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.  Jeremiah 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.  Jeremiah 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.  Jeremiah 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.  Jeremiah 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) 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Old Testament Scriptural Summary and Selections
Daniel Chapter 2; D&C 65:2
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #46
"A Kingdom Which Will Never Be Destroyed" - Daniel 2:44
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 2016-19
Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, (1982), 298-99
The Old Testament Made Easier, Part Three, David J. Ridges

             Elder LeGrand Richards said: "Search this world over and you cannot find a church that claims a restitution of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets except The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
            "[Just] think of the coming of the Father and the Son to teach the real personality of the Godhead; the coming of Moroni with the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated; the coming of John the Baptist…with the Aaronic priesthood, the power to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins; the coming of Peter, James, and John who held the keys of the holy apostleship, with power to organize the church and kingdom of God in the earth for the last time, in fulfillment of the promise made by Daniel in his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (emphasis added).
            "The king had forgotten his dream, and he called all the soothsayers and the wise men and astrologers, and none of them could tell him his dream. He heard of the man Daniel and sent for him, and Daniel said: “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28). Then Daniel told him about the rise and fall of the kingdoms of this world until the latter days, when the God of heaven would set up a kingdom that should never be destroyed or given to another people. But like a little stone cut out of the mountains without hands, it would roll forth until it should become as a great mountain and fill the whole earth (see Dan. 2:44–45)" (CR, The Scriptures Speak, April 1980, lds.org).
           
            The purpose of this lesson is: "To strengthen class members’ testimonies of the restored Church of Jesus Christ and encourage them to help build the kingdom of God on earth" (from the Teacher's Manual).          

Daniel Chapter 2 - Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is revealed to Daniel
            In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and it troubled his spirit so he couldn't sleep.  And the king commanded that the magicians, the astrologers, and the sorcerers be called before him to interpret his dream. And they said to the king, "tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew [show] the interpretation." The king decided to test their power and told them falsely "The thing is gone from me" (see footnote 5a).  And he told them if they couldn't "make known" to him the dream and the interpretation of it he would destroy them and make their houses "a dunghill."  Then he promised, "if ye shew the dream and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts, and rewards and great honour" (vv. 1-6).
            Once again the magicians, astrologers and sorcerers asked the king to tell them the dream but the king knew with the passing of time, they would prepare "lying and corrupt words to speak" before him, "til the time be changed." The soothsayers answered, "There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter" except the gods, "whose dwelling is not with flesh" and  no king, lord or ruler should ask that of them or anyone else. This angered the king and he commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed.  "And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain" (vv. 8-13).
            When Daniel spoke "with counsel and wisdom" to the captain of the kings guard, Arioch, who was to slay the wise men of Babylon, he asked, "Why is the decree so hasty from the king?"  And Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.  So Daniel appeared before the king and told him if he would give him time, he would "shew the king the interpretation."  Then Daniel went to his house and told his companions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to pray for "mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret" that they and the rest of the wise men of Babylon would not perish (vv. 14-18).
            In a night vision, "the God of heaven" blesses Daniel with the king's secret.  And Daniel answered, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him" (vv. 19-22).
            And Daniel gave thanks and praise to the God of his fathers, who gave him wisdom and might, and made known unto him what was desired in the king's matter.  Daniel asks Arioch to take him before the king and he will interpret the king's dream. In haste Arioch tells the king that he has found a man of the captives of Judah who will make known the interpretaion.  The king asks Daniel, "Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?" Daniel answers the king telling him the secret demanded of the mystics can only be revealed by the God in heaven making known to Nebuchadnezzar "what shall be in the [future] latter days." Daniel humbly tells the king the secret that has been reavealed to him is not because of any wisdom that he [Daniel] has more than anyone else [it can only come from God] (vv. 23-28, 30).
            Then, he tells the king what he saw in his dream. "Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image…whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible [overwhelming]. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of sliver, his belly and his thighs of brass.  His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay" (vv. 31-33).
               From President Spencer W. Kimball:
1.    The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom of Babylon.
2.    The breast and arms of silver represented Cyrus and his kingdom of Media and Persia.
3.    The belly and thighs of brass represented Philip and Alexander and the Greek or Macedonian kingdom.
4.    The legs of iron represented the Roman Empire.
5.    The feet of iron and clay represented a group of European nations. (In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 10; or Ensign, May 1976, 8) (see vv. 38-43).
Daniel continues, "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands [the work of God, the true Church; Ridges, p. 435], which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces" (v. 34).
Ridges comments: "[The] stone representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, goes forth into the whole earth, destroying all earthly kingdoms until it fills the earth (see D&C 65:2; D&C 87:6)."
 "One other consideration about the stone or rock,…is that Jesus Christ is often referred to in scripture as the 'Rock of our salvation,' the sure Foundation.  He and His gospel will ultimately overcome all obstacles and enemies and fill the earth with truth and light" (Ridges, p. 435).
"Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (v. 35). Now Daniel tells the king, "And in the days of these kings (see vv. 38-43) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left [given] to other peoplebut it shall break in pieces and consume all these [other] kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (v. 44).
D&C 65:2 - "The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth."
President Kimball taught: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored in 1830. … This is the kingdom, set up by the God of heaven, that would never be destroyed nor superseded, and the stone cut out of the mountain without hands that would become a great mountain and would fill the whole earth” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 10; or Ensign, May 1976, 8–9, quoted in the Teacher's Manual).
            And Daniel tells the king, "Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure" (v. 45). Then the king fell on his face and he knew Daniel had spoken the truth of the dream and it's interpretation. The king said to Daniel, "Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." And the king "made him [Daniel] ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon" (vv. 46-48).

