This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
March 21-27 (Exodus 1-6)
The invitation to live in Egypt literally saved Jacob’s family. But after hundreds of years, their descendants were enslaved and terrorized by a new pharaoh “who knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). It would have been natural for the Israelites to wonder why God allowed this to happen to them, His covenant people. Did He remember the covenant He had made with them? Were they still His people? Could He see how much they were suffering?
There may be times when you’ve felt like asking similar questions. You might wonder, Does God know what I’m going through? Can He hear my pleas for help? The story in Exodus of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt answers such questions clearly: God does not forget His people. He remembers His covenants with us and will fulfill them in His own time and way (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:68). “I will redeem you with a stretched out arm,” He declares. “I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under [your] burdens” (Exodus 6:6–7).
Except for the citation from Doctrine and Covenants, Evangelical Christians believe what is said here. Of course, God “does not forget His people” and “remembers His covenants with us.”
And just what are His covenants according to Mormonism? Leaders have made it very clear: To keep all of God’s commandments all the time. And if this is not done, then God is not obligated to keep His end of the bargain. Consider what 10th President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
I say unto you the Lord is not bound, unless you keep the covenant. The Lord never breaks his covenant. When he makes a covenant with one of us, he will not break it. If it is going to be broken, we will break it. But when it is broken, he is under no obligation to give the blessing, and we shall not receive it. There are people who go into the house of the Lord and receive covenants which are based on faithfulness, who go out and are unfaithful, shall they not receive their reward? [DS 2:256-57.] (Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, p. 156. Italics in original).
Smith’s successor, Harold B. Lee, agreed:
By the laying on of hands we get the promise of power and authority, but it will not be ours–worlds without end–unless we keep our part of the covenant (Stand Ye in Holy Places: Selected Sermons and Writings of President Harold B. Lee, 52).
How many consider themselves to be faithful Latter-day Saints but are “covenant-breakers”? Lee’s successor, Spencer W. Kimball, describes those in this camp:
Akin to many of the other sins is that of the covenant-breaker. The person baptized promises to keep all the laws and commandments of God. He has partaken of the sacrament and re-pledged his allegiance and his fidelity, promising and covenanting that he will keep all God’s laws. Numerous folks have gone to the temples and have re-covenanted that they would live all the commandments of God, keep their lives clean, devoted, worthy, and serviceable. Yet many there are who forget their covenants and break the commandments, sometimes deliberately tempting the faithful away with them (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 57).
God’s mercy must be “merited” by the individual, according to Kimball’s successor Ezra Taft Benson:
We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 442).
Meanwhile, Seventy Adhemar Damiani wrote,
This redemption is conditioned on our having faith in His Atonement, our repenting from our sins, our keeping the covenants we make with the Lord, our obeying all His commandments, and our enduring to the end. Obeying the sacred covenants and all the commandments qualifies us to receive the remission of our sins, allowing us to live clean and pure lives in the presence of God as resurrected and exalted beings (“The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator,” Ensign, March 2004, 11-12).
It does not seem hard to prove that God will never fail in His promise, but it is impossible for the LDS followers to consistently keep their covenants by obeying all the commandments. What Latter-day Saints need is a Savior who will freely forgive them of all their sins–past, present, and future.
One of the central themes in the book of Exodus is that God has power to free His people from oppression. The enslavement of the Israelites as described in Exodus 1 could be seen as a symbol of the captivity we all face because of sin and death (see 2 Nephi 2:26–27; 9:10; Alma 36:28). And Moses, the Israelites’ deliverer, can be seen as a type, or representation, of Jesus Christ (see Deuteronomy 18:18–19; 1 Nephi 22:20–21). Read Exodus 1–2 with these comparisons in mind. You might notice, for example, that both Moses and Jesus were preserved from death as small children (see Exodus 1:22–2:10; Matthew 2:13–16) and that both spent time in the wilderness before beginning their ministry (see Exodus 2:15–22; Matthew 4:1–2). What other insights do you learn from Exodus about spiritual captivity? about the Savior’s deliverance?
The comparison between Moses and Jesus is certainly valid. But what Moses offered (the law) could only be fulfilled by the work done by the Savior. Galatians 2 explains:
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. . . . 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
In the next chapter, Paul explains that “as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” And Paul cites the Old Testament that says “cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Based on the citations given in the previous section, then, couldn’t this same admonition be given to “righteous” Latter-day Saints who are doing their best to keep their end of the bargain?
Jehovah is one of the names of Jesus Christ and refers to the premortal Savior. The Joseph Smith Translation clarifies that the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew the Lord by this name (see Exodus 6:3, footnote c). Usually, when the phrase “the Lord” appears in the Old Testament, it refers to Jehovah. In Exodus 3:13–15, the title “I AM” is also a reference to Jehovah (see also Doctrine and Covenants 38:1; 39:1).
