Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Master’s Houses

All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitudes in parables, and without a parable spoke he not unto them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

—Matthew 7:8 RE

Christ’s parables reveal and conceal, teach and train, uplift and upbraid, all with the purpose of helping us repent and come unto him. Each has lessons for each of us and personal applications. They can be wonderful keys to self-awareness.

In the parable of the sower, our Lord gave four locations in which seed landed when sown by the sower, together with the outcomes for each location. Unable to grasp the meaning of what the Lord had given, the disciples asked him why he spoke in parables. He replied as follows:

Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given; for whoever receives, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance. But whoever continues not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he has. Therefore, I speak to them in parables because they seeing, see not, and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning them, which says, By hearing you shall hear and shall not understand, and seeing you shall see and shall not perceive; for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 7:2 RE)

This statement from our Lord makes it clear the parable is a tool with at least three functions:

  1. To reveal truth to those willing to receive and act on it.
  2. To conceal truth from those who are unwilling to receive, understand or act on it. 
  3. To divide those who will receive and those who will not.

The Lord then continues, speaking specifically to his disciples: 

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. And blessed are you because these things have come unto you that you might understand them. (Matthew 7:3 RE)

These disciples had recognized and followed the Lord when others had not. They recognized his words as originating from a divine source. They were his sheep because they heard and recognized his voice. They fit the definition of righteousness in that they received and obeyed the Lord’s word, even when apparently issued from a Galilean carpenter’s son. 

Christ next explained to them the parable of the sower, noting that the four locations for the seed represented four types of people, categorized by the way they received the word. Given his immediately previous explanation of those who receive and those who do not, this expansion of the parable can be seen as a further clarification regarding those who do and do not receive the word. Simply put, some receive the word in the beginning but for various reasons never become fruitful. And among those who do produce fruit, there are marked differences in the quantity. 

It’s interesting, I suppose, to read the parable and its explanation, then move onto the next one. But is this all our Lord intended? Wouldn’t it be far more profitable to do some introspection and soul searching as a result of this parable? Wouldn’t it be useful to consider carefully which group you fit into, and what evidence says so? Ultimately, will pondering and prayer make this parable a tremendous boon to self-awareness and understanding? 

It’s natural to think oneself in the group that bears fruit—even prolifically. But my own consideration of the parable convinces me I am in some ways the wayside, the stony places, and the thorns. I don’t know that I can point to any fruit worthy to be laid up agains the season. (See Jacob 3 RE). The parable hits a bit too close to home for comfort. 

I don’t fit neatly into any single one of the categories. All are instructive to me and help me to be more aware of my faults and needed improvements. 

The Master’s House

I’d like to suggest we give the same sort of consideration to the Parable of the Master’s House. But first some background. As you probably recall, when the Lots statement of principles was completed and taken to the Lord for his approval, several remarkable things happened.

  1. The Lord gave an extended and detailed parable for us to consider, now commonly called the Parable of the Master’s House.
  2. He accepted the Lots statement.
  3. He approved the Lots statement to be added to the scriptures. 
  4. He gave important counsel to us all regarding how we treat one another. (See T&C 176)
  5. Then, six months later, he approved the scriptures containing the statement and claimed them as his own in a seven-fold declaration. At that point he took possession of the scriptures, including the Lots statement, as his own word. (See T&C 177)

Each of the above is very significant (as are all the Lord’s acts and pronouncements.) For all the difficulties and troubles encountered in the process of creating the Lots statement, for all the hurt feelings, pride, penitence, tears, trials and trouble, the fact that the Lord accepted and approved it is remarkable and significant. He claimed the scriptures as his own, including the Lots statement, in the following language:

These scriptures are sent forth to be my warning to the world, my comfort to the faithful, my counsel to the meek, my reproof to the proud, my rebuke to the contentious, and my condemnation of the wicked. They are my invitation to all mankind to flee from corruption, repent and be baptized in my name, and prepare for the coming judgment. (T&C 177:3)

Naturally, the process of arriving at and creating the Lots statement could have and should have gone better. But with the Lord’s acceptance, approval, and taking of ownership of the statement, he brought the effort to a close and encouraged us to reflect and improve. 

The parable of the Master’s House begins and ends with two questions: What have you learned? and What ought you to have learned? As an aid to considering these two questions, the Lord gives a parable tracing the story of three groups who responded to the Master’s command to build a house: The  wood workers, the brick makers, and the stone haulers.

