I wish to write of the situation I see regarding the Lord’s vineyard in these last days.
33 … There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
After the triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem described in Matthew, chapter 21, Jesus proceeded to cleanse the temple. We then read that ‘the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.’ It is noted in the scriptures that the chief priests and the elders were ‘sore displeased’ and were likely relieved to see Him leave.
When He returned the next day. It was apparent to them that they had to do something about this upstart that had won the hearts of a considerable number of people. It was in this environment that the chief priests and elders challenged His authority. When they could not answer the question posed by Jesus regarding the authority of the baptism of John, He proceeded to relate two parables, the second of which is found above.
The leaders of the church in that day were offended that Christ would characterize them as self centered murderers. It is ironic that they were indeed conspiring to have the Romans deal with Him. In the above parable, those in charge of the Lord’s vineyard saw His property as their own. They had long maneuvered the organization into one that provided them a life of ease and splendor. One that brought them the praise and admiration of the people. The warning that Christ delivered in Luke 20 is supportive of this same chastisement:
46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;
A modern day representation of this warning would read something like this:
Beware of the general authorities, which desire to walk in their dark business suits, who love speaking at the openings of banks and shopping malls, who sit in the high red seats in front of the masses of the conference center.
What is the modern equivalent of this scripture found in Mosiah, chapter 11?
11 And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people
Unfortunately, the description of a broad expanse of seats raised above the crowd with a pulpit made from a tree which one graced the lot of a prophet. Should we be concerned that there are similarities between the past representations of apostasy within the church and our situation today? Are these chief priests and elders in our midst today following the same path that those of earlier dispensations fell into? Whatever happened to the humble model that Christ used in the selection of the twelve disciples from among the Nephites – ”these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants…”
Does a servant sit in the high seats? Does one who ministers receive privileged parking and limousines? What is there that makes us think we are immune to the same vices that have brought down the past dispensations? Are we, in this generation, incapable of losing our way but with clarity point to the same weaknesses that destroyed the church of God in the past?
Tucked in the back of the LDS Bible is a section entitled the Joseph Smith translation. Little used and rarely quoted, this work by Joseph Smith, under direction of the Lord, was to clarify the writings of the apostles in the meridian of time. One of the more interesting is found here:
JST, MATTHEW 21:47–56 (compare Matthew 21:45–46)
(Jesus declared that he is the chief cornerstone. The gospel is offered to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The wicked shall be destroyed when Jesus returns.)
47. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
48. And they said among themselves, Shall this man think that he alone can spoil this great kingdom? And they were angry with him.
49. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they learned that the multitude took him for a prophet.
50. And now his disciples came to him, and Jesus said unto them, Marvel ye at the words of the parable which I spake unto them?
51. Verily, I say unto you, I am the stone, and those wicked ones reject me.
52. I am the head of the corner. These Jews shall fall upon me, and shall be broken.
53. And the kingdom of God shall be taken from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; (meaning the Gentiles.)
54. Wherefore, on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.
55. And when the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, he will destroy those miserable, wicked men, and will let again his vineyard unto other husbandmen, even in the last days, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
56. And then understood they the parable which he spake unto them, that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard, which is the earth and the inhabitants thereof.
The italicized verses, 48 and 50 through 56, above were added to the original text of Matthew 21. I recall many years ago reading this section and being puzzled by the references to the Jews and the Gentiles. Now it comes with more clarity. It is easy to see the events of history fitting into the description in the verses describing the Jews – that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to the Gentiles. But what of the subsequent reference to those who will be ground to powder? In verse 55, we find that the Lord will, at His coming, destroy the next group of miserable, wicked husbandmen – the Gentiles. This component of the prophecy is to happen when Christ descends out of heaven to reign on earth. I have to assume that this is the description of the circumstances which will be found before His coming – the latter days perhaps?
In this Joseph Smith translation, we find that the same description of the leadership of the Jews version of God’s kingdom on earth in the meridian of time can be applied to the leadership of the Gentiles version of the kingdom of God on earth prior to the second coming – miserable, wicked men.
Ahh, but you say, these verses speak of the nasty Gentiles among whom we righteous must live. I ask who are the husbandmen of the Lord’s vineyard in these latter days? Who is to be tending the church in preparation for His second coming? These verses speak of those who are charged with nurturing the church, not the non-believer.
Wake up to the awful situation we find ourselves in these last days. We are heretofore warned that the Lord’s vineyard will be given to other husbandmen in the last days due to our misery and wickedness. The scriptures are replete with warnings again pride, against building our belief on the arm flesh, against revering man rather than God, against worshiping the works of our own hands.
Just as Christ healed the blind after He cleansed the temple, so too will He heal the ‘blind’ of this day who seek Him out and ask Him the difficult questions about our circumstances.
What think ye?