Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Visiting Teaching Message for January 2015

I will obey the words of the prophets

The Attributes of Jesus Christ: Obedient Son
Following Jesus Christ’s example of obedience increases our faith in Him.

1.  “Is it any wonder,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “that Christ chooses first and foremost to define himself in relation to his father—that he loved him and obeyed him and submitted to him like the loyal son he was? ….”
 2 Nephi 31:7 … [Jesus Christ] showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
 John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
John 8:29  And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

2.  "Obedience is the first law of heaven." (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Will of the Father in All Things” (Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 17, 1989), 4, speeches.byu.edu.)
D&C 120:20-21 "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."
3.  “As we walk in obedience to the principles and commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we enjoy a continual flow of blessings promised by God in His covenant with us. … Obedience gives us greater control over our lives, greater capacity to come and go, to work and create.” (D. Todd Christofferson, “The Power of Covenants,” Liahona, May 2009, 21.)
D& C 82:10  "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."
D&C 93:28  "He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things."

4.  What are some examples of obedience in the scriptures? 
Adam - "And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord (see Moses 5:5).
Noah - Noah did according to all that God commanded (see Gen. 6:22).
Abraham - The sacred records show that he committed himself to do all that God commanded, even being willing to sacrifice, in response to God’s command, what was most precious to him—his son. (See Gen. 22:1–18.)
Moses - The Lord commanded Moses to deliver his people (Israel) from bondage. (see Moses 11: 26).
Elijah - "The last of the prophets in old Israel who held a fullness of divine authority was Elijah the Tishbite. A famine came in the land when Elijah, as commanded of God, sealed the heavens shut that it did not rain. (The Power of Elijah, Theodore M. Burton, CR, April 1974.)
 Simon Peter and his brother Andrew - "And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (see Matthew 4:19) and they obeyed the Savior.
Nephi - "All prophets, ancient and modern, have known that obedience is essential to our salvation. Nephi declared, 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded' (1Nephi 3:7). Though others faltered in their faith and their obedience, never once did Nephi fail to do that which the Lord asked of him. Untold generations have been blessed as a result" (President Thomas S. Monson, CR, Obedience Brings Blessings, April 2013).

5.  "Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that through the prophets ‘the Lord reveals the truths of salvation, … the salvation that is in Christ; and he charts … the course leading to eternal life. … In every age the Lord gives his people the direction they need at the moment of their peril and danger. And surely in the days ahead there will be times when nothing but the wisdom of God, descending from heaven and flowing forth from prophetic lips, will be able to save his people.’ ”  (Bruce R.  McConkie,  A New Witness for the Articles of Faith; Deseret Book Company, 1985, 478; from CR, "Live according to the Words of the Prophets," Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, October 2014).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This is the last Old Testament Sunday School lesson for 2014.  I love the Old Testament and encourage all to really study what is written.  It has so many messages for today.  

Old Testament Scriptural Summaries and Selections
Zechariah Chapters 13-14; Selections from Malachi
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #48
"The Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord" - Malachi 4:5
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 225-29
Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, (1982), 341-356
Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide―Malachi.
The Words of the Twelve Prophets, Monte S. and Farres H. Nyman

The purpose of this lesson: "To encourage class members to (1) prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, (2) pay an honest tithe and generous offerings, and (3) experience the blessings that come because of the sealing power of the priesthood" (from the Teacher's Manual).
The Book of Zechariah (from my chapter summaries book: The Last Twelve Prophets)
            Zechariah was a prophet in Jerusalem.  He was the son of Berechiah, who was “the son of Iddo the Prophet” (v. 1). Iddo was one of “the priests and the Levites” who accompanied Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, home from exile in Babylon (see Nehemiah 12:1, 4, 7) (Old Testament Student Manual−1 Kings-Malachi, (SM)  p. 341).  His ministry is dated approximately from 520 B.C. to 518 B.C.; he prophesied at the same time as a witness of Haggai. 
            Although the writings of his visions, like Haggai's, are to encourage the people of Judah to repent and build the temple, "the primary subject of his message is Jesus Christ.  His prophecies about Christ relate to both his ministry in the meridian of time and his second coming" (The Words of the Twelve Prophets, Monte S. and Farres H. Nyman, p. 121).
            Zechariah's book can be divided into two parts:  the first eight chapters include the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple.  Cleon Skousen states "in a single night Zechariah had eight visions which are set forth in his first six chapters" (The Fourth Thousand Years, p. 775). The last six chapters "are prophecies of both appearances of Jesus Christ−his ministry in the flesh and his coming in glory in the last days" (Nyman and Nyman, p. 121-122). 
            The following explanation of the visions is from the Student Manual (p. 341):
"The [exiled] people began to lose faith in God. These visions of Zechariah thus came at a most important crisis. To his [Zechariah's] countrymen they were a bright panorama of hope, revealing the marvelous providence of God, and His love for His people."

