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.)
May 23-29 (Joshua 1-8; 23-24)
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
God will be with me if I am faithful to Him.
What does this mean, “God will be with me if I am faithful to Him”? It is saying that God’s forgiveness is not something He permanently gives. Such a concept is taught by unique LDS scripture, including Moroni 10:32 in the Book of Mormon:
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
In other words, it’s crucial to stop sinning (“deny yourselves of all ungodliness”) and love God with all your whole being. “If” you do this this, “then is his grace sufficient for you.” A church manual states:
However, in order to attain the highest degree of glory in the resurrection, we need to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). We come unto Christ by having faith in him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, receiving other saving priesthood ordinances, obeying the commandments, and keeping the covenants we make with our Heavenly Father. How we live does make a difference (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, 39).
Church leaders have been very clear about this concept, as an official manual puts it this way:
Have class members find and read Moroni 10:32. According to this verse, what must we do to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him”? (“Deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness, and love God with all [our] might, mind and strength.”) Explain that “deny yourselves of all ungodliness” means “give up your sins.” We must strive to give up our sins and demonstrated that we love God with all our might, mind, and strength. If we do this throughout our lives, then Jesus Christ, through his Atonement, will help us become perfect (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, 1998, 123. Brackets in original).
It is only through individual obedience that washes sin away, as Apostle Mark E. Petersen once put it:
Not even the blessings of God come to us without effort on our part. We must earn them by obedience to the laws upon which each one is predicated (Faith Works! 298).
A citation by Apostle Bruce R. McConkie is most disconcerting:
Salvation comes by obedience to the whole law of the whole gospel. Joseph Smith said: “Any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too.” (Teachings, p. 331.) Thus, a man may be damned for a single sin (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:256).
A church manual even cites the Book of Romans to contradict what Paul was actually saying:
(41-3) Romans 10:9, 10. Can One Achieve Salvation Simply by Confessing with the Mouth? These two verses of scripture have been quoted very often by those who believe that salvation comes by grace alone and is not dependent in any way upon man’s good works. Some groups even go so far as to say that if a man should confess Jesus before he is killed in an accident he will be saved in the kingdom of God, even if he had lived a wicked life prior to that time. Not only does this idea go contrary to the vast weight of Paul’s own teachings (some within the Roman epistle itself—for example, 2:5–13; 6:13, 16; all of chapters 12–14), but it is also a gross misinterpretation of what Paul is really saying (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles Religion 211-212, 1979, 332).
In a recent conference, D. Todd Christofferson stated,
Because God’s love is all-embracing, some speak of it as “unconditional,” and in their minds they may project that thought to mean that God’s blessings are “unconditional” and that salvation is “unconditional.” They are not. Some are wont to say, “The Savior loves me just as I am,” and that is certainly true. But He cannot take any of us into His kingdom just as we are, “for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence.” Our sins must first be resolved (D. Todd Christofferson, “The Love of God, Liahona (Conference edition), November 2021, 16).
I would agree that a person’s “sins must first be resolved” to be made right with Him, but how does this happen? It is not through personal obedience but through Christ’s work on the cross, nothing more! Romans 5 shows us:
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Notice how verse 8 says that “God shows his love” even while we were still sinners by dying and cleansing the believers from their sins. Nothing is mentioned about keeping “every requirement made of us from on high,” a critical mistake made in Mormonism. The LDS gospel is full of impossibility while the Bible teaches that reconciliation is possible, but only through Christ’s work, not our own.
Both faith and works are necessary for salvation.
Early Christians saw Rahab as an example of the power of both faith and works (see Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). As you read Joshua 2, consider the role of Rahab’s faith and works in saving herself, her family, and the Israelite scouts. What does this teach you about how your faith in Christ and your works can influence yourself and others?
- When the writers say “both faith and works are necessary for salvation,” it is obvious that “justification” is what is being described, not sanctification. In other words, it takes both a person’s faith and works to gain the very best this religion has to offer, which is the celestial kingdom. Here is how the author of Hebrews describes it:
- 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
This is found in the middle of the chapter on faith where the great patriarchs and other mighty warriors of the Bible were commended for their faith, even though their works are emphasized in the passage. Of course, James chapter 2 talks about this very same Rahab:
- 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Verses 20 and 26 are commonly brought up by the Latter-day Saint to show how works play a role in justification. If this is the case, then Ephesians 2:8, 9 would contradict this concept, wouldn’t it? After all, it says that a person is saved by grace through faith and it’s “not by works lest any man should boast.” Rather, works fulfill the faith that a person has. When a person has faith, then good works do follow, but those righteous acts cannot be credited to a person as righteousness. Rather, good works follow faith and are a part of sanctification.
