Reflections on the Law of Moses: Old Testament Apostasy in Context
June 1981

“Reflections on the Law of Moses: Old Testament Apostasy in Context,” Ensign, June 1981, 15

Reflections on the Law of Moses:

Old Testament Apostasy in Context

One of the significant ideas we are being reminded of in our study of the Old Testament this year is that Latter-day Saints enjoy a wonderful Old Testament heritage. So many doctrines of the gospel are mentioned there, and many of the covenants recorded there continue in our dispensation. The restoration of priesthood keys in our day required the return of Old Testament personalities. And our work of building Zion, once accomplished by Enoch, is symbolized in the ancient tabernacle, which, like the Church today, was supported and strengthened by her “stakes.” (See Isa. 33:20; Isa. 54:2; D&C 82:14.)

Indeed, the Old Testament contains much that should be familiar to Latter-day Saints. It teaches us dramatically the literal nature of spiritual death—and how we can establish an identity as children of the covenant in order that we can have sustained spiritual guidance. In addition, we learn that much in the Old Testament is in the form of types and symbols of the mission of Christ that was to come—his first earthly mission. And as we move into our second year of Old Testament study, we will see that a great deal of the text has to do with the Lord’s second coming as well—which is an all-important focus of our dispensation.

But with all the rewards it offers the student, the Old Testament presents some real challenges to modern readers. And frequent have been the pleased expressions of “Oh, I see!” when a diligent Gospel Doctrine teacher has shed light on a difficult-to-understand passage in the Old Testament as he or she explained the cultural and scriptural context in which particular events took place or doctrines were issued.

Thus, it is an understanding of context or perspective that is so crucial to a correct understanding of the Old Testament. For it is only through such an orientation that we can discover sensible answers to some of the more perplexing questions about the Old Testament.

Following are a number of observations about the overall Old Testament context that can constructively guide a reader through much unfamiliar territory in the Old Testament.

1. The Law of Moses is what we commonly call the old testament (or old covenant). The Bible is divided into two testaments—testament meaning, in this case, a solemn covenant between God and man. In the Bible we have a fairly clear record of two different covenants or testaments between God and man—the Law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ, which are the old testament and the new testament respectively. However, the world does not have, in available translations of the Bible, a clear record of the covenant that originated with Adam and his people. Thus, the Christian world at large erroneously considers the first testament or covenant to be the “old testament,” or the Law of Moses. But latter-day revelation informs us otherwise and gives us understanding not available outside the Church. During Old Testament times, the Law of Moses was simply known as “the covenant.” When the new covenant, or gospel of Jesus Christ as was had by Adam, was restored during the Lord’s mortal ministry, the Law of Moses then became known as the “old” covenant or testament, and the Christians called Jesus’ gospel the “new” testament or covenant.

2. Genesis reflects the new covenant or the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since the story of Genesis precedes the issuing of the Law of Moses, Genesis is not technically a part of the Old Testament or “old” covenant except as an introduction or preface to the Law and an account of Israel’s origins. Its importance in that role must not be overlooked, however. If the Bible were to start with Exodus, we would begin with Israel in Egypt with no idea of their lineage and identity, nor of the earlier covenant the Lord made with Abraham. We would have no prior knowledge of Jehovah and his role in creating and peopling the world and in guiding and blessing the patriarchs.

Thus, since the gospel covenant preceded the Law of Moses or the “old” covenant, Genesis, in its original form—as can be seen in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price—actually constitutes an account of ancient Christianity, or an account we might think of as the “Ancient Testament.” One of the objectives in what follows will be to remind ourselves that the remainder of the Old Testament cannot properly be interpreted as though it were an extension of Genesis, as though it were an extension of the same understanding that existed in ancient times, or new testament times, or this latter-day dispensation.

3. Most of the Old Testament record is a chronicle of apostasy. The end of the book of Genesis finds the children of Israel—a people under the gospel covenant—settled in Egypt. But then a new pharaoh arose who “knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8), and the Israelites became a people who knew not the Lord. And so it was that when Moses brought them out of slavery and “sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God”as a at Sinai so they could receive again the ancient covenant between God and Israel, Israel was found to be in an apostate condition and unprepared to receive it (see D&C 84:23–27). The tablets of stone were broken.

When Moses went up the mountain the second time, the Lord said: “Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first; … but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them. …

“But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage.” (JST, Ex. 34:1–2; see also Gal. 3:19.) Thus was the Law of Moses, the “old testament,” so-called by the world, now in force.

