In my home ward in Pismo Beach, California, Bishop Howard Mankins, who owned a hardware store across the street from the local cemetery, commented during a gospel lesson, “I have seen countless funerals through the windows of my store, and I can tell you that not once have I ever seen a moving van at the graveside.”
The Come, Follow Me resources for May 6-12 remind us to set our hearts on things of eternal importance. As Elder Rafael Pino taught, “The eternal perspective of the gospel leads us to understand the place that we occupy in God’s plan, to accept difficulties and progress through them, to make decisions, and to center our lives on our divine potential.” (“The Eternal Perspective of the Gospel,” Ensign, May 2015).
One of the ways Jesus taught about maintaining a divine perspective was through parables.
The Foolish Rich Man
Jesus illustrates the dangers associated with covetousness or greed in the parable of the foolish rich man. The rich man amasses enormous wealth and resources but never considers sharing his goods with anyone else, causing the Savior to conclude, “he that layeth up treasure for himself … is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:15–21). We need to remember our worth as individuals is not determined by how much we own? In order to heed our Savior’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:39): we must feed the hungry, house the homeless, and care for the needy.
The Unjust Steward
In the parable of the unjust steward, a corrupt man is accused of mismanaging his lord’s goods. Fearing he would lose his livelihood, the unjust steward devises a dishonest scheme to secure his economic future. When the rich lord hears of his steward’s actions, the lord commends him for his cleverness but not for his dishonesty.
Elder James E. Talmage explained that the Lord used this parable “to show the contrast between the care, thoughtfulness, and devotion of men engaged in the money-making affairs of earth, and the half-hearted ways of many who are professedly striving after spiritual riches. The Lord was not suggesting that we should emulate the evil practices of the unjust servant, but that we should seek spiritual wealth with the same eagerness and effort that the servant displayed in seeking material wealth” (New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual 2002, 69-72).
The Great Supper
In the parable of the great supper, a man prepares a huge feast and asks his servant to invite guests to his home. When the servant asks those who were bidden to come to the supper, they refuse, delay, and make excuses. In this parable, Jesus Christ teaches that those who follow Him must be willing to forsake all else and accept gospel invitations when they are given.
In the last year and a half, Sister Jarvis and I have been blessed with many opportunities to share gospel truths. As representatives of Jesus Christ, we have invited many to “a great supper,” and while some have accepted the invitation, many have replied as in the parable, 'I pray thee have me excused' (Luke 14:16-18). Some of their most common answers were: “I’m just too busy”; “God doesn’t communicate with prophets anymore”; or “There are too many rules and restrictions.” We have been disappointed but not discouraged when we heard such responses. We kindly move on—respecting their right to choose. Heavenly Father loves all His children and wants them home, but moral agency is a key part of God’s plan of salvation.
Nevertheless, we should not “procrastinate the day of [our] repentance” (Alma 34:33). President Russell M. Nelson recently emphasized the importance of accepting gospel invitations: “I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out” (“Come, Follow Me,” Ensign, May 2019).
The Prodigal Son
In this parable the younger son asked for his inheritance, left home, lost everything, was starving during a famine: “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee” (Luke 15:12-18). The phrase “came to himself” signals the mighty change of heart that comes when people truly repent and regain their eternal perspective.
We know the prodigal son was welcomed home with loving arms: “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). The joyful reunion teaches that when we make mistakes, even serious ones, we can return to the Lord. He loves us, and will always joyfully welcome us when we repent and return to Him: “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you” (Alma 5:33).
The older brother also needed to learn an important lesson. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explains, “This son is not so much angry that the other has come home as he is angry that his parents are so happy about it. …He forgets for a moment that his faithfulness has been and always will be rewarded. …He has yet to come to the compassion and mercy, the charitable breadth of vision to see that this is not a rival returning. It is his brother. As his father pled with him to see, it is one who was dead and now is alive. It is one who was lost and now is found.” (“The Other Prodigal,” Ensign, May 2002).
The loving father in this parable maintained hope after his prodigal son left, was joyful upon his return, and wisely taught his elder son to have forgiveness and compassion.
Keep an Eternal Perspective
Elder Rafael Pino related a story about a boy who watched and questioned Michelangelo about how he could create the stunning statue of David from a marble block. Elder Pino explains, “The perspective with which the sculptor saw that block of marble was different than that of the boy who was watching him work. The artist’s vision of the possibilities encased in the stone allowed him to create a work of art” (“The Eternal Perspective of the Gospel”) Ensign, May 2015.
Just as the sculptor had the vision to see the finished product in the stone, so can the Lord see the divine potential in His children.
I was especially touched last month when President Russell M. Nelson shared his eternal perspective while recounting his farewell conversation with his cancer-stricken daughter, Wendy: “That evening, we talked of things that matter most, such as covenants, ordinances, obedience, faith, family, fidelity, love, and eternal life. …We miss our daughter greatly. However, because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we do not worry about her. As we continue to honor our covenants with God, we live in anticipation of our being with her again. Meanwhile, we’re serving the Lord here and she is serving Him there—in paradise” (“Come, Follow Me,” Ensign, May 2019).
I am grateful for the plan of salvation. Through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ and His great atoning sacrifice, we have the opportunity to inherit eternal life. We can do so by repenting of our sins, responding positively to gospel invitations, renewing our covenants, listening to the promptings of the Spirit, helping family and neighbors, and serving eagerly to the end.
“You can’t take it with you.” There will be no moving vans, suitcases, or storage bins accompanying us when we journey to paradise. Let us keep an eternal perspective and set our affections “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).