The Prodigal Son had a horrible nightmare as he slept among the swine in a far-away land. He was starving, and all alone except for the pigs. He had been considering going home to his Father for several months, but his pride just wouldn’t let him. In his fevered, malnourished state, he slept and dreamt that he stood on a hill near his old home and watched himself returning to his Father’s house. From the hill he saw himself in his Father’s embrace, and he heard himself begin to speak. As he listened to himself saying these 10 things to his Father, he tried to scream and run and stop himself, but as is the way in nightmares, he was mute and frozen. All he could do was listen in horror from the hill on which he stood.
1. “Father, you offended me, and it is your fault I left. I hope you feel bad that you’re driving us younger sons and daughters away in droves. And how dare you suggest that feeling offended is a choice? Feelings just are. No, not your feelings, my feelings just are. Your feelings are irrelevant and don’t matter.”
2. “Father, I decided to leave and ended up starving and living with swine, and it was very painful. Even though you’re not suggesting it wasn’t painful, even though everyone seems to understand that it was painful, I’m still going to make a vigorous straw man argument that it was very painful to leave and live among the swine.”
3. “Father, it really offends me that someone noticed that I ‘wasted my substance’ and engaged in ‘riotous living’ (Luke 15:13). I don’t care if people were worried about how I was living, the dangerous things I was doing, the opportunities I was missing, and the eternal blessings I was denying myself. I feel judged. How dare they judge me! I get to judge everyone, but no one gets to judge me. There’s a coming revolution in this town and hopefully close-minded judgmental two-dimensional people like you who stayed here will see the light and become deep, loving, caring, thoughtful and interesting like me and all the others who’ve left. I know that many people who leave don’t feel the way I do, but I’ll still presume to speak for them all.”
4. “Father, why did you run to greet me and embrace me?! It pressured me. You should have waited until I was ready to come into the house. Next thing, you’re probably going to say that you’ve been praying for me, which is so hurtful and selfish and offensive.”
5. “Father, now you want to kill the fatted calf? Really? You should have done that when I lived here before, and maybe I wouldn’t have left. I don’t want it now.”
6. “Father, I may be back, but I still have deep feelings of strong dislike for the Prophet Abraham, and I heard a lot of new bad stories about him while I was gone, so don’t be offended if I want to talk about how he was a fallen prophet or maybe not really a prophet at all. I no longer believe in many of the teachings of Isaiah or Elijah either. I’m also offended by many of the scriptures and doctrines you teach. The Gospel had better change its fundamental doctrines to agree with what’s popular out in the world, or I just might leave again for good.”
7. “Father, I picked up a lot of bad habits while I was gone, and you had better not encourage me to repent, because that is so judgmental and it causes shame. In fact, if you don’t stop using the words like ‘repentance’, and ‘atonement’ altogether, I will pull out my trump-card: A suicide statistic about the youth in this town. I know nothing gouges out your heart better than unfairly suggesting that the Gospel and you are the reasons that the youth are killing themselves. Deep down, I know that suicide is a multi-faceted and complex mental health issue with no easy answers, but I just want to hurt you so bad while I gain a following for myself, so I’m going to keep accusing the Gospel and you of causing people to kill themselves.”
8. “Father, I did not leave because of sin, and I know that’s what you and everyone else is thinking. I left because I had very deep questions that no one could answer, even though the scriptures and prophets and even you gave me many inspired suggestions for how to work through my questions and doubts.”
9. “Father, by the way, I was deeply involved in serious sin for years before I left, but it’s your fault for putting so much pressure on me and for being so judgmental. Father, you seem very silent and sad, so I can tell I’m really getting through to you. A few people in town have gathered to listen to my rhetoric, so I guess I’m gaining quite the following. If people agree with me, that means I’m right.”
10. “Father, even though I’ve been gone for years while you faithfully kept things going around here, I’m still going to criticize and judge everyone and everything here. I feel quite entitled to do that. You’re all narrow-minded, hypocritical, biased, judgmental, out-of-touch, you don’t really love or care about others, you don’t spend your funds or time on the correct things, you’re selfish, you have an agenda, you either try too hard or don’t try hard enough, you’re unsophisticated in meetings with political heads of state, and you’re not willing to obsess with me over the mistakes I think I found in Genesis and Exodus, which makes you a bad listener. Yes, I just exemplified most of these characteristics as I spoke to you, but I don’t care. Father, your eyes are glazed over, and you look bored and irritated, like you don’t want to listen to me anymore. That’s proof that you don’t care about me! Sure you’ve heard these same insulting arguments and lies for decades from people who leave the Church, but can’t leave the Church alone. But to me, these criticisms are genius-fresh and interesting. If you cared about me, you would be fascinated and eager to listen for hours. You’re the worst. So anyway, guess what? I’m back! Aren’t you happy? I’m back! …
… Oh Father, I’m not actually back, am I? I am dreaming I am back, but I’m actually still in a far, far away land, slowly starving to death and feeding the swine of a stranger.”
And then the prodigal son awoke from his nightmare and came to himself.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Dedicated to all the prodigal sons and daughters who ever have or ever will come home, and to all those who are want to come home but are stuck in a nightmare, and to all who made it home but are still occasionally plagued by bad dreams. May the Lord bless you and heal you and send you new dreams filled with joy.