As if this weren’t sad enough, the situation worsened. First, the Lord brought Israel into the land of Canaan as he had promised, but the people then slid further into disobedience and misunderstanding. They failed to drive the Canaanites out of the land, as they had been commanded (see Judg. 1); they “forsook the Lord God of their fathers … and followed other gods” (Judg. 2:11–12); they ceased to function as a united people, but instead began to melt into the existing idolatrous populations as fragmented tribes. Still, the Lord remained at least nominally the god of Israel through the period of the judges, leaders whom he raised up to deliver Israel, as they described it, from “the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel” (Judg. 3:1).

But, sadly, Israel’s apostasy deepened even further. And Israel finally rejected God as their king when they cried for an earthly king:

“They said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

“And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee [Samuel was the last of the judges], but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam. 8:6–7.)

Thus began the period of the reign of kings over Israel—a period of five hundred years often punctuated by wickedness and abandonment of the Law. At the beginning of King Josiah’s good reign, for example, observance of the Law had been so forgotten that when the “book of the law” was rediscovered during a cleanup of the temple, the terms of the covenant were received with great surprise, as if it were the first time Josiah and the people had heard of the law. (See 2 Kgs. 22.)

Originally, the Law of Moses was given to Israel “to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him” (Mosiah 13:30); it was, in Paul’s words, a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24; also 2 Ne. 11:4). But the vast majority of Old Testament Israelites did not receive Christ because they failed to observe the Law of Moses with full heart; and thus, although as a people they were of the seed and lineage of covenant Israel, they were not generally, in matters of faith, “early-day Saints,” as we may be inclined to perceive them. Rather, they were often more like nonmembers—and sometimes they could not even be regarded as serious investigators.

The overview of all this is that Israel as a people is not just frequently in apostasy in the Old Testament; she never really emerges from the apostasy of her Egyptian captivity because, as a people, Israel never receives the gospel of Jesus Christ as she would have done if she had been faithful to the Law. (Particular individuals and the prophets were faithful, but these were generally a small minority.) Thus, as we read of God’s dealings with Israel as recorded in the Old Testament, we would be in error to expect an account similar to those scriptures which tell us of God’s dealing with people who were generally faithful to their covenants.

4. The Old Testament prophets were witnesses of Jesus Christ. It is important to know that the Melchizedek Priesthood was enjoyed at times during the Mosaic dispensation, provision having been made for individual Israelites to receive it—and presumably the ordinances pertaining to it. But how many actually received it we do not know. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that all the Old Testament prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood, having been “ordained by God himself” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938, pp. 180–81); “seventy of the elders of Israel” may have received it (see Ex. 24:9–11); and it was found with Jethro, the Midianite, from whom Moses received it (see Ex. 3:1; D&C 84:6).

In any case, the prophets held the Melchizedek Priesthood and were witnesses of Jesus Christ. They represent islands of Melchizedek Priesthood administration in a sea of apostasy. They referred to and taught the Law, but more expressly pointed to a level of faith and behavior that transcended the general observance given to the Law. But of course, without obedience to the lesser law, their Israelite listeners were not going to accept higher laws. Thus, they who should have rejoiced at receiving the prophets killed them instead (see Acts 7:52).

To ensure for yourself that the message of many of the prophets was indeed the gospel of Jesus Christ, consider Isaiah for a moment. Nephi tells us that Isaiah saw the Redeemer, and that Isaiah was quoted so much in Nephi’s record because Nephi wanted to prove “the truth of the coming of Christ.” (2 Ne. 11:2–4.)

In the thirteen chapters of Isaiah that Nephi then quotes (Isa. 2–14), we read of the Lord’s comings both in humility and in power and judgment upon the wicked, and of the establishment of his glorious Millennial reign. There are repeated expressions of his love, of his ultimate control in the affairs of the nations and empires of the world, the reassurances of all his promises to Israel. This message was largely lost on the people among whom Isaiah preached, but for the righteous Nephite readers, this was Jesus Christ in clarity and glory.

5. The Book of Mormon is a second account of a Law of Moses people. Fortunately, we have in scripture two accounts of peoples under the lesser covenant, or the Law of Moses. One account begins in Exodus and continues through the Gospels to within the last few chapters of each. The other account is found in 1 Nephi through the early chapters of 3 Nephi.

