Sunday, July 25, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #29 "He Took Up the Mantle of Elijah"

2 Kings 2; 5-6


Teaching Tip:  Take three class members out of the room and give two of them a piece of paper with the following terms on it:
  1. Abarim
  2. Cab
  3. Dothan
  4. Ehud
  5. Jebus
  6. Scrip
  7. Stacte
  8. Ziv
Give the third person a piece of paper which also includes the definitions of the words:
  1. Abarim: the mountain range Moses was standing on when he viewed the Promised Land
  2. Cab: a measure that equals a little more than a quart
  3. Dothan: a town ten miles north of Samaria, known for its good pastures
  4. Ehud: a certain left-handed Israelite
  5. Jebus: the ancient name for the city that is now called Jerusalem
  6. Scrip: a traveling bag made of leather and used for carrying food
  7. Stacte: a sweet spice used in the incense for the temple, probably made of tree gum.
  8. Ziv: the second month in the Hebrew year
The person holding the definitions is to use them in the game; the other two people are to make up their own definitions, attempting to be as believable as possible.  The object is to fool the class into believing the false definitions.

Return to the classroom together and pass out blank pieces of paper and pencils to the class members, asking them to number them 1-8.  Call out each word and have each of the three give their definition, then have the class members write on their papers which person they think gave the true definition.  Don't tell the class members which definitions were right until all the definitions have been given.  Then go through the list and have the person who read the correct definition raise his hand.  Of course, it will be the same person every time.  Hopefully, this will be a surprise to the class members, that the same person had the right answer every time.  Point out how easy it would have been to win the game if you had told them which person would have all the correct answers.  Also point out that the appearances or the intelligence or charisma of the person giving the accurate definitions was irrelevant, because you had given the person the correct answers.

There is a humorous quote that applies here:  "This life is a test.  It is only a test.  Had it been an actual life, you would have received more information on where to go and what to do."  This is the way life is for many people on the earth.  Lucky for us, we know the single person who has all the right answers, who has been given "more information on where to go and what to do."  That person is, of course, the Prophet.


1 Kings 17:1 tells us Elijah was from Gilead, the wild country in the east.  2 Kings 1:8 tells us he was a "hairy" man, or a person who wore skins or furs, and leather; he was good at wilderness survival.  (Nobody knows what "Tishbite" means.)

The prophet who took his place was Elisha.  Ask class members to find all that they can about Elisha from 1 Kings 19:19-21.  Some answers follow:
  • He was a very wealthy man to have had twelve men plowing with twelve yoke of oxen at once.
  • He had a family he loved and respected; he was a good son who wanted to honor his parents before leaving.
  • When the call came, he was willing to give up his worldly possessions, as symbolized in his giving a feast of two oxen, valuable work animals.  Killing the animals showed that his course was final, irrevocable.
  • Despite having been a powerful man, he was willing to become Elijah's servant.
As soon as Elijah's mantle passed to Elisha, Elisha had the keys and power of the priesthood, and it was obvious to everyone present (2 Kings 2:8-15).  They were very different in their earthly stations and in their personalities and talents, but each was equally worthy, and each held the same calling as Prophet.  The Lord gave the power to the person who was right for the time.


Teaching Tip:  Ask five class members ahead of time to read the following stories about Elijah and then share them with the class in their own words:
  • Elisha and salt in the water (2 Kings 2:19-22)
  • Elisha and the ditches (2 Kings 3:12-20)
  • Elisha and the borrowed oil vessels (2 Kings 4:1-7)
  • Elisha and Naaman's leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14)
  • Elisha and his servant (2 Kings 5:20-27)
In each of these incidents, the prophet's commands made very little sense.  In the cases of the first four, those involved believed the prophet and followed his instructions.  In the last case, Gehazi, Elisha's servant, did what seemed logical to himself, and suffered ill consequences because of it.


The prophet always has a vision that we do not have; that's what makes him a prophet, seer and revelator.  When Elisha's town was surrounded by an army, ready to take Elisha as a spy, his servant was terrified, and cried, "Alas, my master!  how shall we do? And [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.  And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (2 Kings 6:15-17).

Then Elisha temporarily blinded the enemies, offered to take them to the person they were seeking (himself), and instead led them to Samaria, where he restored their vision and let them go.  It may have been a real physical condition of sightlessness, or it may have been an inability to recognize Elisha as who he was.  But the point of the story is that the odds are always in the favor of the Lord God of Israel, and although we can seldom see or even imagine what His winning plan might be, it always exists and it always succeeds, and the prophet knows how to execute it.  Once we know this, we can give up our fear and trust the prophet fully.


