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.)
Jeremiah 1-3; 7; 16-18; 20
At first, Jeremiah didn’t think he would make a good prophet. “Behold, I cannot speak,” he protested when the Lord first called him (Jeremiah 1:6). The Lord reassured him, “I have put my words in thy mouth” (verse 9). Jeremiah felt that he was an inexperienced “child” (verse 6), but the Lord explained that he was actually more prepared than he realized—he had been ordained to this calling even before he was born (see verse 5). So Jeremiah set aside his fears and accepted the call. He warned Jerusalem’s kings and priests that their pretended holiness would not save them from destruction. The “child” who thought he could not speak came to feel God’s word “in [his] heart as a burning fire” and could not be silent (Jeremiah 20:9).
Jeremiah’s story is also our story. God knew us, too, before we were born and prepared us to do His work on the earth. Among other things, that work includes something Jeremiah foresaw: gathering God’s people, one by one, to “bring [them] to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:14). And even if we don’t know exactly what to do or say, we should “be not afraid … ; for I am with thee, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:8, 19).
These two paragraphs could have been written by an Evangelical Christian! I especially love the fact that it said that Jeremiah “had been ordained to this calling even before he was born,” with no mention that this is a verse that has been used many times to support the idea of “preexistence.” Without reading the rest of the article, I wonder what will be said about this doctrine below. Let’s see.
Jeremiah 1:4–19; 7:1–7; 20:8–10
Prophets are called to speak the Lord’s word.
As you read in Jeremiah 1:4–19 about Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet, ponder the role of prophets in your life. What do you learn about prophets from the Lord’s words to Jeremiah? (see also Jeremiah 7:1–7). Jeremiah’s preaching was often rejected (see Jeremiah 20:8, 10). What do you learn from Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 20:9? Keep these thoughts in mind throughout your study of Jeremiah’s teachings. What do you find in these teachings that inspires you to follow our latter-day prophets?
It’s a given that the church writers will point to their “modern” prophets after pointing to the biblical prophets. Yet do LDS prophets always speak the truth? Check out this article for another opinion.
God knew me before I was born.
Before Jeremiah was born, God knew him and chose him, or foreordained him, to fulfill a specific mission on earth (see Jeremiah 1:5). Why do you think it was valuable for Jeremiah to know this?
God also knew you before you were born and foreordained you to specific responsibilities (see Alma 13:1–4; Doctrine and Covenants 138:53–56; Abraham 3:22–23). What difference can this knowledge make in your life? If you have received your patriarchal blessing, you might prayerfully review it and ask God how to accomplish what He foreordained you to do.
Although I disagree with the unique standard works references to support the idea that “God knew you before you were born and foreordained,” I appreciate that this is not being used to support the idea that humans existed as spirits in a previous life. For instance, one church manual states:
We lived with Heavenly Father before we came to earth. We are His spirit children, and He wants us to have the same joy that He has by becoming like Him (see Jeremiah 1:5; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 12:9) (Old Testament Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, 2003, 16).
Or perhaps the church could have related modern prophets to the preexistence, as tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith did here:
Prophets chosen in premortal existence. In the far distant past before the foundations of this earth were laid, a grand council was held in heaven. At that council plans were perfected and an organization formed for the government of this earth during its mortal probation. Our Eternal Father, knowing the end from the beginning, chose from among the spirits those to be his rulers and prophets to assist in carrying through his eternal purposes on this earth in relation to the final destiny of men (see Abraham 3:22-28; Jeremiah 1:5; Titus 1:1-2). . . . [DS 1:184.] (Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, 150. Bold in original. Ellipsis mine).
References like these are not here, so I appreciate the authors realizing the passage is all about God foreordaining Jeremiah, and not somehow trying to make it appear that Jeremiah obviously must have know God as well. I know some Latter-day Saints might be shocked that I am actually complimenting the curriculum’s authors for their restraint, but I must say I fully expected the doctrine of preexistence to be included in any discussion involving Jeremiah 1:5. Although there have been many problems this year with this curriculum, this is a positive step.
“They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters.”
In the arid region where the Israelites lived, people stored precious water in underground reservoirs called cisterns. Why would receiving water from a fountain be better than relying on a cistern? What does it mean to forsake “the fountain of living waters”? What do you think the “broken cisterns” mentioned in Jeremiah 2:13 might symbolize? As you read Jeremiah 2 and 7, notice how the people were forsaking the Lord’s living waters, and think about how you are receiving living water in your life.
For as many times as this curriculum has brought out Jesus, this is immediately what I thought of when reading this paragraph. John 7:37-39 states,
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
Jeremiah 7 is addressed to those who were entering “the gate of the Lord’s house … to worship the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:2). Yet despite this outward appearance of devotion, they were guilty of great wickedness (see verses 2–11). What messages do you feel the Lord might have for you in verses 21–23?
