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 18-24 (Exodus 18-20)
Sister Michelle Craig taught, “As [Jesus Christ’s] faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you” (“Spiritual Capacity,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2019, 21). Record and act on the inspiration you receive as you read Exodus 18–20.
This is an interesting quote to start off a lesson. Notice what Craig taught:
- It is possible for a Latter-day Saint to receive personal inspiration and revelation
- But it must be consistent with God’s commandments
- This revelation is tailored to you.
The key is that personal inspiration/revelation must coincide with what has already been taught by the leadership. In essence, the only correct answer a person can receive in personal revelation is it must be in line with what the leaders have taught. This should not be considered a legitimate “test” to determine truth for oneself. As sixth president Joseph F. Smith said,
Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter (Gospel Doctrine, 1986, p. 42. See also Ensign (Conference Edition), “Beware of False Prophets,” November 1999, 62).
I think what Robert Millet said about personal revelation is especially true:
Our blessing is that we believe in personal revelation. Our curse is that we believe in personal revelation. That’s the honest fact for me. There is a risk associated with the position we take toward God’s ability to speak to you and me (“From faith to fanatic delusion,” Deseret News, March 16, 2003).
It appears that as long as your personal revelation corresponds with the teaching of the “Brethren,” the Latter-day Saint will be OK. Diverge and there can be all types of problems!
The Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai was filled with miracles—undeniable manifestations of the Lord’s matchless power, love, and mercy. However, the Lord had blessings in store for them that went beyond freeing them from Egypt and satisfying their physical hunger and thirst. He wanted them to become His covenant people, His “peculiar treasure,” and a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:5–6). Today, the blessings of this covenant extend beyond just one nation or people. God wants all of His children to become His covenant people, to “obey [His] voice indeed, and keep [His] covenant” (Exodus 19:5), for He shows His mercy “unto thousands of them that love [Him], and keep [His] commandments” (Exodus 20:6).
Latter-day Saints make a covenant with God when they are baptized, at the temple, and every time they partake of the sacrament. Current President Russell M. Nelson told a general conference audience,
We also increase the Savior’s power in our lives when we make sacred covenants and keep those covenants with precision. Our covenants bind us to Him and give us godly power. As faithful disciples, we repent and follow Him into the waters of baptism. We walk along the covenant path to receive other essential ordinances. And gratefully, God’s plan provides for those blessings to be extended to ancestors who died without an opportunity to obtain them during their mortal lives. Covenant-keeping men and women seek for ways to keep themselves unspotted from the world so there will be nothing blocking their access to the Savior’s power (“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017 (Conference Edition), 41).
According to Mormonism, it’s not just making covenants that is required but keeping them. As Seventy Joseph W. Sitati put it,
We honor Heavenly Father as we deepen our relationship with Him by making and keeping all the saving covenants and ordinances. He blesses those who keep their covenants with His Spirit to guide and strengthen them (“Honoring God by Honoring Our Covenants,” Ensign, June 2016, 58, 60).
When I talk to Latter-day Saints, I ask how many commandments of God must be kept. I am normally told, “All of them.” When I ask how often, the response is, “All of the time.” Then I ask, “So how are you doing at that?” The requirement in Mormonism is steadfast. Keeping, not just making, the covenants a Latter-day Saint pledges is what is needed.
Exodus 20:4-6 stated,
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
What are God’s commandments? According to 1 John 3:19-24,
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
The command, then, is to believe and love others. That person has the Holy Spirit. A person who has the Spirit has become a new creation where old things have passed away and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17). According to Romans 8,
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
The person who does not have the Spirit has not truly believed in God as revealed in the Bible. That person’s mind is governed by the flesh, not by the Spirit, and is unable to please God. Mormonism teaches that a person must keep the commandments of God in order to have the Spirit–a backwards way of believing. As seventh President Heber J. Grant put it,
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).
This is not what Exodus 20 is talking about as the LDS Church mangles another verse from the Bible. First John 3:1-3 states:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Verses 4-6 talk about a person who willfully practices sin:
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
Verse 6 doesn’t mean that a person completely stops sinning–even after the Christian become a believers, she struggles with sin. Galatians 5 talks about the acts of the sinful nature and how they are opposed to the fruit of the Spirit (i.e., “love, joy, peace, patience,” etc.). A Christian who truly has the Holy Spirit wants to please God and fights against the fleshly nature by following God’s mandates.
As you read the counsel Moses received from his father-in-law, Jethro, ponder how you can be like the “men of truth” (sometimes translated as “trustworthy” men) described in verse 21. How can you help “bear the burden” of your Church leaders? (verse 22). For instance, how might this counsel apply to your ministering efforts?
You might also consider whether you, at times, are like Moses, trying to do too much. How might Jethro’s counsel apply to you?
