This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
October 2-8, 2023
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Ephesians 1:4–11, 17–19
God chose, or foreordained, me to fulfill certain responsibilities on earth.
Paul spoke of the Saints being “predestinated” by God and “chosen … before the foundation of the world” to be His people. However, as President Henry B. Eyring has noted, this does not mean “that God must have determined in advance which of His children He would save and made the gospel available to them, while those who never heard the gospel simply were not ‘chosen.’ … God’s plan is much more loving and just than that. Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family” (“Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 20–21). All of God’s children can accept the gospel and its ordinances because of the work performed for the dead in holy temples.
Let me get this straight. In Mormonism, each human is sent to the earth from a previous life known as the “preexistence,” or the “First Estate, based on how obedient the person was in the previous realm. Thus, everyone is born according to their merit from a previous life they are not allowed to remember. One church manual explains:
“QUESTION Then what determines where and when you are born? ANSWER We don’t know in detail all the factors that influence the circumstances into which we are born, but the prophets have clearly taught that the basic rule of obedience to law as the prerequisite for blessings holds true in this matter as well. QUESTION Meaning that the kind of life we lived in the premortal existence influenced where we are now? ANSWER Yes”The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles Religion 211-212, 1979, 254-255.
Fifteenth President Gordon B. Hinckley told a general conference audience:
“I do not know what we did in the preexistence to merit the wonderful blessings we enjoy. We have come to earth in this great season in the long history of mankind. It is a marvelous age, the best of all.”Gordon B. Hinckley, “Living in the Fulness of Times,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2001, 4.
According to Momronism, where a person is born must have a huge impact on where they end up in the future. Let’s be honest, if a person is born in India, the likelihood of that person becoming a Latter-day Saint is practically nill. As Eyering said in the citation listed above:
“that God must have determined in advance which of His children He would save and made the gospel available to them, while those who never heard the gospel simply were not ‘chosen.’ … God’s plan is much more loving and just than that. Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family”
Imagine, being born in a place–good or bad–where there is no hope for understanding the Gospel of Mormonism just because you apparently did something in a previous existence that you have absolutely no memory of! How is this “much more loving” of a plan is this? To me, it’s more cruel to be senteneced to “life in prison” or being sentenced to death yet not be told what you did wrong. Or to be born into a nice LDS family in Utah and not know what you did right. This would seem to be an arbitrary God, one who really is cruel.
Although no one is predestined to be saved or not saved,
Verse 4 says,
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Instead of a mere denial, perhaps it would be nice if the authors would have helped the reader tackle what exactly this verse is actually saying,forgetting about what is taught in “modern revelation.” Let’s understand what Paul meant when he wrote this. Notice, this “choosing” took place “before the creation of the world,” so while the church can deny predestination all they want, the writers of the curriculum are then responsible to help their audience understand just what these verses truly mean.
modern revelation teaches that some of God’s children were chosen, or “foreordained,” in the premortal world to fulfill certain responsibilities in accomplishing God’s purposes on earth. As you read Ephesians 1 and Gospel Topics, “Foreordination” (topics.ChurchofJesusChrist.org), ponder how this truth applies to you.
As is common in this series, there is a deflection to LDS doctrine, with no support here for a premortal existence.
Before we move further, verses 7-8 are completely missed here. It says,
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding
It says here that the forgiveness of sins comes through the blood of the ultimate sacrificial victim, which is Jesus. This gift is “lavished” on the believers.
How does the Lattter-day Saint get forgiveness of sins? Apostle James Talmage was clear about the requirements given in Mormonism:
“This twofold effect of the atonement is implied in the article of our faith now under consideration. The first effect is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation. The second effect is to openArticles of Faith, 1984, 78-79, Italics in original.
a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins. As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements—‘obedience to
the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.’”
Grace (and ultimately forgiveness of sins) is not helpful in individual salvation. This is the work a person must do in order to qualify for that honor. Quoting 2 Nephi 25:23, Apostle Boyd K. Packer explained,
“Even that grace of God promised in the scriptures comes only ‘after all we can do.’”“The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1995, 19.
For more on 2 Nephi 25:23, see
God will “gather together in one all things in Christ.”
Why do you think our day is called “the dispensation of the fulness of times”?
This verse is merely saying that, in the end, all things will be gathered unto Jesus. He is the final judge and will usher in the Kingdom of God.
Ephesians 2:19–22; 3:1–7; 4:11–16
The Church is founded on apostles and prophets, and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
According to Ephesians 2:19–22; 3:1–7; 4:11–16, why do we have prophets and apostles? Think about the messages from prophets and apostles you heard during general conference. How do their teachings fulfill the purposes Paul described? For example, how have these teachings helped you not be “carried about with every wind of doctrine”?
The writers completely skipped over Ephesians 2:1-3. It says
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Notice, “we were by nature deserving of wrath.” In a church manual, Kimball explained that all humans earned the right to move to the “second estate” based on our good behavior in the preexistence,
We mortals who now live upon this earth are in our second estate. Our very presence here in mortal bodies attests the fact that we “kept” our first estate. . .Our spirit bodies went through a long period of growth and development and training and, having passed the test successfully, were finally admitted to this earth and to mortality” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, 4-5. Ellipsis mine).
Another church manual states,
“What do the terms first estate and second estate mean in Abraham 3:26? (First estate refers to the premortal life, and second estate refers to our mortal life. We kept our first estate by choosing to follow Jesus Christ instead of Lucifer.)”Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 7.
Going back to the passage that was cited…
According to Mormonism, we deserve to have been allowed to be born on this world because we “kept our first estate” and chose Jesus. Again, this is assumed because we don’t remember any of this taking place.
