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For years, gospel scholars have debated the authorship of Hebrews. Some scholars suggest the writing style is different enough from other Pauline epistles that Paul could not have been the primary author. Others, like Clement of Alexandria, an early second century “apostolic father” believe Paul likely wrote his original letter to the Jews in the Hebrew language and it was then “accurately translated by Luke and published for Greek readers” (see Acts through Revelation, Ogden and Skinner, pg. 244). Most Latter-day Saints believe Paul wrote Hebrews. Joseph Smith gives Paul credit for writing Hebrews in D&C 128:15 when he references Hebrews 11:40 – “they without us cannot be made perfect — neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”

Scholars place the writing of Hebrews around A.D. 61-62 before the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Paul’s intent in this letter is to illustrate the superiority of Jesus and His law over the law which was previously taught and lived for centuries. He teaches that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses — the new covenant to replace the old covenant — and elucidates the preeminence of Jesus Christ and His gospel over the Mosaic rituals performed in the Temple, including the sacrifices still being offered there in Jerusalem.

The Come, Follow Me manual mentions this truth: “We all have to give up something in order to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ — whether that be bad habits, incorrect beliefs, unwholesome associations, or something else. For Gentiles, conversion often meant abandoning false gods. For the Hebrews, however, conversion proved to be, if not more difficult, a little more complicated.”

Did the Hebrews have to give up their earlier beliefs and history? Not necessarily. But they had to identify and embrace Christ as the Messiah, as the Anointed One who would fulfill the Law of Moses, and assume a place higher than the angels, higher than Moses, higher than the Levitical High Priest. Paul’s words might have been somewhat like a missionary tract in an attempt to instruct and illuminate the Hebrews and find all the “Jews for Jesus” of the Meridian Church.

Scriptures to Post or Memorize

“Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” – Hebrews 2:9

“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.” – Hebrews 2: 11

“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” – Hebrews 2:18

“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest [God’s rest], lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” – Hebrews 4:13

“For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

“And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” – Hebrews 5: 9

Hebrews 2:10 Made Perfect Through Sufferings

Read Hebrews 2:10 “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

I love the phrase “Captain of our Salvation.” Jesus is indeed that. He led out when our Father needed a Savior, a Mediator, upon whom He could depend. He did not shrink when it came time to drink from the bitter cup and work through the awful Atonement. He rose again, leading us once more to resurrected glory, and providing us with that same free gift of reclaiming our perfected bodies.

Question: Why did Jesus have to suffer? Why a Suffering Savior?

Read Alma 7:11-13. The Father knew our Savior would need to suffer and feel and endure all the pains and sicknesses, sorrows and sins mankind would feel. Only that suffering would allow Him to succor us, to run to us with utmost empathy, and to judge us perfectly. Read Hebrews 2:17. He was made like unto us “in all things” so that He would know best how to nurture us.

Share with your family something you have gone through that has been difficult and hard. Talk about how knowing the Savior has felt those same emotions and hardships has comforted you. 

Watch this Video: Look to the Light.  It is about the suffering of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, with commentary from Elder Holland about trials and adversity. It also has a beautiful vignette of the Savior’s birth, which seems appropriate as we enter the holiday season.

Hebrews 3: 18-19 Enter into God’s Rest

In Chapter 3, Paul teaches that Jesus is greater than Moses and all his laws. He gives Jesus the title of Apostle and High Priest of our profession, or confession — our advocate with the father. (See verses 3:1-2) Paul then goes on to quote Psalm 95:7-11 and summarize Israel’s apostasy while in the wilderness. Paul wants the Hebrews to avoid the difficulties and pitfalls of Ancient Israel. Vs. 10 – they did “always err in their hearts” and did not know God’s ways. They became “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” and their unbelief. 

Discuss: What is God’s rest? Paul teaches that those who fall prey to unbelief cannot enter into God’s rest. We know from D&C 84:24 God’s rest is the “fullness of God’s glory.” God’s rest can be felt not just in the next life, but in this life. While it may not be the fullness of God’s glory, we can experience a sense of rest and peace when we exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and choose the path of discipleship.

If you only show your family one video this week, show them this one. It is so touching. So powerful. Such a beautiful witness of a young girl’s faith and her humble relationship with a loving Heavenly Father, as He works a tender miracle in answer to her prayers:

Watch: Pure and Simple Faith

Share your testimony of how God’s plan is for families and that He wants us to enter into His rest and dwell there as family units, all of us present. That this life is our chance to work through our own salvation and help each other along the way, as we learn to put our trust in God.

Hebrews 4:12 The Word of God is Quick and Powerful

“For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

Discuss: How does the word of God pierce our souls?

Joseph Smith taught that the Word of God can penetrate our hearts. The Spirit which testifies of the Word of God can “reveal things to our spirits precisely as if we had no bodies at all.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church; Joseph Smith, 2007, 475)

Check out this great diagram of a two-edged sword with thoughts about the Word of God from various scriptures and prophets.

