Jesus Christ prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He revealed the signs of His Second Coming and instructed the faithful to watch and prepare for that day.
Display the picture The Second Coming (Gospel Art Book , no. 66; see also LDS.org). Ask students to ponder questions they have concerning the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and to write these questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Do not seek to answer these questions at this time. Invite students to look for answers as they study Joseph Smith—Matthew.
Point out that Joseph Smith—Matthew is the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 23:39 and Matthew 24. Summarize Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1–3 by explaining that as Jesus Christ taught at the temple in Jerusalem, His disciples understood that He would return to the earth. Jesus then left the temple, and His disciples came to Him, wanting to know more about when the temple would be destroyed.
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for two questions the disciples asked Jesus on the Mount of Olives. Invite students to report what they find, and write the following questions on the board:
Explain that Jesus Christ addressed the first question in verses 5–21, and the second question is answered in verses 21–55. Divide students into pairs. Instruct them to read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–12 aloud with their partners, looking for the signs related to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Ask students to report what they find.
Although Jesus said His disciples would suffer during this time, what did He say about those who “remaineth steadfast and [are] not overcome”? (verse 11).
What principle can we learn from verse 11? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we remain steadfast and are not overcome, then we will be saved. Using students’ words, write this principle on the board.)
What does it mean to be steadfast and not overcome? (Steadfast suggests being immovable, solid, unshakable, and undefeatable.)
To help students understand the meaning of the word saved in verse 11, explain that as we are steadfast, we may not be saved from hardship, but we will ultimately be saved in God’s kingdom.
Invite a student to read the following paragraph aloud. Ask the class to listen for how those who remained steadfast in obeying the Savior’s counsel were saved from destruction:
In Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:13–18 we learn that Jesus warned His disciples to be ready to flee to the mountains and not return to their homes because Jerusalem would be attacked and destroyed. He prophesied that the tribulation of those days would be the worst Israel had ever seen. In A.D. 70, approximately 40 years after Jesus spoke these words, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and killed over a million Jews. The temple was destroyed, and not one stone was left on top of another—just as the Savior had prophesied (see Matthew 24:2). However, those who heeded Jesus’s warning safely escaped to Pella, a town about 50 miles northeast of Jerusalem (see Bible Dictionary, “Pella”).
How does the Jews’ experience illustrate the importance of remaining steadfast in obeying the Savior’s words?
When have you been blessed by remaining steadfast in obeying the commandments?
Summarize Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:19–20 by explaining that Jesus prophesied that though the Jews would suffer great trials, they would be preserved because of God’s covenant with them.
Explain that in addition to explaining signs that would warn of Jerusalem’s destruction, the Savior answered his disciples’ second question by prophesying of signs concerning His Second Coming.
Ask a student to read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21–23 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for why the Lord revealed the signs of His Second Coming.
Why is it helpful for disciples of Jesus Christ to know the signs that signal the Second Coming?
Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:24–26 aloud. Ask the class to look for how the Savior will appear at His Second Coming.
How will the Savior appear at His Second Coming?
How can knowing this help the elect avoid being deceived?
Invite students to read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:27–31 silently, looking for signs that will precede the Second Coming.
What difficulties will people face before the Second Coming?
Based on verses 27 and 31, what hopeful signs will precede the Second Coming? (Students may use different words but should identify the following truth: Before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s elect will be gathered and the gospel will be preached in all the world.)
In what ways do we see this prophesy being fulfilled?
Explain that Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:32–36 describes additional signs associated with the Second Coming.
Remind students of the Savior’s warning that in the latter days false Christs and false prophets would seek to “deceive the very elect” (verse 22). Invite a student to read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the elect can avoid being deceived.
How can the elect avoid being deceived?
What principle can we learn from this verse? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we treasure up the Lord’s word, then we will not be deceived. Write this principle on the board.)
To help students understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following account given by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“One of my fine missionaries who served with me when I was the mission president in Toronto [Canada] came to see me some years later. I asked him, ‘Elder, how can I help you?’
“‘President,’ he said, ‘I think I’m losing my testimony.’
“I couldn’t believe it. I asked him how that could be possible.
“‘For the first time I have read some anti-Mormon literature,’ he said. ‘I have some questions, and nobody will answer them for me. I am confused, and I think I am losing my testimony’” (“When Shall These Things Be?” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 60).
Ask students to ponder whether they, or individuals they know, have experienced something similar to what this former missionary experienced.
What counsel would you give to someone in this situation? Why?
Invite a student to continue reading Elder Ballard’s account aloud:
“I asked him what his questions were, and he told me. They were the standard anti-Church issues, but I wanted a little time to gather materials so I could provide meaningful answers. So we set up an appointment 10 days later, at which time I told him I would answer every one of his questions. As he started to leave, I stopped him.
“‘Elder, you’ve asked me several questions here today,’ I said. ‘Now I have one for you.’
“‘How long has it been since you read from the Book of Mormon?’ I asked.
“His eyes dropped. He looked at the floor for a while. Then he looked at me. ‘It’s been a long time, President,’ he confessed.
“‘All right,’ I said. ‘You have given me my assignment. It’s only fair that I give you yours. I want you to promise me that you will read in the Book of Mormon for at least one hour every day between now and our next appointment.’ He agreed that he would do that.
“Ten days later he returned to my office, and I was ready. I pulled out my papers to start answering his questions, but he stopped me.
“‘President,’ he said, ‘that isn’t going to be necessary.’ Then he explained: ‘I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.’
“‘Well, that’s great,’ I said. ‘But you’re going to get answers to your questions anyway. I worked a long time on this, so you just sit there and listen.’
“And so I answered all his questions and then asked, ‘Elder, what have you learned from this?’
“And he said, ‘Give the Lord equal time’” (“When Shall These Things Be?” 60).
How does this experience illustrate the principle we identified in verse 37?
How have you been blessed as you have treasured the Lord’s word?
Explain that using parables, Jesus instructed His disciples on how to treasure His word and be prepared for His Second Coming.
Divide students into pairs. Assign one student in each pair to study Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–46 and the other to study Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:47–54. Invite students to look for doctrines and principles in their assigned verses and to write them down.
After sufficient time, ask students to summarize the parables they read to their partners and to discuss the following questions:
What truths did you identify?
How did the Savior illustrate these truths in the verses you studied?
Invite several students to report the truths they identified, which may include the following: Only Heavenly Father knows when the Savior’s Second Coming will occur. If we watch for the signs and obey the Lord’s commandments, then we will be prepared for the Savior’s Second Coming.
Review the truths identified in Joseph Smith—Matthew, and ask students to consider how these truths help answer the questions they wrote at the beginning of the lesson. Invite them to testify of truths they have learned.
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (if possible, provide copies to hand out to students):
“What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?
“If we would do those things then, why not now?” (“Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 9).
Invite students to write a response to the following question: If I knew that I would meet the Savior tomorrow, what would I change today? Encourage them to apply what they wrote.