I have decided to finally write down the words that have been in my mind for years about the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and share it with my readers, if I have any left after several long absences. This post was the first that I thought of sharing when I started my blog, but I decided against it because it would show a not-so-pretty side of me. But who is perfect, right?
I remember being a child, sitting in the Kettering ward primary in Ohio and my leaders were teaching the story of the prodigal son. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it and as soon as I heard the topic, I sighed. “Not again. I hate this story. I think the good brother deserves a party.” (I always did like a good party.)
As I got older, I continued to dislike the story. Strange to dislike a scripture story, I know, but I did. I understood that it was a story to teach about how our Heavenly Father will always welcome back the one who goes astray. I often heard people say they loved that story and I would think, “Yeah, of course, because you did something wrong—something big (you know the list of big ones).” But I hadn’t done anything big wrong and I wanted the party, not the whole farm to work on. (Told ya it was a not-so-pretty side.) Then when I got married, it was one of my husband’s favorite scripture stories and it was one of the first church videos we owned.
One day I decided that it was not a good attitude to have about a story in the scriptures, but especially one used by Jesus. So I prayed about being able to see the story and understand what I was missing. I decided to read the story directly from the scriptures, which I hadn’t done in a long time. I can’t remember what verse it was, but while I was reading, I was HIT with this thought that never crossed my mind, “I am the prodigal son, not the good son!” No, I hadn’t done anything that kept me away from the church, but all of my smaller sins were still sins that moved me away from the Spirit and could keep me from my Father’s presence. I read from verse 18 “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee”. That’s true. I had. Of course, I wanted to be welcomed back each time I made a mistake. And then the really big realization hit me, I had been committing one of the BIG sins---pride. That pride had led me to have a lack of compassion for those who made “bigger” mistakes than I did when I didn’t think they were as deserving of a “party” as I was.
This experience helped me in two ways. It helped me understand the atonement better. Every one of us is in need of the atonement just as much as the other since none of us is perfect. And I can also rejoice when one who was lost, is found. Secondly, it helped strengthen my testimony of the power that is in the scriptures. Hearing the stories re-told in different words or watching a movie about the scripture stories are wonderful, but they can’t replace opening the scriptures and reading the words we have been given. That power is special and irreplaceable. I am grateful that I decided to ponder and learn and that my Father blessed me with better understanding of His plan. And you know what? It is one of my favorite scripture stories now.