May 15-21, 2023
Matthew 21-23; Mark 11; Luke 19-20; John 12
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
The Lord judges not by the outward appearance but by the desires of the heart.
In Jesus’s day, many people assumed that the publicans, or tax collectors, were dishonest and stole from the people. So because Zacchaeus, the chief publican, was wealthy, he may have been even more suspect. But Jesus looked on Zacchaeus’s heart. What does Luke 19:1–10 reveal about Zacchaeus’s heart? You might make note of the words in these verses that describe what Zacchaeus did to show his devotion to the Savior. What are the desires of your heart? What are you doing to seek the Savior, as Zacchaeus did?
If Zacchaeus lived today, how would his local LDS local bishop have reacted upon a chance meeting? Would the bishop have said, “Today salvation has come to this house . . .” as Jesus said in verse 9. Or as we explained a few weeks ago, would he have taught like 12th President Spencer W. Kimball who responded to the story of the sinful woman in John 7:53-8:11 by writing this:
No Forgiveness without Repentance. This connection between effort and the repentance which attracts the Lord’s forgiveness is often not understood. In my childhood, Sunday School lessons were given to us on the 8th chapter of John wherein we learned of the woman thrown at the feet of the Redeemer for judgment. My sweet Sunday School teacher lauded the Lord for having forgiven the woman. She did not understand the impossibility of such an act. In my years since then I have repeatedly heard people praise the Lord for his mercy in having forgiven the adulteress. This example has been used numerous times to show how easily one can be forgiven for gross sin. But did the Lord forgive the woman? Could he forgive her? There seems to be no evidence of forgiveness.The Miracle of Forgiveness, 165.
According to this important general authority, the woman could not be forgiven unless she had first forsaken her sin. Yet in the passage from Luke, Jesus said that “today salvation has come to this house.” This is a much different take, if you will. If Zacchaeus, a despised chief tax collector, could be immediately forgiven by Jesus as indicated in this passage, then how can an LDS apostle claim that the woman caught in adultery could not also be forgiven on her sin?
Matthew 23; Luke 20:45–47
Jesus condemns hypocrisy.
The Savior’s interaction with the scribes and Pharisees forms an interesting contrast to his interaction with Zacchaeus. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained, “[Jesus] rose up in righteous anger against hypocrites like the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees—those who tried to appear righteous in order to win the praise, influence, and wealth of the world, all the while oppressing the people they should have been blessing” (“On Being Genuine,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 81).
In Matthew 23, the Savior used several metaphors to describe hypocrisy. Consider marking or listing these metaphors and noting what they teach about hypocrisy. What is the difference between hypocrisy and the human weaknesses we all deal with as we try to live the gospel? What are you inspired to do differently because of the Savior’s teachings?
Hypocrisy is saying one thing and then doing the opposite. I wonder how many speakers at general conference who tell their people to “do good and be better” know deep down that they do not do what they are commanding. Except for admitting to simple foibles (Thomas Monson was good at those), I rarely (if ever) hear the leadership say how they too struggle with sin or make themselves look weak to their membership.
I also think the church turns its people into hypocrites every time there is a temple recommend interview. They are asked questions that they sometimes will have to fudge on or give “white laws” in order to pass the test and claim the golden ticket, the temple recommend that allows them access to supposedly the most sacred place on earth. They are told they must be “worthy” to go inside these special buildings, but how many Latter-day Saints realize that they are sinners needing forgiveness of sins when they get issued another valid recommend?
The passage describing “Marriage at the Resurrection” goes like this:
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[b]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
But wait a minute. The writers of this curriculum have completely skipped this passage. Why not cover the passage? After all, if “families are forever,” certainly there must be an explanation of what Jesus meant by these words.
Instead, there is nothing beyond the chirping of crickets. To see more about this passage that describes how nuclear families will not continue in the next life. consider the many articles we have written on this topic:
Can families be together forever in the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms?
Did Jesus believe “families are forever”?
Will families be together forever?
Is it Possible for Families to be Together Forever?
Are Families Forever?
The two great commandments are to love God and love others as myself.
If you ever feel overwhelmed as you strive to follow Jesus Christ, the Savior’s words to the lawyer in Matthew 22 can help you simplify and focus your discipleship. Here’s one way to do this: Make a list of several of the Lord’s commandments. How does each item on your list connect to the two great commandments? How would focusing on the two great commandments help you keep the others?
Isn’t it interesting how Jesus’s words “to love God and love others as myself” turned into an encouragement to “keep commandments”? In Mormonism, keeping commandments (and walking the “covenant path”) is what is supposed to draw a person closer to God. But this is not what Jesus was insinuating. Instead, he was encouraging His followers to be in a better relationship with both God and their fellow human beings. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill!
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How do Jesus’s words and actions in Matthew 21:12–14 show how He felt about the temple? How do we show how we feel about the temple? What can we “cast out” (verse 12) of our lives to make our home more like the temple? Consider singing a song about the temple, such as “I Love to See the Temple” (Children’s Songbook, 95).
Yes, let’s pay homage to the dozens of buildings dotted throughout the earth that have nothing to do with what took place in the Jerusalem temple of the Bible! It is a stretch to somehow make this passage mean that LDS temples–where marriages, baptisms for the dead, secret Masonic rite-like ceremonies, and washings and anointing ceremonies take place–ought to be considered “a house of prayer” as described by Jesus in this passage. I’m so sorry for those Latter-day Saints who are faithfully going through this “study” of the Gospels and who assume that what they are being taught has anything to do with what was actually meant in the days of Jesus.
What lessons from the parable of the man with two sons might help your family? For instance, you could use the story to discuss the importance of sincere obedience and repentance. Perhaps your family could write a script to dramatize the parable and take turns acting out different roles.
Notice what Jesus said:
“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
Let’s go back to the story of Zacchaeus. Salvation came to his house, Jesus said, because of his faith. He didn’t have to prove himself and show that he really had repented. But again, the writers (as instructed by their leaders) miss the forest for the trees. (Don’t you love the clichés I seem to be attracted to in this lesson?) They don’t give Jesus’s words and instead turn this into a “do good and be better” moment. Context matters. And yes, while obedience is important, listen to what Hosea says about this (6:6):
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
That seems pretty straightforward.
How did Mary show her love for the Savior? How do we show our love for Him?
The simple answer: We dedicate our entire being to Him. Mary did what she did out of an abundance of love for the Savior. In the same way, we should do the same.
Several times in this lesson, the writers do not accurately report what the passage teaches. This is frustrating for someone like me who does not want to interpret beyond what the passage teaches. In this lesson, a person could walk away thinking that the integrity of the temple that Jesus defended corresponds to LDS temples today; that “the way of righteousness” as described in the story of the two sons refers to commandment keeping; and that hypocrisy is not something most Latter-day Saints experience every time they declare to their bishop and stake president that they are “worthy” to go to the temple.
Meanwhile, a passage describing how marriage (and hence the ability for nuclear families to continue as a unit in the next life) is not meant in the next life is completely ignored.
As it’s been said before, I appreciate that the church is attempting to cover the Old Testament (last year) and the New Testament (this year). The problem is that the study is slanted and the meaning of the texts are corrupted in order to correspond with the teachings of Mormonism. I hope some Latter-day Saints going through this series will be pierced by the words of the Savior and realize that what the Gospels say are different from what Mormonism teaches.
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