President Gordon B. Hinckley testified: “This Church is true. It will weather every storm that beats against it. It will outlast every critic who rises to mock it. It was established by God our Eternal Father for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations. It carries the name of Him who stands as its head, even the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. It is governed and moves by the power of the priesthood. It sends forth to the world another witness of the divinity of the Lord. Be faithful, my friends. Be true. Be loyal to the great things of God which have been revealed in this dispensation” (“Keep the Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 1985, 6, quoted in the Teacher's Manual, lds.org).



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Old Testament Scriptural Summaries and Selections
Chapter Summaries Daniel, 1, 3, 6; Esther 3-8
Gospel Doctrine Class, Sunday School Lesson #45
"If I Perish, I Perish" - Esther 4:16
Reference: Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, (2001), 2011-15
Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, (1982), 297-9
The Old Testament Made Easier, Part Three, David J. Ridges

Daniel
            A summary from The Student Manual: "Like many of his brethren the prophets, Daniel was prepared and raised up as a minister to kings and emperors. At the time that Nebuchadnezzar first carried the Jews captive into Babylon (about 605 B.C.), Daniel was chosen as one of the choicest Jewish youths to be taken to Babylon and trained for service in the king’s court. Because of his righteousness and sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit, he was greatly favored of God. The Lord blessed him with the gift of interpreting dreams and visions. This endowment soon made him an object of greater attention from the emperor, and he was raised to positions that enabled him to spend his life in service to the kings of the land. He became the Lord’s minister to those rulers. He was made chief of the wise men, chancellor of the equivalent of a national university, ruler of all the Hebrew captives, and, as governor of the province of Babylon, one of the chief rulers in both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. Though at times his life was endangered because of the jealousy of evil men, yet he lived so perfectly that the Lord continually protected and preserved him" (p. 297) (Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, (1982), 297-9).
          
"The purpose of this lesson is to help class members have the courage to live according to gospel standards."
           
Daniel 1 - Daniel  and friends refuses to eat and drink the king's provision
            "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah" Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon conquered Jerusalem (v. 1).   At that time Nebuchadnezzar sought to "bring certain of the children of Israel" who were unblemished, "cunning in knowledge and understanding in science" to Babylon where they would learn the language of the Chaldeans [another name for Babylonians] and serve in the king's palace (vv. 3-4).  Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were included with these "children of Judah."  And, the prince of the eunuchs [servants in the palace] renamed Daniel and his three friends Belteshazzar, Shaddrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (vv. 6-7).  The king's plan was to nourish those chosen for three years with a daily provision of "meat" [food] and "wine" before "they might stand before the him in his court" (v. 5). 
"It is almost certain that the 'king's meat' included the meat of several different kinds of animals, many of which would have been against the Jews'…law of Moses …and had not been bled before cooking" (Ridges, p. 430).
"But Daniel purposed [committed-footnote 8a] in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine."  Daniel asked the prince of the eunuchs to give him and his friends ten days to prove themselves eating only pulse (foods made of seeds, and grains such as peas, wheat, barley and rye, Student Manual, p. 298), with only water to drink. And the king's servant consented (vv. 8-14).  "And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat."  And Melzar [the eunuch] took away the king's meat and wine for the rest of the Israelite children and gave them pulse (v. 15-16).
            And the Lord blessed the four children with "knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom."  At the end of the time that the king had declared, they were brought before Nebuchadnezzar.  "And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm" (vv. 17-20). 
"The Hebrew word for astrologers and magicians is Ahshaphim, which means an enchanter who uses incantations and who practices hidden arts (see Davidson, Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, pp. li–lii). These people were frequently associated with evil spirits (see Acts 8:9–24). Daniel and his brethren were founded in truth and revelation from God and were thus of much greater wisdom and understanding than the king’s magicians and astrologers" (quoted from the Student Manual, p. 298).

