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 28-April 3 (Exodus 7-13)
Plague after plague afflicted Egypt, but Pharaoh still refused to release the Israelites. And yet God continued to demonstrate His power and give Pharaoh opportunities to accept “that I am the Lord” and “there is none like me in all the earth” (Exodus 7:5; 9:14). Meanwhile, Moses and the Israelites must have watched with awe at these manifestations of God’s power in their behalf. Surely these continued signs confirmed their faith in God and strengthened their willingness to follow God’s prophet. Then, after nine terrible plagues had failed to free the Israelites, it was the tenth plague—the death of the firstborn, including Pharaoh’s firstborn—that finally ended the captivity. This seems fitting because in every case of spiritual captivity, there truly is only one way to escape. No matter what else we may have tried in the past, it is with us as it was with the children of Israel. It is only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Firstborn—the blood of the Lamb without blemish—that will save us.
As we talked about last week, the meaning of a biblical/theological term matters. Last week we discussed Jesus as “Savior.” This week the word is “save” (as in “save us”), with the passage above saying that the way to escape spiritual captivity is through Jesus, the Firstborn and the blood of the Lamb.
But what exactly does the word “save” mean in an LDS context? According to Mormonism, all humans will be “saved” to one of the three kingdoms of glory. For instance, Dieter F. Uchtdorf told a general conference audience:
After the Resurrection, there will be a Day of Judgment. While all will eventually be saved and inherit a kingdom of glory, those who trust in God and seek to follow His laws and ordinances will inherit lives in the eternities that are unimaginable in glory and overwhelming in majesty. That Day of Judgment will be a day of mercy and love—a day when broken hearts are healed, when tears of grief are replaced with tears of gratitude, when all will be made right (“O How Great the Plan of Our God!” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2016, 21).
I think this quote from tenth president Joseph Fielding Smith is most helpful to help distinguish the nuances of salvation according to Mormonism:
Salvation is twofold: General – that which comes to all men irrespective of a belief (in this life) in Christ- and, Individual – that which man merits through his own acts through life and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (Doctrines of Salvation 1:134. Italics in original).
Thus, it can be said that “it is only the sacrifice of Jesus” that can save a person (general) but works by a person are required for full salvation (individual). As fourth President Wilford Woodruff wrote,
All men are saved by and through the blood of Jesus Christ, through obedience to the gospel.–JD 23:130, May 14, 1882 (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 23).
Leaders have been consistent in teaching that individual salvation, or exaltation, only comes through complete obedience, as discussed in detail last week. Eleventh President Harold B. Lee stated,
ULTIMATE SALVATION COMES TO THOSE WHO OBEY. The ancient prophets of this western continent have clearly set forth in understandable language the obligation of each individual to obtain the highest of these eternal privileges in mortality and in the world to come, for here we find written: ‘For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ . . . for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). In other words, each must do all he can to save himself from sin; then he may lay claim to the blessings of redemption by the Holy One of Israel, that all mankind may be saved by obedience to the law and ordinances of the gospel. Jesus also atoned not only for Adam’s transgressions but for the sins of all mankind. But redemption from individual sins depends upon individual effort, with each being judged according to his or her works. The scriptures make it clear that while a resurrection will come to all, only those who obey the Christ will receive the expanded blessing of eternal salvation (“To Ease the Aching Heart,” Ensign, April 1973, p. 5. Cited in The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, pp. 17-18. Ellipsis in original).
Seventy Gerald N. Lund explained it another way:
The atonement of Christ overcame physical death through the Resurrection. This is salvation by grace because it comes to all men automatically and does not depend on what kinds of lives they have lived. But, if we wish to overcome spiritual death and enter back into God’s presence, we must be obedient to laws and principles. This is exaltation by works. Thus, according to this explanation, we are saved by grace and exalted by works (Gerald N. Lund (Second Quorum), “Salvation: By Grace or by Works?” Ensign, April 1981, 18. Italics in original).
It is true that the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) is what will save a person. Jesus is enough, as one’s obedience to God’s commandments are incapable of adding to what Jesus has already done.
Exodus 7-11 I can choose to soften my heart.
