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 in the church’s curriculum is being reviewed.)
May 22-28, 2023
JST Mathew 1; Matthew 24-25; Mark 12-13; Luke 21
Jesus’s disciples must have found His prophecy startling: the mighty temple of Jerusalem, the spiritual and cultural center of the Jewish people, would be destroyed so utterly that “there [would] not be left … one stone upon another.” Naturally the disciples wanted to know more. “When shall these things be?” they asked. “And what is the sign of thy coming?” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:2–4). The Savior’s answers revealed that the great destruction coming to Jerusalem—a prophecy fulfilled in AD 70—would be relatively small compared to the signs of His coming in the last days. Things that seem even more stable than the temple in Jerusalem will prove to be temporary—the sun, the moon, the stars, the nations, and the sea. Even “the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:33). If we are spiritually aware, this commotion can teach us to put our trust in something truly permanent. As Jesus promised, “Heaven and earth shall pass away; yet my words shall not pass away. … And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:35, 37).
What is cited in the paragraph above is from the Pearl of Great Price and Joseph Smith’s rendering of Matthew 24. The citations are, for the most part, the gist of what the King James Version says. There is one unique phrase used in the quotation found in the Pearl of Great Price quote above that is not found in the King James Version. It is verse 37, “and whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.” Matthew 24:15 in the King James Version explains, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
There’s the key, then. To “not be deceived,” a person must know the Word of God (the Bible from the manuscripts and not just made up by a “prophet” of God)! If the Jesus of the Bible is not properly taught (“false Christ”) and Joseph Smith is a false prophet–as I believe he is–then a person should not be enamored with a religion we call Mormonism, no matter how nice the church and its people seem. As Jesus said, they would even “deceive the elect” if they could, The false organization of the LDS Church ought to be rejected in favor of the true Jesus as revealed in the Bible.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
What is Joseph Smith—Matthew?
Joseph Smith—Matthew, located in the Pearl of Great Price, is the Joseph Smith Translation of the last verse of Matthew 23 and all of Matthew 24. Joseph Smith’s inspired revisions restore precious truths that had been lost. Verses 12–21 refer to the destruction of Jerusalem anciently; verses 21–55 contain prophecies about the last days.
While the Pearl of Great Price rendition is, for the most part, the same as the King James Version, there are a few differences. Thus, the question becomes why the writers of this curriculum decided to use this version rather than the Bible. Questions that must be asked include:
a) Smith was no expert on Greek. How was he able to make a translation of the New Testament in the first place?
b) For the changes that were made, there are absolutely no Greek manuscripts with the same changes. How can a “translator” just make up words to add or take out what is already there when this is not what the original writer (Matthew) wrote?
Honestly, I think the church would have done better not even going here because now the reader might wonder how Smith had the right to change the Bible the way he wanted when there is no evidence this is what it says. If he could not properly translate the Book of Abraham, what makes us think he is capable of properly translating the Bible? It’s a question the Latter-day Saint ought to ask.
See review of Gospel Topics Essay. And consider this excellent documentary on the Book of Abraham.
Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21–37; Mark 13:21–37; Luke 21:25–38
Prophecies about the Savior’s Second Coming can help me face the future with faith.
It can be unsettling to read about the events leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But when Jesus prophesied of these events, He told His disciples to “be not troubled” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:23). How can you “be not troubled” as you hear about earthquakes, wars, deceptions, and famines? Think about this question as you read these verses. Mark or note any reassuring counsel you find.
I am troubled that Joseph Smith had made a number of false prophecies, including the date when Jesus would return. Consider these and see that Smith did not know the future. If he’s wrong on this, could he possibly be wrong on truth?
I must always be ready for the Savior’s Second Coming.
God has not revealed “the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). But He does not want that day to come upon us “unawares” (Luke 21:34), so He has given us counsel about how to prepare.
As you read these verses, identify the parables and other comparisons the Savior used to teach us to always be prepared for His Second Coming. What do you learn from them? What are you inspired to do?
You might also consider how the Savior wants you to help prepare the world for His Second Coming. What do you feel it means to be ready to receive the Savior when He comes?
Certainly Jesus will return one day. But unless your sins are forgiven, you are not ready for the Second Coming of Jesus. That is the only way I would want to look forward returning again because, otherwise, you are not ready. For more on forgiveness, click here.
Heavenly Father expects me to use His gifts wisely.
In the Savior’s parable, a “talent” referred to money. But the parable of the talents can prompt us to ponder how we are using any of our blessings, not just money. After reading this parable, you might make a list of some of the blessings and responsibilities that Heavenly Father has entrusted to you. What does He expect you to do with these blessings? How can you use these gifts more wisely?
Christians also believe in using the spiritual gifts that they have been given.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Mark 12:38–44; Luke 21:1–4.
What do these verses teach about how the Savior views our offerings? Show your family how to pay tithing and fast offerings to the Lord. How do these offerings help build God’s kingdom? What are some other ways we can offer “all that [we have]” to the Lord? (Mark 12:44).
I noticed that the writers of this series did not give a lot of explanation about the passage they cite. First, consider Mark 12:38-40:
38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
I once attended the General Conference a few years ago. Before the session began, the leaders came strolling out from the right side onto the stage. Everyone got up on the their feet and there was a hush. It was as the righteous men of God had come out. Whenever general authorities go to different public events, they are the rock stars. They are adored in much the same way I bet the Pharisees were. I wonder if these men are just like the Pharisees of Jesus’s day who “devour widows’ houses.” A Latter-day Saint will probably complain, but hear me out.
After all, this religion has plenty of money–everyone knows it. Some estimate the church has a $100 billion investment fund. Yet the church continues to require its members to tithe, perhaps $7 billion a year. What is the church doing with this money? Where is the accountability?
Are these leaders really chosen by God to require single mothers to pay money to their organization when they might not even have enough to put on the table for their children? It is something to consider.
Meanwhile, Mark 12:41-43 says,
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
This is a message of humility. The woman was never going to get her name on a building at BYU or be someone religious leaders might provide an accolade. But she gave what she had despite her circumstances.
Once again, the entire “advertised” passage in the title is not covered. For instance, Mark 12:18-27 is never mentioned in the lesson. Why not? It talks about how there is not marriage in heaven. Why the silence? Could it be because the passage contradicts the idea that marriage (and families) go into the eternities? This, after all, is a top priority in Mormonism. Notice how Jesus told the Jewish leaders that “you do not know the Scriptures.” Later, he said they were “badly mistaken.” Could the same be said for the LDS general authorities?
For more on this topic, see this article.
For more on “forever families,” consider these articles:
- Can families be together forever in the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms?
- Did Jesus believe “families are forever”?
- Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, Chapter 17: Preserve and Protect the Family
- Will families be together forever?
- Forever Families?
From my perspective as an evangelical Christian, it seems like so much effort is put into these lessons to get Latter-day Saints to read the Bible through the worldview lens of Mormonism and not through an objective lens that emphasizes what the Bible says. This is dangerous. Even using the Pearl of Great Price translation provided by Smith–a man who by no means was capable of translating the Greek words–is a way to show the reader that the unique scripture (PoGP) must be more accurate than the Bible. I think this was done on purpose in order to get the Latter-day Saint to question the “translation” of the Bible and believe that this is a better rendering.
There is so much potential, yet this project falls short. I surely wish the church would encourage the readers to look at the Gospels and the rest of the Bible for what it is, as the inerrant Word of God, and allow it to teach principles that will guide the reader to correct doctrine and a closer relationship with Jesus. Once again, the lesson misses that mark. For those Latter-day Saints who think they are really studying the Bible, this is a shame.