Paul wrote a letter to the Saints in Rome, proclaiming that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation. He explained that none can be saved by their own works; they must be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, made available through His Atonement.
Read aloud the following statement by Elder Larry Echo Hawk of the Seventy. Explain that as a young man, Elder Echo Hawk had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“I met my drill instructor, a battle-hardened veteran, when he kicked open the door to the barracks and entered while screaming words laced with profanity.
“After this terrifying introduction, he started at one end of the barracks and confronted each recruit with questions. Without exception, the drill instructor methodically found something about each recruit to ridicule with loud, vulgar language. Down the row he came, with each marine shouting back his answer as commanded: ‘Yes’ or ‘No, Sergeant Instructor.’ … When it was my turn, I could tell he grabbed my duffel bag and emptied the contents onto my mattress behind me. He looked through my belongings, then walked back to face me. I braced myself for his attack. In his hand was my Book of Mormon” (“Come unto Me, O Ye House of Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 32).
How would you feel if you were in Elder Echo Hawk’s situation?
What do you think the drill instructor was going to do?
Have you ever been in situations in which you worried your beliefs would be ridiculed? (Consider inviting a few students to share their experiences with the class.)
Invite students to look for truths as they study Romans 1 that can help them when they face ridicule or persecution for their beliefs and standards.
Briefly introduce the book of Romans by inviting a student to read aloud the following paragraph:
The book of Romans is an epistle that Paul wrote to the Saints in Rome near the end of his missionary journeys. He wrote the Roman Saints to prepare them for his arrival, to clarify and defend his teachings, and to promote unity between Jewish and Gentile members of the Church. Rome—the capital of the Roman Empire—was saturated with worldly philosophies and would have been a difficult place to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Summarize Romans 1:1–14 by explaining that Paul began his epistle by testifying of Jesus Christ and expressing his desire to visit the Saints in Rome.
Invite a student to read Romans 1:15–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught the Roman Saints about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What did Paul say the gospel of Jesus Christ is? (Students should identify a truth similar to the following: The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to all who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Write this truth on the board. You may want to suggest that students mark in their scriptures the words or phrases that teach this truth.)
What does the gospel of Jesus Christ allow us to be saved from? (Physical and spiritual death.)
Why must we exercise faith in Jesus Christ to receive the blessings of salvation through the gospel? (Jesus Christ performed the Atonement, which makes our salvation possible.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following explanation of what it means to believe in Jesus Christ and exercise faith in Him:
As used by Paul, the terms belief and faith mean not just mental agreement that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but wholehearted acceptance of and trust in Him as the One who offered Himself in Atonement for our sins. This deep trust leads to a life of faithfulness, manifested by repenting of sins, being baptized, and trying to live as Jesus Christ taught (see Acts 16:30–33; Romans 6:1–11; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11). “Faith in Jesus Christ … is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Salvation,” scriptures.lds.org).
Because Paul knew that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, how did he feel about preaching it? (He was not ashamed [see Romans 1:16].)
How could having a testimony of the power of the gospel influence your desire to share the gospel with others? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: As we gain a testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ has power to save us, then we will not be ashamed to share it with others.)
How can this principle help you when you face persecution or ridicule for your beliefs?
Invite a student to read aloud the next portion of Elder Echo Hawk’s story, and ask the class to listen for how he responded to the drill sergeant.
“I expected that he would yell at me; instead, he moved close to me and whispered, ‘Are you a Mormon?’
“As commanded, I yelled, ‘Yes, Sergeant Instructor.’
“Again I expected the worst. Instead, he paused and raised his hand that held my Book of Mormon and in a very quiet voice said, ‘Do you believe in this book?’
“Again I shouted, ‘Yes, Sergeant Instructor’” (“Come unto Me, O Ye House of Israel,” 32).
How is Elder Echo Hawk’s response a good example of the principle taught in Romans 1:16?
Explain that rather than ridiculing Elder Echo Hawk, the drill instructor carefully laid down the Book of Mormon and continued down the line of recruits. Read aloud the remainder of Elder Echo Hawk’s statement:
“I have often wondered why that tough Marine Corps sergeant spared me that day. But I am grateful I was able to say without hesitation, ‘Yes, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ and ‘Yes, I know the Book of Mormon is true.’ This testimony is a precious gift given to me through the Holy Ghost” (“Come unto Me, O Ye House of Israel,” 32).
