We are God’s children, and we lived with Him before we came to earth. He created us in His image and endowed each one of us with the power and ability to become like Him. To become like God is eternal life.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught:
“Before the world was created, we all lived as the spirit children of our Heavenly Father. Through a natural process of inheritance we received in embryo the traits and attributes of our Heavenly Father. We are His spirit children. Some of what our Eternal Father is, we have inherited. What he has become we may become. (For spiritual enlightenment on this important concept, please see Acts 17:29and Romans 8:16.)” (Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 70).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“The greatest and most important talent or capacity that any of the spirit children of the Father could gain is the talent of spirituality. Most of those who gained this talent were chosen, before they were born, to come to earth as members of the house of Israel. They were foreordained to receive the blessings that the Lord promised to Abraham and to his seed in all their generations. This foreordination is an election. … Though all mankind may be saved by obedience, some find it easier to believe and obey than others. Hence the concept, taught by Jesus, that his sheep know his voice and will not follow the dissident voices of the world” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 512–13).
In Romans 9–11Paul taught the doctrine of election, or foreordination. Paul’s audience already understood the doctrine of the premortal existence and knew why Israel was God’s covenant people. Paul pointed out that the doctrine of foreordination in no way limited the Gentiles’ opportunity to be grafted into the house of Israel and partake fully of the blessings and promises of the gospel.
Prayerfully study Romans 9–11and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
In the premortal life certain people were foreordained (chosen) to be born into the house of Israel and receive special blessings and responsibilities in this life (see Romans 9:1–5, 11, 23; 11:2, 5; see also Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:3–5).
Those who prove themselves spiritual Israelites and become the Lord’s chosen children are those who accept and follow Christ (see Romans 9:6–8, 15, 24–26, 30; 10:5–13, 17–20; 11:1–5, 17–28; see also 2 Nephi 30:2).
Those people of the house of Israel who rejected Christ lost their promised blessings. The Lord then offered the gospel and its blessings to the Gentiles and the people of Israel scattered among them. If any of these people reject Jesus Christ’s teachings, they will also lose the blessings of the gospel (see Romans 10:12–13, 20; 11:11–13, 17–22; see also Jacob 5:3, 7, 9, 17).
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 330–37.
Suggestions for Teaching
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Romans 9–11.
Romans 9–10. In the premortal life, certain people were foreordained (chosen) to be born into the house of Israel and receive special blessings and responsibilities. The fulfillment of these blessings depends on their willingness to follow Jesus Christ.
Tell students that you want to choose one of them to receive a special reward. Explain that you will use one of three methods to make your decision: (1) a random drawing, (2) a vote, or (3) a decision based on the best performance. Ask students which method they would like you to use and why.
Read Abraham 3:23 looking for what Abraham was foreordained to become. (A ruler.) Ask: Do you think Abraham was chosen randomly, by vote, or because of his faithfulness? Why? Read Alma 13:3–4to help students understand that God’s selections are based on faithfulness.
Tell students that in Romans 9–11 Paul continued to teach the doctrine of foreordination that he had begun to discuss in chapter 8. Explain that these chapters contain three important points:
In the premortal life certain people were foreordained to be born into the house of Israel and receive special blessings and responsibilities in this life.
To receive foreordained blessings we must accept and follow Jesus Christ.
Gentiles (those not of Israel’s lineage) can inherit all of Israel’s blessings through their acceptance of Jesus Christ and obedience to the gospel.
Two of these points are covered in this teaching suggestion. The third point will be treated in the teaching suggestion for Romans 11:11–22. Write these statements on the board, or write each on a poster in advance and display them as you discuss each point.
Read the first point to students (or display the first poster). Have the students read Romans 9:1–5and make note of the words adoption, glory, covenants, and promises. Ask:
According to verse 4, who is promised these blessings? (The Israelites.)
Why do you think they were chosen?
Explain that Israel, like his grandfather Abraham, was foreordained to receive the covenants and promises of the gospel. Invite a student to read the statements by Elders M. Russell Ballard and Bruce R. McConkie in the introduction to Romans 9–11(p. 166). Read Romans 9:9–14and ask:
How is Jacob an example of someone who received a greater blessing because of premortal faithfulness?
Do you think the scriptures teach that this was fair or unfair?
How did Paul answer the question about God’s fairness? (see v. 14).
Read the following statement by President Harold B. Lee:
“Those born to the lineage of Jacob, who was later to be called Israel, and his posterity, who were known as the children of Israel, were born into the most illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings.
“All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth [life] was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 7–8; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 5).
Why weren’t some of Abraham’s descendants true to their covenants?
What do you believe Paul meant in verse 6?
