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.)
September 26-October 2
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
The future is bright for the Lord’s people.
Even though the Israelites spent many years in captivity—and even though that captivity was a result of their own poor choices—the Lord wanted them to look to the future with hope. What hopeful messages do you find in Isaiah 50–52? What does the Lord teach us about Himself in these chapters, and why does this give you hope? (see, for example, Isaiah 50:2, 5–9; 51:3–8, 15–16; 52:3, 9–10).
You might also list everything in chapters 51–52 that the Lord invites Israel to do to make this hopeful future a reality. What do you feel the Lord is inviting you to do through these words? For example, what do you think it means to “awake” and “put on strength”? (Isaiah 51:9; see also Isaiah 52:1; Doctrine and Covenants 113:7–10). Why do you think the invitation to “hearken” (or “listen with the intent to obey”) is repeated so often? (Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2020, 89).
The people Isaiah addressed were stubborn. They were the ones who abandoned God, not He who abandoned them.
I love Isaiah 52:7, which says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” This passage is cited in Romans chapter 10:
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”
19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
“I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
20 And Isaiah boldly says,
“I was found by those who did not seek me;
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But concerning Israel he says,
“All day long I have held out my hands
to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
What was a problem in Old Testament times (700 BC era) remains a problem today. People go their own way and, as verse 21 reports, they are “a disobedient and obstinate people.” These were the chosen people of God who had so much going for them but God was forced to take their privileges away.
Jesus Christ took upon Himself my sins and sorrows.
Few chapters in scripture describe Jesus Christ’s redemptive mission more beautifully than Isaiah 53. Take the time to ponder these words. With each verse, pause to contemplate what the Savior suffered—the “griefs,” “sorrows,” and “transgressions” He bore—for all people and specifically for you. You might replace words like “we” and “our” with “I” and “my” as you read. What feelings or thoughts do these verses inspire in you? Consider writing them down.
In Mormonism, did Jesus’s work pay for all sins? Or did this work merely pave the way for immortality in one of three kingdoms of glory? As LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie shows the latter is correct when he wrote,
Immortality comes as a free gift, by the grace of God alone, without
works of righteousness. Eternal life is the reward for “obedience
to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 62. Italics in original).
How does eternal life come? Seventeenth President Thomas S. Monson explained,
It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God
we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, 56).
In Mormonism, the atonement does not forgive a person of all sins. It only paves the way. Grace, according to Mormonism, is God’s enabling power to keep God’s commandments. Yet most Latter-day Saints realize that they’re not qualifying for the celestial kingdom because, even with this “enabling power,” they admit that they are not able to keep the commands of God continually (D&C 25:15). As Smith wrote,
TWOFOLD NATURE OF ATONEMENT. The atonement of Jesus Christ is of a twofold nature. Because of it, all men are redeemed from mortal death and the grave, and will rise in the resurrection to immortality of the soul. Then again, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, man will receive remission of individual sins, through the blood of Christ, and will inherit exaltation in the kingdom of God, which is eternal life (Doctrines of Salvation 1:123).
In essence, the blood of Jesus is not sufficient on its own to wipe away one’s sins. Second President Brigham Young stated,
There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it; and the judgments of the Almighty will come, sooner or later, and every man and woman will have to atone for breaking their covenants (March 16, 1856, Journal of Discourses 3:247).
This is not atonement as taught by the Bible. Isaiah 53:4 says that the messiah “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Verse 5 says he “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Notice that blessings like this according to LDS leaders must be “earned.” Impossible, the Bible-believing Christian responds. Romans 6:10 says that when Jesus “died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” The ESV puts it this way: “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
Christians believe they are reconciled to God permanently through nothing they have done or will ever do. As Romans 5 points out,
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The message of the Bible is truly Good News, much different than the bill of goods being offered in Mormonism.
Isaiah 54; 57:15–19
Jesus Christ wants me to return to Him.
We all have times when we feel distant from the Lord because of our sins or weaknesses. Some have even given up hope that He will ever forgive them. Isaiah 54 and 57 are great chapters to read for reassurance and encouragement during such times. Particularly in Isaiah 54:4–10; 57:15–19, what do you learn about the Savior’s mercy and His feelings about you? What difference does it make in your life to know these things about Him?
As mentioned in the review from last week’s lesson, the words of Isaiah were not meant to be directed to people in the 21st century. Someone who think that these words are written for us is merely reading into the text, which is called eisegesis. Instead, both Isaiah 54 and 57 are speaking to the people of the southern kingdom who lived in the 8th century B.C.
Otherwise, if this is meant for LDS believers today, then according to Isaiah 54:
Verse 7: When did God “desert” the LDS Church? The believers who are reading this passage?
Verse 8: When did God get angry and hide His face from the LDS Church? From the believers who are reading the passage?
