By Eric Johnson
This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
February 6-12, 2023
At a marriage feast in Cana, Christ changed water into wine—an event John called the “beginning of miracles” (John 2:11). That’s true in more than one sense. While this was the first miracle Jesus performed publicly, it can also symbolize another miraculous beginning—the process of our hearts being transformed as we become ever more like our Savior. This miracle of a lifetime begins with the decision to follow Jesus Christ, to change and live a better life through Him. This miracle can be so life-changing that being “born again” is one of the best ways to describe it (John 3:7). But rebirth is just the beginning of the path of discipleship. Christ’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well remind us that if we continue on this path, eventually the gospel will become “a well of water” inside us, “springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
I find it interesting how the first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine at a wedding feast, a place of celebration. Jesus showed his mastery over nature. Of course, it’s not required for Christians to drink wine, but for those who believe they can imbibe (not in excess, as the Bible warns), this seems to show that this substance (in moderation, again) is something provided by God. Otherwise, why would Jesus multiply a banned substance?
When Christians take this element (or grape juice) as part of their communion celebration, it is a reminder that Jesus had to bleed in order to provide atonement for sins. Yet water has been substituted for the wine in LDS sacrament services that was originally commanded to be used in the Doctrine and Covenants. D&C 20:75 says, “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” Verse 78 talks about the “manner of administering the wine” and the prayer in verse 79 is that Jesus would “bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it.” Concerning this passage, Christian apologist Rob Bowman writes,
The problem here is obvious. If the Lord took the trouble to dictate the “exact words to be uttered” in the sacramental prayer, one would think that he would not have included a reference to “this wine” in that prayer had he intended a mere four months later to tell Joseph Smith not to use wine. After all, this language is more specific than any found in the Bible, so it was certainly unnecessary to refer specifically to wine. Yet D&C 20 refers to wine three times, including in the sacramental prayer itself. Clearly, someone made a mistake. Since we may safely assume that Jesus did not make a mistake, the most reasonable conclusion is that Joseph did. One or both of these revelations in D&C 20 and 27 is evidently flawed.
Once again, we find that the LDS Church abandons a biblically based, historic Christian practice—in this case, the use of “the fruit of the vine” in the Lord’s Supper—on the basis of a dubious revelation. It does so while also denying that any church other than itself has the authority to administer the sacrament. Yet Mormons take great offense if anyone suggests that the LDS Church’s doctrine and practices might not be authentically Christian. One would think that members of a religion that seems to go out of its way to distance itself from the rest of Christianity in everything from the doctrine it teaches about God to the elements it uses in the sacrament would not take offense when Christians take notice of that distance.Souhttps://mit.irr.org/lds-sacrament-mormons-and-lords-supperrce
Certainly the use of wine (“fruit of the vine”), including at the Last Supper, is clearly taught in the Gospel accounts. (See Matthew 26:17-30.)
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Jesus Christ’s miracles “manifested forth his glory.”
As you read about the Savior changing water into wine in John 2:1–11, you may gain additional insights by considering the perspectives of the different people who were there, including Mary, the disciples, and others. If you had witnessed the events described here, what would your impressions of Jesus have been? What does this miracle teach you about Him?
Answering the last question, this miracle teaches that Jesus had compassion on the wedding couple, the guests, and His mother. There was a need and Jesus met that need. How would the Latter-day Saint explain why Jesus would have made it a priority to turn water into wine if wine is a sinful substance?
I must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus in private, he was a cautious observer. Later, however, he publicly defended Jesus (see John 7:45–52) and joined the believers at the Savior’s burial (see John 19:38–40). What teachings do you find in John 3:1–21 that might have inspired Nicodemus to follow Jesus and be born again?
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 95). What role did your baptism and confirmation—being “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5)—play in your being born again? What are you doing to continue this process of change? (see Alma 5:11–14).
A person is not born again through baptism. As an ordinance, this is something done because of one’s faith but not to create faith.
For more on John 3:3, see John 3:5-6: “Born of Water and the Spirit”
Heavenly Father shows His love for me through Jesus Christ.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “The first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength” (“Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 127). How have you felt the love of God through the gift of His Son?
This follow-up to John 3 says that “whosoever believeth [note, baptism is not discussed here] in him should not perish…” Yes, I do feel the love of God through the gift of His Son, fully realizing that it’s not what I do that earns me favor with God but the grace and mercy that He provides.
Is God a spirit?
Some may be confused by Jesus’s statement that God is a spirit. The Joseph Smith Translation of this verse provides an important clarification: “For unto such hath God promised his Spirit” (in John 4:24, footnote a). Modern revelation also teaches that God has a body of flesh and bones (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:22–23; see also Genesis 5:1–3; Hebrews 1:1–3).
This teaching is contrary to the original meaning of John 4:24. It is problematic to say that God is housed in a body of flesh and bones, contrary to what was explained by Jesus here. Yet Joseph Smith removed the meaning of the words in his Joseph Smith Translation without any manuscript support. How did he make that decision? How can a “translation” be made unless there are manuscripts from which to work? Since Joseph Smith only dabbled in Greek and was, by no means, an expert, this ought to cause great concern to anyone who wants to consider his “translation” seriously.
So I ask, with no paper trail (so to speak), why should Smith’s translation be accepted over what both the King James Version has as well as all modern translations say? If “modern revelation” contradicts the Bible and yet there is no precedence, why should anyone accept Joseph Smith’s version along with the version of all succeeding LDS leaders?
