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 31-February 6, 2022 (Genesis 6-11; Moses 8)
Generations of Bible readers have been inspired by the story of Noah and the Flood. But we who live in the latter days have special reason to pay attention to it. When Jesus Christ taught how we should watch for His Second Coming, He said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:41). In addition, phrases that describe Noah’s day, like “corrupt” and “filled with violence,” could just as easily be describing our time (Genesis 6:12–13; Moses 8:28). The story of the Tower of Babel also feels applicable to our day, with its description of pride followed by confusion and division among God’s children.
Corruption was certainly rampant during the days of Noah, just as it is today. The problem is that every single human is “sinful” according to the Bible. Romans 3:10 says that “there is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:23 adds that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
These ancient accounts are valuable not just because they show us that wickedness repeats itself throughout history. More important, they teach us what to do about it. Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Moses 8:27) despite the wickedness around him. And the families of Jared and his brother turned to the Lord and were led away from the wickedness in Babel (see Ether 1:33–43). If we wonder how to keep ourselves and our families safe during our own time of corruption and violence, the familiar stories in these chapters have much to teach us.
- The necessity for Adam to repent of his transgressions and be baptized in water “in the name of mine Only Begotten Son” Jesus Christ as well as receive the “gift of the Holy Ghost” (Gen. 6:53-54, JST).
- the account of Adam crying to the Lord and he “was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water; and thus he was baptized (Gen. 6:67, JST).
- Enoch’s call upon the people of Canaan to repent (Gen. 7:13-14, JST).
- The statement that the “seed of Cain were black, and had not place among” the sons of Adam. Of course, the seed of Cain doctrine is considered racist my most Mormons today.
These are just a few of Joseph Smith’s additions to the Book of Genesis, yet none of these things are true. In fact, there is no evidence that any of this was even penned by Moses or available to anyone until the time of Joseph Smith. Complete trust in the Mormon founder is necessary to believe that the Joseph Smith Translation is a legitimate translation of real scripture.
Notice the title of this section (“There is spiritual safety in following the Lord’s prophet”), the mention about the “restored Gospel,” and the assertion about how more about Noah can be understood based on Moses 8. A person has to fully put their trust in Joseph Smith in order to pretend that anything written in the Pearl of Great Price is authentic.
But why is there emphasis on “spiritual safety in following the Lord’s prophet”? Obviously, this is an admonishment for Latter-day Saints to trust their “restored leaders” and obey their teachings.
Cited in a church manual, sixth President Joseph F. Smith said,
Honor and praise be unto [the President of the Church,] that
instrument in the hands of God of establishing order in the midst
of uncertainty, and certain rules by which we know our bearings
(Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith,
1998, p. 222. Brackets in original).
Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
The Latter-day Saints should put their trust in their leaders, and follow the teachings of the authorities of the Church, for they speak unto them with the voice of prophecy and inspiration (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 2013, p. 145. Brackets in original).
Seventy L. Aldin Porter promised, “As we look to the prophets for guidance, we can be confident that they will not lead us astray” (“Search the Prophets,” Ensign, April 2002, p. 31). A church manual confidently reports, “You can always trust the living prophets” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 129).
Let me ask the LDS reader, “How are you so sure you ‘can always trust’ the original Mormon prophet?” If Joseph Smith is allowed to make claims about having a “First Vision” of God the Father and Jesus; if he is able to say that he had the ability to “translate” ancient writings such as the Book of Mormon (there is no manuscript or archaeological support) and the Book of Abraham (what is written down is not even close to what is found in the papyri); and he is able to author a “translation” of the Bible, with no documented evidence that the things he “translates” (in either the Bible or the Book of Moses) is true, then I suppose this man has been given carte blanche authority to do or say anything he wants. Latter-day Saints are required to believe that not only was Smith an inspired prophet of God but that the current leader(s) of the church are to be believed, even if what they teach contradicts the Bible or, for that matter, reason.
Putting so much trust in Smith and the LDS leaders requires an incredible amount of faith, much more than I have. While Christians trust God’s Word, the Bible says believers should beware of those who say “trust me” because I am the prophet of God. This is why the Bible teaches those who want to be wise to “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21) as “many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
As you read about Noah’s day, you might notice similarities to our day. For example:
Moses 8:18, 20–21, 23–24 (rejection of God’s servants)
Moses 8:21 (complacency and worldliness)
Moses 8:22 (evil imaginations and thoughts)
Moses 8:28 (corruption and violence)
What are prophets teaching today about the gospel of Jesus Christ that could keep you safe in today’s world? As you read about Noah’s experiences, what inspires you to follow the Lord’s prophets today?
