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Come, Follow Me (Exodus 24, 31-34)

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 25-May 1 (Exodus 24, 31-34)

There was reason to be hopeful that the children of Israel would remain true to God after He revealed His law to them (see Exodus 20–23). Even though they had murmured and wavered in the past, when Moses read the law at the foot of Mount Sinai, they made this covenant: “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). God then called Moses onto the mountain, telling him to build a tabernacle so “that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8; see chapters 25–30).

But while Moses was at the top of the mountain learning how the Israelites could have God’s presence among them, the Israelites were at the bottom of the mountain making a golden idol to worship instead. They had just promised to “have no other gods,” yet they “turned aside quickly” from God’s commandments (Exodus 20:3; 32:8; see also Exodus 24:3). It was a surprising turn, but we know from experience that faith and commitment can sometimes be overcome by impatience, fear, or doubt. As we seek the Lord’s presence in our lives, it is encouraging to know that the Lord did not give up on ancient Israel and He will not give up on us—for He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).

These words are correct, as it is an egregious sin to worship another “god.” The very first commandment clearly states that nobody should have any other god before the true God. I find this ironic because I believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes this very same mistake.

A Latter-day Saint might respond, “Can’t you ever say anything good about this series?” Please, hear me out. The idea of God as revealed in the Bible is so different than what is taught in Mormonism.

The following is a chart that will be printed in a new book I have written (Introducing Christianity to Mormons) set for release in September 2022:

Christianity Bible References Mormonism References
God is one in essence and is the only God who exists. This is called monotheism (mono = one, theism = belief in God). Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5 Three separate gods (Father/Son/Spirit) who “are one in will, purpose, and love.” Tri-theism, not monotheism. Mormons assume that the biblical verses referring to “one God” mean “one in purpose,” not “one in essence.”
God is spirit. John 1:18; 4:24; Romans 8:2,14; 2 Corinthians 3:17 God has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. D&C 130:22
God is omnipresent and is not limited by spatial restraints. Psalm 139:7-12; Proverbs 15:3; Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Amos 9:2-3 God’s body is localized in space and is not bodily omnipresent. D&C 88:6,7,13
God originated everything out of nothing (Latin: creatio ex nihilo). Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 37:16; 45:7,18; 66:2; Job 33:4; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17 God organized the universe out of pre-existing material (Latin: creatio ex materia). Book of Abraham 4:1; Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse in 1844
God is the only true God in the universe; all other “gods” are false. Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Kings 8:60; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6-9; 45:22 Multiple true gods existed before Elohim (God the Father) and there will be gods who will follow Him. Book of Abraham chapters 4 and 5
God is omnipotent (all powerful) to do all things logically possible, although there are some things He cannot do, including sin or lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Genesis 1:1; 18:14; Job 42:2; Isaiah 40:28; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; 1 Corinthians 6:14 While He has power over everything, God is limited because He is subject to eternal “natural law.” God organized the elements already in existence but He was unable to create out of nothing. Book of Abraham 3:22 and 4:1 refer to multiple true gods who collaborated on the creation of the universe. Elements, intelligence, and law are coeternal with God (D&C 88:34-40; 93:29,33,35).

Are these differences a problem? Why, yes it is. Either the Bible is accurate in what it has taught about God, or it is not. Mormon leaders, unfortunately, have devised another version of God that just is not the same.

Although I am not convinced Joseph Smith always believed in this version of God, listen to what he taught just a few weeks before he was killed in a gun battle at the Carthage Jail:

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, if the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345. See also Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 129).

He also taught:

We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-346. See also Gospel Principles, 1997, 305).

A different God from what the Bible teaches is certainly a problem. For more information about God, here is a good article to read as a starter.

Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Exodus 24:1–11

My covenants show my willingness to obey God’s law.

According to Mormonism, covenants are not merely to show one is “willing to obey God’s law” but are meant to be kept. Over and over again, leaders have stressed this to be true. For instance, twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball stated,

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).

Kimball’s successor, Ezra Taft Benson, added,

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).

For those who merely strive yet fail to do what they were commanded to do, it is, as we used to say on the play yards, “close but no cigar.” As admirable as it might be to be willing to keep God’s commandment, the only thing that will suffice according to Mormonism is actually doing what was commanded…all the commandment, all the time.

For more on this topic, click here.

As you read in Exodus 24:3–8 about the Israelites covenanting to obey God’s law, your thoughts may turn to the covenants you have made with God. Israel’s covenant included rituals that are different from what God requires today, but you may notice some similarities, especially if you consider the eternal truths symbolized by these rituals.

