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.)
October 30–November 5
Jesus Christ, “the Author of Eternal Salvation”
Each of us has to give up something in order to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ—bad habits, incorrect beliefs, unwholesome associations, or something else. For Gentiles in the early Christian Church, conversion often meant abandoning false gods. For the Hebrews (or Jews), conversion proved to be, if not more difficult, a little more complicated. After all, their cherished beliefs and traditions were rooted in the worship of the true God and the teachings of His prophets, extending back thousands of years. Yet the Apostles taught that the law of Moses had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and that a higher law was now the standard for believers. Would accepting Christianity mean that the Hebrews must give up their earlier beliefs and history? The Epistle to the Hebrews sought to help settle such questions by teaching that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the ordinances are all important, but Jesus Christ is greater (see Hebrews 1:1–4; 3:1–6; 7:23–28). In fact, all these things point to and testify of Christ as the Son of God and the promised Messiah the Jews had been waiting for.
I agree that repentance means doing an about-face and turning to the true God as described in the Bible. Unfortunately, Mormonism teaches essential doctrines that do not coincide with what the Bible teaches. We have documented these differences many times. For instance, see CrashCourseMormonism.com to see some of these differences.
Jesus—the second person of the Trinity who , through the Incarnation, became man—is indeed greater than the law of Moses, the prophets and ordinances. But is He truly greater than these things in Mormonism? After all, a person must keep the commandments (continually) to somehow earn God’s favor in this faith. Is He greater than the modern prophets? (How many times have the writers of this curriculum made reference to the importance of the “living prophets.” Answer: many, many times.) And is He more important than the ordinances offered by the church, including baptism/confirmation, the ordinances in the temple, etc.? Based on what we have observed in this series, I’m not sure a convincing case could be made that Jesus Is more important than any of these aspects of this religion.
Conversion, in those early days and today, means making Jesus Christ the center of our worship and our lives. It means holding fast to truth and letting go of that which distracts us from Him, for He is the “author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).
The question I ask many Latter-day Saints is, “What do you look forward to the most in the celestial kingdom?” Nine times out of 10, I hear comments about how being with families for eternity is what is most anticipated. Rarely does anyone mention the name above all names, Jesus. And if they do, I ask, “What will Jesus do in this next realm?” After all, if the celestial kingdom is about continuing one’s family, it would almost seem as if Jesus would be out of place in this future world.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews?
Some scholars have questioned whether Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. The literary style of Hebrews is somewhat different from Paul’s other letters, and the earliest versions of the text did not name an author. However, because the ideas expressed in Hebrews are consistent with Paul’s other teachings, Latter-day Saints, in keeping with Christian tradition, have generally accepted that Paul was at least involved in writing this epistle.
Having previously studied the Book of Hebrews in its Greek language, it appears the writing style is very different from the known letters written by Paul. Of course, I agree that “the ideas expressed in Hebrews are consistent with Paul’s other teachings,” as they are consistent with the writings of Luke, Peter, and John who wrote other New Testament books. It doesn’t matter. Whether the writer is Paul or perhaps Barnabas (a top choice for many New Testament scholars), God’s divine revelation certainly comes through in the Book of Hebrews.
Jesus Christ is “the express image” of Heavenly Father.
Many Jews found it difficult to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Notice how the Epistle to the Hebrews testifies of Him. For example, as you read the first five chapters, you might make a list of Jesus Christ’s titles, roles, attributes, and works that you find mentioned. What do these things teach you about the Savior? What do they teach you about Heavenly Father?
One title given is that Jesus is the prophet whose pedigree surpassed human prophets. The first part of Hebrews says,
Long ago, at many time and in many ways, God spoke to our father by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
The idea of Jesus creating everything as God is verified in John 1:3 and Colossians 1:15-17. Jesus is the prophet for Christians today. According to Hebrews 3:1, Jesus is also considered an apostle and high priest. It says,
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.
Imagine, Christians have Someone who is Prophet, Priest, and High Priest, which I believe trumps a living sinful human being any time of the day. We have Someone who did not need to atone for His own sins but rather He did so for the sins of others. We can discuss that further in the next lesson that covers Hebrews 8, 9, and 10.
“What does the following statement from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland add to your understanding of the teachings in these chapters? “Jesus … came to improve man’s view of God and to plead with them to love their Heavenly Father as He has always and will always love them. … So feeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking hypocrisy, pleading for faith—this was Christ showing us the way of the Father.”“The Grandeur of God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 72.
I’m not sure that Jesus “came to improve man’s view of God.” (Of course, He wants people to know God the way He really is.) I don’t think He came “to plead with them to love their Heavenly Father.” Or to tell people that God “has always and will always love them.” I think His main reason was to save people from their sins, as Matthew 1:21 says, “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” To me, this is the most important reason for why Jesus came to this earth.
Hebrews 2:9–18; 4:12–16; 5:7–8
Jesus Christ suffered all things so that He can understand and help me when I suffer.
Do you feel that you can “come boldly unto the throne of grace” and seek mercy? (Hebrews 4:16).
In Mormonism, you certainly are free to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” and “seek mercy.” But the only way mercy can be obtained is if a person keeps the commandments of God. For example, thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson said,
“We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy.”The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 442.