When the Prophet Joseph Smith died and the saints were trying to determine the order of the Kingdom, and who should lead the Church, there was a famous incident in which Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young each spoke and it was readily apparent to those listening that Brigham Young was to take Joseph Smith's place as head of the Church.  In later years, those present referred to this feeling of certainty as if they had seen Brigham Young's face replaced by Joseph Smith's as he spoke.  Joseph Smith had been the Prophet of the Restoration and was perfectly fitted for that role.  Brigham Young became the Prophet of the Exodus, and his abilities, personality, and spiritual gifts helped him to move the Saints west.  And so it has been with each prophet: his particular gifts and visions have been ideal for the time and situation in which he serves.

President Hunter was our prophet for such a brief time.  He told us to become a temple-oriented people.  At that time, going to the temple more than once in a lifetime was nearly out of the question for many of the members of the Church.  Prior to that time there were not many Primary lessons about the temple, and there was always a caution in the lesson about being sensitive to those children whose parents had not been married in the temple.  And what point was there in telling humble saints in Africa or Asia or the South Seas to be focused on the temple?  For them to go was an impossibility.  But now the emphasis became entirely different:  not to simply avoid hurting people's feelings who hadn't been to the temple, but to tell them to get going, and if they couldn't go, to get ready for the impossible!

President Hunter's counsel would have been even more pointless if the previous prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, had not begged for and received the revelation that all people could receive blessings in the temple.  If he hadn't been so focused on racial equality in all temple blessings, how could President Hunter have told us that we should all be a temple people?  Because President Kimball felt driven to ask for the priesthood for all men, and temple blessings for all members, President Hunter could plead with everyone to be focused on the temple. 

And because President Hunter did that--and it only took him a short time to deliver his message--saints everywhere became more focused on the temple, more encouraged, more willing to be full tithe-payers and to be qualified as recommend-holders.  President Hinckley could then spearhead the enormous world-wide temple-building project of one hundred temples by the year 2000.  Those who heeded President Hunter's counsel were rewarded for their faith in the impossible during President Hinckley's tenure.

President Hinckley also had personality traits and spiritual gifts (talents) that were perfect for his time.  He was a fearless expert when dealing with the press.  He was inventive in solving the problem of bringing temples to more people.  He had a terrific sense of humor and counseled us continually to look on the bright side of life during fearful times.  When he advised us repeatedly to get out of debt, the American economy was strong.  Those who heeded his words were in a much better position to face the recession.

President Monson has continued to give counsel to be positive and hopeful despite troubled times and a negative press, saying, "The future is as bright as your faith."  He has continually stressed expressing love within our families; he has counseled us to enjoy the present day and the changes and challenges of our journey through life.  He has emphasized giving to others and blessing those in need, even in a time when many members themselves are struggling financially.  We need to examine his words carefully, and then examine our actions: do they match?  If the prophet's counsel seems illogical, unimportant, or even impossible, we had better take even greater care to follow it, because this indicates that he sees a vision we do not.

We can look all around and study opinions and recommendations to determine our personal course of action, but we would be wise to remember, as in the Bible Balderdash game, that if there is ever a question or a conflict between sources of information, the prophet is the one we listen to.  We may see others as being smarter, more experienced, better-looking, more financially successful, or as having access to more research, but none of that matters, because President Monson is the one who has been given all the right answers.


Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for the insights about the emphasis of the different prophets and how they fit together. I found it illuminating.

Andrea said...

I really love and appreciate you putting together this blog. I recently got called to be a Sunday school teacher and have struggled with finding additional information to make the lessons more appealing to teenagers. Your Blog has really helped me to involve the kids in the lessons and to peak their interest.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your ideas. I really appreciate them. Please note the discrepancy in the game definition lists. #8 on the first is jif and on list two it is zif. I believe it should be ziv. Also the mountain range is Abarim. The calculator I used said that a cab is 1.088 quarts or 4.97 cups. Just some thoughts if anyone else would like to use this game. Thanks again for your hard work.

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Thank you so much, anon., for proof-reading for me! I have made the corrections.

Susan said...

I used your suggestions in my gospel doctrine class with the adults in our ward and it was a hit. The point of the lesson was driven home in such a fun way. Thank you so much for your insights! I have just found your blog and am looking forward to checking in each week! Count me in as a devoted follower.

sonja said...

I love your blog. I look at it each week to help me teach gospel doctrine.