FAIR Study Aids/Seminary/Old Testament/Week 35

Table of Contents



A FairMormon Analysis of:
Seminary: Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual

Day 1: Jonah

From the manual section: "Suggestions for Teaching"
"Tell students that today they will learn about a prophet who did not want to go where he was called."


Commentary

  • Prophets are not perfect. Jonah was called by the Lord to preach in Nineveh. Even though he ran away, he still remained a prophet. The Lord didn't give up on him.
  • Critics sometimes impose absolutist assumptions on the Church. Some hold inerrantist beliefs about scriptures or prophets, and assume that the LDS have similar views. Critics therefore insist, based upon this assumption, that any statement by any LDS Church leader represents LDS doctrine and is thus something that is secretly believed, or that should be believed, by Latter-day Saints.

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From the manual section: "Suggestions for Teaching"
"Why was Jonah angry when the Lord spared Nineveh?"


Commentary

  • Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh that they would be overthrown. When the people repented, the Lord chose not to destroy them. Jonah was upset that his prophecy had not been fulfilled. Jonah's prophecy was conditional based upon the behavior or the people of Nineveh.
  • Joseph Smith is often criticized for making statements or prophecies which ultimately did not come to pass. Critics use these instances to support their argument that Joseph was not a true prophet.

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Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Critics point to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 as a 'test' for a true prophet:

20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

It is claimed that Joseph Smith made failed prophecies, and as such must be a "false prophet."

Response
Confusion on this point arises from one or more errors:

  1. prophecy may be fulfilled in ways or at times that the hearers do not expect;
  2. most prophecies are contingent, even if this is not made explicit when the prophecy is given—that is, the free agent choices of mortals can impact whether a given prophecy comes to pass
  3. sectarian critics may apply a standard to modern LDS prophets whom they reject that they do not apply to biblical prophets. This double standard condemns Joseph unfairly.


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Day 2: Micah

From the manual section: "Introduction"
"Micah is the only Old Testament prophet to prophesy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem"


Commentary

  • Critics point out that Alma 7:10 says that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Yet, Micah prophesied that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. It is claimed that Joseph made a mistake, and that this is evidence that Joseph Smith forged the Book of Mormon.
  • However, the use of the phrase "land of Jerusalem" to refer to the location of Bethlehem is consistent with the usage of the ancient Middle East. El Amarna letter #287 reports that "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah."[1] (One over-confident 19th century critic blithely assured his readers that "There is no such land. No part of Palestine bears the name of Jerusalem, except the city itself."[2] While this was perhaps true in the 19th century, it was not true anciently. A supposed "howler" turns into evidence for the text's antiquity. Thus, the Book of Mormon gets it exactly right — the town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem." In fact, Bethlehem is only 5 miles south of Jerusalem: definitely "in the land," especially from the perspective of Alma, a continent away. Even locals considered Hebron, twenty five miles from Bethlehem, to be in the "land of Jerusalem."

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Day 3: Nahum; Habakkuk

Day 4: Zephaniah; Haggai

Notes

  1. James B. Pritchard, editor, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3d ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969), 489, translation by W. F. Albright and George E. Mendenhall; cited by D. Kelly Ogden, "Why Does the Book of Mormon Say That Jesus Would Be Born at Jerusalem? (I Have a Question)," Ensign (August 1984), 51–52.
  2. Origen Bachelor, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York: Privately Published, 1838), 13. off-site