For example, verses 4, 5, and 8 mention an altar, animal sacrifices, and blood. What could these things represent, and how do they relate to your covenants? How can your covenants help you do “all that the Lord hath said”? (verse 7).

The items mentioned above (altar, animal sacrifices, and blood) have been fulfilled by Jesus. The author of Hebrews makes this very clear. Hebrews 9 says that redemption comes through the blood of Jesus Christ:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

When Jesus said “it is finished” on the cross, the old covenant was done away with and the new came into existence. However, Mormonism stresses the importance of one’s keeping the “commandments” to make oneself right with God. This is not a biblical concept.

Exodus 32–34

Sin is turning away from God, but He offers a way back. By pondering how the Israelites so quickly “corrupted themselves” (Exodus 32:7) by breaking their covenants, we can avoid similar mistakes. As you read Exodus 32:1–8, try to put yourself in the Israelites’ place—you’re in the wilderness, Moses has been gone for 40 days, you don’t know if or when he will come back, and a confrontation with the Canaanites over the promised land is in your future (see also Exodus 23:22–31). Why do you think the Israelites wanted a golden idol? Why was the Israelites’ sin so serious? These verses might prompt you to ponder ways you might be tempted to put your trust in someone or something other than the Savior. Is there anything you feel inspired to do so that you can more completely put God first in your life? What inspires you about Moses’s plea to the Lord in Exodus 33:11–17?

I am all for turning away from idols and putting God first in my life. Yet the way this looks in Mormonism is different from what the Bible says one must do: To put one’s full trust in Jesus Christ and His work (John 6:29). Any attempt to try to keep covenants to please God will end up for naught.

What was the difference between the two sets of stone tables Moses made?

When Moses came down from the mountain, he brought the law written on stone tables. After finding that the Israelites had broken their covenant, Moses broke the tables (see Exodus 31:18; 32:19). Later, God commanded Moses to make another set of stone tables and take them back to the mountain (see Exodus 34:1–4). Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2 (in the Bible appendix) clarifies that the first set of stone tables included the ordinances of God’s “holy order,” or the Melchizedek Priesthood. The second set included “the law of a carnal commandment.” This was a lesser law administered by the “lesser priesthood” (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:17–27), which was meant to prepare the Israelites for the higher law and higher priesthood so they could more fully enter into God’s presence.

The Joseph Smith Translation–a version that has no historical support–is used to show that the Melchizedek Priesthood or the “lesser priesthood” are mentioned here in Exodus. Yet this version has no historical support, and no ancient Hebrew text support these ideas.

To learn more about the priesthood of Mormonism, click here.

Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Exodus 31:12–13, 16–17.

After reading these verses, perhaps your family could discuss President Russell M. Nelson’s question about our behavior on the Sabbath: “What sign will you give to the Lord to show your love for Him?” (“The Sabbath Is a Delight,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 130). Your family could make some signs to place around your home to remind you how you will show love for the Lord on the Sabbath. 

First, we need to understand that the “Sabbath” is something New Testament Christians never observed. Of course, the Sabbath is on Saturday. However, very early the disciples began to observe Sunday–the first day of the week–as the “Lord’s Day.”

But unfortunately, Mormonism has turned a day meant for good (rest) into a legalistic day, just as the Jews of Jesus’s day did. Citing Kimball, one church manual stated,

Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day. President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, however, that if we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 170.)” (Gospel Principles, 2009, 141).

Kimball also said,

Sabbath-breakers too are those who buy commodities or entertainment on the Sabbath, thus encouraging pleasure palaces and business establishments to remain open—which they otherwise would not do. If we buy, sell, trade, or support such on the Lord’s day we are rebellious as the children of Israel…” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 46).

What was meant to be a good thing ends up becoming legalistic, which is something Jesus certainly despised (Luke 11:37-53). This is what Mormonism does by taking something good and turning it into a rule and regulation, whereas someone who shops at a store on a Sunday or watches football in the afternoon is considered to be rebellious.

Exodus 32:26.

After the Israelites were found worshipping an idol, Moses asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” How do we show we are on the Lord’s side?

I think the answer intended by the author of this question is that we show we are on the Lord’s side by keeping His commandments. It might surprise some that I would answer much the same way. After all, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The difference that the Latter-day Saint and I have, though, is the order of keeping commandments and doing the right thing. I believe that Mormonism gets it backwards: Keep the commandments and God will show favor to you. But the Bible says that have faith in God and then keep the commandments. It’s a different way of thinking.

Conclusion

Even in this study of the Old Testament, distinct differences between Mormonism and Christianity can be shown.

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