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.)
January 24-30 (Moses 7)
Throughout history, people have tried to achieve what Enoch and his people accomplished: building an ideal society where there is no poverty or violence. As God’s people, we share this desire. We call it building Zion, and it includes—in addition to caring for the poor and promoting peace—making covenants, dwelling together in righteousness, and becoming one with each other and with Jesus Christ, “the King of Zion” (Moses 7:53). Because the work of establishing Zion continues in our day, it’s helpful to ask, How did Enoch and his people do it? How did they become “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18) despite the wickedness around them? Among the many details Moses 7 gives us about Zion, a particularly valuable one for Latter-day Saints might be this: Zion is not just a city—it is a condition of the heart and spirit. Zion, as the Lord has taught, is “the pure in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21). So perhaps the best way to build Zion is to start in our own hearts and homes.
With only 52 weeks available during 2022 to study the “Old Testament”–and this is the fifth week of this series, so we’re about a tenth of the way into this curriculum–the church once again (as the first four weeks) decided to focus on the Pearl of Great Price. As stated in previous reviews, this is a shame because the Book of Moses is not part of the biblical canon and it is not accepted by millions of Christians who live around the world.
Here is what we learn about Enoch in Genesis 5:
- The son of Jared (who lived 962 years) v. 20
- Became the father of Methuselah when he was 65 v. 21
- Walked faithfully with God for 300 years v. 22
- Had other sons and daughters v. 22
- Lived 365 years v. 23
- Walked faithfully with God v. 24
- Taken up by God v. 24
That is all the Bible says about Enoch. Just from Moses 7 in the Pearl of Great Price, consider these additional “facts” about Enoch:
- He baptized in “the name of the Father, and of the Son, . . . and of the Holy Ghost” v. 11
- Called all the people of Canaan to repent v. 12
- Led the people of God into battle with their enemies v. 13
- Rivers changed their course and the nations feared because “so great was the power of the language which God had given him” v. 13
- The enemies “fled and stood afar off” v. 14
- Giants of the land stood far off and a curse went upon the people v. 15
- “Fear of the Lord was upon all nations” v. 17
- “The Lord blessed the land” v. 17
- The people were called Zion “because they were of one heart and one mind” v. 18
- Enoch built a city called the City of Holiness (Zion) v. 19
- Zion is taken into heaven v. 21
- The seed of Cain was black v. 22
- Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven declaring the name of the Trinity v. 27
- Watched Noah build an ark v. 43
- Saw Jesus come v. 47
- Received a covenant with God that he would never bring another flood v. 51
- Jesus lifted up on a cross v. 55
- Spirits were resurrected v. 57
- Jesus will return in the last days v. 60
- Jesus remained on the earth for 1,000 years v. 65
- Enoch lived 365 years v. 68
As we have explained in earlier reviews, there is absolutely no documented evidence that Moses ever wrote this book–in any language–or that it even existed before the lifetime of Joseph Smith. When I read Moses 7, I am convinced that none of what is recorded is historical or can be traced to the time of Moses. It seems so very obvious that this was composed by someone other than Moses. There is no doubt it was was written much later–maybe even in the 19th century AD!–as the facts that Jesus was crucified and resurrected while declaring a future 1,000-year reign (Millennium) based on what was recorded by the apostle John in the Book of Revelation are included. So, I, for one, am not impressed.
Moses 7:16-21, 27, 53, 62-69
Because Moses 7 is a record of how God’s followers successfully built Zion, it can instruct and inspire us today as we strive to do the same.
Notice how the lesson carefully dances around verse 22, as it is not mentioned here nor anywhere else in this entire lesson. This verse reads,
And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.
Why is this verse AWOL? For those who know their Mormon history, the reason for the ban on those with black skin holding the Mormon priesthood (until 1978) is because of the seed of Cain. Here are a few citations given by LDS presidents over the years to support this LDS doctrine:
2nd President Brigham Young: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a sin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to. The volition of the creature is free; this is a law of their existence, and the Lord cannot violate his own law; were he to do that, he would cease to be God” (August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:272).
10th President Joseph Fielding Smith: “This doctrine did not originate with President Brigham Young but was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. At a meeting of the general authorities of the Church, held August 22, 1895, the question of the status of the negro in relation to the Priesthood was asked and the minutes of that meeting say: ‘President George Q. Cannon remarked that the Prophet taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood nor act in any of the offices of the Priesthood until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s offspring” (The Way to Perfection, p. 110. See also Milton R. Hunter’s Pearl of Great Price Commentary, 1948, pp. 141-142).