Yet while the Nephites were a Law of Moses people, the Book of Mormon is quite a different record from the Old Testament. Since Book of Mormon Israel was more faithful to the law (with numerous exceptions, of course), they were led to Christ through their observance of the Law. The Book of Mormon is a unique document in that respect; it portrays the results of a more faithful observance of the Law as well as how the gospel of Jesus Christ was to be lived while the people were yet under the Law of Moses. (See 2 Ne. 25:24–25; Alma 25:15–16; Alma 34:13–15.) Perhaps if Old World Israel had been as faithful, the testimony of Christ that is so clear in the Book of Mormon might also be found in the Old Testament rather than the subdued witness that we find there presently.

6. Though temporarily withdrawn from Israel as a people, the gospel was yet available to the faithful. In spite of the efforts of Moses at Sinai to sanctify Israel, they rejected the gospel and priesthood that alone had the power to bring them into God’s presence (see D&C 84:19–22). In consequence, they received the lesser law, a “schoolmaster” that was to prepare them for a higher covenant relationship with God. This is the “preparatory gospel” which continued under the administration of the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 84:26).

We often think of the Law of Moses as a tedious system of “outward observances.” In truth, however, this preparatory gospel was “the gospel of repentance and baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments” (D&C 84:27; emphasis added). The Law included at least two distinct dimensions. The law of carnal commandments was the code of ceremonial observances required of Israel: sacrificial offerings (Lev. 1–7), dietary regulations (Lev. 11), rules of ceremonial cleanliness (Lev. 12–17), feasts and sabbaths (Lev. 23), and Levitical conduct, dress, and ritual in relation to the tabernacle (Ex. 28–30; Lev. 21–22, 24). The second dimension of the Law of Moses consisted of laws, principles, and ordinances that are eternal in nature—the Ten Commandments and the principles of justice and charity, for example.

The first part of the Law, the code of regulations and observances, was profusely symbolic. All the sacrifices offered in the tabernacle and temple were symbols pointing forward to Christ’s one-time sacrifice for all (see 2 Ne. 11:4; Alma 13:16; Alma 25:15; Alma 34:14); and, being symbolic of the Savior who was to come, these elements of the Law were “fulfilled” when at last he did come. The principles and ordinances in the Law that are eternal, however, continue to be binding upon mankind.

Among these was the ordinance of baptism. Baptism was evidently possible or available to ancient Israel by virtue of the Aaronic Priesthood which was among them. We know that baptism was no unfamiliar ordinance among the Jews of Christ’s day—as John was baptizing in the wilderness, the Jews did not muse at the peculiarity of that ceremony; in fact, they wondered if he might be the long-awaited Messiah. (See Matt. 3:1–12; Luke 3:18.) But certainly baptism was not a widely practiced or understood ordinance by many Israelites before the time of Christ. For baptism is an evidence of receiving Jesus Christ, of accepting his gospel covenant (see 2 Ne. 31:12–21; Mosiah 18:7–10); obviously, the Israelites as a people in the Old World did not attain this level of understanding through their haphazard observance of the Law of Moses.

After settling in Canaan, Israel eventually lost sight of Christ in the Law and his eternal principles. Instead, the outward observances of the Law mistakenly came to be equated with the whole of the Law. On the face of it, this circumstance would have been unfortunate enough. But they even added unauthorized regulations, ceremonies, and prohibitions to the Law—only their additions had no instructive symbolism as did the original carnal commandments. What this means is that Israel as a people had set themselves at a distance from God and cut themselves off from understanding and salvation. Having once had the Lord as their God and King who communed with Israel, they first set him aside in favor of a lesser law, then interposed judges and kings between themselves and him, and finally replaced their Redeemer and his Law designed to point to him with a code of sometimes meaningless practices.

7. Only in the fulness of the gospel is there a faithful reflection and expression of God’s nature. The Jehovah of the Law of Moses and the Old Testament is often thought of as being quite different from the Master we see in the New Testament and the God we worship today. In the Old Testament, God often seems stern, harsh, and punitive. In the New Testament, on the other hand, and in the Book of Mormon account of his personal appearance to the Nephites, we see a kind and loving Savior whose compassion knows no bounds.

