This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
“An High Priest of Good Things to Come”
Even faithful Saints at times suffer “reproaches and afflictions” that can shake their confidence (see Hebrews 10:32–38). Paul knew that Jewish converts to Christianity were experiencing severe persecution because of their new faith. To encourage them to stay true to their testimonies, he reminded them of the long tradition of faithful believers from their own history: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Joseph, Moses—“a cloud of witnesses” that God’s promises are real and worth waiting for (see Hebrews 11; 12:1). This tradition is yours too. It’s a heritage of faith shared by all those who look “unto Jesus [as] the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Because of Him, whenever adversity makes us want to “draw back,” we can instead “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22, 38). For us, as for the ancient Saints, Jesus Christ is our “high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11).
According to the Bible, Jesus is the “high priest” for the Christian believer. In fact, there is no need for any other priest. So why does Mormonism insist on an “Aaronic” or “Melchizedek” priesthood for its eligible male members?
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
The Melchizedek Priesthood points me to Jesus Christ.
For centuries, the Jews had exercised the Levitical Priesthood, also known as the Aaronic Priesthood. But with the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ came the restoration of thMelchizedekTriesthood, which offered even greater blessings. What do you learn about the Melchizedek Priesthood from Hebrews 7?
I learn that Jesus is the only one who has a priesthood of this order. Hebrews 7:24-25 says, ”But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
It is “permanent,” verse 25 says. One note from an old KJV Bible produced by the LDS Church says, “or, changeth not from one to another.” Where does this passage infer that anyone was meant to have a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek? The Latter-day Saint leaders have to stretch the passage by using unsound interpretation tactics.
Keeping in mind that the purpose of this epistle—like all scripture—is to build faith in Jesus Christ, you might note passages that testify of Him. Here are some examples of other truths you might find:
Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 7:3, 21: Those who are ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood“are made like unto the Son of God” and are “[priests] forever.”
Hebrews 7:3 says, “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” It doesn’t say what Smith claims it says in his version. Then, verse 21 reads, “he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
Jesus is the one who has this priesthood forever, not the LDS people who hope to be “ordained” to it. Notice how the curriculum writers had to conveniently move away from the church’s official translation and use a precarious “translation” to support its position. For more on the Joseph Smith Translation, click here.
Hebrews 7:11: The Levitical Priesthood does not offer “perfection” and was therefore superseded by the Melchizedek (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:18–22).
This verse says,
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?
There was “another priest” (singular) who came in the “order of Melchizedek.” The word is singular, not plural, with the obvious implication that this authority is given to Jesus and not other humans. There is no biblical support for Mormon males having a “Melchizedek Priesthood.”
Hebrews 7:20–21: The Melchizedek Priesthood is received through an “oath and covenant” (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–44).
You must take this passage out of its context to make this sentence meaningful. This is not a good way to do biblical exegesis (which means “interpretation”). Considering the context, verse 17 says,
“For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
This citation from Psalm 110 refers specifically to a single person. According to Hebrews, this is an obvious reference to Jesus. Verses 20-21, as cited in the lesson, say,
20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
“You” are a priest forever could only be talking about Jesus. This can be seen in succeeding verses:
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented themm continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
This, then, Is possible only through the priesthood of Jesus, which, as verse 24 says, is “a permanent priesthood.” The passage continues:
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Based on the context, how can the church’s writers even suggest that this passage is talking about a “Melchizedek priesthood” that is somehow available to eligible male members of the LDS Church? It offers no support; the only place a person could get this idea is take what Joseph Smith wrote in the Doctrine and Covenants seriously.
What blessings have you received from the Melchizedek Priesthood and “the ordinances thereof”? (Doctrine and Covenants 84:20). How has the Melchizedek Priesthood helped you come unto Christ?
There is a false sense of authority by, again, having to utilize the unique LDS scripture as the main support. To answer the question, the Melchizedek Priesthood is not available to anyone other than Jesus, so how could this help anyone “come unto Christ”?
Hebrews 9; 10:1–22
Ancient and modern ordinances point to Jesus Christ.