 Daniel 3 - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are cast into the fiery furnace
            Nebuchadnezzar, the king "made an image [a man] of gold whose height was threescore cubits [ninety feet tall, SM p. 299]…and he set it up in the plain of Dura." 
Dura - Easton's Bible Dictionary
"The circle, the plain near Babylon in which Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image, mentioned in Dan. 3:1. The place still retains its ancient name. On one of its many mounds the pedestal of what must have been a colossal statue has been found. It has been supposed to be that of the golden image" (Internet: Biblehub.com).
All the princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counsellors, sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces were gathered for the dedication of the image.  All were told that when they heard the music, they were to bow down and worship the golden image.  And those who didn't fall down and worship would be "cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace" (vv. 1-6).
            When the music sounded the people fell down and worshipped the golden image.  Now, certain Chaldeans came near and accused the Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego of failing to worship the idol, and they were summoned to appear before the king (vv. 8, 13).  Nebuchadnezzar ask them, "do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image?…if ye worship not, ye shall be cast that same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" (vv. 14-15).  And they answered, …our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O King." And they told the king they would not serve his gods, nor worship the golden image, "which thou hast set up" (vv. 17-18).  The king was so full of fury that he commanded the furnace be heated "one seven times more than it was wont to be heated." Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were bound and cast into the furnace.  It was so hot that the men who cast them in were burned up in the flames of the fire (vv. 19-22).
            And the three men "fell down bound" in the midst of the furnace.  And Nebuchadnezzar said, "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (vv. 23, 25).  Now the king called to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego saying, "ye servants of the most high God, come forth" and they came forth out of the fire.  And everyone saw that the fire had no power on their bodies, nor was their hair singed or their clothing burned (vv. 26-27).  Then the king spoke, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God."  And he sent out a decree "That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces," and their houses destroyed: "because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.  Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the province of Babylon" (vv. 28-30).

Daniel 6 - Daniel prays to God and is cast into the lions den
            Darius,  the king, set one hundred and twenty princes over all his kingdom.  And he appointed three presidents "of whom Daniel was first" [one]- footnote 2a] for the princes to give accounts to.  Daniel was preferred by the king over all the presidents and princes because of his excellent "spirit" [Holy Ghost, Light of Christ] "and the king thought to set him over the whole realm" (vv. 1-4).
            Now the presidents and princes sought to find something against Daniel but could not as he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.  Then all the princes, presidents and rulers consulted together and went to the king asking him to establish a royal statute [law], and to make a decree "that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions…and sign the writing that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians which altereth not."  And King Darius signed the writing and the decree (vv. 4-9).
            Daniel knew of the writing and the decree signed by the king but nevertheless continued to pray three times a day on his knees in his house giving thanks to his God as he did before.  When the men found Daniel praying, they went to inform the king and to remind him of his decree.  And the king was displeased with himself "and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him" but could not.  So the king commanded that they bring Daniel and cast him into the den of lions and he said to him, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee."  And the king sealed the mouth of the den with a stone so that "the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel" (vv. 10-17).
            The king went to his palace solemnly fasting all the night without sleeping.  In the early morning he hurried to the den of lions and called out to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually able to deliver thee from the lions?" And Daniel replied, "My God hath sent his angel and hath shut the lions mouths, that they have not hurt me" as my God knew I was innocent; "and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt."  The king was "exceedingly glad" and Daniel was taken from the den.  No hurt was found on him, "because he believed in his God" (vv. 18-23).
            King Darius commanded, and those men who accused Daniel were cast into the den of lions along with their children and their wives.  Then he wrote to all people, nations, and languages, and made a decree, "That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.…who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."  And Daniel prospered during the reigns of Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian (vv. 24-28).
“He had served five kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Few courtiers have had so long a reign, served so many masters without flattering any, been more successful in their management of public affairs, been so useful to the states where they were in office, or have been more owned of God, or have left such an example to posterity.” (Clarke, Commentary, 4:590; quoted in the Student Manual, p. 304.)

The Book of Esther
            "[Esther] contains the history that led to the institution of the Jewish Feast of Purim. The story belongs to the time of the Captivity [in Babylon]. Ahasuerus, king of Persia (most probably Xerxes), had decided to divorce his queen Vashti because she refused to show her beauty to the people and the princes. Esther, adopted daughter of Mordecai the Jew, was chosen as her successor on account of her beauty. Haman, chief man at the king’s court, hated Mordecai and, having cast lots to find a suitable day, obtained a decree to put all Jews to death. Esther, at great personal risk, revealed her own nationality and obtained a reversal of the decree. It was decided that two days of feasting should be annually observed in honor of this deliverance. They were called Purim because of the lot (Pur) that Haman had cast for the destruction of the Jews.
            The book contains no direct reference to God, but He is everywhere taken for granted, as the book infers a providential destiny (Esther 4:13–16) and speaks of fasting for deliverance. There have been doubts at times as to whether it should be admitted to the canon of scripture. But the book has a religious value as containing a most striking illustration of God’s overruling providence in history and as exhibiting a very high type of courage, loyalty, and patriotism" (lds.org/scriptures/study helps/bible dictionary/Esther).

