Jethro visits and counsels Moses
JST Exodus 18:1 Jethro, the high priest of Midian
“Jethro was very important in Moses’ life and work. The Old Testament calls him ‘the priest of Midian,’ but modern revelation through Joseph Smith throws important light upon the priesthood of Jethro. According to the Doctrine and Covenants, section 84, Moses received the ‘Holy Priesthood … under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro.’ (D&C 84:6.) It is reasonable to believe that Jethro held the office of a high priest and may have presided over a branch of the church in Midian. (See JST, Ex. 18:1.)
“It is interesting to note that Jethro’s priesthood is traced through Caleb and Elihu back to Melchizedek and Noah and thence to Adam. (D&C 84:7–16.) The fact that he held the Melchizedek Priesthood contributes to our believing that a branch of the church of Jesus Christ was in Midian. This is a surprising fact, since the Old Testament says nothing at this point about a church. But, thanks to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we may assume that Jethro had possession of the scriptures and taught Moses the gospel when he became a member of his household.” (Sidney B. Sperry, “The Mission of Moses: Out of Bondage,” Ensign, Oct. 1973, 32)
Joseph Fielding Smith
The Midianites were descendants of Abraham, through the children of Keturah, wife of Abraham, therefore the Midianites, who were neighbors to the Israelites in Palestine, were related to the Israelites, and were Hebrews. As descendants of Abraham they were entitled through their faithfulness to his blessings (see Abraham 2:9-11), and in the days of Moses and preceding them, in Midian the Priesthood was found. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 2: 103)
Exodus 18:1 Jethro… heard of all that God had done for Moses
Josephus wrote that none of the Egyptians survived the Red Sea incident. If not, then how did Jethro hear of “all that God had done for Moses”? In context of how the Lord works, it makes a lot more sense for the Lord to have preserved some witnesses to this great event. God’s intent was to make a name for Himself, and the story is already spreading around the region. The news spreads and the reputation remains as we see when the Israelites encounter neighbors on their journey to the Promised Land.
The name of the Hebrews began already to be everywhere renowned, and rumours about them ran abroad. This made the inhabitants of those countries to be in no small fear.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, 1:7)
Exodus 18:5 Jethro… came with his sons and his wife unto Moses in the wilderness
The last we heard, Zipporah and Moses’ sons had travelled with him into Egypt (Ex. 4:20). At some point before the Exodus, probably concerned about their safety, Moses sent them back to Jethro, (or Reul as other scribes record his name). According to Josephus, it has been three months since the Israelites have left Egypt (Book III, 2:5). Moses returns to the mountain and bush where the whole thing started.
He has been separated from his wife and children for at least three months. There must have been a great and glorious reunion, but of course, the scribes of the Old Testament only tell us about Moses and his father-in-law. We can guarantee the reader that Moses was more excited to see his wife and children than his father-in-law. From this we learn that the importance of family and family relations had faded by the time of the writing of the text, circa 1000-600 BC.
“This is the last time Zipporah is mentioned… No one seems to take any notice of Zipporah or her sons after these three are mentioned in vs. 6. The best wives seem to like it this way… so that they can cherish the truth of their real power… Most historians have been men, so that men have come to have an exaggerated opinion of their own importance in history; and human mores in the past have been dominated by a church whose officers were wholly male and largely celibate… Nothing is known about Zipporah, but the Talmud says with creative remembrance that Moses turned first of all to the women when he needed help in making the people obey the law; for he said, ‘Adam would never have sinned, if God had only given Eve the directions instead of Adam,’ thus showing how much he had learned from Zipporah of the wisdom and tact of women.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] vol. 1, p. 693)
Exodus 18:9 Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel
Do we take the time to rejoice for all the goodness which the Lord has done for us?
Robert D. Hales
A few months ago I had an experience that took me to the very edge of this mortal existence. As many of you know, I suffered a heart attack last August. I had the opportunity of knowing firsthand of the healing strength that comes through united prayer. For that I will always be grateful… Throughout that experience, there is one particular feeling that began inside of me, almost immediately, that intensified as time went on and became overpowering during my illness, during my recovery, and remains with me still. I became overwhelmed with a feeling of deep gratitude for the goodness of God.
