Categories
Come Follow Me New Testament

Come Follow Me 2023: New Testament Resources

Enhance your Come Follow Me 2023 Sunday School lessons by reading New Testament insights from Latter-day Saint apostles and scholars.

The Come, Follow Me 2023 lessons are drawn from the New Testament. The Sunday School curriculum complements the Book of Mormon as a witness of Jesus Christ, and the title is taken from the Savior’s invitation in Matthew and Luke: “Come, follow me.” This article contains highlights of research findings by Latter-day Saints and notable secular scholars, along with the Come, Follow Me 2023 schedule.


Cornerstone content. This will be updated throughout the year as we publish new articles about the New Testament. We also frequently add new content about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.


There’s a Come, Follow Me podcast with the Sunday School general presidency

Mark L. Pace, Milton Camargo, and Jan E. Newman participated in a Church News podcast about Come, Follow Me 2023. The three men who comprise the Sunday School general presidency talked not just about how Come, Follow Me works, but also the lessons we can learn studying about the Son of God in the New Testament:

I look forward to gaining additional insights and additional whisperings of the Spirit as the Lord unfolds exactly what we need to understand at this time as we draw nearer to the Savior.

Mark L. Pace, Sunday School general president


Elder McConkie wrote the “Messiah” series

Bruce R. McConkie is probably most well-known for writing Mormon Doctrine. However, he wrote many other books—including an entire series devoted to the life of Jesus Christ:

  • The Promised Messiah
  • The Mortal Messiah, Volume 1
  • The Mortal Messiah, Volume 2
  • The Mortal Messiah, Volume 3
  • The Mortal Messiah, Volume 4
  • The Millennial Messiah

Fun Fact. The titles in Elder McConkie’s Messiah series inspired Jeffrey R. Holland to speak about Jesus Christ as the “inconvenient Messiah” in a 1982 BYU Devotional.


There’s more to the Christmas story

Everyone knows the story of the Nativity. But fewer are familiar with some of the fascinating events leading up to it. For example, S. Kent Brown answers these questions (and more):

  • How did Joseph and Mary’s ancestors end up in Nazareth?
  • Why doesn’t Luke talk about the flight into Egypt?
  • Why was Mary afraid of the angel?
  • How often did priests light incense in the temple?
  • Where was Jesus born?
What Events Led to the Christmas Story in Luke?
The Christmas story in Luke includes accounts of Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, and Zacharius, according to BYU scholar S. Kent Brown.
The Christmas story in Luke is an important part of the scriptures studied in Come Follow Me 2023. S. Kent Brown says that “Luke has introduced me to the compassionate Christ.”

The JST combined study and faith

Joseph Smith produced ancient scripture through revelation and his own best efforts. That’s especially the case for Joseph’s translation of the New Testament, according to Latter-day Saint historian Mark Ashurst-McGee:

[The Prophet] understood the Joseph Smith Translation to be the result of both revelation from God and reasoning in his own mind.

How Did Joseph Smith Produce Ancient Scripture?
BYU’s Anthony Sweat, Casey Griffiths, and J.B. Haws talk about Joseph Smith’s translation of the New Testament in this Come Follow Me 2023 lesson help.

The New Testament has been cited more than 40,000 times in general conference

Thanks to BYU’s Scripture Citation Index, it’s possible to see every scripture quoted in general conference. In the case of New Testament scripture verses, there are roughly 45,000 references from the time of Joseph Smith to Russell M. Nelson.

A screenshot of the Scripture Citation Index showing that the New Testament has been cited in general conference more than 40,000 times.
More than 10,000 of the 44,025 New Testament scriptures referenced in general conference are from the book of Matthew, according to BYU’s Scripture Citation Index.

There’s a New Testament commentary by Elder Holland

Jeffrey R. Holland has published a new book called One Day Star Rising: Exploring the New Testament. He addresses several topics over nearly 300 pages, including faith, continuing revelation, our Heavenly Father, the Holy Ghost, resurrection, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The book’s title is taken from 2 Peter 1:19:

Take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.