The wood workers interpreted the command to build a house in a place where there was no stone to mean there must be trees, and they therefore brought woodworking tools and hastened to the site. When they found there were no trees, they returned and joined the stone haulers. Interestingly, they attempted to dissuade the brick makers from even going to the site, insisting that hauling stone must be the right approach.

The brick makers were not deterred and arrived at the site with no pre-conceived notions of how the house would be built. They simply obeyed and went to the site the Lord had chosen. Upon finding nothing with which to build the house, rather than abandoning the site and joining the stone effort, they considered the Lord’s command and placed trust in him that he chose the right place. Upon clearing brush and dirt to prepare for construction, they encountered clay with which to make bricks and they started building. 

The stone haulers decided that the Lord’s command to build a house in a place where there was no stone implied they must bring their own stones with them. They commenced the arduous and backbreaking process of hauling stones the long distance to the site. The wood workers, having found no trees, soon joined them in hauling stone. 

When the brick makers discovered the clay and began to build the master’s House, they sent messengers to the stone haulers to come join the effort underway. 

They said, Come now quickly with us, for we have found clay to make bricks at the place the master has chosen, and with you we can accomplish what the master commanded. Many were willing, and some were offended, and some wanted to stop all effort, and return to their master and tell him his command was too great. They argued among themselves, and for a moment forgot their master’s command, and forgot those who were laboring to make bricks from clay at the place the master had chosen.

After a season of quarreling and disputing, some said, We have neglected our master’s command long enough. We go to help make bricks of clay to build our master’s house at the place he has commanded. Seeing some depart, those who remained called for all to reason together because the labor was hard and the loss of even a few made moving stones even more difficult. Soon, many others went to join in making bricks. A few others returned to complain to the master. Another few continued to move the stones with little hope to complete their labor to build their master a stone house such as he had before. (T&C 176:8-9)

Here are some observations to consider:

All three groups started with good intentions and potentially workable approaches. But like the parable of the sower, we find further divisions among the stone haulers when they heard the news that the solution had been found and construction was underway and had started without their stone.

  • Many were willing to accept the brick approach, and joined the effort.
  • Some were offended, which really makes me question why. I’m left to assume they were so invested in their approach that hearing of another approach that was actually successful caused them to be offended, rather than glad. I therefore conclude they were more devoted to the approach they had chosen than they were to seeing the house built. They were more invested in being right than being obedient. 
  • Some wanted to stop all effort (including the actual construction on the house) and return to complain to the master. This is curious to me because there was an effort that was actually succeeding. Therefore the complaint that the command was too great was patently false. These folks wanted to lie to the master and prevent anyone from succeeding if it was not done their way. They literally wanted to halt the master’s work and actively work against it. They were, in this sense, anti-master.
  • Naturally, arguments ensued, which were not productive at all. The quarreling and disputing did nothing to advance the master’s work, and only wasted everyone’s time while neglecting the master’s command. Disputation is never productive.
  • Finally, some tired of disputing and decided to withdraw from disputing and instead assist in the successful labor. 
  • Of the remaining stone haulers, some went to complain to the master, and some kept up the doomed stone moving effort despite the fact that the house was being built without them. It appears they were more devoted to moving stone for the sake of moving stone than they were to keeping the master’s commandment. 
  • Ultimately some of this group were so stubborn and insistent on hauling stone, that they were found still dragging their stones along after the house was completed and the master’s command was satisfied! Naturally there is no logic to these actions, and we are left to conclude they were simply too invested in hauling stone to care about anything else. 
  • The servants who had completed the house took up a new labor with the stones to pave the road leading to the house, so the labor of the stone haulers was not lost. The master praised the effort and accepted the house and the road. 
  • Ultimately, the stone effort, though not contributing to the house at all, did serve to pave the way for people coming to the master’s house. In this way, it was a blessing to others.

OK, with all that to consider, we’re left asking where we each fit into the parable. Here are some general observations:

  1. There were many approaches attempted to fulfill the Lord’s command in the Statement of Principles project. Each had its proponents and its detractors. Some insisted there must be only one way and if theirs was was not adopted by everyone they would attempt to shut down the project and prevent anyone from succeeding. 
  2. Some, upon learning their approach was not getting traction, insisted that all work must STOP immediately so we could complain to the Lord. Literally.
  3. Ultimately a successful approach was found and many joined in supporting it. This does not diminish the other approaches in any way, as there was honor in all of the labor by all of the groups. Really the method was never the problem; rather the issue was all our hearts. 
  4. Some refused to join the successful approach or accept it upon completion, finding fault with the method used or the content of the outcome. Some continued hauling stones, so to speak. 
  5. And yet, the Lord finds honor in all who labored faithfully, even in hauling stone rather than building the house. 
  6. The challenge we all face is how to take those efforts that ultimately didn’t reach completion (stones) and use them in a positive way to pave the road to the master’s house. The Lord urged us to see honor in the work of others. To me, this means that all the efforts were valuable and instructive, and can pave the way for our ascent to the master’s house if we will use them in that way. But to do so, they must be laid down and considered without attachment. You can’t pave with stones you aren’t willing to lay down.