Hopefully your will is never as dramatically opposed to God’s will as Pharaoh’s was. Still, we all have times when our hearts aren’t as soft as they should be, so there is something to learn from Pharaoh’s actions recorded in Exodus 7–10. As you read about the plagues in these chapters, what stands out to you about Pharaoh’s responses? Do you notice any similar tendencies toward hardheartedness in yourself? Ponder what you learn from these chapters about what it means to have a soft heart.
Note that the Joseph Smith Translation of Exodus 7:3, 13; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10 clarifies that the Lord did not harden Pharaoh’s heart—Pharaoh hardened his own heart (see the footnotes for each verse).
Joseph Smith made his adjustments to his Inspired Version with no textual support. In other words, there is no evidence that those verses were not originally written with God hardening Pharaoh’s heart.
Take away these verses and still a Latter-day Saint needs to explain the meaning of Romans chapter 9, which says:
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Notice how God has mercy on whomever he will, and He hardens whomever he wills. The passage in Romans continues:
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
When Smith added (or took out) words in a passage such as Exodus, there is no manuscript that can be pointed to for justification. This should not be called an “Inspired Translation” but a “Creative Rendering,” nothing more.
Exodus 12:1–42 The Passover symbolizes Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
The only way for the Israelites to be spared from the tenth plague, described in Exodus 11:4–5, was to precisely follow the instructions the Lord gave to Moses in Exodus 12, a ritual known as the Passover. The Passover teaches us through symbols that just as the Lord delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, He can also deliver us from the bondage of sin.
And all I can say is, “Amen!” Unfortunately, as I point out above, Jesus is not enough in the system known as Mormonism.
The sacrament helps me remember my deliverance through Jesus Christ.
What similarities do you see between the purposes of the feast of the Passover and the sacrament? How does reading about the Passover remind you of the sacrament and bring more meaning to that ordinance? Consider what you can do to “always remember” Jesus Christ (Moroni 4:3; 5:2; see also Luke 22:7–8, 19–20).
The sacrament in Mormonism (similar to the Lord’s Supper or Communion) is not just remembrance but is where a person repents and then recovenants with God. So I do not see the similarity with this LDS ordinance.
As Apostle Gerrit Gong told a general conference audience:
In the ordinance of the sacrament, we witness unto God the Father that we are willing to take upon us the name of His Son and always remember Him and keep His commandments, which He has given us, that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (“Always Remember Him,” Ensign, May 2016 (Conference Edition), 108).
Henry B. Eyring, the second counselor in the First Presidency, said,
Third, we promise as we take the sacrament to keep His commandments, all of them. President J. Reuben Clark Jr., as he pled—as he did many times—for unity in a general conference talk, warned us against being selective in what we will obey. He put it this way: ‘The Lord has given us nothing that is useless or unnecessary. He has filled the Scriptures with the things which we should do in order that we may gain salvation.’ President Clark went on: ‘When we partake of the Sacrament we covenant to obey and keep his commandments. There are no exceptions. There are no distinctions, no differences’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1955, 10–11). President Clark taught that just as we repent of all sin, not just a single sin, we pledge to keep all the commandments. Hard as that sounds, it is uncomplicated. We simply submit to the authority of the Savior and promise to be obedient to whatever He commands (see Mosiah 3:19). It is our surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ which will allow us to be bound as families, as a Church, and as the children of our Heavenly Father (“That We All May Be One,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1998, 67-68).
So the sacrament is much more than a person remembering Jesus Christ. Rather, it’s promising to keep God’s commandments in the covenant-making process. Yet nobody can possibly keep the covenants that are made.
It really is the sacrifice of the Lamb and a person’s faith in what was done on the cross that provides forgiveness of sins. Unfortunately, this idea is not taught in the LDS Church. Yes, all people will receive a kingdom of glory based on the atonement, but the celestial kingdom can only be reached if a person keeps the commandments. In addition, the sacrament in Mormonism is something more than “remembering” but rather is a place where sins are repented for and a new covenant to keep all the commandments of God is made.
For more on this, see Crash Course Mormonism’s look at commandments/covenants.