A prophet during Israel's captivity

"Ezekiel was a prophet during the captivity of Israel," said Elder Marion D. Hanks, then of the First Council of the Seventy, at the April 1967 general conference. "He preached to a people to whom it was comforting to attribute their current problems to the sins of former generations. They were habituated to quoting a prophecy: `The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.' (Ezek. 18:2.)

"There is, of course, a measure of truth in this proverb, as every parent or close observer of the human experience knows. Our children do suffer in many ways from our defections or derelictions, just as they prosper from our proper instruction and our love and good example." . . . As I read the record, Ezekiel was not minimizing the sorrowful imposition of trouble in the life of a child who is deprived of the truth or misled by the faithlessness of a parent. Ezekiel was reemphasizing for Israel the great importance of individual responsibility before God and of God's impartiality in dealing with every man according to his own character. Hear these words of the Lord through the prophet, immediately following his instruction that they no more use (or misuse) the proverb in Israel:

" `Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.' (verse 4.)

"Repeating those last words, `the soul that sinneth, it shall die,' the Lord added:

" `The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.' (verse 20.)

"Ezekiel then encouraged repentance and obedience, noting that the repentant sinner may avoid the eternal consequence of his deed through the forgiveness of the Lord. A wicked man who repents and becomes righteous will live. A righteous man who becomes wicked will die. Every man must stand before God and answer for his own choices and for his own character."

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