The original Hebrew readers of this epistle would have been very familiar with the ancient tabernacle and the ordinances Paul described. But some did not fully recognize that the purpose of these ordinances was to point to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In biblical times, on a yearly holiday called the Day of Atonement, a high priest entered the holiest place (or Holy of Holies) in the Jerusalem temple and sacrificed a goat or lamb to atone for the sins of Israel.
As you read Paul’s description of these ordinances, look for symbols and teachings that help you better understand the Savior’s atoning mission.
As Christians, we also believe that the tabernacle and temple point to Jesus. The ordinances we participate in today are different from those in Paul’s time, but their purpose is the same. How do today’s ordinances testify to you of Jesus Christ?
In one fell swoop, the writers basically skip the heart of chapters 9 and 10. I think it is worthwhile to take a look at some of what wasn’t discussed. Let’s cite much of these two passages to give you a good overview of what it says.
9 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. Except for perhaps the Salt Lake City temple, there is no “holy of holies” in the many LDS temples throughout the world. This passage is setting up what Jesus accomplished in the heavenly Holy Place.
Let’s skip to verse 6 and following:
6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.
Using the modern temple of his day, the writer sets up how this high priest (whom he has shown is Jesus) would go into the Holy of Holies to offer Himself for the people for the atonement of sin.
Now to verse 11 and following:
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.
We see that Jesus went through a heavenly tabernacle who entered the Holy of Holies with His own blood, not the blood of animals.
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! The blood of Jesus can cleanse our consciences that the animal sacrifices could not do. 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. It is only by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross that provides the payment for sin. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
In Mormonism, the main place where the atonement is supposed to have taken place is in the Garden of Gethsemane. The death on the cross seems to almost be an afterthought. For Christians, the cross is the place where the atonement happened. After all, it is not Christ’s perspiration that provided the atonement but His expiation. For more on this topic, visit “Confusion over Gethsemane and the Atonement.”
18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Notice that last part, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” This is why Jesus had to die. Move a little further down and we see the last two verses:
27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
After death comes the judgment, which leaves no time for evangelism in the next life (known as the intermediate state). Jesus will return a second time.
Let’s move to chapter 10 and see how the sacrifice provided by Jesus was not to be repeated:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
These sacrifices took place each year and still they were not sufficient to take away the people’s sins. Let’s move a few verses down:
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Pay special attention to verse 10. A person who receives the gift provided by God has “been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
This whole chapter is powerful. Notice in verse 14 that, through Jesus’s sacrifice, “he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” See how it is past tense? (“has made perfect forever”). In Mormonism, perfection is supposed to be an achievable goal based on the good works of the individual. Yet this passage says the Christian is already made perfect (justifiied) and is in the process of being made holy (sanctification).
The passage continues:
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
Please understand the significance of these verses. A person who becomes a Christian, while viewed by God as being forgiven, does not stop sinning even though his or her intent should be to be holy. Still, “their sins” are no longer remembered because the sins have been forgiven.
18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
This verse is opposite to what is taught in Mormonism, as the “sacrifice for sin” continues on a daily basis; for those who do sin, repentance is meant to cleanse a person until that person sins the same sin agin. In essence, “sacrifice for sin” never ends in this lifetime for a Latter-day Saint who continues to repent. To see what repentance is according to Christianity, click here.
With the power of the Book of Hebrews, it’s frustrating that the lesson misses important aspects of a very special book. Jesus is the high priest in the order of Melchizedek, as established in last week’s lesson. He went to the heavenly Holy of Holies and put His own blood on the mercy seat to forgive those who place their faith in Him. And He remembers their sins no more. It’s not based on what the believers have done but on what He did for them. Nothing like this is talked about in this lesson, meaning that the reader of Come, Follow Me is not feeding from God’s Word. What a shame!
If you are Latter-day Saint, please do yourself a favor and read these chapters all the way through, preferably in a modern language such as the NIV or ESV. Understand what this review is talking about and see how these verses do contradict the essence of the LDS faith.