By Eric Johnson
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.)
February 21-27, 2022 (Genesis 24-27)
God’s covenant with Abraham included the promise that through Abraham and his posterity “shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Abraham 2:11).
That is the first sentence of the chapter. Genesis 12:3 states how in Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Yet notice how the church writers decide to cite a plagiarized verse given in the Pearl of Great Price. Yes, through Abraham he and his posterity would be blessed–it’s a biblical truth. But a reference to an extrabiblical “scripture” is just not necessary.
Today many people make marriage a low priority or even consider it a burden. Abraham had a different perspective—to him, the marriage of his son Isaac was of highest importance. Why do you think it was so important to him? As you read Genesis 24, think about the importance of marriage in God’s plan of salvation.
Let’s take a few minutes and digest what this paragraph is saying. Marriage is something provided to humans by God to fulfill their relational and sexual needs. Genesis 2:24 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Marriage is a blessing from God.
At the same time, I do not believe Genesis 24 is teaching that “marriage is essential to God’s eternal plan.” Rather, this chapter tells the story of the negotiations of how Isaac and Rebekah came to be husband and wife. This was nothing less than an arranged marriage! Consider these verses from Genesis 24:
50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” 52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the Lord. 53 And the servant brought out jewelry of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments.
Here is the end of the story of this “love affair”:
62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
The servant basically told Isaac, “Listen, I met this beautiful woman, so we arranged a deal where I paid the family in precious metals and they let me take her home to you.” But how does Genesis 24 have anything to do with the LDS doctrine that “marriage is essential to God’s eternal plan”? Talk about a shot in the dark and a verse that in no way proves this audacious statement!
Marriage is meant for this life but not the next. Consider what Jesus said in Mark 12:25,
For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”
See more on this issue by clicking here.
Also, if marriage is required to live righteously in eternity, then it seems very strange that Paul would have written the following in 1 Corinthians 6:
32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
In other words, Paul is saying that if a person is unmarried, it would be better for him to stay unmarried because his attention would be divided. Imagine how much a single man could accomplish for the kingdom without the distractions!
Still, Mormonism teaches that marriage is a requirement for the celestial kingdom. Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
No exaltation without marriage. Since marriage is ordained of God, and the man is not without the woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord, there can be no exaltation to the fullness of the blessings of the celestial kingdom outside of the marriage relation (Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, 164. Bold and italics in original).
Seventy Paul B. Pieper taught, “The full blessings of the priesthood are received together as husband and wife or not at all” (“Revealed Realities of Mortality,” Ensign, January 2016, 21). No biblical support can be cited in support for such a teaching, and certainly Genesis 24 is not a good resource to support such a doctrine.
The Abrahamic covenant was renewed through Isaac.
The covenant God made with Abraham was intended to continue through many generations, so Abraham and Sarah’s legacy of covenant keeping would need to be passed down to Isaac, Jacob, and other faithful women and men among their posterity. As you read Genesis 26:1–5, look for some of the blessings of the covenant that God mentioned. What do you learn about God from these verses?
Notice how the covenant given unconditionally to Abraham has been turned into a “legacy of covenant keeping”? Genesis 12 states,
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God made a covenant with Abraham that was unconditional. Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” At the end of this chapter, God has Abraham cut up animals as a sign of promise and then the Spirit of God went through the carcasses. It was a covenant made by God as He promised Abraham what He said would come to pass.
In Mormonism, covenants promising to keep all of God’s commandments are made weekly by faithful members at their Sunday sacrament service. Joseph Fielding Smith explained,
Renew covenants in sacrament meeting. We have been called upon to commemorate this great event and to keep it in mind constantly. For this purpose we are called together once each week to partake of these emblems, witnessing that we do remember our Lord, that we are willing to take upon us his name, and that we will keep his commandments. This covenant we are called upon to renew each week, and we cannot retain the Spirit of the Lord if we do not consistently comply with this commandment (Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, 146. Bold and italics in original).
Smith was amazed at how quickly these covenants were broken by Mormons:
Violation of covenant of sacrament. Again, I have wondered how members of the Church can go to the sacrament service and partake of these emblems, and make these solemn covenants, and then immediately after the close of the meeting go out to some place of amusement, to attend a picture show, a baseball game, or some resort, or to gather at some home to play cards (Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, 150. Bold in original).
Every week faithful Mormons return to their Sunday services to repent and then make the same pledge that they continue to break week after week. Of course, they try their hardest, as 15th President Gordon B. Hinckley explained:
We are a people who have taken upon us a solemn covenant and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us strive a little harder to keep the commandments, to live as the Lord has asked us to live” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 181).
Yet striving harder doesn’t equal success in keeping all the commandments. According to twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball, “one must not be surprised that effort is required, and not merely desire” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164). Kimball also said,
Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works–many works–and an all-out total surrender, with a great humility and a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (Ibid., 324-325).