11th President Harold B. Lee: “There is no truth more plainly taught in the Gospel than that our condition in the next world will depend upon the kind of lives we live here. ‘All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’ (John 5:28-29.) Is it not just as reasonable to suppose that the conditions in which we now live have been determined by the kind of lives we lived in the pre-existent world of spirits? That the apostles understood this principle is indicated by their question to the Master when the man who was blind from his birth was healed of his blindness, ‘Master, who did sin, this man or his
parents that he was born blind?’ (John 9:2.) Now perhaps you will have a partial answer to some of your questions as to why, if God is a just Father, that some of his children are born of an enlightened race and in a time when the Gospel is upon the earth, while others
are born of a heathen parentage in a benighted, backward country; and still others are born to parents who have the mark of a black skin with which the seed of Cain were cursed and whose descendants were to be denied the rights of the priesthood of God” (Decisions for Successful Living, pp. 164-165).
13th President Ezra Taft Benson: “The arm of flesh may not approve nor understand why God has not bestowed the priesthood on women or the seed of Cain, but God’s ways are not man’s ways” (Conference Reports, October 1967, p. 34).
Perhaps these types of citations are why the authors of this curriculum decided to be silent on verse 22! Bringing this topic up might have caused many readers to have questions about the ban on blacks holding the priesthood before 1978. For more on this doctrine, see Unexplaining the Mormon Priesthood on Blacks.
To help family members visualize what it means to be “of one heart,” maybe you could make a paper heart and cut it into puzzle pieces, enough for each family member to have one piece. Family members could write their name on their piece and then work with each other to put the heart together. While completing the puzzle you might talk about things you love about each family member.
The idea for this cute assignment comes from Moses 7:18, which is where “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind.” As an educator who realizes the impossibility of covering the heart of the Old Testament with just a one-hour lesson per week, these types of time-wasting assignments drives me crazy. Taking a phrase out of the Pearl of Great Price and making a qauint assignment is not helpful in communicating anything from the Old Testament.
Moses 7:28-31, 35
What do we learn about God from these verses?
Verse 29 reads, “And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” If I were to answer, I would say that God is from all eternity to all eternity, exactly what is taught in Moroni 8:18 in the Book of Mormon: “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.”
This concept is certainly taught in the Old Testament (the canon that is supposed to be the focus on this year’s curriculum). For instance, Psalm 90:2 says that God is God from all eternity. I appreciate the truthfulness of this concept.
So how does a Latter-day Saint reconcile this teaching with what Joseph Smith taught:
I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, if the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. Italics in original. See also Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 129).
Or how about this teaching:
We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346. See also Gospel Principles, 1997, p. 305).
In addition, if God was holy from all eternity, when did He ever have a chance to sin? Yet, when asked if God could have possibly sinned during His mortal probation, many Latter-day Saints respond positively. For example, watch the videos on this site. Perhaps those who were interviewed in these videos and think God could have possibly sinned should rethink their view.
As your family reads Moses 7:59–67, try marking or noting things the Lord tells Enoch about the last days—for example, that God will “gather out [His] elect” (verse 62) and that there will be “great tribulations among the wicked” (verse 66). How can we have faith and hope despite the wickedness in the last days? As part of this discussion, consider reading these words from Elder Ronald A. Rasband: “Take heart, brothers and sisters. Yes, we live in perilous times, but as we stay on the covenant path, we need not fear. I bless you that as you do so, you will not be troubled by the times in which we live or the troubles that come your way. I bless you to choose to stand in holy places and be not moved. I bless you to believe in the promises of Jesus Christ, that He lives and that He is watching over us, caring for us and standing by us” (“Be Not Troubled,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 21).
The Bible certainly does teach that God will gather His elect and there will be tribulations in life. When we read from a current apostle, we are told to “stand in holy places” and that Jesus “is watching over us, caring for us and standing by us.” All of this is true. But nothing from the Bible was ever referenced in this week’s lesson, so what support in the Old Testament can be found?
Instead of studying the Old Testament, this week’s lesson focuses solely on Moses 7 from the Pearl of Great Price. Nothing in this lesson helps the reader better understand the Old Testament. While most of the verses in this chapter were covered, somehow the verses describing the “seed of Cain” is completely ignored.
If you are a Latter-day Saint, are you satisfied with this series so far? Do you feel that you have been enlightened to the teachings of God’s Word as revealed in the Old Testament?