Matthew 18; Luke 10
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Who are the Seventy?
Following a pattern established in Old Testament times (see Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16), Jesus Christ “appointed other seventy,” in addition to His Twelve Apostles, to witness of Him, preach His gospel, and assist Him in His work. This pattern continues in the restored Church. Seventies are called to assist the Twelve in their mission as special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world.
The problem with the interpretation given in this lesson is that the “Seventy” was never an office in the New Testament church. Granted, there are apostles, elders and deacons described in the New Testament. However, except for this occasion, “Seventy” is never described again.
There is a textual issue here as well, as good modern translations use the manuscripts with “72” instead of the King James Version’s use of the number “70.” Biblical scholar Leon Morris explains:
“One of the most difficult textual problems in the New Testament is that of the number of people Jesus sent out on this mission. Many good MSS [manuscripts] read seventy, as RSV, but there are many also that read ‘seventy-two’ as mg. With the evidence at our disposal certainty is impossible (though I think ‘seventy-two’ is slightly more likely). The number appears to be symbolic of the nations of the world, a view the Jews based on Genesis 10, where there are seventy names in the Hebrew text and seventy-two in LXX. The gospel is for the whole world. Some, however, associate the number with that of the elders appointed by Moses (Nu. 11:16f., 24f; seventy-two with the two who remained in the camp). They see Jesus as the second Moses. . . . Whatever the truth behind these conjectures, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him in pairs.”Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Luke Revised Version, 198.
Regardless of whether it should be 70 or 72, the point is that Jesus sent this group out in pairs (2 by 2). And notice the instruction that was given:
- Verse 4 says: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Yet I would venture to say that the members of the LDS Seventy normally bring their wallets and suitcases with them when they go about their business across the world. Or is there evidence they follow this command given by Jesus?
- Do LDS Seventies in the church go to homes and say, “Peace be to this house” as verse 5 says must be done? (Maybe they do, but if so, I have never heard of this.)
- Do these Seventies “remain” at the house they just blessed and eat/drink there, as verse 7 says?
- Do they eat everything put before them, as verse 8 says? If so, it appears the members of the Seventy should not be picky about what they are served.
- Do these men “heal the sick” and say that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” as verse 9 says?
- When they are not accepted at a home, do they “go into its streets” and wipe the dust off their feet, as verses 10-11 say they were to do?
Notice in verses 17 how the 72 explained that “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Verses 18-20 state how Jesus gave them authority “to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Do Seventies follow this role in their current ministry? Shouldn’t these other things be followed if the church is going to take “Seventy” so literally as an office in today’s “restored” church. Unfortunately, no explanation of these verses is offered in this lesson.
If the LDS Church leaders truly want to take the number “Seventy” (in some manuscripts) as literal, that’s their prerogative. For them to take this literally while not following through on the rest of the commands begs the question: Why should a Christian such as myself take seriously the need to have an office called “Seventy”? I am a bit befuddled since the Seventies today do not go out two by two and do the things that Jesus commanded the original Seventy. Honestly, I think Latter-day Saints ought to be embarrassed with the way this lesson almost brags about its office when there is no evidence to support their teaching.
To obtain eternal life, I must love God and love my neighbor as myself.
It is helpful to remember that the parable of the good Samaritan was Jesus’s way of answering two questions: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:25, 29). As you read this parable, keep these questions in mind. What answers do you find?
Jesus said His people are to love God with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we consider the parallel passage in Mark 12, we see that Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Verse 4 is the “Shema,” which says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one.” Understanding the nature of God is most important command we have been given. God is one, not just in purpose but also in essence. Then verse 5 says what Jesus repeated here. When we love God with all we have, we will also love others.
First John 4:19-21 says,
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
So it’s impossible to be a Christian and hate others. We are commanded to love. This is the point Jesus made.
By Jesus’s day, the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans had lasted for centuries. The Samaritans were descendants of Jews living in Samaria who had intermarried with Gentiles. The Jews felt that the Samaritans had become corrupted by their association with Gentiles and had apostatized.
That actually is not quite true. They were not just “corrupted by their association with Gentiles” but rather there was the concern they should no longer be considered Jews, mainly by their intermarrying with non Jewish spouses introduced by the Assyrian conquerors. This meant they were not full-blooded Jews.
Even today, the few Samaritans who are left identify with the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, which remained in Israel even after the destruction by Assyria. They embrace the name “Samaritan,” which they translate as “keeper” of the faith in contrast to the Jews who they believe did not keep the faith; they think the prophet Eli improperly moved the sanctuary form Gerizim to Shiloh in the 11th century and that Ezra falsified the Pentateuch by changing “Gerizim” to “Ebal” in Deut. 27:4 while introducing a new Hebrew script. The roots of the two groups’ dislike of each other goes back several hundred years before the time of Jesus.
Referring to 2 Kings 17 as well as writings from the Jewish historian Josephus, one Bible encyclopedia reports:
“According to Ezra 4, the clear separation between Samaritan and Jew was established shortly after the Persians allowed the Jews to return from the Babylonian captivity in 538 BC. The “residents of Samaria” were rebuffed by the Jews when they asked to help rebuild the temple. Angered by this rejection, the northerners wrote to the Persian king, Artaxerxes, informing him of the Jews’ intentions, and successfully thwarted the rebuilding of the city walls. The silence of Haggai and Zechariah concerning any Samaritan interference and the stated dating in the Persian period suggest that only the city wall as at issue and that the earliest breach between the two communities was expressed in political rather than religious terms.”The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 303.