As we have discussed in other chapter critiques, God is not talking to those in the 21st century but to the Israelites in the day that Jeremiah wrote. So it is a bad question to ask “what message do you feel the Lord might have for you?” A better question could be:
God told the people of Jeremiah’s day to “obey Him” and all “may go well with” them. How could this message apply to each one of us today as we read the words of this prophet of God?”
Reading the Bible as if everything that was said are words written to modern people is a common mistake but it can lead to faulty interpretations.
Jeremiah 3:14–18; 16:14–21
The Lord will gather His people.
When Jeremiah prophesied of the gathering of scattered Israel, he said it would be even more monumental than the Exodus from Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14–15). In a similar spirit, President Russell M. Nelson said: “You were sent to earth at this precise time … to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that [gathering]. … This gathering should mean everything to you” (Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” [worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018], supplement to the New Era and Ensign, Aug. 2018, 12, ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
As you study Jeremiah 3:14–18; 16:14–21, what inspires you about the latter-day gathering of Israel? What do these verses suggest about how that gathering happens? What additional insights do you find in the rest of President Nelson’s message cited above?
Here we go again. At one moment, the authors of the curriculum impress me. Then, thud, down to earth we go. This passage is not saying anything about modern prophets or any perceived notion that there is a “latter-day gathering of Israel.” A great example of eisegesis and saying something it does not say. One has to have a preconceived notion that modern prophets are needed and that they are found in the LDS Church to come up with this interpretation.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
You could use this verse to talk about our life with Heavenly Father before we were born. Resources like “I Lived in Heaven” (Children’s Songbook, 4) and “Introduction: Our Heavenly Father’s Plan” (in New Testament Stories, 1–5) could help. How can knowing about our premortal life affect the way we live our mortal life?
Honestly, I had written my compliments above without reading the entire lesson. But I’ll leave my comments above intact to show my intentions were good. Here, in the place where parents are supposed to talk about the previous lesson, is a suggestion to bring up the preexistence. Arggghhh. This is such a bad use of the verse. After holding back earlier, it is unfathomable that the authors decide to use this reference for the preexistence not taught in Jeremiah 1:5.
For an overall look at the preexistence, see Crash Course Mormonism
Click for another article titled “Does Jeremiah 1:5 speak about preexistence?“
Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13–14
To help family members visualize these verses, you could demonstrate what happens when you put water in a cracked or broken container. What might the “fountain of living waters” and “broken cisterns” represent? (Jeremiah 2:13). How do we drink from the Lord’s living water?
Ahh, but Jesus is living water and He doesn’t crack or break! Let’s keep the analogies moving, please! Consider this passage in John 4 with Jesus and the Samaritan woman:
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
Jesus had what the woman at the well needed. He told her if you drink of the water He provides, she would not become thirsty. I love the next part: “It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
If you are a Latter-day Saint reading this, perhaps you are where the woman at the well found herself. Searching. Striving. Doing her best. All to no avail.
Eternal life is available for the asking. The Bible says that we just need to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). It is a matter of faith. Depending on yourself for eternal life will result in broken cisterns, but Jesus is reliable and will never let His children down.
These links might be helpful as you consider what it means to put all your trust into Jesus:
- 10 reasons why a person ought to consider becoming a Christian
- Facts, Feelings, Faith
- Take the test at GotForgiveness.com
President Russell M. Nelson has compared the fishers and hunters in this verse to latter-day missionaries (see “The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 81). Family members could “hunt” for objects around your home and talk about how you can help “fish” and “hunt” for scattered Israel.
The way to find “scattered Israel” is finding someone who has placed their complete faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:
28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
To explore these verses, you might discuss or show how pottery is made. What message does the Lord have for Israel in Jeremiah 18:1–6? What does it mean to be clay in the Lord’s hands? (see also Isaiah 64:8). For another story that compares us to potter’s clay, see Elder Richard J. Maynes’s message “The Joy of Living a Christ-Centered Life” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 27–30).
Paul talks about this idea in Romans 9:19-24:
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump done vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
So we see that the sovereign God is in charge and He has the right to call both Jews and Gentiles unto Himself. We must understand the importance of hearing His Word and agree this is the way it is.
If you read the whole article, you can see that I have mud on my face. Earlier I complimented the authors of the chapter for not going out of their way to force an LDS doctrine (preexistence) into a text that is not there. Yet what did they end up doing? Exactly what I complimented them in not doing in the first place! Oh well, I tried.
Again, the LDS writers of this series are not helping their readers understand that passages from the Bible were not written to those of us in the 21st century. It’s a common mistake, even amongst lay Evangelical readers. Over and over I teach my students to never ask what a passage means for them. Rather, ask, “What does the passage mean (period)?” Those Latter-day Saints who believe they are somehow doing a study in the Old Testament are getting nothing of substance here. Instead, I recommend attending a good Bible-believing church and learn the Bible the way it was meant to be taught/preached: in context. If you would like a recommendation for a good church where you live, write me (eric at mrm.org) and I’d be happy to help.