As far as Isaiah 57:
Verse 17: What happened in recent years to make God angry and hide? Who is the “he” referenced here?
Granted, there are some universal truths in these passages (i.e. 57:21, “There is no peace for the wicked”). Yet these passages must be understood in the context they were given. This lesson was a golden opportunity for the church to teach its people how to properly interpret the Bible. Yet it is a swing and a miss.
It must be understood that application can certainly be applied from these passages written to people 2700 years ago. For instance, the following questions could be asked for these verses in Isaiah 54:
- What did God mean when He told the nation of Israel that He has called them?
- Why did God “desert” the people and hide His face?
- Is it possible for God to desert us today? What are things He requires to have fellowship with Him?
These types of questions take into consideration the context. It is a shame that the LDS Church is not helping its members understand how to properly interpret the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Context is crucial!
How do the blessings described in Isaiah 54:11–17 apply to you?
The Lord invites all to “take hold of my covenant.”
For generations, Israel had been identified as God’s covenant people. However, God’s plan has always included more than just one nation, for “every one that thirsteth” is invited to “come … to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1).
Are we sure this verse is meant for the Gentiles? Or for us today? Gentiles were certainly invited into the fold, as Paul painstakingly demonstrates throughout the Book of Romans. But if this text in Isaiah is meant for everyone, then the rest of the verse states “come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Is God inviting people to buy wine today? Wouldn’t the fulfillment of this command break the Word of Wisdom? It might be silly, but this is why this passage cannot be 1 to1 applied to people today.
Keep this in mind as you read Isaiah 55 and 56, and ponder what it means to be God’s people. What is God’s message to those who feel “utterly separated” from Him? (Isaiah 56:3). Consider marking verses that describe attitudes and actions of those who “take hold of my covenant” (see Isaiah 56:4–7).
The LDS authors saw and somehow thought it too applies to our situation today. For instance, verse 4 says, “For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant.”
Notice, this is God speaking to the eunuchs specifically in this context. A eunuch is a male who had his testicles removed as a vow of piety. Taken strictly, those who have been commanded to keep the sabbath are specifically the eunuchs.
Think about it, how many Latter-day Saints today could this be talking to? Meanwhile, verse 7 refers to the “house of prayer,” which is a reference to the temple in Jerusalem. A Mormon may say, “Why, we have 173 of those around the world.”
However, the writer was not talking about temples where marriages for time and eternity or secret rituals took place. To prove this, the next part of the verse states how “their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” There are no “burnt offerings” or sacrifices made in the many LDS temples! In addition, Jesus likened this passage in Matthew 21:13 to the one temple in Jerusalem. It’s impossible to tweak this to make it mean the multiple LDS temples, which have absolutely no correspondence to what Mormonism teaches ought to happen in the temple today.
What is interesting is that these words effectively contradicted the directives of Deut. 23:1-8, which excluded eunuchs, Ammonites, and Moabites from fellowship with Israel. As one commentator puts it,
What God originally sought of His people, through the law, was purity of heart and righteous behavior. Now, hundreds of years later, He graciously allows anyone who loves Him, regardless of physical or ethnic characteristics, to enter the temple and worship Him.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
As you discuss the Lord’s invitations in these chapters, you could invite family members to act them out. For instance, what does it look like to “lift up your eyes to the heavens,” “awake, stand up,” or “shake thyself from the dust”? (Isaiah 51:6, 17; 52:2). What do these phrases teach us about following Jesus Christ?
The application cannot be made to Isaiah 51-52 because these phrases were not referring to following Jesus.
After reading this verse, your family could “sing together” a hymn or children’s song that brings them joy. What promises in Isaiah 52 cause us to “break forth into joy”?
This verse is talking specifically about the people of Jerusalem. The “promises” have nothing to do with us today. Another poor interpretation along with a question that makes no sense.
Isaiah 52:11; 55:7.
These verses could lead to a discussion about what the phrase “Be ye clean” might mean. As part of this discussion, you could review topics in For the Strength of Youth (booklet, 2011) or read scriptures about the blessings of being spiritually clean (see 3 Nephi 12:8; Doctrine and Covenants 121:45–46).
The favorite topic in Mormonism (being clean) is brought up, Yet, once more, Isaiah 52:11 has nothing to do with us today. These words are talking about the people of that day, including those who carry the vessels of the Lord.
Poor exegesis has marred another lesson in the Come, Follow Me curriculum. Isaiah is a great book in the Old Testament, with plenty of hope and certainly plenty of prophecy about Jesus. But we must be careful in making interpretations that don’t fit within the context of the passage while using our own presuppositions to make something that just isn’t there. Unfortunately, those Latter-day Saints going through this study who somehow think they are getting a good overview of the Old Testament are misled–this is neither a solid exegetical look nor sound teaching. It really is a shame since this is the one occasion where all Latter-day Saints are corporately studying the Old Testament.