Like the parable of the sower, I see myself reflected in the various groups. In some ways I was a stone hauler, in some ways I was a wood worker, and in some ways I was a brick maker. I believe everyone involved likewise fits multiple categories. I’m specifically not pointing the finger at anyone and placing them into any category or another. That is an exercise for each of us to do on our own, privately weighing our own hearts, with the Lord’s help. 

Since there is need for but one house, if that house is the Statement of Principles, that project is finished. There is not need for another, nor need for ongoing work on what the Lord has already accepted, approved, and claimed as his own. In that sense, the house is completed and accepted, and we should celebrate having completed the master’s command.

On the other hand, if the parable also has application to the actual Master’s House, meaning the temple to be built, then the parable takes on whole new levels of meaning we should consider. 

The Master’s House

Today, March 1, 2023, is a significant date. It marks the conclusion of 40 years of ministry for Denver Snuffer, whose ministry began on March 1, 1983. The number 40 is significant enough, often being associated with testing, trial  or probation, and with new beginnings and change at the conclusion of the 40-unit period. For example, the children of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert, and at the conclusion of that period, experienced a new beginning in the promised land. Christ fasted for 40 days, and at the conclusion of that period began his public ministry. 

It’s reasonable to expect change, perhaps a new beginning, at the conclusion of this 40-year period. Will the Lord look upon his covenant people and find a people who choose to not dispute? People who love one another and labor willingly alongside each other? People sufficiently humble and prepared to build the Master’s House? 

Starting tonight, and going into tomorrow morning, March 2nd, Jupiter and Venus will experience a conjunction. These are the two brightest lights (other than the moon) in the night sky. They represent the divine masculine and the divine feminine, whose union is the root of all creation and new beginnings. This is the third major celestial event involving Jupiter since the 2017 sign of the woman announced the birth of God’s kingdom and the renewal of the Lord’s covenant. I believe such a sign overhead on the first day after the 40 year completion is highly significant and holds forth the possibility of a new beginning in the Lord’s work now underway. 

But the road to the Master’s House must first be paved with the stones we no longer care to haul. We must be willing to lay them down—all of them—to free our hearts and minds for a greater work. For me, at least, this involves laying down our disputes, contentions, hurt feelings, pride, ambition, fears and sorrows left over from the Statement of Principles project, considering it closed and completed, and allowing it to pave the way to something much greater. 

Make no mistake—disputes only last as long as there is someone willing to dispute. It is a choice, and we can choose to lay those stones down, to forgive, love, and move forward together in peace. I believe the time to do that is now. Today. Not tomorrow, or next week, or next year. We may well miss the opportunity of a lifetime because we’re still hauling stones instead of building the Master’s House. In the parable, there is a sharp demarcation drawn showing we can’t do both, and we must decide which we value more. 

I pray we will value the Master’s House more than hauling stones. I pray we will all take time today for introspection, consideration of the Lords word, repentance, forgiveness, and pleading to heaven that we might be found worthy servants to build something much greater than a paved road.

The more one contends with others the more he is taken captive by the spirit of contention. Everyone becomes subject to the spirit they submit to follow. Those who are prone to contention become more contentious as they listen to that spirit. Eventually they are overcome by that spirit, and it is a great work involving great effort to subdue and dismiss that spirit from the heart and mind of the victim. There are many who dispute the inspiration others have received. There are two concerns with the decision a good person makes to dispute with others: First, the Lord’s example is to refrain from disputing, as He did. When confronted, He would respond, but He did not go about picking a fight with others…

Second, the Lord has given the Doctrine of Christ in scripture. Just before the Doctrine of Christ, He says what His doctrine is not: Neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there hath hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the Devil, who is the father of contention; and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another, but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away (3 Nephi 5:8). And then He proceeds to declare His doctrine of Christ. The more contention and disputation there is with one another, the better the people become at contention. Rhetorical skills are polished. That spirit of contention can take possession, and when it does, one is hard-pressed to be a peacemaker with others. 

—Glossary, “Contention” 

And I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you. 

—3 Nephi 8:9 RE