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.)
April 4-10 (Exodus 14-17)
The Israelites were trapped. The Red Sea was on one side, and the army of Pharaoh was advancing on the other. Their escape from Egypt, it seemed, would be short-lived. But God had a message for the Israelites that He wanted them to remember for generations: “Fear ye not. … The Lord shall fight for you” (Exodus 14:13–14).
Since that time, when God’s people have needed faith and courage, they have often turned to this account of Israel’s miraculous deliverance. When Nephi wanted to inspire his brothers, he said, “Let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground” (1 Nephi 4:2). When King Limhi wanted his captive people to “lift up [their] heads, and rejoice,” he reminded them of this same story (Mosiah 7:19). When Alma wanted to testify to his son of God’s power, he also referred to this story (see Alma 36:28). And when we need deliverance—when we need a little more faith, when we need to “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord”—we can remember how “the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:13, 30).
To me, the story of the Exodus stands on its own. However, the authors decided to focus more on three different accounts from the Book of Mormon in an apparent effort to legitimize Mormonism’s most sacred text. We’re told that these three passages that were supposedly composed well before the time of Joseph Smith included references to the Exodus. Should this be considered evidence that the Book of Mormon is an ancient text? This is not a slam-dunk case. For instance, how can we ascertain that the reference to the Israelites’ deliverance did not come until several thousand years later when Joseph Smith included these stories? With no evidence that the Book of Mormon is a historical account, this seems to be the best analysis of the evidence at hand.
As you read Exodus 14:1–10, imagine how the Israelites might have felt as they saw Pharaoh’s army closing in. Perhaps you feel that you need a miracle to survive a difficult challenge you are facing. What do you learn from Exodus 14:13–31 that can help you seek God’s deliverance in your life? What have you learned about the ways God provides deliverance from adversity? Ponder how you have seen His delivering power in your life.
I agree that God has the power to deliver to deliver His people who have been called according to His purpose. According to Romans 8:28-30,
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Notice the sequence: God calls (according to His purpose) those whom God foreknew and who He predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. These He justifies and then glorifies. Notice who is busy at work!
The psalmists also knew how much God cared for them. For instance, Psalm 18:2-3 says,
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my savior,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
Another psalm that describes God’s provisions is Psalm 18:16-19, which says,
He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He saved me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
But the Lord was my support.
He also brought me out into an open place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
One more is Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He reached down to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud;
And He set my feet on a rock, making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.
I encourage you to pick up the Bible and read the Psalms to see how often God came through for His people. Truly God takes care of His own.
As you read in Exodus 15:22–27 about Israel’s journeyings toward the promised land, think about things in your life that have seemed “bitter” like the waters of Marah. Consider the following questions as you ponder these verses: How can the Lord make bitter things in your life sweet? What value have these experiences had in your life? What do verses 26 and 27 suggest about how the Lord blesses us when we hearken to His voice?
I venture back to Romans 8. Check out these verses of great hope preceding the verses I cited above:
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
The passage then continues:
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Christians have the Holy Spirit who intercedes on their behalf in accordance with the will of God. To me, these verses brim over with great hope that makes me want to cry out loud, Hallelujah!
It’s tempting to be critical of the Israelites because they murmured or complained when their circumstances became difficult, even after everything God had done for them. But as you read Exodus 15:23–27; 16:1–15; 17:1–7, consider whether you have ever done the same thing. What do you learn from the Israelites’ experiences that can help you murmur less and trust more completely in God? For example, what differences do you notice about the way the Israelites responded to difficulties and the way Moses responded? What do these verses teach you about God?
I’m surprised that nothing was said about murmuring against the “Lord’s anointed,” or the general authorities of the LDS Church. In other chapters of this series, the importance of following the leaders has been addressed, so here would have been the perfect occasion to bring this topic up again.
There are many spiritual lessons we can learn from the miracle of the manna, found in Exodus 16. Notice the detailed instructions the Israelites were given about how to gather, use, and preserve the manna (see Exodus 16:16, 19, 22–26). What do you find in these instructions that applies to you as you daily seek spiritual nourishment?
Might I add to “seek daily spiritual nourishment” through God’s Word, the Bible. I challenge every Latter-day Saint to make it a personal habit of opening the Bible and reading from its pages with no outside influence to see how God can speak to you on a regular basis. And while we’re at it, I encourage you to use a modern translation of the Bible so that God’s Word can be better understood. Give it a try. Click here for more information.
- Exodus 17:8–16.
You might act out the story of Aaron and Hur holding up the hands of Moses and discuss how this could symbolize how we sustain those whom God has called to lead us. You might also contrast the example of Aaron and Hur with the Israelites’ murmuring against Moses (described throughout chapters 15–17). What are some ways we can help and sustain our leaders? What blessings come to us and our leaders as we do?”
Earlier I mentioned that the leaders were not mentioned in the passage above. I wrote those words above without reading to the end of the chapter. Lo and behold, the very thing I suggested (it is intact above) is stated here, with the insinuation that the people’s murmuring against Moses is similar to complaining about the LDS leadership. The response a faithful Latter-day Saint is supposed to have to the symbolism of sustaining “those whom God has called to lead us.” It seems quite predictable, doesn’t it? Yet this demand to not question the leadership remains the mantra of Mormonism.
For example, 8th President George Albert Smith stated at a general conference (cited in a later church manual) as saying,
I stand here to plead with you, my brethren and sisters, not to permit words of criticism or of unkindness to pass your lips about those whom the Lord has called to lead us. Do not be found in the companionship of those who would belittle them or weaken their influence among the children of men. If you do, I can say to you that you will find yourselves in the power of the adversary. You will be influenced by him to go as far as possible from the pathway of truth, and if you do not repent you may find when it is too late that you have lost the “pearl of great price.” (Conference Reports, April 1937, 34. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2011, 63).
Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
JUDGMENT AWAITS CHURCH MEMBERS WHO CRITICIZE BRETHREN. But it is not of this class particularly that I desire to refer, but to those members of the Church who have entered into the waters of baptism and have made covenants before the Lord that they will observe his laws and respect his priesthood, who have been persuaded, or who are in danger of being persuaded, by such characters (Doctrines of Salvation 3:296).
And a church manual goes so far as to warn the loss one’s salvation for criticizing the leadership:
They should never criticize priesthood leaders or say unkind things about them. Criticizing our leaders endangers our own salvation (The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part B, 2000, 106).
Imagine that! This is a very sensitive issue with the LDS leadership. This is probably not the last time in this year’s curriculum that the membership is instructed to follow the “Brethren.” Unfortunately, following them and their teachings actually could endanger a person’s own salvation if the true God of the Bible is never met, and that would truly be a shame.
Despite its flaws, this chapter may have been one of the least offensive in the entire series so far. At least the authors are sticking somewhat closer to what the Old Testament actually says–better than the first two months, this is for sure.