The Book of Malachi (from my chapter summaries book: The Last Twelve Prophets)
            Malachi was the last prophet in Judah to write in the Old Testament.  His name means "my messenger" which seems appropriate for a prophet.  Scholars believe his book was written about 430 B.C., "nearly one hundred years after Jews began returning from Babylon to the land of Israel" (Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide-Malachi).
            Malachi followed Haggai and Zechariah, who also prophesied in Judah after the remnant returned to Jerusalem.  He is thought to be a contemporary of Nehemiah―prophesying about "four hundred years before the birth of Christ" (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, p. 351).  "[He] is one of the most frequently quoted Old Testament prophets.  New Testament writers quoted Malachi’s writings, the resurrected Savior quoted some of Malachi’s teachings to the Nephites so they would have them in their records, and the angel Moroni quoted some of Malachi to the young Prophet Joseph Smith, telling him that Malachi’s prophecies would be fulfilled in the latter days." (Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide―Malachi.)
            It is interesting to note that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem in approximately 600 B.C., "nearly two hundred years before the time of Malachi. The Nephites, therefore, could not have obtained the words of Malachi except from the Lord." (See 3 Nephi 24 and 25.)  However, the Nephites in the Western Hemisphere had many prophets continuing up to the end of the Nephite people (recorded in the Book of Mormon.) (Old Testament Teachers Resource Manual, 2003, pp. 215-217.)
            Malachi's ministry was to call the people to repentance and remind them of the Lord's promises to them . "He taught about the restoration of priesthood sealing power, marriage and divorce, and tithes and offerings. He also prophesied concerning a messenger who would precede the Second Coming of the Savior. Much of the book of Malachi applies to the latter days." (Old Testament Student Manual−1Kings-Malachi, (SM), pp. 351-356).

Prophecies that have been fulfilled in preparation for the Second Coming
 Malachi 3:1 - "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts."
 "Malachi prophesied that a messenger would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord’s mortal ministry, and Joseph Smith is the messenger who prepared the way for the Second Coming" (see Matthew 11:10; Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:193–95, 3:10–14; quoted from Teacher's Manual).
Malachi 4:5 - "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:"
 President Ezra Taft Benson said, “[The Savior’s] coming will be both glorious and terrible, depending on the spiritual condition of those who remain” ("Prepare Yourself for the Great Day of the Lord,” New Era, May 1982, 49; quoted in the Teacher's Manual).
"Malachi prophesied that the prophet Elijah would return before the Second Coming. …This prophecy was fulfilled when Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple (April 3, 1836), restoring the keys of the sealing power" (see D&C 110:13–16) (Teacher's Manual).
Malachi 4:6 - "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
 Q. What does this mean?  A. "It means to be sealed to all our ancestors—our 'fathers'—and to all our posterity—our 'children'—forever. Because of the sealing power of the priesthood and the temple ordinances for the living and the dead, families can be bound together for eternity" (Teacher's Manual). (See also Luke 1:17; 3 Nephi 25:5–6; D&C 2:1–3; Joseph Smith—History 1:37–39.)

Prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled before the Savior comes
Zechariah 10:6-9 - "And they of Ephraim  [in the latter-days] shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord.  I will hiss [call] for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed [saved] them: and they shall increase as they have increased.  And I will sow [scatter] them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again [to the Lord]."
"Those who follow Christ… will find a God who cares for His people, who uses them to carry out His purposes in the earth, and who will restore both Judah and Ephraim to their rightful place before the Lord" (Student Manual, p. 346).
Zechariah 12:1-4; 8-9 - "The burden [message of doom] of the word of the LORD for [the enemies of] Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth and formeth the spirit of man within him" (v. 1).
            The Lord will make Jerusalem a "cup of trembling" to the people round about when they come "in the siege" both against Judah and Jerusalem.  In that day, Jerusalem will become "a burdensome stone" when "all the people of the earth [are] gathered together against it."  The Lord will smite every horse and rider [symbolic of military power] as he will watch over Judah. (vv. 2-4).
            "In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem" (vv. 8-9).
"A great war will be fought in and around Jerusalem, but the Lord will intervene and save the inhabitants of Jerusalem from destruction" (Teacher's Manual).
            "Many of the prophecies of the last days include tragedies such as war, natural disasters, and widespread wickedness" (Teacher's Manual).   
 D&C 38:28-30 - "And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives.  Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land. I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."

