The Savior responded to the Pharisees’ complaints about Him associating with publicans and sinners by giving the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.
Begin class by asking students if they have ever lost an item that was valuable to them.
What were you willing to do to find it? Why?
What do you think it means for a person to be spiritually “lost”? (Help students understand that this can refer to those who have not yet received the restored gospel of Jesus Christ or are not currently living according to the teachings of the gospel.)
Invite the class to think of someone they know who may be spiritually lost. Ask them to ponder how they feel about this person.
Explain that Luke 15 contains the Savior’s teachings about those who are spiritually lost. Invite students to look for truths in Luke 15 concerning how Heavenly Father feels about those who are spiritually lost and the responsibilities we have toward them.
Ask a student to read Luke 15:1–2 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the Pharisees and scribes complained about.
Why did the Pharisees and scribes complain?
What does this complaint reveal about the Pharisees and scribes?
Explain that the Savior responded by giving three parables: one of a lost sheep, one of a lost coin, and one of a lost son. Ask them to pay attention to why the subject of each parable became lost and how it was found.
Explain that in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the Savior described how the shepherd and the woman who lost the coin searched with great diligence until they found that which was lost.
Invite a student to read Luke 15:4–6, 8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the shepherd and the woman felt when they found the sheep and the coin.
What is the difference between how the sheep and the coin were lost? (The sheep became lost through following its normal course of life and through no fault of its own, while the coin was lost because of the negligence or carelessness of its owner [see David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1945, 120–22].)
What word was used to describe how the shepherd and the woman felt?
Invite students to read Luke 15:7, 10 silently, looking for what the Savior likened the joy of the shepherd and the woman to. (The rejoicing in heaven over a sinner who repents.)
Explain that the third parable in Luke 15 is the story of a prodigal son (meaning one who is wasteful and recklessly extravagant), his older brother, and their father.
Consider dividing students into groups of three. Provide each group with a copy of the following handout. Invite them to read Luke 15:11–32 aloud in their groups. Assign one student to consider the parable from the perspective of the prodigal son, the second student to consider it from the perspective of the father, and the third student to consider it from the perspective of the older brother.
After students have finished reading, ask them to discuss the questions on the handout in their groups.
Why did the prodigal son become lost? (In contrast to the sheep and the coin, the prodigal son became lost due to his own rebelliousness.)
Understanding that the father in this parable represents Heavenly Father, what can we learn about how Heavenly Father responds to those who return to Him by repenting? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we return to Heavenly Father by repenting and seeking His forgiveness, He will rejoice and welcome us back with open arms. Write this principle on the board.)
How might this principle help those who feel spiritually lost?
Remind students of the older brother in the parable.
Why do you think the older brother was angry?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask the class to listen for insights regarding why the older brother was angry:
“Feeling unappreciated and perhaps more than a little self-pity, this dutiful son—and he is wonderfully dutiful—forgets for a moment that he has never had to know filth or despair, fear or self-loathing. He forgets for a moment that every calf on the ranch is already his and so are all the robes in the closet and every ring in the drawer. He forgets for a moment that his faithfulness has been and always will be rewarded. …
“… He who has virtually everything, and who has in his hardworking, wonderful way earned it, lacks the one thing that might make him the complete man of the Lord he nearly is. He has yet to come to the compassion and mercy, the charitable breadth of vision to see that this is not a rival returning. It is his brother. …
“Certainly this younger brother had been a prisoner—a prisoner of sin, stupidity, and a pigsty. But the older brother lives in some confinement, too. He has, as yet, been unable to break out of the prison of himself. He is haunted by the green-eyed monster of jealousy. He feels taken for granted by his father and disenfranchised by his brother, when neither is the case” (“The Other Prodigal,” Ensign, May 2002, 63).
According to Elder Holland, why was the older brother angry? In what ways was the older brother also lost?
What do we need to remember when we see God being merciful and blessing those who repent and return to Him?
What principle can we learn from this parable about becoming more like our Father in Heaven? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: We can become more like our Father in Heaven by responding with compassion and joy when others repent.)
Remind students of the person they thought about at the beginning of class who may be spiritually lost. Encourage them to prayerfully consider how they might be able to help that person repent and draw closer to Heavenly Father. Invite them to also consider in what ways they themselves may be lost and need to repent and return to the Savior.
Invite students to ponder a time when someone mistreated them and how it felt. Explain that as they study the next unit, they will learn how the Savior chose to respond to those who mistreated Him. Ask them to notice additional details in Luke’s account of Jesus Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane and what Jesus ate after His Resurrection.