The scripture teach that the Savior spent time with those who were considered “unworthy” because they were not every good at keeping the commandments. He had great compassion for them and blessed, encouraged, and forgave them. On one occasion, the Savior visited the home of a Pharisee named Simeon. As an invited guest the Savior arrives and befriends a known sinner, a women and enters with her. The scripture says:
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Luke 7:37 – 38
Try to imagine this scene by considering how you and your family would react if you were asked by your Bishop to host a dinner for a visiting apostle and he arrives with a woman known to be a pole dancer in a local bar. Can you imagine your surprise as they both enter your home, she is weeping, and singular focused on the General Authority, and in a few minutes after sitting for dinner, begins to wash his feet with tears, and wipe them with her hair, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with an ointment? What would you be thinking? Would you like Simeon say to yourself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39
The Savior, and remember what the word “Savior” means, taught Simeon, using a short parable, one of the most interesting concepts or doctrines regarding forgiveness ever revealed:
Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged…Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. Luke 7:40 – 48
We see many different kinds of people represented in the scriptures and in our Wards and Stakes. There are those who are like Nephi, on one extreme, who seem to have been nearly perfect all their lives, and then there are those on the other extreme, who are like the woman, have come from a background of sin. Then there are all those in between.
The Book of Mormon teaches powerfully of those, like the woman who accompanied the Savior, who are “the vilest of sinners” and become holy and pure because they embraced the atonement of Jesus Christ and received forgiveness. Consider the father and son prophets, Alma 1 & 2, the four sons of Mosiah, and the converted Lamanites, to name a few.
When one has been forgiven of much, then having been so forgiven the love they have for the Savior may be greater than those who are forgiven of little.
As I said to begin with, I know something of what this sinful woman experienced and felt when the Savior of the world forgave her. It would be interesting if we knew more about her.
I came to the Bloggernacle and have testified about my miracle of forgiveness. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the lamb slain before the foundation of the world for our sins. His message to us today is to repent, saying:
Wherefore, I command you to repent, and keep the commandments which you have received by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., in my name;
And it is by my almighty power that you have received them;
Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore-how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit-and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink-
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.
And I command you that you preach naught but repentance… D&C 19:13 – 21
The Savior of the world, He who was and is without sin, descended below all things and therefore has the capacity to save all those who come to Him seeking forgiveness. It’s interesting to understand from what He taught Simeon about forgiveness—those who have the greatest debt may be those who love Him the most when forgiveness is obtained.
Some, who are like Nephi, and feel they have lived a nearly perfect life, to them it might seem like an insult to think that a woman of ill-repute, an immoral creature, could somehow experience a dimension of love for the Savior that might exceed their own, as the Savior teaches here, is beyond their willingness to accept. But I ask, when the Savior of the world forgives sins are those who are the most filthy prior to receiving forgiveness still tainted somehow? Are their garments, after being washed by the Blood of the Lamb, less white than those who sinned to a lesser degree?
Some among us may not like the message in this parable anymore than the message contained in the parable of the labors (Matt 20:1-16).
The graphic example of the converted Lamanites is a notable illustration of the Saviors parable of the two debtors. Before their conversion their described as, “…a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them…” After their conversion the Book of Mormon says they, “…never did fall away…they became a righteous people…they were distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end…And thus they were a zealous and beloved people, a highly favored people of the Lord.” (Alma 17:14; 27:21,30)
It appears the converted Lamanites realized a dimension of faith, as individuals, and as a group, that have few equals in all of scripture.
In light of this parable LDS need to be cautious in our thinking about those who are like the woman who accompanied the Savior at Simeon’s house.
Who are the wicked then? The scriptures answer this question:
For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked… D&C 84:51 – 53
In other words, the worst sinners are those who fail to respond to the Spirit when it is extended to them. Every soul will have the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who accept it will be made clean, no matter the depth of sin they may have committed. Those who choose to reject it will not be made clean, no matter how little they may have sinned.
And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out. 2 Nephi 25:29