This is a good point to make. First, though, I should point out that “Jehovah” is not a biblical name but the conflation of both the tetragrammaton YHWH and the Masoretic Hebrew “adonai,” the name for Lord. “Jehovah” is “YHWH,” which our modern Bibles indicate by capitalizing all the letters of “LORD” in the Old Testament.
What does this show? It actually declares the deity of Jesus! As the author of the Hebrews writes:
But of the Son, He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.” And, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. (Hebrews 1:8-12).
CARM’s Luke Wayne writes,
The author quotes two Psalms and says that they were talking about the Son. Both of them are powerful testimonies of Christ’s deity, yet for our purposes here, the second is the most important. Notice, again, that verses 10-12 cite the passage:
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.”
He is quoting here from Psalm 102, a prayer to Jehovah by name that could not be talking to or about any other being. The citation even addresses the son as the “Lord.” Again, throughout the Psalm, in the Hebrew, the word “Lord” is the name “YHWH” or “Jehovah.” The Book of Hebrews thus plainly identifies Jesus as Jehovah.
I recommend the rest of the article located here.
- Exodus 3:1–6.
When Moses approached the burning bush, the Lord told him to remove his shoes as a sign of reverence. How can we show reverence for sacred places? For example, what can we do to make our home a sacred place where the Lord’s Spirit can dwell? How can we show more reverence in other sacred places?
It’s a fair question and one that Evangelical Christians should ask as well. We so often allow the world to pollute the places where we spend the majority of our time. I believe Robert Boyd Munger’s pamphlet “My Heart Christ’s Home” describes this very thing. Read it by clicking here.
- Exodus 5:2.
What might it mean for us to “know” the Lord? How do we come to know Him? (for example, see Alma 22:15–18). How does our relationship with Him affect our desire to obey Him? (see also John 17:3; Mosiah 5:13).
Latter-day Saints often say that Christ is their “Savior.” But what exactly is meant by this? I have asked many Latter-day Saints this very question.
Critiquing “deathbed” conversions, ninth President David O. McKay wrote,
FAITH, GRACE, AND WORKS. The fallacy that Jesus has done all for us, and live as we may, if on our deathbed, we only believe, we shall be saved in his glorious presence, is most pernicious. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, has given us the means whereby man may obtain eternal happiness and peace in the kingdom of our Father, but man must work out his own salvation through obedience to the eternal principles and ordinances of the gospel. For centuries men have been blinded by the false teaching of “belief alone sufficient”; and today there is manifest on every hand the sorry plight into which this and other perverse doctrines have thrown the pseudo-Christian sects. The world is in sore need at the present time of the gospel of individual effort—the gospel of faith and works. He who will not grasp this means provided him, will sink beneath the waves of sin and falsehood (Gospel Ideals, 8).
While he is stabbing a straw man, notice what McKay did. Jesus, he says, has given people the “means” to obtain happiness. And what is that? Of course, it is obtained “through obedience to the eternal principles and ordinances of the gospel.” Harold B. Lee agreed with this assessment by citing a famous verse in the Book of Mormon and commenting on it:
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23.) The Savior’s blood, His atonement, will save us, but only after we have done all we can to save ourselves by keeping His commandments. All of the principles of the gospel are principles of promise by which the plans of the Almighty are unfolded to us (Stand Ye in Holy Places: Selected Sermons and Writings of President Harold B. Lee, 246).
Sixteenth President Thomas S. Monson gave us his opinion,
Essential to the plan [of salvation] is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice, all would be lost. It is not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission. We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them. We need to receive His saving ordinances: Only by so doing will we obtain true, eternal happiness (Ensign, January 2018, 5).
Seventh President Heber J. Grant bluntly stated,
If we keep the commandments of God, He will love us, and the Savior will manifest Himself unto us. If we fail to keep the commandments of God, there is no promise made to us . . . It is the keeping of the commandments of God that causes men to grow and to become strong and powerful in the Church and Kingdom of God.—CR, October, 1900:36 (Gospel Standards, 36-37).
In other words, just keep all the commandments of God all the time and you will be fine. The question in the study asked, “How does our relationship with Him affect our desire to obey Him?” I think that is a legitimate question. Yet Mormonism teaches that our desire (and success) to obey Him makes it possible for God to love us. It certainly minimizes the message of John 3:16 that says “God so loved the world…” He loved us first and offers us forgiveness based on what Jesus did, not based on what we do. Mormonism makes the Gospel difficult and, for in all reality, impossible for anyone to achieve.
According to Mormonism, the law was created in order for it to be fulfilled. To “know” Him, then, means to obey Him. Christianity says only Jesus could live a perfect life, and it’s faith in Him that imputes righteousness to the believer.