In large measure, these differences may be distortions due to selective attention on our part, the limited understanding of apostate scribes, and a faulty preservation of the original text. Certainly in the Old Testament there are numerous examples of God’s kindness, patience, and long-suffering with the people of Israel. And the God of the New Testament was one who, besides blessing children and healing the sick with great compassion, could also drive out the money changers and set the hypocrites straight in no uncertain terms. In our time, we feel with immense gratitude the love of our Savior, and yet he is still a God of justice and commandments who, as President Spencer W. Kimball has said very forcefully, “WILL NOT BE MOCKED” (Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 9). Indeed, the book of Revelation shows how the Lord will yet deal with mankind because of the degeneracy that will exist.

Nevertheless, it is true that when we read the story of Israel under the Law of Moses, we do occasionally find a portrayal of God that is discomforting based upon the information we are given. How does the context of the Law of Moses and of Israel’s apostasy help us understand these manifestations of God?

First, we need to recognize that the scriptures are primarily written accounts of the Lord’s dealings with mankind, and as such the scriptures are a reflection of his relationship with men at different times and under different circumstances. In the final analysis, it is people who determine the nature of their relationship with God and on what terms he is able to deal with them. When people are wicked, the Lord cannot reveal himself fully to them (see D&C 84:19–22). Thus, their fundamental perception of him is thereby limited and altered, and accordingly their records portray only the selected characteristics of God they experience or see through their glass darkly (see 1 Cor. 13:12).

The God we find characterized in some isolated areas of the scriptures is therefore not God fully revealed; for his virtue, holiness, justice, and blessings are fully expressed only when the gospel of Jesus Christ is accurately understood and operational among men. Thus, the God who had the grievous task of teaching and punishing Israel in the wilderness with “fiery serpents” (Num. 19:5–9) is seen by another people in a different light as the God who counsels and who showed himself to the brother of Jared (see Ether 1:40–43 and Ether 2–5); and the God who caused Aaron’s two sons to be devoured with fire (see Lev. 10:1–2) may seem to be different from the God who dealt compassionately with Enoch (see Moses 6:31–36).

It is only natural, then, that the God discussed in the records of a people who did not accept even the Law of Moses would evidence a different demeanor from the God recorded by a people living faithfully the full or even partial gospel covenant. Consequently, we do not find exactly the same portrayal of God in Numbers that we find in Genesis. Also, the Book of Mormon portrays quite a different concept of God, as do the New Testament Gospels. God himself hadn’t changed in each of these records, only the way in which he needed to deal with Israel, and the way in which those people perceived these actions as a result of their faithfulness or lack of it.

As a learning tool and revelation of God, then, the scriptures are unsurpassed. Seen from the proper perspective, they offer us numerous examples of different kinds of relationships with God. We can study these relationships, assess their merits and weaknesses, and choose for ourselves—life and joy, or spiritual death and misery. Only disobedience and spiritual immaturity keep us from individually experiencing a fulness of God’s blessings in our lives.

8. A people in deep apostasy perceive God differently than do the faithful. With their apostasy from the everlasting covenant as recorded in Exodus, Israel’s perception of God’s love and mercy become less clear as they are taught the meaning of law and justice. Then in the books of Numbers, Judges, and Kings, when Israel apostatizes even from the Law of Moses, the light dims still further. Israel as a people lose their perception of God’s just and lawful nature, and instead seem to see and experience only his power. His ministry among them, therefore, becomes what we might term a more general one, in which Israel’s relationship to God in some ways does not seem so very different from God’s relationships with other people of the earth outside the gospel covenant.

Thus, God’s work with people “in the world” seems at times akin to his work with Israel during the Mosaic dispensation. This understanding is often unrecognized by modern readers because of the textual significance and stress given to God’s work among the prophets and other scriptural peoples who were faithful. Consequently, the profound apostasy of Old Testament Israel provides an unusual background against which this more general ministry may be seen. But we will be confused by it if we try to understand it from our Latter-day point of view, imposing our standards of spirituality on a disobedient and spiritually immature people.

For example, the book of Judges is the story of a series of heroes by worldly standards, persons of phenomenal courage, strength, and charisma, but most of whom are not noteworthy examples of righteousness. It is in Judges, for example, that we read stories of Gideon and Samson. In these stories, God’s miraculous power in helping man is displayed, but we may be troubled when we read the scriptural accounts because God is generally described as dealing with men whom we deem unworthy of his divine powers. And yet God blesses them.