May [we] feel true gratitude for the goodness of God for all the blessings that have been given to us and express those feelings of thankfulness in prayer to our Heavenly Father is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (Ensign, May 1992, 63, 65)
Neal A. Maxwell
Here in mortality, we already know moments when, “because of the great goodness of God,” there is a “gushing out of many tears” (3 Ne. 4:33). Our joy is brim (see Alma 26:11). Yet this is but a foretaste of the ultimate homecoming, when our cups will not only be brim, but will run over without ceasing! (Ensign, May 1988, 9)
Elaine L. Jack
As women of covenant we seek exaltation and the peace that attends eternal life in the kingdom of heaven… Indeed we stand before the world today to rejoice—not in the power of men and women—but in the goodness of God. (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 98–99)
Exodus 18:18 Thou wilt surely wear away
“Too often I find myself so wrapped up in the thick of thin things that I feel almost as though I can’t breathe, let alone rest. I drain my energy dry doing ten worthwhile activities—and neglect three eternally important ones. At times like this, I could learn from the counsel Moses’ father-in-law gave him: ‘The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away … for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it.’ (Ex. 18:17–18.) Several weeks ago I looked back over my daily schedules and realized I had wasted much energy and had worn myself out over things that were overdone or were in some ways unnecessary. So what if I baked several varieties of cookies for the party and found the best buys in town if I’m too tired to cuddle with my children or be with my husband or if I fall asleep while I’m trying to say my prayers?” (Cindy K. Peterson, “Exhaustion Is Not a Prerequisite to Perfection,” Ensign, Oct. 1993, 52)
Neal A. Maxwell
We generally see the need for Moses to apply the delegation dimension, and we note how both we and those we serve—including family—can “wear away.” Moses was hearing every case! Worse still, however, this pattern kept him from his real duties, which were to “teach them ordinances and laws, and … shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (Ex. 18:20).
The original Twelve were counseled that they were not to “serve tables” (see Acts 6:1–4). Actually, serving tables is easy. It is visible, measurable, and do-able—compared to opening up the nations of the world to missionary work or to keeping wolves out of the flock. But if the Twelve were drawn away from their scriptural and constitutional duties, the whole Church would suffer. Being drawn away can happen to all of us, almost without our knowing it. (“Wisdom and Order,” Ensign, June 1994, 41–42)
Exodus 18:20 thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way
“Moses was killing himself off, trying to do everything for the children of Israel, to judge all matters, large and small. His father-in-law, Jethro, saw all this and advised, ‘The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.’
“Jethro then counseled Moses to do two things. First, Moses was to teach the people principles that embodied his judgments so they wouldn't have to come to him to decide every matter. They could reflect on the principles and think their problems through on their own. This is a powerful form of delegation—teaching true principles and trusting the people to apply them.” (Stephen R. Covey, How to Succeed with People [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971], 100)
Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. "How?" responded the gentleman; "to us it is very difficult." Mr. Smith replied, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves." (Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings, edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q.Cannon [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], “Agency”)
Exodus 18:22 they shall bear the burden with thee
M. Russell Ballard
Not only is this a great lesson for all of us on the importance of delegation of priesthood authority, but it also illustrates the need for presidents and bishops to allow their counselors, auxiliary leaders, and other associates to "bear the burden with thee." Remember, presidents and bishops, that the callings of your associates are just as divinely inspired as is yours, and they are therefore entitled to inspiration in their specific responsibilities. Lean upon them. Learn from them. Love them. Listen to them. (Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 67 - 68)
Exodus 18:23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so
“It is notable that in verse 23 Jethro adds, ‘If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure.’ [Ex. 18:23] (Italics added.) At least one implication here is Jethro’s clear recognition that the decision ultimately lay between Moses and the Lord. Apparently, Moses took the suggestion to the Lord and obtained approval because the next verse tells us, ‘So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.’
“Offering suggestions to Church leaders from time to time, then, seems to be entirely appropriate, but in doing so we must first make sure that our motives are pure and that the suggestion has merit. Among those questions that we need to ask ourselves are: What is my purpose in wanting to offer my suggestion? Is my idea just a pet peeve of mine, or is it a valid suggestion that could prove helpful? Am I attempting to counsel the Lord or his servants, or am I truly making a suggestion? Have I thought the idea through to see its implications clearly and be sure that it has genuine merit? Can I offer the suggestion without being hostile?” (Bruce L. Olsen, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Aug. 1978, 30)
Neal A. Maxwell
Notice the blend of loving concern and candor with Jethro taking the initiative. And Moses, who was the most meek of men on earth, accepted the counsel (see Num. 12:3).
Further, when we are being spoken to by one who is inspired by the Holy Spirit, hopefully he will not hold back simply to be artificially nice to us. (Ensign, Apr. 1981, 58)