As I mentioned last week, the LDS Church has a set curriculum for its adult Sunday School or Gospel Doctrine classes. It also sets much of the curriculum for what is studied during Relief Society (women) and priesthood quorums (men). This year, on the second and third Sundays of each month, they are continuing a series entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church. This year they are studying the life and words of George Albert Smith who was president of the LDS Church from 1945 to 1951. As with the Book of Mormon manual I mentioned last week, you can obtain a copy of this book for just a few dollars from LDS.org.
The first lesson, which will be studied this coming Sunday, is entitled, “Living What We Believe”. Being worthy is the theme that runs throughout the lesson. The following quote reflects the tenor of the lesson.
“I would like to say to the Latter-day Saints, if we are worthy to be called Latter-day Saints, it will be because we are living the lives of saint, and it is the purpose of the Gospel to qualify us in that way. The world has gotten into such a condition and has been deceived by the adversary for such a long time and has declared that the mere belief in God is all that is necessary, that I am fearful for it. That is only a trick of the adversary.” (p. 3)
But what I want to focus on is its treatment of the parable of the wedding feast recorded in Matthew 22. It focuses on the man who was thrown out because he didn’t have a wedding garment on. It then makes the point that we have to be prepared if we will be welcomed by God. “The adversary has so deceived them as to make them believe that no preparation is necessary, anything will do, but in this message that the Savior gave in a parable to his associates we are informed that there must be some preparation and without that preparation no one will be permitted to partake of the more precious gifts of our Heavenly Father.” (p.6) The way we prepare, according to this lesson, is to keep the commandments. “The Lord will be merciful, but he will be just, and if we want any blessing there is only one way we may obtain it, and that is to keep the commandments that will entitle us to the blessing.” (p.7)
Is that really the message the Savior gave with this parable? What is so instructive about that parable is that the custom at royal weddings was that the king would supply a wedding garment for the guests. It would be his gift to them. We don’t know, but the man who was cast out might have been well-dressed. But he wasn’t dressed in the wedding garment that the king had supplied. By not wearing that garment, he dishonored and angered the king. He was thrown out into outer darkness. The thought that these wedding garments were gifts of the king also fits into the context of the parable because the king’s servants went out into the highways and byways to get guests – guests who would not have had the time or even the means to get a wedding garment of their own.
It’s obvious the point Jesus was making is that in order to enter God’s presence you need to be wearing the clothes he has given us. These are the clothes Isaiah talked about when he said: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful to my God; for he hath clothed me with garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (61:10). Note that Isaiah said the Lord clothed him – the Lord covered him with the robe of righteousness. Isaiah’s robe of righteousness was given him by the Lord.
That robe of righteousness is the robe Jesus wove for us when he kept the commandments perfectly for us. It’s all about his works, not our work. It’s all about his gift to us, not our obtaining his blessing by living worthily. It’s all about me not making or obtaining my own wedding clothes, but rather being clothed by the Lord.
And notice how high the stakes are. Anyone not wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness is cast into outer darkness (Matthew 22:13). A couple of times this lesson mentions that the adversary (Satan) has deceived people. I agree. But the sobering truth is that Satan’s deception is the teaching that we, in any way, merit or obtain the blessing of living with heavenly Father for all eternity. That is God’s gift to us. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)