Jesus may have been born in December

Most biblical scholars say that Jesus was born between 6 and 4 BC, but they struggle to pin the date down any further. Latter-day Saints may have an advantage due to additional scriptures like the Book of Mormon.

For example, BYU’s Jeff Chadwick believes that Jesus Christ was born in December of 5 BC. He came to that conclusion in part by identifying the approximate date that Lehi left Jerusalem—about 600 years before the birth of Jesus.

A silhouette of the three wise men who visited when Jesus was born.
Latter-day Saints may be able to estimate the date Jesus was born because of access to Restoration scriptures like the Book of Mormon.

Truman Madsen has New Testament tapes

Truman G. Madsen is perhaps best known for his Joseph Smith lectures. However, the Latter-day Saint scholar has also spoken on audiotape and video about the life of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.


The Eternal Christ

Truman Madsen’s DVD series was filmed on site in the Holy Land and divides the life of Christ into eight sections:

  1. A Savior Is Born
  2. The Man of Galilee
  3. Thou Art the Christ
  4. The Window to the Soul
  5. Treasures in Heaven
  6. Justice and Mercy
  7. Thy Will Is Done
  8. A Royal Embrace

Fun fact. Truman Madsen loved studying about Joseph Smith because he viewed the Prophet as a window through which he could see Jesus Christ:

It is fascinating enough to study the window; I myself have not resisted the temptation. But that is not what I [want to dwell on]. I [want to dwell] on what one may see through the window.

Who Was Truman G. Madsen?

Jesus of Nazareth

Madsen’s four-volume audiobook series about the Messiah covers many topics from the Savior’s life, and is still available on MP3:

  • The Shepherd and the Lamb
  • Healing on the Temple Mount
  • Ascent and Transfiguration
  • The Passover and the Sacrament
  • Bethlehem–The City of David
  • Youth in Nazareth
  • Baptism and Temptation
  • Cana, the Cleansing, Jacob’s Well
  • The Sermon on the Mount Part 1
  • The Sermon on the Mount Part 2
  • The Light that Shines in Darkness
  • Three Parables of Our Time
  • Introduction to the Final Week
  • On the Mount of Olives
  • Looking East from the Mount of Olives
  • Looking West from the Mount of Olives
  • The Last Supper
  • Jerusalem Viewed from the South
  • The Dung Gate
  • The Garden of Gethsemane
  • The Dungeon
  • Via Dolorosa
  • The Garden Tomb
  • Dominus Flevit—the Lord Wept—and Conclusion
Truman Madsen’s New Testament lectures in the Holy Land shed light on the Eternal Christ studied as part of Come Follow Me 2023.

There’s a Latter-day Saint translation of the New Testament

Thomas Wayment translated The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints after seeing how modern translations helped his BYU students. The translation isn’t meant to supplant the King James Version. Rather, Wayment says that he was inspired by a Brigham Young quote:

If [the Bible] be translated incorrectly, and there is a scholar on the earth who professes to be a Christian, and he can translate it any better than King James’s translators did it, he is under obligation to do so, or the curse is upon him.

If I understood Greek and Hebrew as some may profess to do, and I knew the Bible was not correctly translated, I should feel myself bound by the law of justice to the inhabitants of the earth to translate that which is incorrect and give it just as it was spoken anciently.

Is that proper? Yes, I would be under obligation.

Brigham Young

A lot happened between the Old Testament and New Testament

S. Kent Brown is a BYU professor with a powerful legacy. He’s rubbed shoulders with scholars like Truman Madsen, Ann Madsen, and Hugh Nibley while writing books and articles about the scriptures. One of his publications covers the period between the Old Testament and New Testament:

Remarkably, the Jews held onto their scripture which provided the guide for their daily lives. But their brush with Greco-Roman society left an imprint. To avoid receiving that imprint as much as possible, they turned inward and adopted strategies of surviving with their identities still intact. This sort of action meant that they took imaginative steps to hold onto their religious traditions, often changing and adjusting those traditions into something that people a couple of centuries earlier would not have recognized.