The problem for us is that we are “judging Judges” by today’s more complete and full gospel standard, and in that we err. These leaders were among the best that Israel had to offer over a period of several centuries during the time when, apparently, there were none or few prepared and worthy to serve as Melchizedek Priesthood prophets. I suppose God had the option of totally abandoning Israel, but out of his unbounded love for mankind and in faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, he didn’t. However, his relationship with them was generally limited to carnal or temporal manifestations of divine power. He gives Gideon sensational victory in battle, for example, and to Samson he gives fantastic strength in “paying back” the Philistines. But the appeal of such miracles is carnal; they are granted to a carnal people only because of their unwillingness to receive more. A ministry of physical miracles alone, of divine power in temporal deliverance alone, may be the lowest perception of God’s nature but the highest that these people could have understood, almost the last attribute of Deity to be lost as man departs from his Creator. It was also the kind of manifestation that the heathen nations attributed to their false gods.

It is vain for us to attempt to “explain away” the unworthiness of such personalities as Gideon and Samson. Israel as a people was so far removed from any covenant the Lord had given her that, unless he either destroyed or cut her off entirely, he had to meet her where she was. What we are seeing are simply the same benevolent, even liberal, terms the Lord has always employed in blessing all his children with respect to things temporal (see Matt. 5:45; Matt. 7:9–11), especially when they have been outside the covenant and yet have not transgressed beyond some minimal level of telestial law. That our God is ever willing to work almost endlessly with a people in apostasy or in ignorance rather than completely turn away is a great witness of his unlimited capacity for love.

9. Understanding of the Law of Moses illuminates gospel principles. Aside from an understanding of how the people of Israel fared, there are some very important insights to be gained from studying the symbolism found in the Law of Moses.

For example, we generally see the Jewish Sabbath as something restrictive and negative. It is true that ancient Israel added many unauthorized regulations to Sabbath observance that made even “the Lord of the sabbath” an offender when he came (see Matt. 12:1–8), but we need to appreciate the protection to family life that select restrictions can provide. A Sabbath in which travel away from home is restricted doesn’t just limit personal options, it protects the family from more superficial commitments which may compete with home worship. Similarly, the directive that there be no ward and stake meetings on Monday night is a welcome safeguard to the parent seeking to deepen relationships with his children.

Ultimately, the Old Testament can be understood fully only by the Latter-day Saints—and then only if we prepare to do so. It is precisely because of our very tangible scriptural connections with ancient dispensations that we can expect to understand Old Testament records. Thus, we understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not simply an evolution of moral consciousness which finally dawned two thousand years ago, but is instead the everlasting covenant now restored as the new and everlasting covenant. Lacking this perspective, the bulk of Christianity today lacks many clues as to what much in the Bible really means or represents. However, all these advantageous insights will not yield the understanding we desire unless we seriously study and ponder the several texts available to us. Then we can be prepared for additional inspiration and insight the Holy Ghost may grant concerning these past dispensations.

10. The Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon contain answers for which we are still finding the questions in the Old Testament. The place of the Pearl of Great Price in Old Testament study is obvious. But perhaps we need to remember that Joseph Smith—History, especially verses 33–42, [JS—H 1:33–42] should be thoroughly mined by the student of the Old Testament as well as the books of Moses and Abraham. However, other latter-day scriptures also provide many Old Testament clarifications. In addition to references to the Doctrine and Covenants already included in this article, there are such gold mines as Doctrine and Covenants 68, 107, and 110 [D&C 68; D&C 107; D&C 110]. But generally these treasures will not yield their jewels except as studied in companion with the Old Testament writings themselves.

The Book of Mormon is another Old Testament resource. For example, without it the blessing given to Joseph (Gen. 49:22–26) could seem superfluous. Yet once noticed, the blessing is so remarkable that one might expect the biblical story line from that point to be dominated by the tribe of Joseph. But it isn’t. With the introduction of the Law of Moses in Exodus, the Old Testament becomes a chronicle of the administration of the Aaronic Priesthood among the tribe of Levi and later of the kings that descended through Judah. But where is Joseph? Surely such an omission is not just accidental and justifies our studying the Book of Mormon for a greater understanding of Israel in history and prophecy.

