezrom the wicked lawyer was able to repent after being healed from a burning fever. Was he still a lawyer after his repentence. I doubt it.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 10, 2005 @ 7:13pm
  13. “For in the wrong hands these powers would be very dangerous.”

    I thought the God would “cease to be God” (i.e., the elements would no longer obey him) if he used his powers unrighteously. Wouldn’t that same process apply to anyone who obtained God’s power?

    “let out of hell and will be clean from their sins”

    Where does “clean from their sins” come from? If they don’t repent they are not forgiven (cleansed from their sins by Christ) correct? If Christ doesn’t clean them who does? Themselves?

    Daylan Darby — June 10, 2005 @ 9:38pm
  14. Aaron, thanks for your thoughts. I’m not sure I quite agree with you on the Prodigal Son, because I think when we truly repent, we’re still able to inherit the same eternal blessings as someone who didn’t sin. I agree that we forfeit the blessings we would have enjoyed at the time we were sinning, though.

    As far as the amount of trouble a middle-aged woman can cause, I don’t know. She’s still pretty much in her prime, and not exactly causing trouble right now, but we had some difficulties when I was younger and living at home that I feel like I’ve mostly worked through. It can be a pretty long process though. I’m learning about some things I didn’t know about at the time, and it’s made a difference in how I view past events.

    Mari — June 10, 2005 @ 9:41pm
  15. Aaron may rethink his position when he realizes that I agree with his interpretation of the prodigal son story (though I don’t take it to the extreme that he does). But the prodigal son didn’t come to realize that he was being wicked and then suffer the sarrow of a sinner. His wicked ways flushed his life down the toilet, and his sorrow was the sorrow of the damned that Mormon describes seeing among his compatriots: the prodigal son was sorry because he could not have both wickedness and his inheritance. I’m not saying that true repentance couldn’t still be in the cards for the prodigal son, but there’s nothing in the story that Jesus relates that indicates that he’d gone through any of the steps necessary for repentance (which requires going through the necessary steps for the right reason).

    DKL — June 10, 2005 @ 11:59pm
  16. Aaron (#11):

    Regarding Elder Holland’s talk, it is like the Church movie of the Prodigal Son, giving the milk version. Increasingly the Brethren must restrict what they say and speak carefully to a wicked world.But those with the Spirit know what they really think.

    It seems to me that it’s possible that the leaders of the Church might cloak their words carefully when addressing a secular audience, but it scares me to think that they might obscure their words when explicitly addressing the general membership. It seems a very dangerous road to me to go putting words or meanings in General Authorities’ mouths, and then claiming that your interpretation is binding on the rest of us.

    That is, I think that if the Spirit reveals some hidden mystery in the words of a General Authority, that message is for the listener, and not binding on anyone but him.

    Justin H — June 11, 2005 @ 12:28am
  17. I suppose that there is the shallow meaning, the deeper meaning and then the intended meaning. Your deeper meaning was not the intended meaning.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 11, 2005 @ 2:09pm
  18. Daylan. Alma was not suggesting that God could actually cease to be God. Such is manifestly impossible. So he used that saying to emphasize that mercy could not under any circumstance rob justice. As Joseph taught in Lectures on Faith God’s attributes must be constant to have faith in him.

    Also consider that cheribim and a flaming sword guarded the tree of life for all one had to do was eat it to be immortal. No conditions about it. And also note the knowledge necessary to pass by angels to exaltation (D&C 132:19) is divulged only to the worthy in the temple so that only God’s trusted can pass. The powers of endless life once obtained cannot be called back, hence these measures we see God taking to carefully guard them.

    On those in hell becoming clean from their sins. No one who enters a kingdom of glory will remain filthy. See D&C 88:96-102. Especially v. 102 which teaches that only Sons of Perdition will remain filthy. And D&C 138:57-59, especially v. 59. Some cleansing may come from Christ depending on the degree of repentance. Or else they must suffer even as Jesus as he says in D&C 19. And pay the price for their own sins and thus become clean.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 13, 2005 @ 8:49am
  19. Aaron, if we require the literal historicity of the garden story, then there is no reason to suppose that the fruit of the Tree of Life made its eaters permanently immortal. For example, the fruit of the Tree of Life may have been analogous to a super-vitamin that staved off again or even reversed its impact for a time. Thus, continued consumption would allow the eater to remain immortal. In such a case, it is easy to imagine that what kept Adam and Eve from dying in the Garden was their continued access to the tree. I conclude that the powers of endless life once obtained can be called back.

    DKL — June 13, 2005 @ 11:39am
  20. Oops, I meant to say “…once obtained could be called back.” (all I’m trying to do here is establish the possibility.)

    DKL — June 13, 2005 @ 11:41am
  21. If a person can become a God then it is possible for a person to unbecome a God. This is all relatively safe reasoning according to Joseph Smith.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 13, 2005 @ 11:51am
  22. This subject has sort of weighed on me. I didn’t read Mari’s post, or whatever it was that you referred to when she spoke of her problems with her mother.

