Sunday, June 7, 2020

Privilege - A parable

Like A King In A Palace In India: Taj Umaid Bhawan - Traveltomtom ...

A wise king had two sons. Like most fathers he loved them very much and desired to give them every advantage he could. They received the best education, ate the best foods, had access to every comfort available at the time, married the most beautiful maidens and were able to travel and explore the world. But the one limit that the king had was he only had one kingdom, and therefore only one of his sons would inherit the title of king.

Unlike many kingdoms the title did not simply go to the eldest, but rather the decision was left to the father. He loved his people and was a benevolent king who desired a great future for his kingdom, and therefore took the responsibility of choosing his successor seriously.

On a beautiful spring morning the king called both his sons to his chambers. “Sons, I grow old and soon must choose my successor. I lay before you a challenge, the winner will be crowned king. In front of each of you is a bag with 1,000 gold limnah.” This was more money than either child had ever seen, as 1 gold limnah was sufficient to purchase anything in the local market. “Take it, in two weeks you will present a gift to me. He who presents the gift that pleases me the most will be awarded the kingdom.”

The older brother had seen much of the world, he knew of beautiful rugs, and exotic species and fruits. These would allow his father a chance to experience things he had only heard tales of. The trip would not be easy, but if he moved fast he could make it. He gathered his fastest comrades and horses and was off.

The younger boy was at a loss. His father was the king, he had access to anything his heart desired. What could he get his father, no matter the amount of money he had, that would impress. Walking down the road of the street market, he looked into each merchant's tent. There were clothes, lamps, food, and jewelry. All things his father had more of than he could possibly want. But no matter how hard he tried to focus on trying to find something unique to purchase, he couldn’t stop thinking about what he always noticed when he came to market street; Chaos.

Everytime he came here he was always being bumped into. People were always having to stop on the curelom for long periods of time in order to wait for people who zig-zagged in front of them. He had long ago thought of a system of backpassages and dividers that would encourage traffic flow to be more organized. It would allow people to more quickly get their goods, and to the place where they wanted to shop without so much chaos. In addition it would help limit crime as constant bumping allowed for pickpockets to more effectively work their trade.

Such a system could be easily built, but it would cost more money than he had ever had--until now. He quickly figured for 400 gold limnah he could get the work done. That would still leave 600 to buy his father a wonderful gift.

He quickly got to work with builders and began to put into place his new system of roadways for the market. The system was simple and with large crews and a few days it was completed. The first day or two were rough as people wondered what was going on, but they soon caught on and before long people were pleased with their ability to get to and move freely in the market.

The next day he went back out into the market to find something for his father. To his delight, a merchant had set up shop selling maps of his new system to people as they entered the market. They were only a few senine, but he bought one. He then realized the merchant who sold it to him returned too much change. This was a common occurrence in the market. He corrected the error and realized that part of the reason this was so common was that most of the merchants never had any schooling. He wondered how often merchants either cut themselves short or their customers simply because of poor training.

That night he went back to the palace and asked his tutor if he would be willing to teach a class to the local merchants at night on simple accounting.

“I am not hired to teach simple merchants. I am the royal tutor!”

“I will pay you handsomely. 100 limnah.” That was money that no one would refuse.

“I accept, but where would you have me teach this class. You can’t have merchants coming into the palace.”

“I will buy a large tent and place it at the edge of the market. That way it will be easy for them to come as they close their shops.”

The whole plan was more expensive than he had imagined: there were the flyers to get people to come, the tent, the set up, and his hard-to please-tutor. He was so anxious for it to succeed that he even offered food. Probably a mistake in hindsight as it filled the tent to overflowing, and a chance to be taught by the royal tutor was sufficient to attract even the most prideful merchant.

Many of the merchants were so grateful, they sent letters of gratitude to the prince. Given the price of parchment, this was no small gesture, and the prince was grateful. But despite the warmth he felt from this success, a feeling a dread also lingered. He was now down to 300 limnah.

He walked the streets anxiously. Tomorrow was the day he and his brother were to present their gifts to their father, and he had nothing. That means that he would never be king. He took mild comfort from the fact that being king was not that important to him. It was the disappointment he feared would be on his father's face that really worried him. His father had always believed in him, even when he didn’t believe in himself. Rain began to fall. At first it did not bother the prince as the night was warm, but as the rain intensified he ran to seek shelter, but found there was little to be found. The roofs were limited to the homes and besides, this shelter was scarce. He finally found an awning that stood at the end of the roadway, but as he approached it was filled with men. Travelers were not uncommon to the kingdom and many slept on the streets before traveling back to their homes in the outer villages. He had never thought about what they were to do when it rained.

