Ezekiel was a man gifted with a powerful intellect, much knowledge, and an overwhelming love and devotion to God and his people. His bold declarations concerning Jerusalem, the Jews, and the surrounding nations destroyed any false hope that Jerusalem would survive. Their captivity was a result of God’s judgments against their wickedness (see this manual’s introduction to the book of Ezekiel, p. 186 ). As you study Ezekiel 4–32 , notice how Ezekiel tried to convince the Jews of their desperate situation.
Some Important Gospel Principles To Look For
- The Lord (Jehovah) inspires prophets to use parables, allegories, and other symbols as powerful tools to teach gospel principles (see Ezekiel 4 ; 5:1–5 ; 15 ; 16:6–34 ).
- The Lord has the power to destroy the wicked and save the righteous (see Ezekiel 9 ; 25:6–7, 15–17 ; 26:1–6 ; 28:21–22 ; 29:1–16 ).
- We are punished for our own sins and blessed for our righteousness (see Ezekiel 18 ; see also Articles of Faith 1:2 ).
Suggestions For Teaching
Ezekiel 4–18 . The Lord inspires prophets to use parables, allegories, and other symbols as powerful tools to teach gospel principles. Ezekiel used symbolism to convey God’s message to the people. (25–35 minutes)
Show students two pieces of fruit, one ripe and the other unripe. Have students read 1 Nephi 17:36–43 , and ask:
- What do those verses have to do with the fruit?
- When the Lord describes a people as “ripe in iniquity,” is it a compliment? Why not? (see also 2 Nephi 28:16 ; Alma 10:19 ).
- According to the date at the bottom of the page in the Book of Mormon, approximately when did Nephi make the statement in 1 Nephi 17:36–43 ? (591 B.C. )
Have students look in the Bible Dictionary under “chronology” and find the approximate date Ezekiel began his ministry (598 B.C. ). Ask them what they think Ezekiel’s message would be to a people ripened in iniquity, or ready for destruction. Help them understand that Ezekiel’s prophecies centered on the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah.
Tell students that Ezekiel was inspired to use some unusual parables, analogies, and symbols to teach his people. Divide the students into six groups and assign each group one chapter from Ezekiel 5–8 ; 13 ; and 15 . Allow them ten to fifteen minutes to identify the parables, analogies, and symbols used in their chapter, the specific sins that Judah was involved in, and the punishments that would come as a result. Share with each group materials from the commentaries for Ezekiel 5–15 in Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi (pp. 269–72) to help them understand difficult blocks of scripture. Have each group share what they learned with the class.
- What kind of “voices” will the Lord use in the last days?
- Which of these voices do we hear today?
- Why does God sometimes use harsh means to communicate? (His children won’t listen to the scriptures, His servants, or the voice of the Spirit.)
- How are these different voices similar to those the Lord used to warn Israel in Ezekiel’s day?
Encourage students to heed the voice of God whenever He speaks so that they can be protected from the judgments on the wicked. You could end by having a student read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships—in other words, to become more Christlike” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 95; or Ensign , May 1995, 71 ).
Ezekiel 18 . We have agency to choose good or evil regardless of what those around us choose. We will be held accountable for our choices. (15–20 minutes)
Ask students what the following statements have in common. Help them understand that they all deal with the false assumption that our spirituality is determined by other people’s choices.
- God doesn’t care about me. Look at the terrible situation I was born into.
- I don’t have any hope of marrying in the temple. Neither of my parents are active in the Church.
- I don’t feel worthy to pray. Everyone in my family smokes and drinks.
- I don’t have to worry about being saved. My family has been in the Church for generations.
Read Ezekiel 18:1–2 and ask:
- How does this proverb relate to those four statements?
- Are there people who feel that way today?
- Which of the Articles of Faith might comfort someone who felt this way? ( Articles of Faith 1:2 .)
Read the following statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer to help students understand Ezekiel 18:1–2 :
“I know of a father ‘born of goodly parents’ who was an illustrious figure in the academic world. Nominally active in the Church, he never quarreled openly with the doctrines of the Church. He sent his sons on missions, at least some of them. But there were some things about the doctrines of the Church that he felt were a bit beneath him. “His family has moved along in the world, several of them in prominent positions in their chosen fields. Now none of them is active in the Church. In the lives of his children and his children’s children we see the fulfillment of the prophecy that ‘the fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ ( Jeremiah 31:29 .) They have been helped along that way by the folly of their father” ( Teach Ye Diligently, 181).
Have students read Ezekiel 18:4–22 and tell how Ezekiel might have responded to such statements. Read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
“Personal accountability for sin lies at the very root of the plan of salvation. Every man is accountable for his own sins, not for those of another. Men are judged for the deeds they do in the flesh, not for those of another. Men work out their own salvation, not the salvation of another. This is what the plan of salvation is all about—every man being judged according to his own works and every man being awarded his own place in the kingdoms that are prepared” ( A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 100; see also “Agency,” p. 14 in this manual ).
Help your students understand that neither their parents’ sins nor their righteousness determines their children’s standing before the Lord. Neither does it determine what their children can accomplish here on earth. All people can progress and become like Heavenly Father, regardless of their earthly heritage or background. Ask: How is Abraham’s life an example of this principle? (see Abraham 1:5 ). President Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained how this can be done:
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5; or Ensign , Nov. 1985, 6 ).