Prophecies that will be fulfilled when the Savior comes
Zechariah 12:10 - "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace [mercy] and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced [crucified], and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
Zechariah Chapter 13—Two Parts of the People Will Die
            As we left Jerusalem (in chapter 12), all the people were in mourning as they have seen with their own eyes, that Jesus is the Messiah.  Now, the Lord continues: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (v. 1). —This is a direct reference to the "waters of baptism" needed to wash away the sins and uncleanness of those who have been spared in Israel (Nyman & Nyman, p. 133).
            "In that day" the Lord will cut off the names of the idols, because the Messiah has revealed himself to the people. The false prophets and unclean spirits will leave the land and be remembered no more.  And if any son tries to prophesy falsely, he will be accused by his father and mother, who will "thrust him through" for his lies in the name of the Lord.  "In that day" all the false prophets will be ashamed and revealed for their false visions.  And he shall say, "I am no prophet" but a keeper of cattle  (vv. 2-5).
            Then, one shall say unto him [Christ], "What are these wounds in thine hands?"  Then he shall answer, "Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends" (v. 6).
In the next verse, Zechariah skips to the meridian of time when Christ is betrayed and taken prisoner by the chief priests and soldiers: The Lord cries, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd [Christ], and against the man that is my fellow [who stands next to me], smite the shepherd, and the sheep [the disciples] shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones" (v. 7).
“The offending of the disciples took place when Jesus was taken prisoner, and they all fled. This flight was a prelude to the dispersion of the flock at the death of the shepherd. But the Lord soon brought back His hand over the disciples. The promise, ‘But after my resurrection I will go before you into Galilee,’ is a practical exposition [explanation] of the bringing back of the hand over the small ones, which shows that the expression is to be understood here in a good sense, and that it began to be fulfilled in the gathering together of the disciples by the risen Saviour.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:399; quoted in SM, p. 348.)
Again, as is true also with Isaiah, Zechariah switches back to the battle of Armageddon with a prophecy that two-thirds [parts] of the people of the land will be "cut off and die."  The one-third [part] who have come through the fire, he will "refine"  and "will try them as gold is tried:"  [thus humbled] they will call on his name, "and I will hear them:" I will say, "It is my people;" and they shall say, "The LORD is my God" (vv. 8-9).
"But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.  And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."  (3 Nephi:24:3-4.)

