Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John. He then taught them about the role of John the Baptist as an Elias who was to prepare the way for the Messiah. After Jesus returned to His other disciples, a man pleaded with Him to cast an evil spirit out of his son. Jesus cast out the evil spirit and taught His disciples about the need for prayer and fasting.
Invite several volunteers to come to the front of the class and briefly demonstrate an activity that increases physical strength.
Why would someone want or need to increase his or her physical strength?
How might physical strength be likened to spiritual strength, or faith in Jesus Christ?
What are some situations in which our faith in Jesus Christ might be tested and in special need of being strengthened? (Write students’ responses on the board.)
Invite students as they study Mark 9:1–29 to look for truths that can help them strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.
Summarize Mark 9:1–13 by explaining that it contains an account of Jesus’s transfiguration in the presence of Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. This passage also recounts that Jesus taught these Apostles that John the Baptist had fulfilled the prophesied role of an Elias, or one who prepares the way for the Savior’s coming (see Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:10 [in Mark 9:12, footnote a]).
Invite a student to read Mark 9:14–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the scene the Savior encountered as He returned from the mountain to His other disciples. Ask students to report what they find.
Invite one student to read the words of the Savior and another student to read the words of the father in the account that follows in Mark 9:16–24 (you might assign these parts before class and invite these students to locate their respective lines). Consider performing the role of the narrator or inviting a third student to do so. Ask the assigned students to read their parts in Mark 9:16–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the father sought from the Savior’s disciples.
What was this father seeking for his son? (You may need to explain that the son was possessed by an evil spirit, which caused speech loss, deafness [see Mark 9:17, 25], and other maladies. Whenever the evil spirit seized hold of the son, the son would convulse, foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and become rigid.)
Ask students to imagine being this father and to ponder how their faith in the Savior and His power might have been affected when the disciples could not heal their son.
Invite the assigned students to continue reading aloud their parts in Mark 9:19–22. Ask the class to follow along, imagining how this father may have felt as he conversed with the Savior.
What do you think this father was feeling as he conversed with the Savior?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for what Elder Holland adds to our understanding of this father’s feelings and pleas.
“With no other hope remaining, this father asserts what faith he has and pleads with the Savior of the world, ‘If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us’ [Mark 9:22; italics added]. I can hardly read those words without weeping. The plural pronoun us is obviously used intentionally. This man is saying, in effect, ‘Our whole family is pleading. Our struggle never ceases. We are exhausted. Our son falls into the water. He falls into the fire. He is continually in danger, and we are continually afraid. We don’t know where else to turn. Can you help us? We will be grateful for anything—a partial blessing, a glimmer of hope, some small lifting of the burden carried by this boy’s mother every day of her life’” (“Lord, I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 93).
Invite the student assigned the part of the Savior to read Mark 9:23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught this father.
Whom did this father need to believe in?
What principle did the Savior teach this father? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: If we believe in Jesus Christ, all things will be possible to us. You may want to suggest that students mark the words in verse 23 that teach this principle.)
Point out that “all things” pertains to all righteous blessings that are in accordance with God’s will, purposes, and timing.
How can believing this principle help someone who faces difficulties that seem impossible to overcome?
Invite the student assigned the part of the father to read Mark 9:24 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the father’s response to the principle the Savior taught.
How would you describe this father’s faith at that moment?
Ask students to note the two parts of this father’s response. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Ask the class to listen for what the father’s declaration illustrates about what we can do in times of “unbelief,” or times of doubt or fear.
“When facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: ‘Lord, I believe.’ I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” (“Lord, I Believe,” 93–94).
What can we learn from this father about what we can do in times of unbelief? (After students respond, write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we hold on to what we believe …)
What can we learn about dealing with unbelief from the other part of this father’s statement in verse 24? (After students respond, add the following phrase to the statement on the board: and seek the Lord’s assistance, …)
Invite a student to read Mark 9:25–27 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior did in response to the father’s pleas.
What did the Savior do in response to the father’s pleas?
How would you complete the statement on the board, based on what you have learned from this account? (After students respond, complete the sentence on the board so it conveys the following principle: If we hold on to what we believe and seek the Lord’s assistance, He will help us strengthen our faith.)
Refer to the situations listed on the board, which you discussed at the beginning of the lesson.
How can this principle be used in such situations?
When have you or someone you know received the Lord’s help in a time of unbelief by holding on to belief and seeking His help? (You might want to share an experience as well.)
Encourage students to apply this principle during times of unbelief.
Remind students that this father initially brought his son to some of Jesus’s disciples to be healed. Invite students to imagine they are these disciples.
What might you have been thinking or feeling after failing to cast the evil spirit out of the boy?
Invite a student to read Mark 9:28 aloud, and ask the class to look for the question the disciples asked Jesus.
What question did the disciples ask Jesus?
Ask students to review Mark 9:19, looking for how the Savior described the people, including His disciples, who were present. (They were “faithless.”) Explain that faithless here refers to a lack of faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is needed for priesthood blessings to be effective.
Invite a student to read Mark 9:29 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s response to His disciples’ question.
What did the Savior teach His disciples?
How can prayer and fasting influence a person’s faith? (After students respond, help them understand the following truth: We can increase our faith in Jesus Christ through prayer and fasting.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement from the booklet True to the Faith. Ask the class to listen for different situations in which this truth could apply:
“This account [of Jesus casting out an evil spirit from a man’s son] teaches that prayer and fasting can give added strength to those giving and receiving priesthood blessings. The account can also be applied to your personal efforts to live the gospel. If you have a weakness or sin that you have struggled to overcome, you may need to fast and pray in order to receive the help or forgiveness you desire. Like the demon that Christ cast out, your difficulty may be the kind that will go out only through prayer and fasting” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 67).
According to this statement, what are some situations in which this truth could apply?
When has prayer and fasting helped increase your faith in Christ and allowed you to receive the righteous blessings you sought?
Ask students to reflect on blessings they seek for themselves or others that might be obtained by increasing their faith in Jesus Christ through prayer and fasting. Invite them to write down a goal to pray and fast for these blessings on the next fast Sunday.
Consider looking ahead at some of the scripture mastery passages students may not yet be familiar with. Invite them to read and mark them. You might assign a new scripture mastery passage to each student or to pairs of students and ask them to draw on pieces of paper pictures that depict the truths taught in their passages. Invite them to explain their pictures to the class. You might display the pictures for future reference.
(Note: You could use this activity at the beginning or end of any lesson, as time allows.)