When have you (or someone you know) demonstrated that you are not ashamed to share the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Invite students to ponder how strong they feel their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ are and what they can do to strengthen those testimonies. Encourage them to set a goal to do so.
Explain that in Paul’s day, some Gentile Christians sought to excuse immoral or sinful behavior by emphasizing God’s mercy and ignoring His perfect justice. Also, some Jewish Christians believed that observance of the law of Moses was necessary for their salvation. Paul sought to correct both of these misconceptions.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Romans 1:18–32. Ask the class to follow along, looking for sins Paul said were prevalent in his day. You may want to help students define words and phrases in verses 18–32 to help them understand the warnings Paul gave to the Roman Saints. For example, consider asking the following question:
In verse 25, what do you think “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” means?
Point out that from Romans 1:18–32, we learn that prophets and apostles teach us about behaviors and attitudes that are offensive to God.
Explain that the phrases “change the natural use into that which is against nature” in verse 26 and “leaving the natural use of the woman” in verse 27 refer to homosexual behavior. You may want to explain that from the beginning, and consistently throughout the scriptures, the Lord has condemned violations of the law of chastity, including homosexual behavior.
Note: The topic of same-sex attraction requires great sensitivity. As your class discusses this issue, ensure that it is done with kindness, compassion, and civility.
To help students understand the Church’s position on homosexual behavior, read the following statements aloud:
“Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36).
“The Church’s doctrinal position is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down. …
“The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and behavior. While maintaining that feelings and inclinations toward the same sex are not inherently sinful, engaging in homosexual behavior is in conflict with the ‘doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture … that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children’ [“First Presidency Statement on Same-Gender Marriage,” mormonnewsroom.org]” (“Same-Sex Attraction,” Gospel Topics, lds.org/topics).
Why is it important for us to understand the teachings of the Lord’s prophets and apostles concerning homosexual behavior?
How can we show kindness and compassion to those who experience same-sex attraction while still supporting the Church’s position on homosexual behavior?
Summarize Romans 2:1–3:8 by explaining that Paul taught that all people will be judged according to their works, and he showed that the Jews’ unrighteousness came from their living the law of Moses outwardly but not inwardly.
Invite a student to read Romans 3:9–12, 23 aloud, and ask the class to look for who Paul said is affected by sin.
Who did Paul say is affected by sin? What effect do our sins have upon us? (After students have responded, write the following truth on the board: All accountable people sin and are in need of God’s forgiveness.)
How does this truth help us better understand why we need Jesus Christ?
Explain that in the remaining verses of Romans 3, Paul taught how Jesus Christ overcomes the problem we face—namely, that God cannot accept sin and that every accountable person commits sin. In order to understand these verses, students will need to understand the meaning of the following words: justification (being “pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless” [Guide to the Scriptures, “Justification, Justify” scriptures.lds.org]), propitiation (atoning sacrifice and source of mercy), and grace (“divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ” [Bible Dictionary, “Grace”]). Consider writing the definitions of these words on the board before class or providing a handout with these terms to each student.
Ask a student to read Romans 3:24–26 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for how we can become worthy to be in God’s presence.
According to Romans 3:24, how are we justified, or declared worthy to be in God’s presence?
Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation of Romans 3:24 changes the word freely to only (see footnote a). Explain that no matter how much good we do in this life, we cannot earn or merit salvation on our own because, as Paul taught, we all have sinned and therefore fall short of salvation (see Romans 3:23). It is only by God’s grace—His divine strength and enabling power—that we are saved (see also Moroni 10:32–33).
According to verse 26, whom does God justify by grace? (Those who believe in Jesus.)
Remind students of how Paul used the terms belief and faith as discussed earlier in class.
What principle do these verses teach about the result of faithfully accepting Jesus Christ’s Atonement? (Students may identify a principle such as the following: Through faithful acceptance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be justified and receive salvation.)
How can we demonstrate faithful acceptance of the Savior’s Atonement?
Invite students to ponder their need for the Savior Jesus Christ and what they can do to more faithfully accept His Atonement. Invite them to write their feelings in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Ask a few students to share their feelings about and testimonies of the Savior.
Summarize Romans 3:27–30 by explaining that Paul re-emphasized that an individual is justified by faith in Jesus Christ rather than by his or her observance of the law of Moses.