11. The New Testament provides important commentaries on the Old Testament. The New Testament writers were in a particularly good position to provide clarification on the Old Testament. Their closer access to original texts, their closer proximity to the Old Testament customs and culture, and their need to respond to issues specific to their day make their writings important in understanding the relationship of the Law of Moses to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For example, Matthew’s gospel highlights many Old Testament prophecies that Christ fulfills and is sensitive to Christ’s teachings concerning the Law. Hebrews 3 through 12 constitutes an extraordinary commentary on the fulfillment of the Law in the great High Priest, Jesus Christ [Heb. 3–12]. The book of Romans is a powerful statement about the effects of the Law alone upon the soul, and the Law’s inadequacy to provide salvation. And Acts 2 and Acts 7, Hebrews 11 [Heb. 11], 2 Timothy 3:8 [2 Tim. 3:8], 2 Peter 2:7–8 [2 Pet. 2:7–8], and Jude 1:11–14 either interpret Old Testament references or restore lost Old Testament textual material.

On the other hand, many New Testament events cannot be fully appreciated and understood from the perspective of the Old Testament. Those who were involved in the New Testament drama considered themselves to be simply a continuation of Mosaic Israel; their actions originated out of an Old Testament perspective. Many events in the Gospels assume a knowledge of Old or inter-Testament (the period between Old and New Testament years) policies and traditions. Events surrounding both the Savior’s birth and death are influenced by Law of Moses observances. And many important teachings occur in connection with the observance of Jewish feasts or arise out of confrontations with apostate Pharisaic regulations.

For example, the meaning of the parable of the good Samaritan is weakened if we do not understand that the wounded man that the priest and Levite passed by was a fellow Israelite who was within their priesthood stewardship to serve (see Luke 10:29–37; Num. 3:5–12). And how much more a tragedy it becomes when we realize that the chief priests responsible for the crucifixion of Christ were the administrators of the very priesthood and Law that were to prepare the way for his coming.

A dominant impression of the New Testament Gospels is the repeated and ultimate rejection of Jesus Christ by the Jews. Their rejection of the mortal Messiah wasn’t a sudden thing; Israel had been doing so all along in perverting the Law of Moses and repeatedly killing the prophets. The Jews at the time of Christ reflected the general spiritual posture of Israel during most of the preceding centuries; and in this respect, the Gospels are an extension or a summary and testimony of the Old Testament.

And thus we come full circle and discover that constant themes bind together the scriptures which have been handed down to our dispensation. Viewed from the proper perspective, the Law of Moses—the Old Testament—is found to be profusely symbolic of the Lord and his gospel, beautifully heightening the impact of eternal gospel truths—not just upon the mind, but upon the heart and soul of the faithful who have an accurate view of scriptural context.

Let’s Talk about It

After reading “Looking Back at the Law of Moses” individually or as a family, you may wish to discuss some of the following questions during a gospel study period:

1. The article suggests that failure to pay attention to context in the scriptures can lead to misunderstandings. If understanding context has kept you from understanding the Old Testament, what can you do to solve the problem?

2. What was the ultimate purpose of the Law of Moses, and how do the Old Testament and Book of Mormon records differ in portraying how that ultimate purpose was or was not fulfilled? What do the different responses of the New World Israelites and the Old World Israelites to the Law of Moses teach us about service in the Church?

3. Jesus said that “eternal life” is to “know … the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). What are the things that determine how accurate our perception of God will be? In what ways might it be possible to arrive at a distorted idea of God’s true nature?

4. The article says, “In the final analysis, it is people who determine the nature of their relationship with God.” Having read this article, what can you do to improve your relationship with God?

5. How does the quality of the parents’ relationship with God affect their childrens’ perception of God?

6. Discuss ways in which the other standard works are related to and interwoven with the Old Testament.

  • Gib Kocherhans, for many years employed in the Church Educational System, is now in private counseling; he is a high councilor in the Spokane Washington North Stake.

In Moses’ time Israel was found in an apostate condition—the tablets of stone were broken. (The Golden Calf, by Nicholas Poussin.)

In Christ’s day Israel again rejected the Lord’s covenant and crucified the Savior himself. (The Crucifixion, by Harry Anderson.)

The world does not realize that the new covenant offered by Christ actually originated with Adam and his people and continued on earth until the time of Moses. (Jacob Blesses Joseph, by Harry Anderson.)

We find ourselves asking, why did God cause the earth to “swallow up” Korah and his followers, the would-be usurpers of priesthood leadership? We forget that because of Israel’s apostasy, the Lord was sometimes limited to temporal manifestations of divine power; he was left to demonstrate this level of his nature—perhaps the highest level these people could understand. (Death of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, by Gustave Dore.)

The Nephites were also a Law of Moses people—and yet the Book of Mormon is quite a different record from the Bible. (Alma Baptizes in the Waters of Mormon, by Arnold Friberg.)