Chapter 14—The Second Coming of the Lord
            "The day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil [wealth] shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled [robbed], and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth, into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (vv. 1-2). 
            "Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle."  And in that day "his feet shall stand… upon the mount of Olives, which …shall cleave [in two] in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."  The righteous saints will flee before the terrible earthquake to the valley in the middle of the mountain for safety where the Lord has come (vv. 4-5).
"As the Jews flee through this avenue of escape they will see their Messiah who has come to deliver them. In gratitude and joy they will throw themselves at the feet of the Deliverer and discover the wounds in His hands and feet. Suddenly they will realize that their Messiah is the Messiah who came to them before, and the Jewish nation will be converted to their God"  (SM. p. 294).
 “All [the prophets] speak of [this day]; and when that time comes, the Lord [will] come out of His hiding place. You can see what a terrible condition it is going to be; and the Jews besieged, not only in Jerusalem but, of course, throughout Palestine are in the siege; and when they are about to go under, then the Lord comes. ” (Smith, Signs of the Times, p. 170; quoted in SM, p. 294.)
Now, as was shown to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi1:15-19) at the time of Christ's birth, for a day and a night and a day, there is no darkness "that at evening time it shall be light" (vv. 6-7) (Nyman & Nyman, p. 134).
        In that day "living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea [Mediterranean], and half of them toward the hinder sea [Dead Sea]: in summer and in winter shall it be" (v. 8).
"This [earth]quake will evidently create a huge spring in Jerusalem which will form a new river, flowing westward to the Mediterranean Sea and eastward to the Dead Sea (see Zechariah 14:8–9; Joel 3:18; Ezekiel 47:1–5). Because of this river, the Dead Sea will have its waters healed, that is, it will become a lake with verdant foliage surrounding its shores and fish teeming in its waters (see Ezekiel 47:6–12)(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 286; quoted in SM, p. 294.)
            "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one" (v. 9). And the land shall be turned into a plain; and it will be lifted up, and inhabited in her place.  "The area around Jerusalem, which is now very hilly and steep, will be smoothed out and become like a plain” (SM, p. 134).  The land will be inhabited and there shall be no more destruction; and Jerusalem will become a place of safety (vv. 10-11).
            The Lord will send a plague to all those who fought against Jerusalem; "Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth."  In that day, a great tumult from the Lord [confusion or panic] will result in fighting among the heathen.  Judah will conquer those armies of nations who have come to Jerusalem with their gold, silver, and apparel, and they will gather it together in great abundance.  And, those from the defeated armies of the nations who have survived will be converted to the Lord and will keep the yearly feast of tabernacles at Jerusalem (vv. 12-16). 
            And to the families left in the earth who will not worship "the King, the LORD of hosts" will the Lord withhold rain.  The Lord particularly mentions the "family of Egypt" who, if they refuse to keep the feast of tabernacles, will not have rain and the Lord will send a plague on them.  This is the same punishment for all nations who refuse to worship the Lord (vv. 17-19).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented: “During the millennium, the Lord will use the forces of nature to turn people’s attention to the truth.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 499; quoted
in SM, p. 348.)
 D&C 45:56-57 "And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day."  Now, in the wonderful Millennial day even the bells on the horses will say, "HOLLINESS UNTO THE LORD;" and all the pots in Jerusalem will serve the Lord as they are used to cook their meals.  "[And] in that day, there shall be no more the ‘Canaanite’ in the house of the LORD of hosts" (vv. 20-21).
Joel 3:17―" So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more."
"In beautiful imagery, Zechariah taught that in the Millennium peace and righteousness will prevail to a point where everything (symbolized by such trifles as the trappings on horses and earthen jars) shall be holy and pure and where ‘there shall be no more the Canaanite [the wicked] in the house of the Lord of hosts’” (SM, p. 248-249).

Malachi teaches about the blessings that come to those who pay tithes and offerings
            "Will a man rob god? Yet ye have robbed me.  But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?" and the Lord answers: "In tithes and offerings."  And for that the whole nation is cursed. The Lord urges them: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat [food] in mine house, and prove [test] me now herewith…if  I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (vv. 7-10).
            "To Israel, ancient and modern, the Lord promised to ‘open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it’ (v. 10). All material and spiritual things are His to give as He sees fit. Included in His ‘blessings from heaven’ are revelations from Him in one’s personal life. All blessings are, of course, conditional (see D&C 82:10; 130:21; 132:5). He desires to bless His faithful children abundantly" (see 1 Corinthians 2:9) (SM. p. 354).
            "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.  And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land" (vv. 11-12).
  “The devourer” may mean locusts and other pests to agriculture, but it may refer to Satan as well.…The implication is that our efforts to provide for ourselves would be blessed and bear fruit in their season" (SM, p. 354).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: "The Lord will open the windows of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on His work” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 60; or Ensign, May 1982, 40; quoted in the Teacher's Manual).


For additional study see "Prophesied [latter-day] appearances of the Savior" and "When will the Second Coming occur?" in the Teacher's manual (lds.org/manuals).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Old Testament Scriptural Selections
From the books of Ezra and Nehemiah
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #47
"Let Us Rise Up and Build" - Nehemiah 2:18
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 220-24
Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, (1982), 311-316

From the Student Manual:  “Nehemiah’s energy, ability, unselfish patriotism, and personal integrity brought a new, exuberant Judah into existence once again. The restoration of Jerusalem, which had lain in ruins for a century and a half, was begun. Ezra, a righteous, dedicated priest, joined Nehemiah in this work, and together they succeeded in restoring a Jewish community in Jerusalem once again” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi [1982], 314).