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball agreed, saying,
“Mercy cannot rob justice. The Lord’s program is unchangeable. His laws are immutable. They will not be world think that eventually the Lord will be merciful and give to them unearned blessings. Mercy cannot rob justice. College professors will not give you a doctorate degree for a few weeks of cursory work in the university, nor can the Lord be merciful at the expense of justice. In this program, which is infinitely greater, we will each receive what we merit. Do not take any chances whatever.”The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 150.
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated,
“All must repent to be free. All must obey to gain gospel blessings. All must keep the commandments to merit mercy.”The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, 242.
Apostle Richard G. Scott taught at a general conference,
“Time and time again at funerals, statements are made that the deceased will inherit all blessings of celestial glory when that individual has in no way qualified by obtaining the necessary ordinances and by keeping the required covenants. That won’t happen. Such blessings can only be earned by meeting the Lord’s requirements. His mercy does not overcome the requirements of His law. They must be met.”“First Things First,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2001, 9.
First Counselor Dallin H. Oaks put it very clearly when he stated,
“Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. In contrast, those who understand God’s plan for His children know that God’s laws are invariable, which is another great evidence of His love for His children. Mercy cannot rob justice, and those who obtain mercy ‘are those who have kept the covenant and observed the commandment’ (D&C 54:6).”“Love and Law,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2009, 26-27
According to these leaders, mercy needs to be merited and is not freely given unless it is earned, as taught in the citation from this church instructional manual.
One message of the Epistle to the Hebrews is that despite our sins and weaknesses, God is
approachable and His grace is attainable.
I have a problem with the language heresaying that God’s “grace is attainable.” This makes it sound as if grace is something to be worked for. If that is the case, then this cannot be called grace. Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
What do you find in Hebrews 2:9–18; 4:12–16; 5:7–8 that strengthens your confidence that Jesus Christ will help you with your mortal challenges? Consider recording in a journal your thoughts and feelings about what the Savior has done for you.
Jesus came in the flesh and certainly serves as our example of how to live in a holy way. But He is much more than our example. He is the God whom we worship. As with previous lessons, this particular one is missing so much meat (such as taking the opportunity to consider the deity of Christ as described in chapter 1) to find ways how “Jesus Christ will help you.”
God’s blessings are available to those who “harden not [their] hearts.”
By retelling the story of the ancient Israelites, Paul hoped to persuade the Jews to avoid the mistake their ancestors made—rejecting God’s blessings because of unbelief. (You can read the story Paul alluded to in Numbers 14:1–12, 26–35.)
Consider how Hebrews 3:7–19; 4:1–11 might apply to you. To do this, you might ponder questions like these:
How did the Israelites provoke the Lord? (see Hebrews 3:8–11). What are the consequences of having a hard heart?
When have I allowed my heart to become hardened? Are there any blessings God wants to give me that I am not receiving because of a lack of faith?
What can I do to develop a soft and contrite heart? (see Ether 4:15; Proverbs 3:5–6; Alma 5:14–15).
The condition of one’s heart is described. The question I would like to ask my Latter-day Saint friend is, “How do you develop a soft and contrite heart?” Perhaps you may disagree with my spiritual views, but have you really considered the possibility that perhaps you are wrong? Are you open to this possibility? If you are wrong, what are the consequences? I hope I too have a soft and contrite heart and am willing to consider the evidence that is laid out and head toward truth . Let’s come and reason together, as Isaiah 1:18 says, and choose the inference to the best explanation (i.e., see where the evidence lies and head in that direction).
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
In what ways has Jesus shown that He loves righteousness and hates iniquity? If we have unrighteous desires, what can we do to change them?
These verses say,
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
Notice how Jesus is called “God,” not just “a god.” It is His throne that will last forever, clearly portraying His deity. But the question asked in the last part is meaningless compared to the power of this chapter and how Jesus is God in the flesh and Someone to be worshiped.
Consider the verses just before verses 8-9:
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
In verse 6, “firstborn” does not mean “first created.” Rather, it signifies the preeminence of Jesus. It shows how Jesus was even worshiped by the angels. In Mormonism, could a Latter-day Saint say that he or she truly “worships” Jesus? Latter-day Saints are not supposed to pray to Jesus, let alone worship Him. For an article on this topic, click here.
Verse 13 adds,
To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
To see how the Jesus of Mormonism is different from what is taught in the Bible, see Crash Course Mormonism.
To explore the phrase “captain of their salvation,” you could begin by discussing what a captain does. What does salvation mean? How is Jesus Christ like a captain for us and our salvation?
Verse 9 says that “Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death.” The NIV used “pioneer of their salvation.” I like that usage better than the translation given by the KJV because it gives the connotation that Jesus suffered death so that those who followed (i.e., believers) would be able to have the privileges of what He did for them on the cross.
This a rich section of scripture that centers on the Person of Jesus, how He is both man (see chapter 2) and God. Because the Come, Follow Me series seems to be so intent on “application” rather than “theology,” I think much is missed in the highlights of these chapters. While Jesus certainly plays an important role in Mormonism, He is not the centerpiece. Rather, He just paves the way for people to be able to obtain resurrection from the dead (General Salvation) but only the individual is capable of obtaining the celestial glory (Individual Salvation or Exaltation).