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 9-16 (Numbers 11-14; 20-24)
Even on foot, it wouldn’t normally take 40 years to travel from the wilderness of Sinai to the promised land in Canaan. But that’s how long the children of Israel needed, not to cover the geographical distance but to cover the spiritual distance: the distance between who they were and who the Lord needed them to become as His covenant people.
The book of Numbers describes some of what happened during those 40 years, including lessons the children of Israel needed to learn before entering the promised land. They learned about being faithful to the Lord’s chosen servants (see Numbers 12). They learned about trusting the Lord’s power, even when the future seems hopeless (see Numbers 13–14). And they learned that being faithless or untrusting brings spiritual harm, but they could repent and look to the Savior for healing (see Numbers 21:4–9).
We’re all like the Israelites in some ways. We all know what it’s like to be in a spiritual wilderness, and the same lessons they learned can help us prepare to enter our own promised land: eternal life with our Heavenly Father.
Actually, this is a good start to the lesson (if we’re going to stick to what the text actually says), so there are no complaints on my end as to how this chapter begins. Let’s see if the writers can stick to the passage rather than divert to side issues and extracurricular texts.
Numbers 11:11–17, 24–29; 12
Revelation is available to all, but God guides His Church through His prophet.
In Numbers 11:11–17, 24–29, notice the problem Moses faced and the solution God proposed. What do you think Moses meant when he said he wished “that all the Lord’s people were prophets”? (verse 29). As you ponder these verses, consider these words of President Russell M. Nelson: “Does God really want to speak to you? Yes! … Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 95).
However, saying that everyone can be a prophet doesn’t mean they all can lead God’s people the way Moses did. The incident recorded in Numbers 12 makes this clear. As you read this chapter, what cautions do you find? What do you feel the Lord wants you to understand about personal revelation and following the prophet?
As the writers of this series regularly have done, an attempt is made to put a presuppositional LDS twist on things that were never meant to be. The passage in Numbers is not saying that everyone can receive “personal revelation,” as it is called here. It certainly isn’t teaching that there is only one man in the rest of world’s history who is like Moses, for Moses was a special man at a special time. In fact, in Numbers 12, the Lord meets with Moses, Aaron and Miriam and displays his anger, saying that He spoke to Moses face to face and not in riddles. Besides Jesus, I’m not sure anyone else in the entire Bible was like Moses who was so in touch with God, though he certainly was not perfect.
Numbers 12:6 says that “when a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.” At the spring 2022 general conference, Nelson claimed that he has had dreams and visions from God. Yet I’m not quite sure any of his pronouncements would qualify as direct revelation from God. And he had no clue that such a thing as COVID was coming, as even he expressed shock at the spring 2020 general conference at what had transpired. No, he is a man who claims to be prophet, but I see no special anointing on him. When he teaches false doctrine (as he did again in the spring 2022 general conference), it is a clear sign that he is not who he claims to be.
I believe in following the “prophet,” but that prophet is not Russell M. Nelson or any other mortal (sinful) man. Instead of following a fallible man such as this, I’d much rather follow Jesus. As Hebrews 1:1-2 states,
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son . . .
Why do I need Nelson when I have Jesus to be the mediator between me and God? (1 Tim. 2:5). Latter-day Saints put blind trust in their “living prophet” rather than in Jesus and the special revelation given through the Word of God.
If I look to Jesus Christ in faith, He can heal me spiritually.
Book of Mormon prophets knew the story recorded in Numbers 21:4–9 and understood its spiritual significance. What do 1 Nephi 17:40–41; Alma 33:18–22; and Helaman 8:13–15 add to your understanding of this story? As you study these passages, think about the spiritual healing you hope for. The Israelites had to “[behold] the serpent of brass” (Numbers 21:9) to be healed. What do you feel inspired to do to more fully “look upon the Son of God with faith”? (Helaman 8:15).
As is common for this series, the Book of Mormon and other unique LDS scripture is utilized rather than giving a fuller account of the OT account. It is a diversion and is unfortunate for LDS readers who think they are studying the Old Testament. If the Book of Mormon is not true scripture, there is nothing these passages can add to the OT account because the “translator” of the Book of Mormon got his stories straight out of the OT itself.
John 3:14-15 in the New Testament records Jesus as saying, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” So, indeed, there is New Testament significance to this OT passage.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How did Moses show that he was “very meek” in Numbers 12 or in other scripture passages you’ve read? You might review Elder David A. Bednar’s explanation of meekness in his message “Meek and Lowly of Heart” (Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 30–33) or in “Meek, Meekness” in Guide to the Scriptures (scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). What do we learn about how we can become more meek? What blessings can come as we do so?
Moses was a very humble man, the Bible says. Yet when we compare Joseph Smith, we see that he was anything but a humble man. Mormon scripture (D&C 135:3) states,
Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.
Smith boldly stated,
I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I (May 26, 1844, History of the Church 6:408-409).
This is anything but humble. Smith also said,
God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 363).
When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 368. Also cited by Apostle Neil A. Maxwell, “How Choice a Seer!” Ensign (Conference Edition), November, 2003, 100).
Again, he said,
I combat the errors of the ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian knot of powers; and I solve mathematical problems of Universities: WITH TRUTH, diamond truth, and God is my “right hand man” (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 4:375).
God is Smith’s “right hand man”? Seriously? Joseph Smith was anything but humble.
God has a body?
A Latter-day Saint who is reading the chapters along with the Come Follow Me curriculum is not getting a full dose of what the biblical accounts teach. Many important verses that should have been commented on are left unsaid. One verse that was left out is Numbers 23:19 in Balaam’s second oracle:
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind.
Yet D&C 130:22 says that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated,
The Father is a glorified, perfected, resurrected, exalted man who worked out his salvation by obedience to the same laws he has given to us so that we may do the same (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 64).
McConkie also wrote,
According to revelation, however, he is a personal Being, a holy and exalted Man, a glorified, resurrected Personage having a tangible body of flesh and bones, an anthropomorphic Entity, the personal Father of the spirits of all men” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 250).
And he said,
This Eternal God is a Holy Man in whose image mortal men are made. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. He is a resurrected, glorified, exalted Personage of tabernacle. And he lives in the family unit” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, 549).
Henry B. Eyring, the second counselor of the First Presidency, agreed with McConkie, saying,
I bear you my witness that God the Father lives, a glorified and exalted Man. He is the Father of our spirits. He and His Beloved Son, both resurrected and glorified, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in a grove of trees in New York (“Gifts of the Spirit for hard times,” CES Fireside given at Brigham Young University, September 10, 2006).
While God the Father has a “glorified, perfected, resurrected” body and is supposedly in a more advanced state than we, he is believed to be an “exalted man.” The idea that God is spirit, as John 4:24 states, is mocked by LDS leaders. He was not always God, Seventy B.H. Roberts stated:
The Prophet Joseph Smith corrected the idea that God that now
is was always God (New Witness for God 1:465).
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” (Mormon Doctrine, 352).
Either God is not a man (and never has been) or the Mormon teaching about God being a man who possesses a body of flesh and bones is wrong. I choose Numbers 23:19 and John 4:24 over the heretical teaching of Mormonism.
Truly, my wish for this series is that it would better help Latter-day Saints study the Old Testament. While there are some glimpses for hope, too often the writers go back to their LDS presuppositional ways to divert from the real issues. I long for the LDS people to desire true Bible study rather than a watered-down version of what the Old Testament teaches.