The Parable of the Laborers

I have written this article, but its springing into existence was a joint effort between LHB and myself, however we take no credit because we can do nothing good of ourselves. (11, 12)

In Matthew 20:1-16 is a parable that describes the hiring of laborers and the reward that seems unjustly given to those who wrought but a small portion of the day.

"For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

"Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

"So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

The time laborers are hired is relative to each other, and not terribly important to which we need to set specific times.  Some have had to labor longer much longer than we have and have born the heat of the day, and even the darkness of the morning.  We are the beneficiaries of their labor.  LHB and I have perhaps come in some time in the late morning or mid-day.  We hope our family will have eyes to see soon. Others will come later, even at the last hour.

Those who repent at the last hour are still welcome, they are in no wise cast off.  They can receive the same reward the we hope to receive at the end of the day.  All of us are on different rungs of Jacob's ladder, we have all come for the same purpose.  We all have a mission to accomplish.  We are here to achieve what the Lord has specifically crafted, differently for each person that we need learn in this life.  We all have something that needs to be revealed about ourselves and our own character that will rise with us in the resurrection. (5)  We can all achieve exaltation by being made glad in the joy of the countenance of our Lord if our hearts are pure (1) and we are humble.  Are any of us worth of exaltation?  Of course not.  None of us are worthy of exaltation except the Lord.  Only the Savior has worked out His salvation from grace to grace until he attained unto the resurrection of the dead (2) and became the great fulcrum upon which the entirety of creation rests.  Can we all receive the same reward on the merits of Christ? Yes, if we follow His conditions.  Christ himself received the reward, and can anyone boast of having labored as long or bore sufferings, humiliations and contradictions as powerful as He?

Those who come when the signs have become obvious, when the Lord causes the "wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth" (3) those who can then, at that time, finally perceive the signs of the times, who repent and come and seek the Lord, will they likewise receive the penny?  Yes, and those first laborers should not only not complain or be jealous, but rejoice that their brethren have been saved.

However it cannot be said that those who are the first laborers are equal in the eternal balance with the last because even in the parable, we are only judging by a single day. (8)  Is each day to be the same?  Will the last laborers decide to be last again?  Or will those who came to labor last, will they learn wisdom and will the bear with the Lord and be the first laborers on the next day? (4)  Joseph said it will be great while after we have passed through the veil before we learn all the principles of exaltation.  Yet the grace we achieve here will rise with us and will give us so much the advantage (to ourselves, not compared to others) in the world to come. (5)

Each laborer who faithfully labors will receive a crown, yet they all throw down their crowns at the feet of their Lord. (9)

If the Lord knows all things, why did Abraham need to sacrifice Isaac?  Was he proving something to the Lord?  Was he proving something to himself? Was it revealing something to Abraham that spoke as a revelation about himself something that would rise with him in the eternities to come?  Was the sacrifice a type of what the Father himself would have to go endure with His Son? Was it preparing Abraham for a greater exaltation?  We are not even worthy of Abraham's exaltation, we have not been called upon to make as great a sacrifice as him.

There are many time frames.  We can look at the laborers in our generation, as in the first laborers who have seen and been counseled by the Lord and who teach others who already see something amiss, and then those who come later when it is even more obvious.  In other words, those who come in the beginning of a generation and those at the end of that generation.  This is one of the relative time frames.  There are time frames where we see the souls God declared to be "noble and great" like Abraham who are considered to have labored earlier than most of us in the eternities before the foundation of this world, who have climbed Jacob's ladder and have come to prove us, as well as attain a greater grace and exaltation for themselves. (6) 

For the main purposes of this article, we're talking about the time frame of our own generation -- the fourth generation after the Lord's condemnation of the church. We have labored early, but we still have yet to receive a reward.  We should not be jealous of the reward of those who come later.  We should rejoice.  The Lord has all things in his hand, he knows and is in and through all things. (11, 12) He is able, is grace is sufficient for all men who come unto him, even in the last hour.

The parable ends like so many: "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." Who is the last in these verses? Who is the first?  In a description of those who will be invited to the Lord's wedding feast (D&C 58:8-11), who was first?  Who was last?  Who are the lame, the blind and the deaf?  Are they lame and blind and deaf literally?  Do these maladies describe their true spiritual condition, or do they describe a condition of how they are judged by the rich, the learned, the wise and the noble? Are the rich, wise, learned and noble a description of their true spiritual standing, or by how they esteem themselves in their own eyes? Does the Lord work in power among these "high" ones, or does he work in power among the poor, lame, blind and deaf?

I end this article with another parable:

"Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field. And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance. And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance. And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you; And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth. And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord. And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth. And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last; Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.

"Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made. And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (D&C 88:51-63)

May we all likewise seek the face of our Lord, at whatever time we enter the field. (10)



1. "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

2. "And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the record of John. I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness." (D&C 93:18-19)

3. "I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30)

4. "When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave." (Joseph Smith, HC volume 6 chapter 14)

5. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19)

6. "Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever." (Abraham 3:22-26)

7. "But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit. For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal—First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed." (D&C 29:30-33)

8. "The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:1-2)

9. "The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Revelation 4:10-11)

10. "Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;" (D&C 93:1)

11. "He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things." (D&C 88:6-13)

12. "I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2:21)