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.)
October 17-23, 2022
Jeremiah 30-33; 36; Lamentations 1; 3
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Jeremiah 30–31; 33
The Lord will bring Israel out of captivity and gather them.
In Jeremiah 30–31; 33 the Lord acknowledged the “lamentation, and bitter weeping” (Jeremiah 31:15) that the Israelites would experience as they went into captivity. However, He also offered words of comfort and hope. What phrases in these chapters do you think would have given the Israelites consolation and hope? What promises do you find from the Lord to His people? How might these promises apply to you today?
I have critiqued the past several lessons because the authors of this curriculum have tried to get the readers to make personal application out of the biblical text written several thousand years ago. I explained that the words given by Jeremiah and other Old Testament authors were not meant to be taken as being personally written to them but rather the Israelites from (in this case) 2600 years ago.
The first two questions given in the lesson are very appropriate. They ask, “What phrases in these chapters do you think would have given the Israelites consolation and hope? What promises do you find from the Lord to His people?” Those are the right questions to ask. And then comes the follow-up: “How might these promises apply to you today?” I’m fine with this question as long as it follows the first two questions. It is possible to get an application as long as we understand that the text was originally meant for the people of that day, not us in modern times.
Jeremiah 31:31–34; 32:37–42
“They shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
Although the Israelites had broken their covenant with the Lord, Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord would again establish a “new” and “everlasting covenant” with His people (Jeremiah 31:31; 32:40). The new and everlasting covenant is “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ [see Doctrine and Covenants 66:2]. It is new every time it is revealed anew following a period of apostasy. It is everlasting in the sense that it is God’s covenant and has been enjoyed in every gospel dispensation where people have been willing to receive it” (Guide to the Scriptures, “New and Everlasting Covenant,” scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org; italics added).
This is absolutely not what Jeremiah meant. In the October 2022 Liahona magazine, 17th President Russell M. Nelson discussed this “everlasting covenant,” with a critique of his talk found here.
As you read Jeremiah 31:31–34; 32:37–42, ponder what it means to you to be part of God’s covenant people. How do these verses affect the way you view your covenant relationship with God? What does it mean to have His law written in your heart? (see Jeremiah 31:33).
See also Jeremiah 24:7; Hebrews 8:6–12.
The LDS writers attribute this passage to speaking specifically to church members. Consider the passage in Jeremiah and cited in Hebrews, especially verse 12, which reads,
For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.
Verse 13 says that by saying “new covenant,” “He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.” Yet what has Mormonism done? Consider how the leaders demand its members keep rules that are no different than the “law” as described in the Old Testament, which heaps additional regulations upon their followers. Consider what several leaders have taught on this subject. For instance, tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said a cup of tea or coffee could keep a person out of the celestial kingdom:
SALVATION AND A CUP OF TEA. You cannot neglect little things. “Oh, a cup of tea is such a little thing. It is so little; surely it doesn’t amount to much; surely the Lord will forgive me if I drink a cup of tea. Yes, he will forgive you, because he is going to forgive every man who repents; but, my brethren, if you drink coffee or tea, or take tobacco, are you letting a cup of tea or a little tobacco stand in the road and bar you from the celestial kingdom of God, where you might otherwise have received a fulness of glory? (Doctrines of Salvation 2:16).
Eleventh President Harold B. Lee cites from the D&C to show that former sins come back on those who return to their sins:
The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: “Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 120. Brackets in original).
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball believed that the idea salvation comes alone by grace and belief in Jesus is all that is needed is a “fallacious doctrine originated by Satan”:
One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation. Along with all the other works necessary for man’s exaltation in the kingdom of God this could rule out the need for repentance. It could give license for sin and, since it does not require man to work out his salvation, could accept instead lip service, “death-bed repentance,” and shallow, meaningless confession of sin (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 206-207).
He also said “total repentance and meeting all the requirements” is necessary for forgiveness:
Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 324-325).
… If one wishes to be forgiven of his sins and reach the celestial kingdom and have associations with the Father and his Son, [he must] repent and serve and do the proper works…. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 69. Brackets and ellipses in original).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie cited D&C 1:31-32 to say all the commandments have to be kept:
Complete forgiveness is reserved for those only who turn their whole hearts to the Lord and begin to keep all of his commandments not just those commandments disobeyed in the past, but those in all fields. “He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 295).