Hebrews 4:16 Approach the Throne of Grace Boldly

Read Hebrews 4:16. This is probably one of the greatest promises in all of the New Testament when it comes to obtaining help. As our confidence waxes strong in the presence of God through virtuous living, through making and keeping of covenants, and continued discipleship, we may approach the throne of God boldly and receive the help which God knows is best for us.

When I was studying in Israel in my early twenties, my mother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The news was sudden and unexpected and sent all of my family reeling. My brother was serving a mission in Sao Paul, Brasil. I was in Israel. And our four younger siblings were still living at home, then youngest being 10 years old. My Mother knew she did not want to leave this earth yet. She did not feel that she was done. She had children to raise and was only in her forties. 

So on a special day set aside for fasting, all of the students at the Jerusalem Center with whom I was living and studying, joined in a fast for my Mother. On this same day, all of my brother’s mission, including his mission president and wife and all their missionaries, fasted for my mother. All of my Mother’s ward and many leaders in her home stake fasted for her on this day, along with many of our extended family members. When I think of the faith of all those people “coming boldly to the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy, and find grace to hep in time of need,” I am still undone. Even as I type the experience now, twenty plus years later, I feel the power and mercy and absolute grace of that experience, and it moves me to tears.

My Mother had two subsequent surgeries in an attempt to remove the tumor as much but it was nestled right next to her motor skill center, so they anticipated only being able to remove half. But after the second surgery, they could find no trace of the original tumor. This was a miracle that extended her life another twenty years. 

It reminds me of Hezekiah in the book of 2 Kings, chapter 20. He was near death but prayed to the Lord saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” (NKJV translation.) Then the Lord replied, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years.” (2 King 20: 1-4) That… is coming to throne of God boldy. And Hezekiah could do so because he had walked before the Lord in truth and with a “perfect” heart (KJV.) 

While my Mother was not perfect, she too had walked uprightly before the Lord in truth and was constantly doing all she could to be right in her heart. She listened to and followed the prophets, she was always striving to know Jesus. In fact, at the beginning of that year she had prayed to her Heavenly Father to be able to know her Savior in a more intimate way — to come closer to Him. That was her goal for the year. And within one month she was diagnosed with an illness that taught her and us, so much about compassion, about faith, about submission, and finding Jesus in our extremity.

Hebrews 6:1 JST 

“Leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ…” doesn’t sound like good doctrine. But the Joseph Smith Translation resolves the problem with one word. “Therefore, not leaving the principles…”

Hebrews 6:6 Those who Crucifiy the Son of God Afresh 

“Descent from the Cross” oil painting by Brian Kershisnik. Credit: Springville Museum of Art

In this chilling verse, Paul is describing the sons of perdition. Those who would willingly crucify Jesus again if they could. Bruce. R. McConkie explained: “The unpardonable sin consists in denying Christ, in fighting the truth, in joining hands with those who crucified him, knowing full well, and with a perfect knowledge, that he is the Son of God; it means pursuing this course after gaining a perfect knowledge, given of the Holy Ghost, that he is Lord of all. The innocent blood thus shed is his blood; those who so sin become murderers by assenting unto his death, an assent that is given with a full and perfect knowledge of his divinity.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:345-346).

Hebrews 6:10 Labour of Love for His Name

Read this verse about laboring in love toward (or for) Jesus’ name. This verse reminds me of our baptismal covenant to “take Jesus’ name upon us.” This means to do what Jesus would do if he were in our shoes — love as He loves, work as He would work, think and act as He would think and act. 

When I was serving in the Stake Primary I liked to tell the children getting baptized that “taking Jesus’ name upon you” is kind of like wearing an invisible missionary badge. If you look at the missionaries, they literally have Jesus’ name on them – it’s printed right on their badges. When we are baptized, we don’t get a name tag to wear, but we do pin on an invisible name tag of sorts that says we will be His disciple and love and serve as Jesus would if He could be there himself.

Be Doers of the Word

Here are some ways we can put the principles of Hebrews 1-6 into action during the week.

— Read about Jesus’ Suffering in Gethsemane and on the Cross from all four of the gospels. Spend some time pondering what He suffered and how His experience with pain and sorrows of every kind make Him your perfect Savior and Judge. Write your thoughts in your journal.

— Just like Paul identified the weaknesses of Ancient Israel in an effort to prevent the Hebrew people in His day from making the same mistakes, identify a weakness you have, and set one goal that can help you make this weakness a strength in your life.

— Listen to recent conference talk on faith. 

— Write a letter to your children or grandchildren or another family member about the importance of faith as the first principle of the gospel.

— Record in your Journal for one week when and how the Word of God touches you, pierces and penetrates your soul. Be sure to write down those words and what you felt or learned from the Spirit as they pricked your heart.

— If you have some miracle or special help you need in your life, go to the Lord in prayer, boldly approaching His throne of grace, and call upon the blessings of your covenants and discipleship.

— Choose some “labour of love” to do for someone else. Some service that Jesus would do if He were in your shoes.