The purpose of this lesson: "To encourage class members to help build Zion and to show Christlike love to those who oppose the work of the Lord."
            "[Just] as the Jews had the responsibility to rebuild Jerusalem, Latter-day Saints have the responsibility to build Zion throughout the world. To help us do this, we need to follow the teachings in the scriptures and participate in temple work. [Some] people will try to stop the work of the Lord. We should show Christlike love to them but not allow them to distract us from our efforts to build the kingdom of God" (Teacher's Manual).
King Cyrus the Great
            Our story must begin with Cyrus.  He was a man destined to rewrite the history of the world and the world of the Jews taken captive to Babylon when Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed in 587 B.C
            "Cyrus the Great emerged in history in 559  B.C. as ruler of the little province of Anshan, a district in northwestern Elam [southern Iran] just south of Media and east of the Zagros Mountains. …[Within] ten years Cyrus made himself master of the Median empire comprising modern Persia, northern Assyria, Armenia, and Asia Minor as far west as the river Halys"[a river in Asia Minor that flows into the Black Sea, (biblehistory.com/maps)]. Two years later he had extended his empire from Turkey to Greece.
            "[In] 539  B.C., Cyrus advanced against Babylon, which opened its gates to him without a battle. [According to Daniel, [King] Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall telling him of the fall of Babylon the very night before Cyrus entered the city and brought an end to the Babylonian empire (see Daniel 5)]. Indeed, [Cyrus] seems to have been welcomed by the populace as a friend and benefactor. Thus Cyrus became master of all western Asia.
            “Cyrus was a born ruler of men. He inaugurated a new policy in the treatment of conquered peoples. Instead of tyrannizing over them and holding them in subjection by brute force, he treated his subjects with consideration and won them as his friends. He was particularly considerate of the religions of conquered peoples. The effect of this policy was to weld his subjects to him in a loyalty which made his reign an era of peace.” (Elmer W. K. Mould, Essentials of Bible History, pp. 348–49; quoted from the Student Manual, 311.)
            The Jewish historian Josephus wrote: “In the first year of the reign of Cyrus, which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated [mourned] the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity. And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: ‘Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea.’
            “This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1) left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: ‘My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple.’ This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished [150 years before Cyrus was born] (emphasis added).  Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfil what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighbourhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices.” (Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 11, chap. 1, pars. 1–2; quoted from the Student Manual, 312.)

King Cyrus allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple
Ezra Q & A from the Teacher's Manual
Q. Why did Cyrus decree that a temple should be built again in Jerusalem?
A. Ezra 1:1-2 -"Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah."
Cyrus knew of Isaiah's scripture: "That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (Isaiah 44:28). "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;" (Isaiah 45:1).  Also, Cyrus was a leader who treated his subjects with consideration thus inspiring loyalty and peace.
Q.  What did the Samaritans ask of the returning Jews?
A.  Ezra 4:1-2 -  "Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel;  2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither."
Q.  What did the returned Jews answer?
A.  Ezra 4:3 - "But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us."  They refused their help.
Q. What did the Samaritans do when the Jews refused to let them help?
A.  Ezra 4:4-7 - "Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.  And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue."
Ezra 4:21 - (Artaxerxes, the king wrote back) "Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me."  They wrote letters to the kings and Darius caused the work on the temple at Jerusalem to cease.
Q. What prompted the Jews to resume their work several years later?
A.  Ezra 5:1-2 - "Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israeleven unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them."
Haggai 1:34; 7-8 - "Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying,
 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled [paneled] houses, and this house lie waste?  Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.  Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord."  The prophets inspired the people to begin working on the temple again.
Q.  What did the Jews explain to King Darius who allowed the work to continue?
A.  Ezra 5:13 - "But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God."
Ezra 6: 1-3 - "Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded;"
Ezra 6:7 - [King Darius wrote back] "Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place." King Cyrus made a decree allowing the "house" to be built.
Q.  What did the Jews do when the temple was finished?
A.  Ezra 6: 15-16 "And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy." They dedicated the Temple, made sacrifices, kept the Passover, purified the priests and the Levites, "And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel" (Ezra 6:17-22).