The disagreement they had with each other continues even today.
Jews would travel miles out of their way to avoid passing through Samaria. (See also Luke 9:52–54; 17:11–18; John 4:9; 8:48.)
This is true. Yet it did not keep Jesus from passing through Samaria when He would travel to and from Galilee to Jerusalem. (See John 4.)
Why do you think the Savior chose a Samaritan, someone who was hated by the Jews, as an example of compassion and loving one’s neighbor? What does this parable inspire you to do?
Sometimes the hardest person to love is someone who is considered an “enemy.”
We choose “that good part” by making daily choices that lead to eternal life.
In Luke 10:38–42, Jesus gently invited Martha to think differently about the way she was spending her time. After quoting these verses, Sister Carol F. McConkie taught: “If we would be holy, we must learn to sit at the feet of the Holy One of Israel and give time to holiness. Do we set aside the phone, the never-ending to-do list, and the cares of worldliness? Prayer, study, and heeding the word of God invite His cleansing and healing love into our souls. Let us take time to be holy, that we may be filled with His sacred and sanctifying Spirit” (“The Beauty of Holiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 11). You may want to examine how you spend your time—even on good things. Is there something more “needful” (verse 42) that deserves more of your attention?
In verses 41-42, it says, “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.'” And the question is, what is that one thing? I like what Leon Morris says in his commentary on Luke:
“The one thing is not defined, but clearly it finds expression in Mary’s sitting at Jesus’ feet, learning from him. It is the attitude of dependence on Jesus that matters. . . [Mary] has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her. The right spiritual attitude is a possession we need never fear losing.”Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Luke Revised Version, 210.
Yet what does Mormonism do? It has its people acting like Martha, keeping them so busy in their callings while demanding regular church and temple attendance, among other time commitments. How many Latter-day Saints are so caught up in their busyness of trying to “maintain” their status in the church that they, unlike Mary, never discover the “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
Let me provide just one example: Sabbath keeping. Over the years leaders have made so many rules and regulations on just how a person ought to keep the “Sabbath” (which is Saturday, not Sunday). What a terrible burden to their people! Consider the teaching of 12th President Spencer W. Kimball as reported in two church manuals:
“The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected.”Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, 170. See also True to the
Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 146.
Kimball’s thoughts were expanded on in another church manual:
Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day. President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, however, that if we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , 170.)”Gospel Principles, 2009, 141.
Imagine the confusion of the faithful Latter-day Saint who is trying her best to figure out the difference between “merely loung(ing)” on a Sunday afternoon and “taking a nap.” According to this teaching, then, everything ought to be done with a purpose. Does worshiping at the feet of Jesus require a “purpose”? Or are the demands of these LDS leaders just man-made, invented rules?
And when the authors say, “You may want to examine how you spend your time,” I would ask the Latter-day Saint to ask just why the church leaders demand so much from them and instruct them to act like Martha rather than the Mary who was commended by the Lord.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Why would Jesus want us to become like a little child? What attributes do children have that we can develop to become more Christlike? (see Mosiah 3:19).
I can’t help but think how these verses would seem to convict the LDS Church of causing the innocent to stumble. Jesus said,
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
This church has caused people to stumble. In my mind, the best thing that a Latter-day Saint could do is to cut off the church and throw the stumbling block away, even if such a move causes a person to lose family, friends, and even more. After all, as Jesus said, “it is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.”
If you, as a Latter-day Saint, have found problems with Mormonism, isn’t it better to find the truth and Jesus while throwing away the albatross around your neck? Yesterday I spoke to a nice LDS man Jose, who is probably in his 30s. He admitted that he is not doing everything he has been commanded to do by his church’s leader. He claimed to have had a personal revelation in Mormonism and how it is true that he said he could never let it go, even though he acknowledged that there have been wrong teaching in the past by his leaders.
In other words, he is willing to give these men the “benefit of the doubt” and overlook their errors because of his perceived experience. I challenged him to read the Bible for Himself and understand what it teaches; if the leaders of his church contradicted the teaching of God’s Word, then the best thing he could do is to “gouge it out and throw it away” for this church could be keeping him from a personal relationship with Jesus. And that to me is so very sad that he defaulted to believing the church for fear he would contradict his past experience.
It is interesting what the authors of this week’s lesson decided to emphasize. For instance:
- A special point was made about the church’s office of Seventy,” even though such an office was never emphasized in Acts or in Christian church history. Touting “Seventy” as something the LDS Church has as an office while ignoring the duties commissioned by Jesus seems to backfire.
- Referencing the story of Martha and Mary made me immediately think how much burden the LDS Church puts on the shoulders of its members. There’s nothing wrong with hard work and being industrious–these are very noble characteristics–but I think how much the demands required by the church have had detrimental effects. Then, when someone finally leaves Mormonism, the surveys say that close to half head toward atheism, agnosticism, or nothing at all because they have been so burned out on religion.
- Finally, the church has made so many demands on its people that have caused the followers (“little children”) to stumble.
In my estimation, the LDS Church and its false teachings ought to be abandoned by those Latter-day Saints who realize the spiritual abuse they have had to deal with. Only a personal relationship with Jesus will forgive sins and allow a person to thrive, both in this life as well as the next.