(This article was adapted from my 7-book Pillars of Zion series. CLICK HERE to receive your free PDF books.)
Many saints are called to the marriage of the King’s Son, but few will be allowed to attend. The Lord’s conditions, admonitions and warnings are clearly delineated in remarkable parable of the royal feast.
The verses contained in Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-46 have been referred to as the Constitution of the Priesthood. These verses are among the “plain and precious”[i] parts of the gospel that the Lord restored in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained that this section contains an “elaboration [that] is given nowhere else in scripture! It is a significant part of the fulness of the Restoration and includes counsel on how human foibles can keep us from gaining access to the powers of heaven and how power and authority are to be exercised.”[ii]
Of the many who are called to eternal life, evidently only a few will distinguish themselves in the priesthood by abiding the principles of the Constitution of the Priesthood and thereby earn their reward.
The “elaboration” mentioned above by Elder Maxwell refers to the Savior’s parable of the royal feast found in Matthew 22:1-10. In this parable, “a certain king” sends his servants out to “call them that were bidden to a marriage for his son.” Elder James E. Talmage writes, “The invitation of a king to his subjects is equivalent to a command. The marriage feast was no surprise event, for the selected guests had been bidden long aforetime; and, in accordance with oriental custom were notified again on the opening day of the festivities.”
As we shall see, this parable delineates those who are called from those who are chosen.
According to custom, the select guests who had been invited to the marriage would have included the king’s family and close friends. In Jewish custom, such guests are first honored by the king’s sending them an invitation and subsequently are more honored when they arrive at the wedding. They comprise the king’s inner circle, those whom he knows and loves best. When they arrive at the wedding, the king has them clothed in beautiful wedding garments and treated with great respect.
Sadly, in the case of this “certain king,” “many of the bidden guests refused to come when formally summoned; and of the tolerant king’s later and more pressing message they made light and went their ways, while the most wicked turned upon the servants who brought the royal summons, mistreated them cruelly, and some of them they killed.”
The latter-day interpretation of this parable should be obvious. These select guests, who are members of the King‘s family and his closest friends, are they who have taken upon them his name, and who profess to love him and his Son, and who have a right to attend this most sacred event. They are the Church–us!
Only those who have covenanted their allegiance to the King could be invited to the marriage of his Beloved Son. Elder Talmage concurs: “The guests who were bidden early, yet who refused to come when the feast was ready, are the covenant people.”[iii]
We should note that, according to Elder McConkie, the bride of the Bridegroom is also us, “the Church composed of the faithful saints who have watched for his return,” the Saints whom the Bridegroom will come to claim. We are the Lord‘s bride, that is, the few who are called and chosen.
Realization of the Royal Marriage
The marriage of the supper of the Lamb that is described in this parable is an actual future event. Elder McConkie explained:
“The elders of Israel by preaching the message of the restoration are inviting men to come to that supper. For this cause I have sent you,’ the Lord says to his missionaries, that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail; yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited. First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble; and after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.’ (D. & C. 58:6-11; 65:3.)”
Of that event, Elder McConkie also wrote: “Soon the scripture shall be fulfilled which saith: The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ (Rev. 19:7-9.)”[iv]
The Many and the Few
In the parable of the royal feast, we are awed by the honor extended to the “many,” who were called to the marriage, and simultaneously we are appalled that so “few” responded. Some of them had actually grown so hardened against the King that they reacted with open rebellion. Of course, only a small number of Latter-day Saints would be in that company. However, the group that should frighten us most is the one that “made light” of the invitation, those who “went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.”[v]
Of this group, Elder Talmage writes, “The turning away by one man to his farm and by another to his merchandise is in part an evidence of their engrossment in material pursuits to the utter disregard of their sovereign’s will; but it signifies further an effort to deaden their troubled consciences by some absorbing occupation; and possibly also a premeditated demonstration of the fact that they placed their personal affairs above the call of their king.”[vi] Unfortunately, many will belong to this group and thus forfeit their call to the wedding.
Will the King allow his Son‘s marriage to go unattended? No.
Elder Talmage writes:
“Finding the guests who had some claim on the royal invitation to be utterly unworthy, the king sent out his servants again, and these gathered in from the highways and cross-roads, from the byways and the lanes, all they could find, irrespective of rank or station, whether rich or poor, good or bad; and the wedding was furnished with guests.'”
Elder Talmage concludes, “The children of the covenant will be rejected except they make good their title by godly works; while to the heathen and the sinners the portals of heaven shall open, if by repentance and compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel they shall merit salvation.”[vii]
Were it not for modern revelation, we might assign this parable solely to the Jews in the meridian of time.
A Grievous Sin
But a phrase in this parable links it to us, we who would be the Zion people of the latter-days; that phrase is: “many are called, but few are chosen.”[viii] In 1833, the Lord commanded the brethren to attend to their priesthood duties, saying, “There are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen. They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day. . . . If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.”[ix]
That “grievous sin” is a result, in part, from our straying from the ordinances and thus breaking the everlasting covenant: “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.”[x]
The marriage of the king’s son contains imagery that reminds us of the conflict between Zion and Babylon. The king had called many guests to the wedding. These people were friends and family, those who should have shown the most interest and who should have exhibited the greatest loyalty. Nevertheless, the “many” would not make the time, or they spurned the invitation outright.
We see in their actions Babylon captivating the children of Zion and seducing them with idolatry, the love of mammon over the love of God. In the end, only a few of the called actually attended the wedding. How we choose to respond to the King‘s call will determine our loyalties and identify the group to which we will belong.
“Many Will Say to Me in That Day”
When we examine the parable of the royal feast, we shudder when we read of the guest who tried to enter the marriage without a wedding garment.[xi] Perhaps he was attempting to enter without submitting to the laws governing the wedding; or maybe he had received the garment and then removed or rejected it.
In any case, a terrible wo is pronounced upon such people who mock the King: “And [the king] saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”[xii]
There is a lesson here concerning Zion. All are invited to become Zion people and to gain an inheritance in Zion; all are called to eternal life when they receive the new and everlasting covenant. But only they who keep the Covenant have actual claim to the blessings of Zion. No one can enter illegitimately. No citizen of Babylon is welcome.
Because a person professes to be part of Zion does not mean that he actually is a Zion person. How he honors his garment, which symbolizes his devotion to his Covenant, determines his place at the royal wedding. They who treat the Covenant lightly, who go “their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise,” will be excluded and replaced. They who refuse to submit to the laws of the wedding and pay homage to other gods rather than to the one true God will be cast out. Sadly, the people who make up these groups seem to be the “many.”
Of the “many,” they who are invited to the wedding, the Lord says, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”[xiii]
We should note here that priesthood holders are included in this scripture. We have established the fact that the “many” are they who have been called to eternal life, but have forfeited their calling through neglect or disobedience. In this scripture, they, the “many,” will perform all sorts of marvelous works and yet in the end come up short. The Lord says that they have spent their days working iniquity, which is that “grievous sin” which we discussed above.
We know that sin so well, for it is common to Babylon: the love of money, power, and popularity. The “many” have attempted to embrace both God and mammon, they have sought power and recognition while professing Zion, and in the process they have abandoned their calling, forfeited the blessings of the priesthood, and will be excluded from the wedding feast.
Why? Because the works that they had dedicated themselves to were classified as iniquitous. Their grievous sin was idolatry, which places love of God second to love of money, power, and popularity. These things always result in oppressive class distinction and inequality, strife, and persecution; they stand in stark contrast to the unity, equality, peace, and charity required by the celestial law of Zion.[xiv] Therefore, the Lord said, “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.
Clearly, many saints will forfeit their invitation to the wedding because they “go [their] way” and love their “merchandise” more than they love God and his needy children. Thus, even now, “many” saints are staggering under the weight of the Lord’s condemnation. When we treat lightly our covenants and spend our time and effort pursuing vain ambitions, our minds become darkened with unbelief and neglect, and we run the risk of losing our calling.
Then when the time of the wedding arrives, “many” of us might find ourselves excluded. This condition of darkness is apparently so widespread in the latter days that the Lord’s condemnation “resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.”[xvi] The many! Pray, therefore, that we come to ourselves and strive to become the “few,” who are both called and chosen.
[i] 1 Nephi 13:34.