From the Teacher's Manual:  "Esther was a Jewish woman who lived shortly after the time of Daniel. After her parents died, she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Esther was very beautiful, and Ahasuerus, the king of Persia and Media, was so pleased with her beauty that he made her his queen."

Esther risks her life to save her people
            Our story begins in chapter three when King Ahasuerus promotes Hamon chief minister above all other princes in his kingdom.  The king commanded that all his servants bow down and reverence Haman.  When Mordecai met him at the city gate, he did not bow or reverence him.  When the king's servants questioned Mordecai, he told them that he was a Jew.  This caused Haman to be full of wrath [anger] "wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai" (vv. 3:1-6).
            Haman went to the king and said to him, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them."  Haman told the king if he would "let it be written that they may be destroyed" he [Haman] would pay ten thousand talents of silver into the king's treasuries.  So the king's scribes came and it was written as Haman commanded, sealed with the king's ring,  and sent to all the governors and rulers over every province.  It stated that on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, all Jews, both young and old, children and women, were to be killed and all their spoil was to be taken (3:7-14).
            In every province where the decree was sent, "there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes." When Mordecai perceived all that was done, he "rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry (4:1-3).
            Now Queen Esther was told of the command and was "exceedingly grieved." She asked Hatach, one of the servants appointed to attend her, to ask Mordecai "what it was and why it was."  And Mordecai told the servant all that had happened.  He gave Hatach a copy of the decree "and [told him] to charge her that she should go in unto the king; to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people."  Esther sent word to Mordecai that all the kingdom knew the law if man or woman went into the court, who was not called by the king, he would be killed except if the king "shall hold out the golden sceptre" that he may live.  And she had not been called unto the king for thirty days. When Mordecai heard Esther's words he answered her: " Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement [HEB relief] and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (4:4-14).
            And Esther answered Mordecai: " Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan [under Cyrus the capital of the Persian Empire, Bible Dictionary] and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." So Mordecai did all that Esther commanded him (4:15-17).
            The scriptures tell us on the third day, Esther dressed in her "royal apparel" and stood in the inner court of the king's house.  The king saw her and he held out the golden sceptre.  She drew near and "touched the top of the sceptre."  Then she invited the king and Haman to a banquet she prepared for him.  At the banquet of wine the king said to Esther, "What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to half of the kingdom it shall be performed."  And Esther answered, "If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them and I will do to morrow as the king hath said" (5:1-8).
            Again, Haman saw Mordecai at the king's gate "that he stood not up, nor moved for him."  But Haman restrained himself and returned home happy that the queen invited only him and the king to her banquet. Nevertheless, that day Haman had gallows built so that Mordecai could be hanged before the banquet (5:9-14).
            That night the king could not sleep and commanded that the book of records of the chronicles be read to him.  He found written that the Jew, Mordecai, had once rescued him from a plot to lay hands on the king, Ahasuerus.  And Haman was in the court to request the hanging of Mordecai.  Seeing Haman the king ask him what should be done to the man which he wished to honor.  Haman thinking the honor was to be his, suggested he be given royal clothing and crown along with the royal horse.  And the king ordered Haman to do as he suggested and told him to take the clothing and the horse to Mordecai and bring him through the city streets riding on the royal horse.  Haman mourned that instead of hanging Mordecai he was ordered to honor him (6:1-11).
            On the second day of the banquet the king again ask Esther, "What is thy petition?"  Then she answered, "If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish" (7:3-4).  And the king ask Esther who would dare to do so, and she answered it was Haman.  So they took Haman away and hung him on the gallows he had built to hang Mordecai (7:5-10).
            Now Esther asked the king to reverse Haman's plot to kill the Jews and letters were sent throughout the kingdom "…and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language" (8:5-6, 9).
            "And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them" (8:15-17).
           "Purim (Feast of Esther) is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month Adar, or exactly four weeks before Passover. It is held in honor of Esther, a beautiful Jewish queen" (lds.org/ Scriptures/ Study Helps/Bible Dictionary).

The ultimate blessings of courageous obedience
             "Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Mordecai all had the courage to do what was right, even when doing so put their lives at risk." Others from the scriptures who overcame trials with courage and obedience were Sarah, Joseph sold into Egypt, the Savior, Nephi, Alma and Amulek and our own prophet Joseph Smith (see referenced scriptures in the Teacher's Manual).