Thus, in some ways, they stepped away from some of their moorings just to survive.

We can take lessons from them in how to hold onto what is important and how to adapt to changing influences in our environments.

The Old Testament and New Testament: What Happened in Between?

The New Testament influenced America’s founders

Early Americans were more likely to have a copy of the Bible than any other book. That goes for the Founding Fathers too. While the Bible wasn’t the only book to influence our nation’s first leaders, it played a key role:

An awareness of the Bible’s place in the political culture of the American founding not only enriches our understanding of the nation’s history but also provides insight into who we are as a people

Daniel L. Dreisbach, The Bible and the Founding Fathers

The 2023 youth theme is from the New Testament

This year’s theme for the Young Women and Young Men is taken from Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The Church plans to release resources like videos and art on social media and at ChurchofJesusChrist.org/youth.

“I Can Do All Things Through Christ” sung by Jarica Jamison is just one of many songs from the Latter-day Saint 2023 Youth Album. The annual youth theme is drawn from a Come, Follow Me Sunday School verse in Philippians 4:13.

The context of the New Testament matters

N.T. Wright has been called the C.S. Lewis of our day, and many Latter-day Saints appreciate his theological writings. He believes that we can draw closer to Christ by understanding the historical, literary, and theological contexts of the first Christians:

We need to ground our understanding in that world rather than assuming that the later periods of Christian history ‘got it all right.’ As Luther and the other reformers insisted in the sixteenth century, they didn’t.

N. T. Wright on the New Testament in Its World
New Testament scholar N. T. Wright’s perspective on the Bible can be helpful for Latter-day Saints participating in Come Follow Me 2023.

Joseph Smith instituted a New Testament ritual cursing practice

The Savior instructed His apostles to shake the dust from their feet as a testimony against those who rejected them in Mark 6:11. Joseph Smith may have been inspired by the New Testament practice when he instituted a similar ritual curse in the early days of the Church.

However, as Samuel R. Weber explains, the practice fell out of favor by the end of the 19th century:

By the 1900s, when missionaries were rejected, most no longer felt that the disbelieving parties had lost their one chance for salvation.

The missionary mindset shifted from one of binding wheat and tares up to the day of destruction to one of returning to homes again and again to give people multiple chances to accept the gospel.

What Did It Mean to “Shake Off the Dust of Thy Feet”?

BYU Studies has a New Testament Commentary series

The academic journal has published several commentaries by Latter-day Saint scholars. In addition to commentary, each author has also produced a new translation based on the Joseph Smith Translation, the King James Bible, and the original Greek text:

  • The Gospel according to Mark: A New Rendition (Julie M. Smith)
  • The Testimony of Luke: A New Rendition (S. Kent Brown)
  • Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians: A New Rendition (Michael D. Rhodes and Richard D. Draper)
  • The Epistle to the Ephesians: A New Rendition (Philip Abbot)
  • Epistle to the Hebrews: A New Rendition (Michael D. Rhodes and Richard D. Draper)
  • The Revelation of John the Apostle: A New Rendition (Michael D. Rhodes and Richard D. Draper)

We don’t know if Jesus was married

No small amount of ink has been spilled arguing whether Jesus was married. Rather than speculate, BYU’s Christopher Blythe says that church leaders have emphasized it’s a question without a revealed answer:

So far as I have been able to find, no general authority has suggested that the Savior was not married. Instead, there has been an emphasis in official and apologetic writings that this has not been revealed to us.

Was Jesus Married?


Jews no longer pronounced “Jehovah” by the time of the New Testament

Jehovah is the God of the Old Testament—and Jesus Christ in the New Testament. “Sometime between the Old Testament and New Testament, the Jews stopped pronouncing the name of Jehovah out loud out of reverence,” said biblical scholar Robert D. Miller II.