I’m sure this section is a reference to callings. When Latter-day Saints are asked to “volunteer” for certain duties in the church, they are expected to accept the call. Yet the writers say that “you, at times, are like Moses trying to do too much.” How many Latter-day Saints have told me they were kept so busy in their church callings that they had little time to keep up with their family, job, and home responsibilities. This sentence seems to be ironically placed with the previous paragraph.
Consider what it means to you to be “a peculiar treasure” of the Lord (Exodus 19:5). President Russell M. Nelson offered one explanation of this phrase: “In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term from which peculiar was translated is segullah, which means ‘valued property,’ or ‘treasure.’ … For us to be identified by servants of the Lord as his peculiar people is a compliment of the highest order” (“Children of the Covenant,” Ensign, May 1995, 34). How does knowing that keeping your covenants makes you a “peculiar treasure” influence the way you live?
I am not saying good works are not important, but God’s value is not precedented on good works. In Mormonism, you are not valued for who you are (i.e., a child of God, John 1:12, Rom. 8:14-17) but rather for what you do/will do. Thus, the question is asked in this lesson: “How does knowing that keeping your covenants…?”
The Lord told Moses that the children of Israel needed to be prepared before they could “meet with God” (Exodus 19:10–11, 17) and keep a covenant with Him (see Exodus 19:5). What do you do to prepare for sacred experiences in your life, such as attending the temple or partaking of the sacrament? What can you do to more fully prepare for these experiences? Think of other spiritual activities that require preparation, and ponder how your preparation can affect the kind of experience you have.
As I’ve stated many times before in this series, the authors of Come, Follow Me have a way of taking pure biblical text and making it say things the original does not say. This passage is talking about the experience at Mt. Sinai and how the people were preparing themselves for the coming of the Law. It has nothing to do with LDS temple or sacrament preparation.
As you read Exodus 20, consider noting which of the Ten Commandments you feel you are obeying and which you feel you could obey more faithfully. You could choose one commandment to work on and then study it in more detail by reading related scriptures (see the Guide to the Scriptures at scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org) or conference messages (see the topics section of conference.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). Consider including in your study the blessings that come to those who obey the commandment. How do these blessings show God’s mercy and love for you?
More on obedience. Again, I would ask the Latter-day Saint, “So how are you doing?” The answer, 90% of the time, is “I’m trying.” I like to point out that “trying” is nothing less than an admission of failure. I like to cite D&C 58:42-43, which says,
42 Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. 43 By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.
Over and over again, LDS leaders have said that keeping–not trying to keep–God’s commandments is what is required. Twelfth President Spencer Kimball stated,
Trying Is Not Sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one
merely tries to abandon sin . . . To try is weak. To do the best we can is not strong. We must always do better than we can. This is true in every walk of life (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164-165).
I had a sincere Latter-day Saint recently ask me, “How is it possible to ‘do better than we can’?” I said, “My point exactly!” It’s because this is impossible to do. Yet Heber J. Grant was cited in a recent church manual as saying,
There are many Latter-day Saints who are building their houses upon the sand. They are failing to carry out the commandments of our Heavenly Father that come to us from time to time through His inspired servants (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 2002, 26).
According to 13th President Ezra Taft Benson, mercy must be “merited”:
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).
This is so opposite of the biblical message, which is corrupted by LDS leaders. The leaders want to emphasize the law, but someone like Paul wants to emphasize God’s grace. Galatians 3:1-6 states,
3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Romans 4:1-3 states,
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Verses 4-5 add,
4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
We receive the Spirit by hearing with faith, not by doing the works of the Law. Mormonism’s God asks “What have you done for me lately?” rather than merely making Himself available to His children.
Reading Exodus 20:1–7 might prompt you to think about the priorities in your life—you could even write them down in a list. What are some possible “gods” or “graven image[s]” (Exodus 20:3–4) that you might be tempted to put before God? How can putting the Lord first help you with the other important things in your life? What are you inspired to do to increase your focus on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
I, for one, am all in favor of having priorities higher than God. But I think Mormonism offers a number of idols that are regularly worshiped by the LDS people, including:
- The desire to attain the celestial kingdom and become exalted as gods
- The greater desire to be with “families” than to be with Jesus
- The temple and work for the dead
- The LDS Church and all it is believed it offers
Latter-day Saint, repent of these idols and instead “increase your focus on Heavenly Father and Jesus.”
This chapter is such an abomination by requiring people to qualify for God’s favor, even His mercy. Yet, in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus states,
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Mormon leaders present a much different God, saying,
“Come to us, all you who are not keeping commandments, and we will ask you to do better. Take our yoke upon you and learn from us, for our restored teaching is what needs to be obeyed if you hope to have any chance for the celestial kingdom. Honestly, our yoke is difficult and the burden we will place upon you will crush your spirit. But we’re in charge and it doesn’t matter how different we teach from what the Bible says.”
Certainly, the above is an exaggeration, yet it is true that the many requirements of Mormonism can never be met. Their way will only lead to disillusionment. Latter-day Saint, we beg you to come unto Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins you must certainly desire. Jesus is wanting to impute His righteousness (not yours) into your account.