Yet the Bible says forgiveness is for the asking (through faith) and cannot be earned through all the good works in the world.
For an article on forgiveness, click here.
We don’t know the reasons behind the approach Rebekah and Jacob used to obtain a blessing for Jacob. It is helpful to remember that the Old Testament as we now have it is incomplete (see Moses 1:23, 41). There may be information missing from the original records that would explain what might seem troubling to us.
Out of nowhere comes the accusation “that the Old Testament as we now have it is incomplete.” Two verses from the Pearl of Great Price are used for support–yet there is no proof for the authenticity of Book of Moses because Joseph Smith made up everything in this book. For instance, there is not even a manuscript used to produce the English version! Moses 1:23, 41 says,
And now of this thing Moses bore record; but because of wickedness it is not had among the children of men. . . . And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.
First Nephi 13 in the Book of Mormon reports, “Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.”
One church manual explains some of the “plain and precious things” supposedly taken away:
Even before the death of the Apostles, many conflicts concerning doctrine arose. The Roman Empire, which at first had persecuted the Christians, later adopted Christianity. Important religious
questions were settled by councils. The simple doctrines and ordinances taught by the Savior were debated and changed to conform to worldly philosophies (see Isaiah 24:5). They physically changed
the scriptures, removing plain and precious doctrines from them (1 Nephi 13:26–40). They created creeds, or statements of belief, based on false and changed doctrine (see Joseph Smith—History
1:19) (Preach My Gospel, 2004, 36).
There is no evidence that the Old Testament was tampered with. When the eleven caves containing the Dead Sea Scrolls uncovering more than 200 Old Testament manuscripts were first discovered in 1947, the evidence shows that the scriptures had been extremely well preserved from the time they were written until the end of the first millennium.
An excellent example is the Book of Isaiah–called the Great Scroll of Isaiah uncovered in Cave 1–that is dated 125 BC, well before the time Jesus was born. Yet when a comparison of the Masoretic text (about AD 1000) is made with Isaiah 53 (a chapter filled with prophecy of the Messiah), only minor changes were made, most involving no-longer-used accent marks. Nobody has changed the “plain and precious truths.” As the late BYU professor Stephen E. Robinson put it,
So far the plain and precious things have not been restored to us in the Dead Sea Scrolls. If Latter-day Saints would just get a good English translation of the [already] published scrolls, they would
discover that the people of Qumran are not [Latter-day] Saints of former days” (“LDS Scholars Renew Interest In Mysterious Dead Sea Scrolls,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 7, 1991, A5. Brackets in original).
The accusation made in the Come, Follow Me lesson is not aimed at the New Testament, although it seems that, historically, this is the bigger target. Scholars have access to more than 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts, including entire copies from the 4th century. There are also 24,000 manuscripts from other languages. If the Catholic monks and priests tampered with these manuscripts, it would not be hard to show where the tampering took place.
For an interesting take on the archaeological approach to support the Bible, click here.
If there was tampering, surely the Inspired Translation (or Joseph Smith Translation) finished in 1833 should have fixed these types of problems! As the back cover of a book written on the topic states:
The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible stands among the greatest revelations given by the Lord to restore plain and precious gospel truths to the earth that had been lost for millennia.
Given to Joseph Smith through inspiration — rather than being translated from ancient manuscripts — it involved the higher skill of being conversant with the language of the Spirit (Back cover, The Joseph Smith Translation: Precious Truths Restored, W. Jeffrey Marsh).
A church magazine agreed:
The Book of Mormon revealed that many plain and precious truths had been taken from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13). The inspired translation of the Bible that Joseph Smith was commanded to undertake restored many of these truths (“Restoring the Kingdom of God,” Ensign, October 2006, 42).
See more on the Joseph Smith Translation.
The burden of proof is on the Mormon. Until evidence can be shown to back up this claim, it would be better for church writers to quit making blanket accusations in a charge that is blatantly untrue.
Meanwhile, if this reference is to other Old Testament books, even the LDS Church (like the Jews and Christian Protestants) do not include the apocrypha or pseudepigrapha in their canon. If the Old Testament is incomplete, then the church needs to help determine what is actually missing.
Genesis 24:15–28, 55–60.
Your family could look in these verses for attributes that made Rebekah a worthy eternal companion for Isaac. Encourage family members to pick one of these attributes that they feel they should develop.
The authors read into the passage (i.e., “worthy eternal companion for Isaac”) and turn it into something it does not say.
I continue to be amazed how the curriculum’s authors skip over important parts of the Old Testament passages they cite while focusing on things that are certainly not emphasized in these chapters, including how marriage is essential to God’s eternal plan and how the Old Testament is incomplete. If only the church would do a better job focusing its attention on what the Old Testament scripture is saying, then this series could be viewed as something worthwhile. So far, Come, Follow Me has not been a valuable Old Testament resource by any stretch of the imagination.