    I hope that mothers can recover God’s trust and forgiveness because I will sure need it. I hope I can regain my childrens’ trust. It is so difficult to know if you’re doing the right thing and damage is invariably done, even when your intentions are totally pure.

    With my daughter, my motives were totally pure. At least, I thought so. I was determined to do better, I wanted and loved her before she was born. I thought by sheer will power I could become a different person and be a better mother than I had been to my sons and my stepchildren. Especially did I want never to hurt her, to be cruel.

    I did a 180 in mothering her, and guess what? We still have problems. Despite being a totally different mother to her than I was to my other children, she has problems.

    I think the mistake here in the initial post is in comparing the brothers. Comparing their sin, their reward. I don’t think God compares us at all. I think He takes each of us as individuals, and because He is God, He can do this, and He only considers each situation in its entirety, and alone. Does that make sense? We humans compare all the time, but God doesn’t. He will not be thinking I shouldn’t have the same reward as a more righteous person, He is taking me on my merits alone, and my motives and my experience.

    We are told in the scriptures that if we repent, our sins will be washed–doesn’t it say white as snow somewhere, I know it does, but can’t remember where. But if my rewards are dependent upon how well I do in comparison to you, I am screwed. And that is not what the gospel promises, nor, I think, what God intends. I don’t know if I can determine the depth of repentance in the Prodigal Son, there are, of course, many facets to that story. But I think one important facet is how God will embrace and welcome the prodigal. His rewards are eternal, we can’t spend them all in this life, and I think no one can determine those rewards except the Lord.

    annegb — June 13, 2005 @ 11:56am
  23. Jeffrey and Mari, and way back to the first comment by forcefoxfive. Did you read President Kimball’s interpretation in the pages I cited. Do you think President Kimball is wrong.

    Also Jefrrey. Jesus was a master teacher who could teach both the wicked and righteous at the same time. Yes Jesus was answering a wicked man. But he was also teaching the apostles and the saints who would read his words. To suggest that Jesus did not intend the many levels of his parables is to say that President Kimball is smarter than Jesus. I don’t think so!

    David. The word of the Lord was that they would live forever in their sins. Would he have gone to the trouble of cheribim and flaming swords if all he had to do was chop down the tree. Also in Alma 11:45 Amulek says of those who become immortal “they can die no more,” their spirits and bodies “never to be divided,” “they can see no more corruption.” Your statement is not just baseless speculation without foundation in scripture but is actually contrary to the scriptures, and hence false.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 13, 2005 @ 12:03pm
  24. :)

    Aaron, I know you don’t deny repentance, and I even agree with you about the difference between gaining God’s forgiveness and gaining God’s trust. I just made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how you apparently view lawyers, even lawyers who are trying their best to live the gospel. It was probably uncalled for- sorry.

    Jordan — June 13, 2005 @ 12:20pm
  25. Aaron, it’s not clear from you “word of the Lord” whether they’d live forever for eating once or live forever from the continual process of eating. Moreover, your question about disposing of the tree of life problematizes your own position as much as it does mine. Presumably, the tree was disposed of somehow at any rate, unless you believe that it sits somewhere guarded by cheribum to this day.

    Second, Amulek is talking about the ressurection. It is my no means clear that ressurection is the only road to immortality. My interpretation is not counter to the scriptures, it just doesn’t agree with your dogmatic insistance about what the scriptures mean.

    DKL — June 13, 2005 @ 1:06pm
  26. Kimball also said in the miracle of forgiveness (which he also said did not represent official church doctrine) that Cain was still roaming around out there looking like big foot. There are quite a few doctrinal errors in the book, but not anything worth getting too worked up about. Nevertheless, errors they be. His interpretation of the prodigal son, if he really intends it as Jesus’ intended interpretation, is wrong. Simply look at the context of the scripture to see that.

    And to say that Jesus only had one intended interpretation does not make Kimball smarter than Jesus in anyway. You can’t seriously think that argument is air-tight can you?

    BTW, yes, I have read the book many times, and I know about the (wrong) interpretation that you are using which is also so popular in the church today. This doesn’t make it any more right.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 13, 2005 @ 1:11pm
  27. A number of Joseph Smith’s apostles which ended up going to Utah (especially Birgham and Heber) claimed that the sons of perdition would be resurrected, but would eventually become “unmade” soas to eventually be reused in another creation. If this isn’t undoing a resurrection, I don’t know what is.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 13, 2005 @ 1:17pm
  28. You bring up a good issue, Jeffrey. If Jesus and Spencer Woolley Kimball (AKA Yoda) got into a fight, who do you think would win?

    DKL — June 13, 2005 @ 1:36pm
  29. annegb, I really appreciated the thoughts you wrote down in your comment. Thanks.

