All God’s Children Gonna Sit Together

I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table

I’m Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table

“God himself refuses to trammel man’s free agency even though its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons.” Hugh B Brown.

Tables have had important symbolism in stories that I have read. The voyagers on the Dawn Treader were rewarded for their bravery and faithfulness by being invited to feast at Aslan’s Table. King Aurthur’s Knights sat at a round table to demonstrate their equality. And of course, Christ invited His disciples to partake of the Last Supper at a table. In some cultures and times, royalty, masters, and important people feasted at tables. Servants, slaves, and Others ate in the Kitchen or wherever they could find space. SO to be invited to the Table of the King or Master was a High Honor and a real privilege.This symbolism was not lost on the psalmist who said of his LORD: narnia32.preview

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Such Symbolism is also found in the Book of Mormon which invites its readers to

“Come unto the Holy One of Israel and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.”
“Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”
“And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

I do not know what God’s table is like, or who get’s to feast there, but perhaps two LDS First Presidency members help to describe who gets to be there.  J Reuben Clark made a statement that is often quoted as a sign of God’s generosity in judging us:

“I have a feeling that when the Lord comes to giving us our rewards, shall we say, and our punishments, that He will give that punishment which is the very least that clarkour transgression will justify. I believe that He will bring into His justice all of the infinite love, and mercy, and kindness, and understanding which He has…And on the other hand I believe that when it comes to making the rewards for our good conduct, He will give us the maximum that it is possible to give having in mind the offense which we committed. I feel that very, very strongly.” (President J. Reuben Clark, 1955)

And one of my very favorites, Hugh B Brown, shared this story about when he was faced with the decision to excommunicate a woman who was found to be in transgression and the lesson he learned from a wise Bishop and from the passage of time:

Of those who had the greatest impact on my life, I think most immediately of Joseph F. Smith, John W. Taylor, and Heber J. Grant. But I would also like to mention someone who was not a member of the General Authorities, but a bishop of a ward in Cardston. I was his counselor, just twenty-five years old and newly married.

At this time, Bishop Dennison E. Harris was forty-five years old, and we two counselors were full of fire and needed some lessons in humility, tolerance, charity, and love. A young woman, accused of sin, was brought before us. She confessed her sin and tearfully asked for forgiveness. Bishop Harris asked her to retire to another room while we considered our verdict. He then turned to us. “Brethren, what do you think we should do?” “I move we cut her off from the Church,” the first counselor said. “I second the motion,” I added.

Bishop Harris then took a long breath and said, “Brethren, there is one thing for which I am profoundly grateful, and that is that God is an old man. I would hate to be judged by you young fellows. I am not going to vote with you to cut her off from the Church. I am going out and bring her back. The worth of souls is great in the sight of the Lord.”

We did not agree with him at the time but subsequently learned that he was right. Some fifty years later I was back in Canada to hold a conference. Sitting on the stand I noticed in the 9780918949165audience a woman whose face had many lines and some rather deep wrinkles. Her face showed a life of hardship and struggle, but nonetheless was a face that engendered faith. I asked the president of the stake who that woman was, and he told me. I went up to her, and she told me her maiden name. She was the girl the other counselor and I had wanted to cut off from the Church.

Afterward, I asked the president what kind of a woman she was. “She is the best woman in the stake,” he said. “She has been a stake and ward president of the Relief Society. She sent four sons on missions after her husband died. She has been faithful and true all the days of her life.” Of course, the president did not know what I knew about her, but his praise confirmed to my mind this truth: The Lord wants us to have charity and love and tolerance for our fellow men. If we forgive others, including ourselves, he will forgive us. This is a lesson I have learned repeatedly throughout my life, and one I hope I will never forget. (“An Abundant Life”, Hugh B Brown, ed by Edwin B. Firmage, Signature Books, pp 19-20)

THANK GOODNESS for a wise bishop and for a compassionate “Old” Heavenly Father. These stories give me great comfort in the thought that God will be far more liberal with invitations to His feast than any of us would ever be if it were up to us to send the invitations.

I have blogged about table hymns before.  One favorite hymn of mine, which was written by Shirley Erena Murra, reminds us that Everyone Born Has A Place At the Table, and that

And God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace;
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice, and joy.

It also contains this “Tough Verse” that the author says challenges us to remember the importance of forgiveness and mercy:

For just and unjust, a place at the table
Abuser, abused, with need to forgive
In anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy
For just and unjust, a new way to live

That IS NOT an easy verse to sing, but it makes me learn to think as Christ would.

diversehandsOne hymn about God’s Table became a part of the Civil Rights Movement.  Sometimes called “The Welcome Table: and sometimes called “I’m Gonna Tell God How You Treated Me” this “Hymn of Social Justice” has different verses depending on who is singing it and the context.  It is about oppressed minorities who have been denied their rightful place at the table, but who have never the less not lost their faith in God’s Justice and Mercy and His ability to overrule in the affairs of men.  The lyrics of the excluded in the various versions of this hymn state such things as:

I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days,

I’m gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days,

I’m gonna sit at the Woolworth counter one of these days,

All God’s Children Gonna sit together one of these days,

WHILE that “Day” when we ALL feast at the table as EQUALS before the LORD is closer than it was in the 1950’s and 60’s, it is not here yet.  I look FORWARD to that day.




4 replies »

  1. like you, I love that story of Hugh B Brown. To me, it reveals great insights into the character of God. As to the title of your article, all of Gods children will not sit down together. It’s a nice thought but many will use their agency and chose to follow other paths. I do not belive that Moa and Stalin will be sitting down with Abraham, Issac and Jacob. I may be wrong but the scriptures a clear in terms on this. Also, just because everyone has a place does not mean everyone will show up.

    • Shaunmaher – THANK YOU SO MUCH. I really appreciate your reading this post and making a comment. From an eternal perspective I agree with you 100% – Doctrinally/Scripturally speaking, you are right. Not everybody is going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom (I am assuming from the way you worded your comment that you are LDS). Some people will make choices that will cause them to end up in one of the other degrees of glory. When I write these “Hymns of Social Justice” posts I try to take the title from one of the lines (but not the name) of the song. Since this was not a post on Civil Rights History in the USA I did not want to use “I’m Gonna Sit at the Woolworth counter.” For a while I was planning on using, “I’m gonna tell God how you treat me,” but taken out of context that has a bit of a negative connotation. I could have used “I’m gonna eat milk and honey (but you could argue that it is a Heaven/Celestial Kingdom reference and has the same problem that not everyone will) BUT I used to work in the news business and “All God’s Children Gonna Sit Together” just seemed more attention grabbing.

      I suppose that it would have been more doctrinally correct to write sing, “All God’s children are going to be invite to the table but some are going to choose not to come,” but I am guessing that did not fit as well to the tune at rallies 😉 . You could also argue (in a sense) that anyone who is not a “Son of Perdition” gets SOME degree of glory so in a sense they are all at some level at the “Welcome Table”.

      Also, the misunderstanding is my fault. I started off using examples that had an eternal reward connotation which would mean that you are right, not everyone will be in”Heaven”/the Celestial Kingdom. BUT when I chose the title and when I wrote my concluding lines I was thinking more about the Earthly Church/Kingdom where everyone should be invited to come unto Christ’s table, but at times in the past and even now, we do not always do a great job of making those who do not fit the “Norm” feel invited.

  2. I enjoy your posts very much, Andrew, this one included. And while it’s true the wheat and tares will be sorted, I’ll leave that to God and do the best I can at what God has charged me with- to love all God’s children.

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