Again, I have no problem comparing the days of Noah with our culture today. But to suggest that the teachings of LDS leaders will keep church members safe is quite a stretch. If the truth claims of these leaders can lead a person to hell–and, yes, I believe this is the case–then should this really inspire anyone to follow them today? I believe the person who follows truth will answer “no.”
Gospel covenants can be represented by a sign, symbol, or “token” (Genesis 9:12). For example, think about how the bread and water of the sacrament or the waters of baptism bring to mind sacred truths related to your covenants. According to Genesis 9:8–17, what can a rainbow bring to your mind? What does Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 9:21–25 (in the Bible appendix) add to your understanding? Why does the Lord want you to remember Him and the covenants you have made?
It’s amazing how the rainbow from Genesis 9 is supposed to represent the covenants that the Latter-day Saint makes at baptism, at the temple, and each Sunday at the sacrament. The difference between the covenant made by God to Noah and the covenants made by Latter-day Saints are obvious. To see what Mormonism’s idea of the covenant means, listen to twelfth LDS President Spencer W. Kimball:
Akin to many of the other sins is that of the covenant-breaker. The person baptized promises to keep all the laws and commandments of God. He has partaken of the sacrament and re-pledged his allegiance and his fidelity, promising and covenanting that he will keep all God’s laws (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 57).
Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson said keeping the covenants is how a person “merits” God’s mercy:
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, p. 442).
Mercy, according to the teaching of LDS leaders, must be earned. For Noah, the rainbow was a symbol of God’s covenant that He would no longer flood the earth and did not require anything from all people. Yet the covenant promised by Latter-day Saints is much different, as this puts the entire onus on the back of the individuals. My question to the Latter-day Saint is, are you “keep(ing) all His commandments”? If not, when will you start?
Ancient Babel, or Babylon, has long been used as a symbol for wickedness and worldliness (see Revelation 18:1–10; Doctrine and Covenants 133:14). As you study Genesis 11:1–9, ponder the insights provided by the prophet Mormon, who wrote that it was Satan “who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven” (Helaman 6:28; see also verses 26–27). What warnings does the story of the Tower of Babel have for you?
Honestly, I don’t understand the heading of this section and wonder how anything we’ve studied this week hints that the only way to “reach heaven is by following Jesus.”
- Genesis 6–8.
How might you use the story of Noah’s ark to teach your family how following the prophet can keep us spiritually safe? (see “Noah and His Family” in Old Testament Stories). Maybe your family could work together to build a simple toy boat out of paper or blocks. As you read Genesis 6–7, you could compare the safety provided by the boat to the safety we find in following the prophet. You may want to discuss recent counsel from the prophet and write his words of counsel on your boat.
The story of Noah’s ark has absolutely nothing to do with following God’s prophet, but because this concept is so crucial in LDS theology, the author(s) decided to give an assignment related to this concept. How is what Noah did (getting into the ark) akin to the Latter-day following the prophet? Somehow, I am missing this analogy.
The Book of Genesis has great material for study, so it continues to frustrate me how extrabiblical sources are primarily used and given authenticity in these lessons. To rely on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, the Book of Moses, and the Book of Mormon to support Genesis 6-11 is totally unnecessary. If the author(s) would merely stick to the biblical text and just accurately explain what God’s Word has to say, this would be a worthwhile study. So far, however, this curriculum is lacking in many ways. My suggestion is to put down the Come, Follow Me curriculum along with the unique standard works and pick up God’s Word (the Bible), by itself, and study its words of life.
What else has God given us that might be compared to the ark that saved Noah’s family? These resources suggest some answers, though there are many others: 2 Nephi 9:7–13; Doctrine and Covenants 115:5–6; and President Russell M. Nelson’s message “Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 113–14).
- Moses 8:17.
- Genesis 9:8–17.
Young children might enjoy drawing or coloring a rainbow while you talk about what it represents (see also Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 9:21–25 [in the Bible appendix]). You might also discuss things that help us remember our covenants, such as the sacrament, which helps us remember our baptismal covenant to follow Jesus Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:75–79).
- Genesis 11:1–9.
It might be helpful to read Ether 1:33–43 as your family studies Genesis 11 and learns about the Tower of Babel. What do we learn from the families of Jared and his brother that can help our family find spiritual safety despite the wickedness in the world? What additional lessons do we learn from Noah and his family as they faced a similar challenge? (see Moses 8:13, 16–30).