    SeptimusH — June 13, 2005 @ 1:44pm
  30. Don’t forget that Jesus is packin’ a few legions of angels at his command.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 13, 2005 @ 1:44pm
  31. Jeffrey. Yes Joseph said God was once a man but did he say the reverse is possible, God could become a man. I doubt it, I think it’s like a ratchet, it only goes in one direction. But I’m not as familiar with the statements of the early breathren as you seem to be, I should like into that more. After all if Joseph is the source then better to drink as close to the source as possible.

    Jeffrey and David. Do you have any evidence that the tree of life does not still exist and that Cain is not roaming the earth. I’m surprised Jeffrey you take President Kimball so cavaleirley. What doctrinal mistakes has he made.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 13, 2005 @ 2:35pm
  32. First of all, when Kimball wrote the book he was not president. Second, he never claimed it to be offical church doctrine (doesn’t this allow for some amount of error?). I’m not willing to point out where he was wrong (other than in his interpretation of the prodigal son perhaps). This plays into the hands of those who insist that those who don’t believe everything the prophets say are more interested in error than in truth. I am willing to say that many of his statements are not backed by official doctrine or sound reason. I have given a few examples, but here are a few more:

    Cain, of course.
    We should rather see our sons return from their mission in a casket than without their chastity.
    Interpreting Alma’s saying that his sons’ apostasy during his mission combined with his reckless flirting and solicitation of a prositiute thereby breaking the covenants he had made as meaning that any kind of adultery in next to murder.
    Not avoiding temptation is itself a sin.
    The appearance of evil is evil.
    and so on.

    Kimball obviously gets more than a little carried away in his trying to extract fear and trembling from his readers.

    Now as to J.S. his reasoning was that anything which can be made can be unmade. This was his reason for believing not only in the eternal nature of matter, but man’s spirit as well. If an individual’s status as God can be made, it CAN (not necessarily will) be unmade. There is eternal progression as well as eternal regression.

    Your saying that Alma’s statement isn’t literally true (God could cease to be God) has some unpleasant consequences. I God can’t cease to be God then He is FORCED to comply with the conditions which Alma is describing. If God is forced, then there is no free will, no any praise worthiness in His actions. Thus we shouldn’t praise God for His not lying or for His upholding both justice and mercy because He really had no choice in the matter.

    Most people aren’t willing to accept this. God COULD have done otherwise, which means that He COULD have ceased to be God.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 13, 2005 @ 3:08pm
  33. Aaron, I’m confident you’ll eventually get to see the Tree of Life, along with the cherubim and flaming sword. The Ten Tribes are going to bring it back to Zion as a potted plant when they break out of the ice in the land of the north and come back on the highway cast up in the sea. They’re going to force Cain to drag it back on a sled (which won’t be too hard when they’re still on ice, but will be pretty tough going once they get to dry ground), so you’ll get to meet him too.

    Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) — June 13, 2005 @ 4:01pm
  34. I don’t completely agree with all of Aaron’s interpretation of the parable, but I do agree that there is a difference between forgiveness and trust.

    Did the father forgive the prodigal? Apparently so. Did he trust him? Not with a further inheritance, since he had used that–at least to that point. Could the prodigal earn a future inheritance? I don’t know, and I really don’t think that this issue is part of what this parable is intended to teach. I think that is part of the basis for some of the objections of other commenters.

    Could the prodigal earn a future inheritance? Maybe, once his repentance is complete. We don’t even know how far along the road to repentence the prodigal is. Did he go back because he was repentant, or just because he was hungry? For all we know, his intent to apologize was just another scam to get his father to take him back. There are indications that he was at least starting the repentance process, since the story says he “came to himself” while slopping the pigs.

    I tend to agree with Robert Millet in that this parable is as much about the father as it is about either one of the brothers. Most have us have been one or the other of the brothers at some point in our lives. We need to become more like the father.

    alamojag — June 15, 2005 @ 1:12pm
  35. Aaron, I just found a great reference for my interpretation of the prodigal son. See Joseph Smith’s discourse dated Jan. 29, 1843. He insists that the older son represents the Scribes and Pharisees wining about God grace toward sinners.

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 27, 2005 @ 6:27pm
  36. Jeffery. I never said such an interpretation was wrong. Only that it wasn’t the deepest one. As Elder Maxwell said of Jesus: “His doctrines are like glistening diamonds with many dimensions, displaying their verity and beauty, facet by facet, depending on the faith and preparation of the beholder.” And so Joseph did not reveal all at once. But taught according to the preparation of the Saints at that time.

    Aaron B. Cox — June 27, 2005 @ 7:46pm
  37. And you actually think that the teachings we hear now are deeper than Joseph’s Nauvoo teachings?

    I would also be interested to see how you reconcile the seemingly contradictory interpretations. Was the older brother good or not? Were the Pharisees really going to enter into heaven before the publican and whores in direct opposition to what Jesus said?

    Jeffrey Giliam — June 27, 2005 @ 9:13pm

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