Editor's note: This is the thirteenth article in a series of excerpts from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s new book, entitled “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.” Color and black-and-white editions of the book are available on Amazon.com and at selected LDS Bookstores (including EbornBooks, BYU Bookstore, and the FAIR LDS Bookstore). An iBooks version is can be purchased from the Apple iBookstore. Downloadable articles and a pdf version of this book are available at www.templethemes.net. Links to the full series are listed at the end.
Author: In discussing temple matters, I have tried to follow the model of Hugh W. Nibley, who was, according to his biographer Boyd Jay Petersen, “respectful of the covenants of secrecy safeguarding specific portions of the LDS endowment, usually describing parallels from other cultures without talking specifically about the Mormon ceremony. This approach earned him a great deal of trust from both General Authorities and from Church members” (B. J. Petersen, Nibley, p. 354). For Nibley’s views on confidentiality as it relates to temple ordinances, see, e.g., H. W. Nibley, On the Sacred and the Symbolic, pp. 553-554, 569-572.]
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
The setting was a small town. A widow—which was a byword for someone reduced to poverty through no fault of her own—had been the victim of some fraud or sharp practice, and in order to recover her money she had to go to law. In such cases, this did not involve a formal sitting of a court; it was sufficient for the parties to agree upon a qualified lawyer to arbitrate between them. The little town, in any case, may have possessed only one such lawyer; if so, the widow’s only hope of redress lay in persuading this lawyer to attend to her case. Now it was a fundamental principle of Jewish justice that a judge received no payment. There was therefore only a moral obligation for the lawyer to attend to all the cases brought before him. This particular lawyer was not sensitive to his moral obligations—he cared nothing for God or man; possibly he waited until litigants brought him a present before he concerned himself with their affairs. But the widow, by again and again thrusting her papers in front of him, finally got her way.
… The justice of the widow’s claim is taken for granted; the point is the difficulty she had in getting it attended to.
Jesus did not indicate that as the wicked judge finally yielded to supplication, so would God do; but He pointed out that if even such a being as this judge, who “feared not God, neither regarded man,” would at last hear and grant the widow’s plea, no one should doubt that God, the Just and Merciful, will hear and answer… The Lord’s purpose in giving the parable is specifically stated; it was “to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” [= Greek ekkakeo, to be weary or to lose heart]
How did Joseph Smith apply this parable to the promises contained in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood? In an 1839 discourse on the topic of the Second Comforter, he taught that it is “our privilege to pray for and obtain” the knowledge that we are sealed up to Eternal Life. As we pray for this privilege, we should also prepare for it. To this end, we are told in revelation to “give diligent heed to the words of eternal life,” and to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” The Prophet explained that it is the First Comforter, the Holy Ghost, which “shall teach you” until the joyous moment when, at last, as the Savior promised, “ye [shall] come to Me and My Father.” Encouraging each of us to follow the example of the importunate widow, Joseph then said:
God is not a respecter of persons. We all have the same privilege. Come to God. Weary Him until He blesses you.
Links to all of the articles in this series-
Part 2 “A Christ-Centered View”
Part 5 “What is the Endowment?”
Part 7 “The Meaning of the Atonement”
Part 13: “Weary Him Until He Blesses You”