The God of Mormonism is nothing more than just a big human who is only different from you and me because he came into being before we did. According to LDS Apostle John A. Widtsoe, he merely “became God” (Rational Theology, 1924, 24). Widtsoe also taught that “God and man are of the same race, differing only in their degrees of advancement” (Rational Theology, 1915, 61). One church manual states:
“As shown in this chapter, our Father in heaven was once a man as we are now, capable of physical death. By obedience to eternal gospel principles, he progressed from one stage of life to another until he attained the state we call exaltation or godhood.”
This is problematic. Yet it is LDS Church leaders who say that what Christians believe (that God has always been God, that He is spirit and never was a man, that people cannot become gods) is heresy rather than what they teach. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught,Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, 132)
The whole Christian world, in the days of the Prophet, believed falsely that God was a mystical spirit essence that filled the immensity of space and was everywhere and nowhere in particular present — all of which proved only that they were all heretics, that the apostasy was universal. Heresy is false doctrine.”Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 352.
No, Mr. Widtsoe and Mr. McConkie, the Christian church has taught about a God who is historically the same as what the Bible teaches. Never has it been considered correct teaching that God was a human who could have sinned and was required to be obedient in order to become God. It is the LDS version, not the version taught in biblical Christianity, that is heretical.
For articles on this topic, visit:
- Does Genesis 1:26, 27 Prove God Has a Physical Body?
- Crash Course Mormonism: God the Father
Christ offers me His living water.
What might Jesus have meant when He told the Samaritan woman that whoever drinks the water He offers will never thirst? How is the gospel like living water?
One of the Savior’s messages to the Samaritan woman was that how we worship is more important than where we worship (see John 4:21–24). What are you doing to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth”? (John 4:23).
For one, as mentioned above, I think it’s vital to worship Him the way He really is. Believing in a false version of God, Jesus, and the Gospel is worse than no Gospel at all (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 11:4). Unfortunately, Mormonism has turned God into a big version of humans, and that is a tragic mistake.
For an excellent video on this topic, I invite you to watch this:
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
What impure influences does your family need to keep out of your home so it will be a sacred place—like the temple? What will you do to keep those things out?
This could be a variety of things, but for one, we must be careful what we let into our homes with computers, televisions, and phones. There is so much disinformation and moral filth available through these devices that it is so dangerous to let our minds and hearts be corrupted. We should be careful to uplift God in what we allow in our homes.
Talk with your family about the miracle of pregnancy and birth—the process of creating a living, intelligent being. Jesus taught that we must be reborn before entering the kingdom of God. Why is rebirth a good metaphor for the change required of us before we can enter the kingdom of God? How can we experience the process of spiritual rebirth?
Jesus said that it is through rebirth that we can become children of God (John 1:12). As we are born in water, so too we must be born by the Spirit.
Invite family members to restate these verses in their own words as if they were explaining them to a friend. How has Jesus Christ helped us feel God’s love?
These verses have been called by Evangelical Christians as the Gospel in a nutshell. They say in the ESV:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
The words “eternal life” are used here. In Mormonism, these words are referred to as celestial glory or exaltation. But to gain this state, a person must obey all the commandments. This is clearly taught by a variety of leaders. Yet these verses say that it is “belief” that provides eternal life.
The next verse goes on to say: “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. ” What a promise! Hell is avoided, though it is deserved (Rom. 6:23). Christians have the gift of eternal life that is available only through a right relationship with this God who created us to have a relationship with Him.
What was the Savior teaching us when He compared His gospel to living water? Maybe your family could look at some running water and describe the qualities of water. Why do we need to drink water every day? In what ways is Jesus Christ’s gospel like “a well of water springing up into everlasting life”? (John 4:14).
In this passage, Jesus is making God known. The woman understood she needed water but did not realize that Jesus was talking about spiritual, not physical, water. While water is needed for the body in this life, it is spiritually necessary for eternal life. In verse 22, Jesus said that the woman worshiped what she did not know. Then verse 24 says that God is not only spirit but that He must be worshiped in spirit and truth. If He is not worshiped in spirit and in truth, the object of the worship is a false god.
The verses given above in John 4 are so important because it is impossible to know God and have a right relationship with Him unless He is worshiped both in spirit and truth. What Mormonism does is present a God that is not the same God as what is taught in the Bible. It presents a different Jesus. And it puts forth a different Gospel that is not the same as what the Bible teaches.
This is a major problem. I love the fact that the LDS Church is having its membership read the New Testament. That’s not a bad thing. But my prayer is that those who partake of this study do not limit themselves to the teaching in the LDS lesson. Read the Gospels and epistles with open eyes. See what is said without merely just letting the leaders tell you what it says. Read the words in context and then ask yourself, Is what I am being taught really what the Bible is teaching in this passage.
I think we can see how the church has attempted to manipulate John 4:24 to make it something it is not saying. Deference made to “modern revelation” is unwise when what is taught contradicts biblical teaching. I hope you see how dangerous this is because, with no precedence, Joseph Smith and his succeeding church leaders could teach anything they want; with no source to check their teaching, they could get away with it.
I would encourage my LDS readers to see what it means to worship God “in spirit and in truth.” If Mormonism is true, then by all means you (and I) should give everything we have to worship the God as revealed by the leaders. Yet if they are wrong, the God they put forth should be rejected. God is not far off, but when people are being taught wrong, it can make it impossible to know Him as He really is.
Here is a wonderful video on the archaeology of Jacob’s Well produced by my friend Joel Kramer: