Parable of the Two Sons

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Question: What lessons from the parable of the man with two sons might help your family?

Answer: To enter the kingdom of God, we must obey our Heavenly Father and repent of our sins rather than only saying or pretending that we obey Him.


A young man often tells his parents that he is attending Church activities when he actually goes to a friend’s house instead. When he is around Church leaders and instructors, he talks and acts as though he keeps Heavenly Father’s commandments, but outside of those settings he knowingly breaks many of the commandments.

A young woman gossips with her friends about several girls in her school but pretends to be friendly to these girls when they are around. She regularly attends church and partakes of the sacrament, but during the meetings she often sends her friends text messages containing criticisms of those around her.

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The following parable is known as The Parable of the Two Sons. The second son in the parable represents the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders who claim to agree to do the work of the Lord, but do not do it.

Matthew 21:28-32

28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

31 Whether of them twain (which of the two) did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots (sinners) believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

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President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, has taught that “love is the very essence of the gospel.” Love is so important that Jesus called it “the first and great commandment” and said that every other particle of the law and words of the prophets hang upon it.

Love is the central motive for all we do in the Church. Every program, every meeting, every action we are part of as disciples of Jesus Christ should spring from this attribute, for without charity, “the pure love of Christ,” we are nothing.

Once we understand this with our mind and heart, once we declare our love for God and for our fellowman, what then? Is feeling compassion and love for others enough? Does declaring our love for God and our neighbor satisfy our obligation to God?

The Parable of the Two Sons

At the temple in Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews approached Jesus to trap Him in His words. The Savior, however, turned the tables on them by telling a story.

“A certain man had two sons,” He began. The father went to the first and asked him to go work in the vineyard. But the son refused. Later that son “repented, and went.” The father then went to his second son and asked him to go work in the vineyard. The second son assured him that he would go, but he never went.

Then the Savior turned to the priests and elders and asked, “Which one of these two sons did the will of his father?”They had to admit that it was the first son, the one who said he would not go but later repented and went to work in the vineyard.

The Savior used this story to emphasize an important principle, it is those who obey the commandments who truly love God.

Perhaps this is why Jesus asked the people to listen to and follow the words of the Pharisees and scribes but not to follow their example. These religious teachers did not walk the talk. They loved to talk about religion, but sadly they missed its essence.

Actions and Our Salvation

In one of the Savior’s final lessons to His disciples, He spoke to them of the Final Judgment. The wicked and the righteous would be separated. The good would inherit eternal life; the wicked would be delivered to eternal punishment.


What was the difference between the two groups? Those who demonstrated their love through action were saved. Those who did not were condemned. True conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and its values and principles will be witnessed by our actions in our daily lives.

In the end, mere declaration of love for God and fellowmen will not qualify us for exaltation. For, as Jesus taught, “not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

What Comes after Love?

The answer to the question “After love, then what?” can be simple and straightforward. If we truly love the Savior, we incline our hearts to Him and then we walk in the path of discipleship. When we love God, we will strive to keep His commandments.

If we truly love our fellowmen, we extend ourselves to help “the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” For they who do these selfless acts of compassion and service, the same are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is what comes after love. This is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 80; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 65; Ensign, September 2016, First Presidency Message, “After Love, Then What?” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.