The New Testament influenced the “JST” acronym

Church leaders initially planned to call the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible the “New Translation”—or the “N.T.” But, as Kent Jackson explains, the acronym was already taken by the New Testament:

Joseph Smith and his contemporaries called it the New Translation. That is also the term used for it in a revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants (124:89). It’s still a good title for it, but since the late 1970s it has most commonly been called the Joseph Smith Translation.

The origin of that title is interesting.

When the Church was preparing a Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible in the 1970s, Church leaders decided to include excerpts from the Prophet’s Bible revision in footnotes and in an appendix in the back of the Bible. To do so, they needed an acronym for it. The most obvious choice was “NT,” for New Translation. But because “NT” already means New Testament, it couldn’t be used.

Thus, for the sake of an acronym to be printed in the Latter-day Saint Bible, the title Joseph Smith Translation was invented, providing the useful acronym “JST.”

The Joseph Smith Translation: An Inspired Version of the Bible

Early Christians read scriptures out loud

Thomas Wayment says that early Christians looked with suspicion upon those who privately read the Bible:

Instead, they felt that the text should be read out loud, and in some cases performed. It was a living text, and there was power in hearing it read out loud. They didn’t have chapters and verses, but instead, they had weekly reading blocks that were read out loud to them in worship services.

New Testament Scholar Thomas Wayment
Early Christians didn't study scriptures like we do in Come Follow Me. Instead, they read the New Testament out loud.
Early Christians didn’t read scriptures in the same way that we study Come, Follow Me today. Instead, they read the New Testament out loud.

The name “Jehovah” has a profound meaning

David Noel Freedman was one of the best Hebraists of the 20th century. He taught Ann Madsen that Jehovah meant not merely “I am that I am,” but “I will become what/who I will become.”

The definition had New Testament overtones:

To me, “I will become what I will become” means something like:

Someday you will see who I am (1 John 3:2). I am the Redeemer of this whole world. And I gave you these commandments. You were unwilling to come up to the top of a mountain and meet with me, so I gave Moses the Ten Commandments for you.

But they are just the beginning steps. After that, by following the covenant path, you can move forward to become like Me. Thus, I continually invite you to “Come, follow me!”

Ann Madsen Reflects on Isaiah, Jehovah, and the Temple

There’s a “fifth gospel” in the Book of Mormon

Everyone knows Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The testimonies of the Savior constitute the four gospels. Latter-day Saints treasure each one of them, and also have access to 3 Nephi—a record that’s been called a “fifth gospel.”

Fun fact: Some early Christians thought of Isaiah as a “fifth gospel.”


There’s an indirect relationship between John the Baptist and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are closely linked with the Old Testament, but there’s less of a relationship with the New Testament. However, Jean-Pierre Isbouts says that there’s a unique connection between the Dead Sea Scrolls and John the Baptist:

Many scholars have looked for parallels between the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jesus or John the Baptist. I believe the most important parallel is the fact that the secular books of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which pertain to some form of rule books of the Qumran Community, speak about the coming of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God in much the same way that John the Baptist did, and to some degree, Jesus as well.

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

There are Come Follow Me 2023 BYU Devotionals

There’s an entire BYU Speeches website devoted to devotionals emphasizing the importance of scripture study. Several of the talks have a special focus on the New Testament:


Paul spoke about three degrees of glory

The apostle Paul spoke of telestial, terrestrial, and celestial degrees of glory—a concept expounded upon by Joseph Smith in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. But some Latter-day Saints also think there are three additional degrees of glory within the Celestial Kingdom.

The idea comes from D&C 131:1, which states:

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees.

In Joseph Smith’s day, “celestial” was a synonym for “heavenly.” However, a few prominent early Latter-day Saints misinterpreted the meaning and began teaching that the “celestial glory” in D&C 131 didn’t mean “heavenly glory,” but rather, “Celestial Kingdom.”

Bryan Buchanan suggests it resulted in a false tradition:

The Prophet was just restating the heavenly framework from his vision, rather than making another subdivision within the one kingdom.

Are There 3 Degrees of Glory Within the Celestial Kingdom?

President Nelson has spoken about the New Testament in general conference

Russell M. Nelson has given 101 talks in general conference, including 38 as a member of the First Presidency alongside Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring.