Ezra leads another group of Jews back to Jerusalem
            From the Teacher's Manual: "Just as the Lord had earlier moved the heart of King Cyrus to free the Jews, He moved the heart of King Artaxerxes to let Ezra’s group of Jews return to Jerusalem." 
            "[Ezra was] a famous priest and scribe who brought back part of the exiles from captivity (Ezra 7–10; Neh. 8; 12). The object of his mission was 'to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.' In 458 B.C. he obtained from Artaxerxes an important edict (Ezra 7:12–26) allowing him to take to Jerusalem any Jewish exiles who cared to go, along with offerings for the temple with which he was entrusted, and giving to the Jews various rights and privileges. He was also directed to appoint magistrates and judges" (Bible Dictionary).
            Ezra had the people fast and pray for guidance and protection as they journeyed to Jerusalem. "Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way" (Ezra 8:31).  On arriving in Jerusalem his first reform was to cause the Jews to separate from their foreign wives, and a list is given of those who had offended in this way (Ezra 10).
            "The later history of Ezra is found in the book of Nehemiah, which is a sequel to the book of Ezra. Along with Nehemiah he took steps to instruct the people in the Mosaic law (Neh. 8). Hitherto 'the law' had been to a great extent the exclusive possession of the priests. It was now brought within the reach of every Jew. The open reading of 'the book of the law' was a new departure and marked the law as the center of Jewish national life" (lds.org/scriptures/study helps/bible dictionary).

Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem and leads the people in rebuilding the walls to protect the city
            "[Nehemiah's name means] Comfort of the Lord.  A Jew (either a Levite or of the tribe of Judah) who held the important office of 'cupbearer' [requiring Nehemiah to ensure that the king’s food and drink were safe] at the court of Artaxerxes, from whom he obtained a royal commission authorizing him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The book of Nehemiah (which is a continuation of Ezra, the two being regarded by the Jews as forming one book) contains an account of the progress and difficulties of the work and its final completion" (lds.org/scriptures/Study Helps/Bible Dictionary).
Q.  What did Nehemiah do when he heard of the difficulties of his people in Jerusalem?
A.  He wept, fasted and prayed for the children of Israel (Nehemiah 1:4-11).
Q.  How did King Artaxerxes respond to Nehemiah’s request to return to Jerusalem?
A.  The king granted Nehemiah permission to go, provided him guards and an escort for safety, and authorized him to use timber from the forest to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah 2: 6-8).
Q.  How did Nehemiah encourage the people to rebuild the walls around the city? 
A. Nehemiah 2:17-18 - "Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work."
Q.  Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, and he and his people were enemies of the Jews who had returned with Zerubbabel. How did Sanballat react to the plans to rebuild the city walls?
A.  Nehemiah 4:1, 11 - "But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease."
Q.  How did the Jews respond to efforts to stop the construction of the walls?
A.  Nehemiah 4:9, 13-15 - "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
13 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight  for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel [plan] to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work."
Q. What did Nehemiah do when Sanballat asked him to stop working and meet with him? 
A.  Nehemiah 6:2-4 - "That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?  Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner."
Elder Marvin J. Ashton counseled: “Certain people and organizations are trying to provoke us into contention with slander, innuendos, and improper classifications. How unwise we are in today’s society to allow ourselves to become irritated, dismayed, or offended because others seem to enjoy the role of misstating our position or involvement. Our principles or standards will not be less than they are because of the statements of the contentious. Ours is to explain our position through reason, friendly persuasion, and accurate facts. Ours is to stand firm and unyielding on the moral issues of the day and the eternal principles of the gospel, but to contend with no man or organization. … Ours is to be heard and teach. Ours is not only to avoid contention, but to see that such things are done away” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 10; or Ensign, May 1978, 8; quoted in the Teacher's Manual).

The people rejoice as Ezra reads the scriptures to them
            When the walls of Jerusalem were finished, the people went to Ezra the scribe and ask him to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.  And he brought the book before the congregation, both men and women, that they could hear and understand it.  Ezra blessed the Lord "and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law:… So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (Nehemiah 8:1-2; 7-8). 
            "And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha [governor], and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.   "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved" (Nehemiah 8:9-11).
            The book was read for seven days "and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner [of the feast of the tabernacles]" (see Zachariah 14:16) (Nehemiah 8:14).

Additional Study
 “The work is great and large, and we are separated” (Nehemiah 4:19)
            "While rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, the Jews separated themselves so they could work simultaneously on different sections of the wall (Nehemiah 3; 4:19). At times they were far apart, but they were all working toward the same goal, and by working together they were able to complete the wall. …[Our] Church is divided into different units (such as families, wards, branches, stakes, districts, and quorums) throughout the world. Sometimes a unit may seem far from other units. But all the Saints are working toward the same goals, and if each individual and each unit works diligently, the entire Church will continue to grow" (From the Teacher's Manual).

"Temples Are for Eternal Covenants"

Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277)