The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

(See Luke 16:19–31.)

Elder James E. Talmage wrote:

“In any attempt to interpret the parable [of the rich man and Lazarus] as a whole or definitely apply any of its parts, we should bear in mind that it was addressed to the Pharisees as an instructive rebuke for the derision and scorn with which they had received the Lord’s warning concerning the dangers attending servitude to mammon. Jesus employed Jewish metaphors, and the imagery of the parable is such as would most directly appeal to the official expounders of Moses and the prophets. While as a practice it would be critically unfair to deduce doctrinal principles from parabolic incidents, we cannot admit that Christ would teach falsely even in parable; and therefore we accept as true the portrayal of conditions in the world of the disembodied. That righteous and unrighteous dwell apart during the interval between death and resurrection is clear. Paradise, or as the Jews like to designate that blessed abode, ‘Abraham’s bosom,’ is not the place of final glory, any more than the hell to which the rich man’s spirit was consigned is the final habitation of the condemned [compare Alma 40:11–14]. To that preliminary or intermediate state, however, men’s works do follow them [see Rev. 14:13]; and the dead shall surely find that their abode is that for which they have qualified themselves while in the flesh.

“The rich man’s fate was not the effect of riches, nor was the rest into which Lazarus entered the resultant of poverty. Failure to use his wealth aright, and selfish satisfaction with the sensuous enjoyment of earthly things to the exclusion of all concern for the needs or privations of his fellows, brought the one under condemnation; while patience in suffering, faith in God and such righteous life as is implied though not expressed, insured happiness to the other. The proud self-sufficiency of the rich man, who lacked nothing that wealth could furnish and who kept aloof from the needy and suffering, was his besetting sin. The aloofness of the Pharisees, on which indeed they prided themselves, as their very name, signifying ‘separatists,’ expressed, was thus condemned. The parable teaches the continuation of individual existence after death, and the relation of cause to effect between the life one leads in mortality and the state awaiting him beyond.”

(Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 468–69.)