Have you ever lost something?
Of course you have! What human being has not ever lost something in his or her life?
How does it feel when you lose something?
If you are anything like me, the range of emotions is quite wide. I usually go from annoyance to frustration to a little bit of anger to more annoyance (unless I have found the object by this point) to maybe even a little bit of sadness. But then the magic moment comes. That moment when you find the item that was lost and immediately the annoyance, frustration and anger subside. Sometimes those feelings are even replaced with a little dose of humility and chagrin.
In my New Testament studies this week, I studied a lot of parables. Three of them deal with lost things and offer three different ways that we get lost from the path that leads back to God.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
In Luke 15:4-7, we read the parable of the lost sheep.
"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
President David O. McKay (1873-1970), a prophet of the Lord, shared some insights about the three parables that I am sharing today. He talked about how each parable teaches about different ways that the children of God stray away from Him. This is what President McKay said about this parable of the Lost Sheep:
"How did that sheep get lost? He was not rebellious. If you follow the comparison, the lamb was seeking its livelihood in a perfectly legitimate manner, but either stupidly, perhaps unconsciously, it followed the enticement of the field, the prospect of better grass until it got out beyond the fold and was lost.
So we have those in the Church...who wander away from the fold in perfectly legitimate ways. They are seeking success, success in business, success in their professions, and before long they become disinterested in the Church and finally disconnected from the fold." (in Conference Report, April 1945, 120-21, 123).
Elder Joseph B Wirthlin (1917-2008), an Apostle of Jesus Christ, shared another take on this parable and who the lost sheep could represent.
"Some [children of God] are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don't belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don't fit in. They conclude that they are not needed. ...
...If we only had more compassion for those who are different from us, it would lighten many of the problems and sorrows in the world today. ...
Some are lost because they are weary. It's easy to feel overwhelmed. With all the pressures and demands on our time and the stress we face each day, it's little wonder we get tired. Many feel discouraged because they have not measure up to their potential. Others simply feel too weak to contribute. And so, as the flock moves on, gradually, almost imperceptibly, some fall behind." ("Concern for the One," Ensign, May 2008, 18-19).
We can return to the arms of that Good Shepherd who loves us wholly and completely, no matter where our wanderings have taken us.
The Parable of the Lost Piece of Silver
The Savior continues His teachings of "lost things" in Luke 15:8-10 with the parable of the lost piece of silver.
"Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
"In this case the thing lost was not in itself responsible. The one who had been trusted with that coin had, through carelessness or neglect, mislaid it or dropped it. ...Our charge is not only coins, but living souls of children, youth, and adults. They are our charges."
“There must be warmth in the work of the Lord. There must be friendship. There must be love unfeigned. There must be appreciation and thanks expressed. There must be constant nurturing with the good word of God. All of these are small things, so easy to do, and they make so great a difference." (“There Must Be Messengers,”Ensign, Oct. 1987, 5).
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
This may be a familiar parable/story for you and it has been analyzed and mentioned many times throughout history. Found in Luke 15:11-32, we learn about a son who demanded that his father give him his inheritance so he could leave and go experience the world. The son went "into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living" (verse 13).
Eventually, he spent his entire inheritance and ended up feeding swine. "He came to himself" (verse 17) and realized his mistakes.
"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants" (verse 18).
And what did the father do when he saw his son? Did he shun him as "tradition" of the day would have had him do? No. He "had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (verse 20).
From Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
“The tender image of this boy’s anxious, faithful father running to meet him and showering him with kisses is one of the most moving and compassionate scenes in all of holy writ. It tells every child of God, wayward or otherwise, how much God wants us back in the protection of His arms” (“The Other Prodigal,” Ensign, May 2002, 62).
I love the painting on the left. It was painted by Liz Lemon Swindle and it is entitled "The Prodigal Son". I think it beautifully depicts the way that our Heavenly Father feels when we return to Him.
Going back to the words of President David O. McKay--He said that in this parable, the person who was lost became lost because of his own choices.
Does that mean that we're done? We make some bad choices, get lost, and then...that's it? No heaven? No salvation? No exaltation? Absolutely not.
Like the Father in the parable, our Father in Heaven is constantly looking over the horizon, waiting and watching for us to use the agency He gave us to choose to come to Him. And, like the father in the parable, He will run to us, have compassion on us, and celebrate our return.
"The parable of the prodigal son teaches us much about the nature and attributes of our Father in Heaven. Like the father in the parable, God will not control us, keep us from straying, or keep us from making selfish, foolish errors. Yet His love never diminishes. He is so anxious to have us return that He will run to us when we are still “a great way off” (Luke 15:20). He knows us so well that He can recognize our better selves when no one else can. Each of us, male or female, will be able to recognize something of ourselves in each of the sons in the parable.
The parable also teaches us about what the Savior does for us when we turn from sin and return to Him. Through the Atonement, He runs to welcome us home and does not require us to make the trek of repentance alone" (New Testament Student Manual, Chapter 18).
We are Never Truly Lost to the Lord
He knows them, loves them, and welcomes them back when they stray.
May we always strive to use our agency to make choices that will lead us back to our Father in Heaven, but...if we mess up, if we make choices that lead us away from Him instead, may we always remember how the Lord feels about things that are lost. He has a plan for their salvation and redemption, and for that, I am truly grateful.