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.)
Early in His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ visited a synagogue in Nazareth, the village where He was raised. There He stood to read from the scriptures, opened the book of Isaiah, and read what we now know as Isaiah 61:1–2. He then announced, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” This was one of the Savior’s most straightforward declarations that He was the Anointed One, who would “heal the brokenhearted” and “preach deliverance to the captives” (see Luke 4:16–21). This scripture was indeed fulfilled on that day. And, like many other prophecies of Isaiah, it continues to be fulfilled in our day. The Savior continues to heal all the brokenhearted who come unto Him. There are yet many captives to whom deliverance must be preached. And there is a glorious future to prepare for—a time when the Lord will “create new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17) and “cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11). Reading Isaiah opens our eyes to what the Lord has already done, what He is doing, and what He will yet do for His people.
Jesus cites Isaiah 61 in Luke 4:18-19, which says,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus then rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant in an auspicious spot by stopping and not reading the rest of Isaiah 61:2:
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn
There is a day of judgment, or vengeance. Most Latter-day Saints want to comfort themselves by thinking they are somehow good people who do not deserve God’s vengeance. Despite it being called the “gospel,” what is taught by LDS leaders and the missionaries is not good news. Galatians 1:8-9 says,
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
The requirements of Mormonism adds to the grace offered by Jesus. He came to set people free from their sins. Galatians 2 says,
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Contrary to this teaching, 2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon says that a person is saved by grace after all he can do. Leaders have been very clear that obedience to all the commandments of God is required to attain eternal life.
For the difference between the biblical gospel verse what is offered in Mormonism, see 2 Nephi 25:23: Saved by grace “in spite of” all we can do?
Judgment will be made on the Great White Throne by Jesus, as God “has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22; Acts 17:31). Not one person has any good works to offer the Lord; those who choose to attempt to work their way to God will end up being frustrated. Being “good” is just not “good enough.” Jesus said in Matthew 7:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons vin your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Listen to the judgment that will be given by Jesus as revealed in Revelation 20:11-15:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
According to John 3:17, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” But the next verse adds, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Meanwhile, John 12:47-48 says, “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”
The Latter-day Saint might say, “But I believe in Jesus.” Yes, but which Jesus? (2 Cor. 11:4). The one who just provided immortality through the atonement and grace but not eternal life in the celestial kingdom, which requires keeping all the commandments, and thus adding to the Gospel He provided? Or the one who died on the cross for sins and is enough to forgive you of all sins without any work accomplished on your behalf?
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Fasting brings blessings.
These verses suggest that to many ancient Israelites, fasting was more of a burden than a blessing. Many of us can relate to that feeling at times. If you would like to find more meaning and purpose in your fasting, read Isaiah 58:3–12 to find the Lord’s answers to the question “Why do we fast?” In your experience, how can fasting “loose the bands of wickedness” and “break every yoke”? (Isaiah 58:6). How has fasting brought you the blessings described in Isaiah 58:8–12? How does Isaiah 58:3–12 affect the way you think about fasting?
Leaders of the LDS Church stress certain disciplines as being required while others are given as options. In the paragraph given above, it seems like fasting is an option–although it is written as if it could be assumed that fasting is a practice of every faithful member’s life.
There is nothing wrong with fasting and it certainly can be a good thing to focus on spiritual things. Unfortunately, many treat fasting as a “thing to do” and something to be checked off on a list. This attitude can lead to pride, not just for Mormons but also for Christians as well.
But is fasting required in Mormonism? Church manuals make it appear so for older members of the church. One manual states,
One Sunday each month Latter-day Saints observe a fast day. On this day we neither eat nor drink for two consecutive meals. If we were to eat our evening meal on Saturday, then we would not eat or drink until the evening meal on Sunday. All members who are physically able should fast. We should encourage our children to fast after they have been baptized, but we should never force them. The fast day is a special day for us to humble ourselves before the Lord in fasting and prayer. It is a day to pray for forgiveness from our sins and for the power to overcome our faults and to forgive others (Gospel Principles, 2009, 146).
Another manual explains,
Proper observance of fast Sunday includes going without food and drink for two consecutive meals, attending fast and testimony meeting, and giving a fast offering to help care for those in need. Your fast offering should be at least the value of the two meals you do not eat. When possible, be generous and give much more than this amount (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 67-68).
I’ll discuss more about “forced” requirements in the next section. Only the individual Latter-day Saint knows in his or her heart if the fast is done for righteous (or unrighteous) reasons. Unlike honoring the Sabbath, however, fasting is not required in order to qualify for a temple recommend.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
What is the difference between “finding [our] own pleasure” and finding “delight … in the Lord” on the Sabbath? How can we make the Sabbath “a delight”?
Anything done as a forced requirement takes away the concept of being called a “delight.” In Mormonism, the sabbath–like fasting as discussed above–is treated by many Mormons as just another rule to be kept, with mandatory church attendance, keeping the word of wisdom, and forced tithe paying–all of which are requirements to receive a temple recommend to be able to attend the temple.
Question 8 of the 15 temple recommend questions states,
Do you strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, both at home and at church; attend your meetings; prepare for and worthily partake of the sacrament; and live your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
Honoring the Sabbath, then, is different from fasting because this will need to be answered in the affirmative if the Latter-day Saint hopes to qualify for the recommend.
There are rules and regulations in keeping the Sabbath. Consider what 12th President Spencer W. Kimball had to say about the topic:
The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, 170. See also True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 146).
Consider how a church manual interpreted Kimball’s words:
Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day. President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, however, that if we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , 170.) (Gospel Principles, 2009, 141).
Take a closer look at the first quote from Kimball. He clearly said it was fine to take a nap, as supposedly this is considered constructive. But then the Gospel Principles quote says you can’t just “merely lounge about doing nothing.” For the Mormon who decides to lie down to rest on a Sunday afternoon, care must be taken to fall asleep. Otherwise, the manual states, not sleeping but lounging around and doing “nothing” is disobeying the sabbath!
This is the problem when law (rules and regulations) become more important than the Gospel as described in the Bible. Here is more from chapter 3 of the epistle written to the Galatians:
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Later in that chapter, Paul wrote:
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
I encourage the reader to go through the entire book of Galatians. Understand that manmade rules and regulations are not what God intended for believers to be enslaved by the old master of the law.
As I read this week’s chapter, I kept thinking how the epistle of Galatians needed to be cited here. This is because Mormons who believe their unique scriptures and their general authorities do no understand what it means for Jesus to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Yet condemnation (judgment) is also part of His role. Those who do not know Jesus will suffer the consequences at the end by being separated from Him for eternity. I encourage the Latter-day Saint who reads this to read his/her Bible (start with the Gospel of John) and consider its teachings about what it means to become a child of God through faith alone.