According to BYU’s Scripture Citation Index. you can find President Nelson quotes that reference New Testament scriptures 810 times:

  • Old Testament: 495 citations
  • New Testament: 810 citations
  • Book of Mormon: 1,116 citations
  • Doctrine and Covenants: 1,109 citations
  • Pearl of Great Price: 232 citations
President Russell M. Nelson talks in general conference about the Savior’s invitation, “Come, follow me.” These three words of the Savior comprise the title of our Sunday School lessons, Come Follow Me 2023.

The Bible may have influenced the temple endowment

Jeffrey Bradshaw has spent decades studying the relationship between Freemasonry and the temple endowment, and his work has been praised by faithful Latter-day Saint scholars like Daniel C. Peterson and Richard Turley. His research suggests that Joseph’s familiarity with the Bible may have influenced the temple ceremony:

Joseph Smith’s long acquaintance with the Bible, including the years he spent working on the Joseph Smith Translation, was the most likely catalyst for aspects of the endowment having to do with the temple-rich stories of Genesis and Exodus.

What is the Relationship Between Freemasonry and the Temple Endowment?

Revelation sheds light on Jesus’ preaching to the spirits in prison

The New Testament describes the Savior preaching to those in spirit prison. The description in 1 Peter 3:18–20 took on a new meaning when Joseph F. Smith received the revelation known as Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

As Lisa Olsen Tait explains:

[Joseph F. Smith] witnessed that the Lord “organized his forces and appointed messengers” from among the faithful spirits of the prophets and other righteous people who had served him in life. They were commissioned to teach the gospel to the spirits of those who had not received it in life, thus paving the way for all of God’s children to have an opportunity to accept the gospel.

The idea that the spirits of the faithful would be preaching the gospel in the spirit world was not entirely new, but this vision gave a powerful witness to it and shed new light on how it was accomplished. And it was a visionary experience granted to the Lord’s prophet.

Susa Young Gates and the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead

Josephus rarely mentioned early Christians

The historian Josephus is one of our best sources for Jewish life at the time of Christ. Interestingly, he is relatively silent about early Christian endeavors, and never mentions the Apostle Paul. No one is quite sure why, but the biblical scholar F. B. A. Asiedu suggests it may have to do with prejudice:

I gesture at the end [of my book] that Josephus wished to exclude the followers of Jesus as legitimate members of first-century Jewish society.

Josephus, Paul, and Early Christianity

Grace—and the Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents appears in Matthew 25:14–30 and Luke 19:11–27. It’s often used to emphasize the importance of wisely using God’s blessings. In a BYU Sperry Symposium, Brad Wilcox suggests the parable is also a lesson in how to receive the grace of Jesus Christ.

Teachings like the Savior’s Parable of the Talents are part of our Come Follow Me 2023 Sunday School study. BYU’s Brad Wilcox says that the parable can be a lesson in how to receive the grace of Christ.

BYU has a “life of Christ” bibliography

You can read more than 300 books and articles about the Messiah thanks to BYU’s New Testament Commentary. It has published an online bibliography of the life of Christ, including publications by apostles and Latter-day Saint scholars, such as:

Apostles

Latter-day Saint scholars


Did you enjoy this article?

Subscribe to get an email when we publish new content. It’s free!


Further reading


Come Follow Me 2023 schedule

All of these resources are available under the “Come, Follow Me” tab of the Gospel Library app:

January

February

March

April

May

  • May 1–7: Luke 12–17; John 11
  • May 8–14: Matthew 19–20; Mark 10; Luke 18
  • May 15–21: Matthew 21–23; Mark 11; Luke 19–20; John 12
  • May 22–28: Joseph Smith—Matthew 1; Matthew 24–25; Mark 12–13; Luke 21

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Previous years

  • 2022: Old Testament
  • 2021: Doctrine and Covenants
  • 2020: Book of Mormon

By Kurt Manwaring

Writer. History nerd. Latter-day Saint.

Leave a Reply