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.)
Ezra 1; 3-7; Nehemiah 2; 4-6; 8
The Jewish people had been held captive in Babylonia for about 70 years. They had lost Jerusalem and the temple, and many had forgotten their commitment to God’s law. But God had not forgotten them. In fact, He had declared through His prophet, “I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return” (Jeremiah 29:10). True to this prophecy, the Lord did make a way for the Jews to return, and He raised up servants who accomplished “a great work” for His people (Nehemiah 6:3). These servants included a governor named Zerubbabel, who oversaw the rebuilding of the house of the Lord; Ezra, a priest and scribe who turned the hearts of the people back to the Lord’s law; and Nehemiah, a later governor of Judah who led the work of rebuilding the protective walls around Jerusalem. They met opposition, of course, but also received assistance from unexpected sources. Their experiences can inform and inspire ours, because we too are doing a great work. And like theirs, our work has much to do with the house of the Lord, the law of the Lord, and the spiritual protection we find in Him.
In Mormonism, “doing a great work” means going to the temple regularly in order to do ordinances for the dead (temple), keeping all the commandments (law of the Lord), and remaining in the graces of the LDS Church (spiritual protection). this is different from what biblical Christianity teaches.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
The Lord inspires people to bring about His purposes.
After Persia conquered Babylonia, the Persian king, Cyrus, was inspired by the Lord to send a group of Jews to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. As you read Ezra 1, note what Cyrus was willing to do to support the Jews in this important work. How do you see the Lord working through men and women around you, including those who are not members of His Church? What does this suggest to you about the Lord and His work?
I am guessing the suggested answer to these questions would emphasize governmental officials who allow the church to buy property and create buildings that only a minority in the city and surrounding area will ever be allowed inside. But money does talk, even when the church builds temples outside safe states like Utah, Idaho and Arizona where many governmental officials are LDS. The church doesn’t publicly reveal the cost of these buildings, but if they did, I’m sure many people would be very surprised.
Could this be a reference to folks like myself who come to the temple open house events and share the Christian Gospel with people on the public sidewalks? (I highly doubt it.) If the opportunity is not there in front of the temple, we will then knock on doors in the neighborhoods and provide “open house” newspapers to those willing to read it. We make these evangelistic events at the open houses a priority because we want everyone to hear the “other side of the story” and be exposed to reasons why temples are not meant for Christians today.
For more information on the temple, click here.
To see the website used at the open house events, go to SacredOrSecret.com.
Temples can bring me joy.
When the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem, they plundered the temple and burned it to the ground (see 2 Kings 25:1–10; 2 Chronicles 36:17–19). How do you think you might have felt if you had been among the Jews who witnessed this? (see Psalm 137). Notice how the Jews felt, decades later, when they were allowed to return and rebuild the temple (see Ezra 3:8–13; 6:16–22). Ponder your own feelings about the temple. Why are temples a source of joy? How can you demonstrate your gratitude to the Lord for temples?
It certainly would have been a tragedy to have watched a foreign invader destroy the temple in Jerusalem, the place God set apart for communion with Him. This happened twice, in 586 BC and AD 70. However, by no means should we pretend that the temple in Jerusalem is related to the more than 170 different LDS temples located around the world. It is apples and oranges, as the symbolism of the temple was fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus.
Consider the Book of Hebrews. Read both chapters 9 and 10. Consider this portion from the first part of Hebrews 9:
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Jesus has accomplished the work required in the temple so His followers no longer need such a physical edifice. However, LDS leaders just don’t understand this and have become the first who claim to be followers of Christ to have made such an emphasis upon this building.
Ezra 7; Nehemiah 8
I am blessed when I study the scriptures.
Even after the temple was rebuilt, the people of Jerusalem struggled spiritually, in part because, for generations, they had limited access to “the book of the law of Moses” (Nehemiah 8:1). Ezra the scribe received permission from the king of Persia to go to Jerusalem, where he “brought the law before the congregation” (Nehemiah 8:2). How can you follow Ezra’s example as described in Ezra 7:10? As you read Nehemiah 8, which gives the account of Ezra reading the law to the people, what thoughts do you have about the power of the word of God in your life?
As I talked about in last week’s lesson, when the word “scriptures” is used, the authors probably mean the Standard Works, which includes the three unique books Evangelical Christians reject as scripture. For Christians, “scriptures” means the Old and New Testaments, nothing more. If that is what is meant, then I think the advice of the church is exactly correct.
Perhaps you are a Latter-day Saint. I recommend starting with the book of Romans and reading this book in a modern language that can be easily understood. In fact, I’ll give yo a link to the ESV–there are 16 total chapters, so 1 chapter a day means you would be finished in a little over 2 weeks. If you want to do this, I have a “Roman’s Challenge” that you might like to consider this article. See if the Gospel that Paul described in this epistle is the same as what Mormonism teaches.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Ezra 3:8–13; 6:16–22.
How did the Jews show their joy for the temple as it was being rebuilt and then as it was dedicated? What are we doing to show our joy for the temple? Perhaps your family could look at pictures of temples and talk about how temples bring you joy (see temples.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
With the church spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new temples, the goal of church leaders this year seems to be getting their people pumped to do their work for the dead. Why do the authors suggest looking at pictures of temples and talking about how they bring joy? With the current number at 173 temples and about another 100 scheduled to be built, they want to get these buildings used as much as possible. Unfortunately, the temple is not something that biblical Christians have ever focused on, even during the time of the apostles!
Nehemiah 2; 4; 6.
The story of Nehemiah can inspire family members when they face opposition as they do “a great work” (Nehemiah 6:3). Family members could build a wall from objects you have around your home as you read together key passages (such as Nehemiah 2:17–20; 4:13–18; 6:1–3). What do we learn from Nehemiah about facing opposition? What great work does the Lord want us to do? How has the Lord strengthened us to overcome opposition to this work?
I’m sure many doing this lesson will think about the opposition they’ve seen in relation to the LDS Church. Perhaps a ministry such as Mormonism Research Ministry is in consideration as in “opposition.” Let it be known we are not in “opposition” to the individual Latter-day Saints but rather to the religion itself. We are not “anti-Mormon” but rather “anti-Mormonism.”
In Nehemiah 8, Ezra read the law of Moses to a people who were eager to hear God’s word. Reading verses 1–12 could help deepen your family’s appreciation for the word of God. How did the people feel about God’s law? How can we help each other “understand the reading”? (verse 8).
Again, I fully concur that every Latter-day Saint ought to take up this challenge and focus on understanding God’s Word, over and above the unique interpretations given by LDS Church leaders.
Read God’s special revelation, the Bible, and understand what it says about how His followers are supposed to believe. When we hunger for God’s Word, He has a way of fulfilling our needs and making Himself known. What great advice, and so I encourage you to do this starting today!