Apostle Richard G. Scott said practically the same thing using the same passage:
Obedience to all the commandments. Full obedience brings the complete power of the gospel into your life with strength to focus on the abandonment of specific sins. It includes things you might not initially consider part of repentance, such as attending meetings, paying tithing, giving service, and forgiving others. The Lord said: “He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven (“Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1995, 75. Italics in original).
Oh, and for good measure comes this admonition given in this missionary discussion lesson:
In order to remain forgiven we must never commit the sin again (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teaching Families, 1981, 36).
Do these teachings sound like the law is “written” on the hearts of the LDS people? Although many Mormons speak as if they are Christians, this is the same Mormonism that has been taught from the very beginning.
Lamentations 1; 3
The Lord can relieve the sorrow we experience because of sin.
The book of Lamentations is a collection of poems written after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. Why do you think it is important that these lamentations were preserved and included in the Old Testament? Consider what the metaphors in Lamentations 1 and 3 help you understand about the great sorrow Israel felt. What messages of hope in Christ do you find? (see especially Lamentations 3:20–33; see also Matthew 5:4; James 4:8–10; Alma 36:17–20).
I commend the question asked here, asking what these lamentations are important and to consider the sorrow Israel must have felt. The last question, though, has nothing to do with the text at hand.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How have Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ shown Their “everlasting love” for us? Showing pictures of things Christ created for us or did during His mortal ministry could help your family feel His “lovingkindness.”
The writers try too hard to bring in New Testament principles to an Old Testament passage.
Jeremiah 31:31–34; 32:38–41.
Consider making a list of things in these verses the Lord promises when we make covenants with Him. What do these verses teach us about the importance of our covenants?
But what the authors don’t understand is that all of the action in this passage is God making the covenant, but nowhere does it teach that we are to “covenant” back.
Family members could also write (or draw) on paper hearts something that shows how they feel about the Savior. What does it mean to have His law written in our hearts? (see Jeremiah 31:33). How do we show the Lord that we want to be His people?
The “law” as described in Jeremiah 31 is one that is written on the heart but not something that is outwardly obeyed. Trying to abide by rules and regulations that were never meant to be lived is fruitless.
How might you use Jeremiah 36 to help your family learn about the importance of the scriptures? (see, for example, verses 1–6, 10, 23–24, 27–28, 32). You might ask one family member to read a verse from this chapter while another family member writes it down, like Baruch did for Jeremiah. Why are we grateful for the efforts of people like Baruch, who preserved the words of the prophets? What can we do to show the Lord we value His words in the scriptures?
I find the shout out to Baruch, a scribe, to be interesting here because for so many years LDS leaders have complained about the poor preservation of the Bible, especially the New Testament. For instance, one scholar referenced Joseph Smith’s “Inspired Version” to criticize the transmission of the biblical text:
The translation was necessary because the Bible had not been preserved through the centuries in its original purity and completeness, and Joseph Smith restored many missing passages containing concepts that were essential for establishing the gospel in this dispensation” (BYU Professor Robert J. Matthews, Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series, 535).
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains
Biblical teaching, while true and accepted, has been imperfectly preserved and can be fully reconstituted only through supplemental revelation. This is not because New Testament Christianity was defective, but because New Testament Christianity is only partially preserved in the modern Bible (Encyclopedia of Mormonism 1:401).
Yet the biblical text has been well preserved thanks to scribes such as Baruch. Talking about the New Testament, one LDS scholar reported the following:
One can disagree with the textual assumptions behind some of the modern translations of the New Testament and still not be overly concerned with differences that are immaterial. For a book to undergo progressive uncovering of its manuscript history and come out with so little debatable in its text is a great tribute to its essential authenticity. First, no new manuscript discovery has produced serious differences in the essential story. This survey has disclosed the leading textual controversies, and together they would be well within one percent of the text. Stated differently, all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99 percent of all the verses in the New Testament. The second great fact that such a survey demonstrates is the progress that has placed the world in possession of manuscripts very near to the time of their writing. One would have to be a student of ancient history to appreciate how much superior the New Testament is to any other any book in its manuscript tradition” (BYU Professor Lloyd Anderson, “Manuscript Discoveries of the New Testament in Perspective,” Papers of the Fourteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, Presented April 13, 1963, 57-58)
My biggest problem with this chapter is that, somehow, the “everlasting gospel” as described by Russell M. Nelson is supposed to be a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31. This is not the case. Unless you have the presupposition that Mormonism is true, this is not the meaning that Jeremiah 31 intended to convey.