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.)
March 7-13 (Genesis 37-41)
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Life teaches us that lesson clearly, and so does the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob. He was heir to the covenant God had made with his fathers, but he was hated by his brothers and sold into slavery. He refused to compromise his integrity when approached by Potiphar’s wife and so was cast into prison. It seemed that the more faithful he was, the more hardship he faced. But all this adversity was not a sign of God’s disapproval. In fact, through it all, “the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:3). Joseph’s life was a manifestation of this important truth: God will not forsake us.
I agree with all that is said here.
“Following the Savior will not remove all of your trials,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught. “However, it will remove the barriers between you and the help your Heavenly Father wants to give you. God will be with you” (“A Yearning for Home,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 22).
In this talk, Uchtdorf emphasizes the importance of keeping “sacred covenants.” He said,
The Lord has established The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help you in this commitment to serve God and fellowmen. Its purpose is to encourage, teach, lift, and inspire. This wonderful Church provides opportunities for you to exercise compassion, reach out to others, and renew and keep sacred covenants. It is designed to bless your life and improve your home, community, and nation. Come, join with us and trust the Lord. Lend your talents to His wonderful work. Reach out, encourage, heal, and support all who desire to feel and heed the yearning for our supernal home. Let us join together in this glorious pilgrimage to heavenly climes.
This idea of keeping covenants has been the theme of the Come, Follow Me series so far, so this fits right in line. However, this part of Uchtdorf’s talk was not cited in this particular lesson, so I cannot be too critical with the teaching at hand.
Time and again, good fortune seemed to abandon Joseph, but the Lord never did. As you read Joseph’s story, ponder questions like these: What did Joseph do to stay close to the Lord during his times of trial? How was the Lord “with him”? (Genesis 39:2–3, 21, 23).
God remained with Joseph not because of anything Joseph did but based on what God wanted to do in his life. This young man went through difficult times not because of anything wrong he had done but rather because God intended to get glory through the bad things that took place in his life, such as being sold into slavery and then getting jailed when he was wrongfully accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife. Genesis 50:20 states, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” God is sovereign, even when things don’t seem to go the way we want or even expect.
Elder David A. Bednar taught, “Revelations are conveyed in a variety of ways, including, for example, dreams, visions, conversations with heavenly messengers, and inspiration” (“The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 88). The Lord used dreams to reveal truths to Joseph, Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker, and Pharaoh. The Lord also revealed to Joseph how to interpret these dreams. What can you learn from Genesis 37:5–11; 40:5–8; 41:14–25, 37–38 about receiving and understanding revelation from the Lord? For instance, what can you learn from Joseph’s example when revelation seems difficult to understand? (see Genesis 40:8; 41:16).
Ponder how the Lord is revealing His will to you. What are you doing to act on revelation the Lord has given you? How are you seeking additional guidance from Him?
I think it is a mistake to insinuate that everyday members should look to dreams, visions, (and) conversations with heavenly messengers” as ways to determine God’s will. We must understand that God gifted Joseph with a special ability. We see in Genesis 41:39 where Pharaoh told Joseph how “there is none so discerning and wise as you are.”
Don’t get me wrong, as I do believe that God can still communicate His will today through these types of means. But, in Mormonism, each person is supposed to be able to get confirmed truth through personal revelation, although the parameters for receiving information is never really set.
According to the Bible, everything must be in accordance with the overall message given in the Bible. Even a person receiving a “vision” that explains how Jesus was embodied in a man who lived in Puerto Rico (Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda), as this man claimed he had been told by a pair of angels in 1973, should be rejected as a false teacher (1 John 4:1).
Those who say true believers should give money to them or their organization so God will prosper them ought to be rejected as well. For instance, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Paula White, and Creflo Dollar have all corrupted the Gospel with improper teachings about prosperity. (See here.) The teachings of the Bible is the standard upon which truth can be determined. The problem with “personal revelation” is that it is based too much on feelings, which can be problematic (see Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 14:12). Only what is taught by the Bible should be accepted as true.
As bold as Bednar’s words appear to be, he certainly would hold to the same thing. After all, if someone gets a personal “revelation” that Joseph Smith is not a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is not true scripture, and that there is no truth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–such a person would be readily rejected and would be called a liar by faithful Mormons. Thus, getting “revelations” in Mormonism are only as good as these align with the doctrines of Mormonism.
I think former BYU professor Robert Millet is correct when he wrote,
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).
As my mother used to tell me, be careful what you wish for.
Genesis 38; 39:7–20
With the Lord’s help, I can flee temptation.
When you are being tempted, Joseph’s example can give you encouragement and strength. As you read about his experience in Genesis 39, notice things Joseph did to resist temptation. For example:
He “refused” the advances of Potiphar’s wife (verse 8).
He recognized that sinning would offend God and others (verses 8–9).
He “hearkened not” to the temptation, even though it continued “day by day” (verse 10).
He “left his garment … and fled, and got him out” (verse 12).
With Joseph’s example in mind, consider making a plan for avoiding and resisting temptation. For example, you could think of a temptation you face, write down situations to avoid, and make a plan to rely on Heavenly Father when the temptation arises (see 2 Nephi 4:18, 27–33).
Except for the reference to the Book of Mormon, I don’t disagree with the advice given here. Temptation is universal. Instead of referring to the Book of Mormon, perhaps the authors could have pointed the reader to James 1, which states in part:
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Overall, the theme of this lesson did not oppose biblical Christianity as badly as the first two months worth of lessons. Of course, I disagree with the idea of personal revelation and having confirmed to each person the truthfulness of the teachings of the LDS Church. Perhaps the reason I found this lesson to not be as objectionable is that it did not rely as much on the unique Standard Works. Like the others, this lesson is shallow in many ways, but, for the most part, it did not overtly contradict the teaching of the Bible as the others did.