Again, the curriculum writers take every opportunity to bring attention to their own leaders. This book (Ephesians) is written by a true apostlethat talks about the original apostles and prophets from New Testament times. It’s a leap to suggest that these offices were meant to continue after their death.
It is interesting that Paul mentions “apostles and prophets.” This is not the order of importance in the LDS belief. And certainly this passage provides no support that Mormon apostles and prophets are the ones in the same order as those in the New Testament. Just why should I accept these particular “apostles and prophets” over those belonging to the Kingston organization or the FLDS church, among many others? Why should we assume the apostles and prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold the monopoly on truth?
One more question. If the LDS apostles and prophets contradict the apostles and prophets mentioned in the Bible, who should be rejected? According to Mormonism, living leaders take precedence. And this is where I severely disagree.
How is Jesus Christ like a cornerstone for the Church? How is He like a cornerstone for your life?
First Peter 2:4-7 says,
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
He is the cornerstone because everything is built around Him. Rejection of the Jesus as described in the Bible is rejection of God. If you worship the wrong Jesus, you worship the wrong God and everything falls apart (2 Cor. 11:4).
Ephesians 5:21–33; 6:1–4
Following the Savior’s example can strengthen my family relationships.
As you read Ephesians 5:21–33; 6:1–4, think about how the counsel in these verses could strengthen your family relationships.
It is important to note that Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:22–24 were written in the context of the social customs of his era. Prophets and apostles today teach that men are not superior to women and that spouses are meant to be “equal partners” (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org). Even so, you can still find relevant counsel in Ephesians 5:25–33. For example, how does Christ show His love for the Saints? What does this imply about how spouses, as equal partners, should treat each other? What messages do you find for yourself in these verses?
It would be nice if the writers would spend time exegeting the passage for what it says and not introduce information about what it never says. For example, it would be important to explain what “submit to your husbands” entails. Or show what it means that the husband is head of the wife. To avoid any conflict, the church waffles and merely says that “men are not superior to women.” This is a straw man argument. And just what does it mean to be “equal partners”? Does this mean the church is agreeing with the egalitarian position over the complementarian side?
For more on this topic, click here.
Any Latter-day Saint who is trying his or her best to figure out what the meaning of Ephesians is based is not getting much guidance in this lesson. I suggest the church teach with authority and support your conclusions rather than relying on presuppoisitons and assertions.
The armor of God will help protect me from evil.
As you read Ephesians 6:10–18, consider why Paul named each piece of armor the way he did. What does the “whole armour of God” protect you from? What can you do to more fully put on each piece of armor every day?
Obviously, this is an important passage. Notice the first piece of equipment, the belt of truth (v. 14). In my opinion, the whole armor comes crashing down when the belt fails to hold everything together. If the belt sags, so does the rest of the outfit. And if Mormonism is not true, the whole armor falls apart.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Ephesians 2:4–10; 3:14–21.
Invite family members to share experiences in which they have felt the love and mercy of God and Jesus Christ described in these verses.
Wow, let’s just say the Bible study is weak when it misses so many key concepts. For instance, consider the richness of Ephesians 2:1-5:
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
There is complete silence in this lesson when it comes to describing the richness of these verses! Such a shame!
Nothing is said about Ephesians 2:8-9, which says,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball cited these very two verses before writing:
“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus alone is all that is needed for salvation. . . . Church members are fortunate indeed to have scriptures brought forth in this age which clarify this and other doctrinal questions beyond all doubt.”The Miracle of Forgiveness, 206-207. Ellipsis mine.
He then cited 2 Nephi 25:23, which was mentioned earlier in this review. Then he wrote,
“. . . however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel.”Ibid., 207
What is the gospel according to Kimball?
“The gospel is a program of action–of doing things. . . . Eternal life hangs in the balance awaiting the works of men. This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all of the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us.”Ibid., 208-209. Ellipsis mine.
Kimball then quoted Matthew 5:48 (“be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect”) and then stated:
“Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and whcih was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.”Ibid, 209
Doesn’t the gospel as described by an LDS prophet go against the face value meaning Paul has taught in Ephesians 2:8-9? It sure seems to be a “different gospel” than what was believed and tuaght by the original apostles and prophets (Gal. 1:8-9).
This is not a new assessment, as I have said this in a number of other lessons. But it is a shame that this series covers so many chapters (6 in Ephesians) in a one-hour lesson that it will be impossible for the reader to truly study the biblical text. It bothers me that they are making people think that they are doing a Bible study when they really are doing nothing of the kind. Rich passages in Epheisans–one of my favorite book–are completely ignored, as pointed out here and in other reviews of this series. Those passages that are commented on provide weak analysis and completely mangles the meaning of the original author (Paul).
Honestly, a close reading of the entire book of Ephesians would take longer than the time this lesson is supposed to take. Regardless, the church doesn’t even think it is necessary to read every verse for the passages being explained. In the introduction on the church website (under “Do I Need to Follow the Schedule?”) it reads,
But don’t feel bound by the schedule or compelled to read every verse; the schedule is simply a guide to help you pace yourself. The important thing is that you are learning the gospel individually and as a family.https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-individuals-and-families-new-testament-2023/using?lang=eng Bold mine.
Oh, for truth-seeking Latter-day Saints to read the Bible for themselves and see what God’s Word really says. It would change their lives forever! Guaranteed. If you are a sincere seeker after truth, please consider reading this epistle verse by verse (I recommend a modern language, including one of the thre linked below). Ask yourself, is what is taught this this lesson/series what the church teaches as truth? I recommend this strategy for other biblical books as well.
Until you study God’s Word for what it says, you will be dependant on the words of writers who might not be getting it correctly. I hope you will take this challenge seriously.
Study the book of Ephesians in one of these three modern languages:
For the English Standard Version, start here
For the New International Version, start here
For the New American Standard Bible, start here