Consider Titus 3, which says that
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Notice, it was not because of righteous works but by God’s mercy that allows a person to be “justified by his grace” in order to “become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” This concept is missed by many Latter-day Saints. (For more on James 2, click here.)
- You may be interested to know that Rahab was the ancestor of both King David and Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:5). What possible lessons can we learn from this?
This is an interesting question. While Rahab just committed adultery, King David committed adultery but murder as well. Both sins are considered the worst a person can do. Spencer Kimball, the church’s 12th president, wrote,
- The Prophet Joseph Smith underlined the seriousness of the sin of murder for David as for all men, and the fact that there is no forgiveness for it (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 128).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explained,
- Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the priesthood; and the priesthood that he received, and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage.” (Teachings, 339.) Thus, even though a man’s calling and election has been made sure, if he then commits murder, all of the promises are of no effect, and he goes to a telestial kingdom (Rev. 21:8; D. & C. 76:103), because when he was sealed up unto eternal life, it was with a reservation. The sealing was not to apply in the case of murder (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:347).
Book of Mormon commentators Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet agree, saying,
- To “shed innocent blood” is to murder, to take the life of one who is innocent and undeserving of death. It is a “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16-17), a crime against humanity, a heinous offense to heaven for which there is no forgiveness (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 2:251).
Despite their sins, both Rahab and David were considered so important by God that they belong to the genealogy of Jesus. God does forgive, based on his mercy and not on our works. And there is no sin beyond that which God is capable of forgiving.
- Joshua 6–8
Obedience brings God’s power into my life.
These chapters deal with battles over the lands of Jericho and Ai. As you read them, consider how you battle temptation in your own life (for example, see Joshua 7:10–13). What do you learn about how God can help you and what you need to do to access His power? For example, what impresses you about the Lord’s instructions for taking Jericho? (see Joshua 6:1–5). Perhaps the account in Joshua 7 will inspire you to determine if “there is an accursed thing” in your life that you need to remove (Joshua 7:13).
It’s a shame that the authors of this series completely sidestep the archaeological evidence for the battles over the lands of Jericho and Ai that took place. These are historical stories with evidence to help us better understand that God really did intervene in the lives of His people as He brought them into the land.
For background on these two sites, please allow my friend Joel Kramer, a biblical archaeologist, to tell you more about each of these sites that I often visit when I take people on trips to Israel:
What a golden opportunity to talk about the historicity of the Bible, yet this was completely lost on the authors of the series.
- Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
What does this verse suggest about how we should approach our scripture study, both individually and as a family? How have the scriptures made our “way prosperous” and brought us “good success”?
Of course, the way a Latter-day Saint interprets scripture is different from the way a Christian does. For the Christian, it is the Old Testament (specifically mentioned in Joshua 1:8) as well as the New Testament, the books written by the apostles of Jesus and those who lived during Jesus’s lifetime. Mormonism, on the other hand, adds three other books of scripture, even including the teachings of their leaders given in general conferences, all of which are considered by Mormons as just as reliable. And that flavor is insinuated in these sentences.
Evangelical Christians do not consider the unique LDS scriptures to be authoritative in any way. Instead, they believe that following extra biblical scripture, such as these scriptures mainly written (or “translated”) by Joseph Smith, is very dangerous for one’s spiritual health.
- Joshua 4:3, 6–9.
After reading what the Lord wanted the Israelites to do with stones from the Jordan River, your family could talk about some of the great things the Lord has done for you. Then you could give each family member a stone and invite them to write or draw on it something the Lord has done for them.
When my tour groups to Israel visit the Valley of Elah in Israel, we often stop by the nearby stream where David picked up his five stones as a physical reminder of what God accomplished through a simple shepherd boy, the youngest boy in his family who blew away the giant. Remembering is important.
The authors of this series continue to read their own presuppositions into Old Testament passages that say nothing close to what Mormonism teaches, that one’s justification before God requires a person’s good works. In other words, “Jesus is NOT enough” according to this religion.
Meanwhile, these chapters in Joshua are so rich that it is a shame to miss the historical significance of these stories. God did incredible things, such as at Bethel and Ai, and He gets all the glory for saving His people. The evidence of these events can be found in the dirt and can be helpful in one’s faith in the stories that only God could have orchestrated.