The next morning in total defeat he gave his last 300 limnah to builders to extend awnings and other shelters throughout the center of the kingdom so that there would be more shade in the sun and shelter from the rain.

With his head bowed low, he entered his father's court. He wanted to crawl into the gold laced woodwork. On the other side of the chamber his brother was lining up camels filled with rugs, artwork, fine china, spices and dates.

“Welcome, my sons. What have you brought me?”

The older son presented first and, for hours, exhibited each of the exotic items he had purchased. When he finished, the king said, “Thank you son. These are beautiful and bring me great pleasure. They were not easy to get and I appreciate what you have done for me.” He then turned to his younger son. “And from you?”

The young prince sat with nothing but a small sac of papers he clutched in his hands. Holding back tears he said, “Father, I am sorry, but I have failed. I could think of nothing to get you.”

“What is in your pack? Surely you have something?”

He now wished he had not carried the pack with him. But he slowly pulled out first, the map, “This is a simple map that was made of the roadway system that I used a portion of the money to build.” He said, full of embarrassment.

He noted the laughter in his older brother.

“Go on, what else do you have?” The king asked.

“Then there are notes from merchants, they were in gratitude for a class I put together to help them with accounting.”


“The last is a drawing of the shelters and awnings I asked to be built in the center of the kingdom to provide shade and protection from the rain for travelers. I’m afraid I have spent all your money and neglected to find a gift.”

“Sons, you were both given great privilege in your lives. You will likely have these privileges as long as you live. Privilege is not bad, although many will scoff at you for having it. Some may wonder why God did not see fit to give it to them. But in the great and last judgement God does not care how much privilege we had, only what we did with it.

“My greatest glory is not held in the walls of my palace. It is found everyday walking the streets of my kingdom. It is my people. The greatest gift you can give me, is to make their lives better. And that is also the greatest thing you can do with the privileges given you. Use it to help others have those same privileges.

“Throughout your lives you have both had access to easy access to goods, education and shelter. Others do not have these, but now many of my people have more of them. My young prince,” The king said turning to the younger brother. “Your sack of papers is the greatest gift I have ever received, you shall be king.”


There has been much said lately about white privilege. It has made me think about the many ways in which my life is privileged. I was privileged with having a loving father and mother in my home that both received great educations and helped me to receive the same.

I am privileged historically, as I get to come forth in a world filled with technology and comforts that would have made my ancestors' heads spin.

I am privileged in my location. I was born in the most prosperous nation the world has ever known. Just being a citizen of the US has given me access to wealth and opportunity most of the world can only dream of. I was raised far below the poverty line in American and yet I was still rich by most of the world's standards.

I was privileged to be raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This gave me access to friends and a safety net. It helped me avoid some of the most dangerous pitfalls in life in regards to addiction and immorality. It has helped me be wise with my funds. And it has given me access to life changing knowledge that I will forever be grateful for.

But one of the lessons my faith teaches me is these privileges are not to be hoarded but used to give others the same privilege. This was made clear as they have asked every worthy young man to give up two years of his life to work day and night to give others the privilege of gospel knowledge and access to the same teachings, society, and safety net that I was born into.

One of the greatest examples of understanding privilege and how it should be used was King Mosiah. When his sons refused the kingdom, probably because they were raised by such a great father. He got rid of kings among the Nephites. Chapter 29 of Mosiah is the most beautiful chapter ever written on politics in my mind but among the many great things he says is:

Mosiah 29:32 “And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike…”

And the greatest example is God himself. He has the privilege of being the owner of, and most powerful being in the universe, and what does he do with it? He shares it with us and desires to give us all that he has.

We can't control what others do with their privileges and many live ignorant of just how privileged they are. But we can recognize our own privilege and seek to use it wisely. I hope we all take the time, no matter our race or creed, to focus on the many privileges we have been given. There is nothing wrong with privilege, but we should each examine what we have done and what we should do with our privilege and how we can use that to help others increase their access to those same privileges.

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