Why does being a member of the house of Israel not guarantee a person celestial blessings?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:35–36and look for what happens to those who are rebellious. Tell students that premortal faithfulness, foreordained promises, or being born into a certain lineage do not guarantee salvation. God did not grant certain blessings so that some would feel arrogant or superior to others.
Many scriptures teach this doctrine. You may want to study and discuss some of them with your students (see D&C 121:34; JST, Matthew 3:34–36; John 8:39; 2 Nephi 30:1–2). Consider sharing also the “Points to Ponder” section in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles (pp. 335–37). You could assign the parts of the dialogue to different students to read aloud in class.
Testify that Paul taught this doctrine so that Israel “might be saved” (Romans 10:1). Help students know that they are of the house of Israel and a covenant people. Because of this the Lord expects them to do a great work and requires that they keep His commandments (see D&C 82:10). Invite students to read Romans 10:1–3, 9–18looking for the responsibilities they have and for how they can develop faith. When they have finished, invite them to share what they found.
If time permits, you may wish to sing
What message do you learn from the words of this hymn?
How can you apply its message to your life?
How can an understanding of the doctrines found in Romans 9–10be a blessing in your life?
What will you do differently as a result of what you have learned today?
Romans 11:11–22. When the house of Israel rejected Christ, they lost their promised blessings. The Lord then offered the gospel and its blessings to the Gentiles.
Note: This teaching suggestion is a continuation of the one for Romans 9–10. You should have the three points from that lesson written on the board or on posters.
Review the three points on the board and read the third one (or display the third poster). Have students think about patriarchal blessings and of their own blessing in particular. Ask: What do you think is the most important word in a patriarchal blessing? Discuss their answers. Write the word if on the board and ask: Why is this such an important word in a patriarchal blessing? (Blessings are dependent on our faithfulness; they do not come automatically.) Read Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21looking for how God blesses His children. Ask:
What might keep a person or a group of people from qualifying for the Lord’s blessings, even though they were foreordained to receive them?
How does Paul’s phrase “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6) support this doctrine?
How do some people forfeit their blessings?
What are common temptations that could lead to the loss of gospel blessings?
Ask a student to read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“Keeping the covenants is not hard when you do it willingly with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ When obeyed, those covenants bring happiness and joy. They give purpose to life. Difficulty comes when agency is used to make choices that are inconsistent with those covenants. Study the things you do in your discretionary time, that time you are free to control. Do you find that it is centered in those things that are of highest priority and of greatest importance? Or do you unconsciously, consistently fill it with trivia and activities that are not of enduring value nor help you accomplish the purpose for which you came to earth? Think of the long view of life, not just what’s going to happen today or tomorrow. Don’t give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 78–79; or Ensign, May 1997, 54).
Testify of the importance of continued worthiness in order to receive the blessings promised to the house of Israel.
Paul taught that many Israelites who were foreordained had forfeited their blessings through disobedience (see Romans 9:31–33; 10:1–3, 16–21; 11:3–10). Ask students to read Romans 11:11–13and look for who would now begin to receive the gospel and its blessings. Have students quickly read Romans 11:25–31and look for why it was time for the Gentiles to begin to receive the gospel. Read the following statement by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“In this manner was the gospel taught in the meridian dispensation. It was first offered to the Jews and after they rejected it, then it was carried to the Gentiles and from among them branches of the Church were organized. In the dispensation in which we live, the second part of this prophecy by our Lord is being fulfilled. When the gospel was restored through the agency of Joseph Smith, it came first to the Gentiles and during the past one hundred and twenty years it has been proclaimed among the Gentile nations. It has not been carried to any extent to the Jews, and only a few have accepted it. In speaking to the saints at Rome, Paul said that ‘blindness in part had happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in.’—Rom. 11:25” (The Restoration of All Things , 163–64).
Help the students understand that the Gentiles (those not of Israel’s lineage) can inherit the same blessings as Israel. Through their acceptance of Jesus Christ and obedience to the gospel, they can be grafted into the house of Israel and become full heirs. To illustrate this point, you might want to bring a large and a small tree branch to class. Tell students that grafting is the process by which branches from one plant are inserted into the branches of another. Demonstrate for the class how a tree branch is grafted by cutting and splicing the two branches and wrapping them with a piece of cloth as illustrated:
Discuss some of the following questions:
Will the grafted branch ever become part of the tree just as the original branches are? (Yes.)
If an original branch gets its nourishment from the roots, where does the grafted branch gets its nourishment? (Also from the roots.)
When and why might a gardener use grafting?
What benefits come to a tree through grafting? (It increases in size and may produce more or better fruit.)
What benefits come to a branch that has been grafted? (It becomes part of the tree.)
Invite students to read Romans 11:14–24. Tell them to keep in mind the grafting process as they read. Ask:
What spiritual process does Paul compare to grafting? (The adoption of Gentiles into the house of Israel.)
From what you have learned about grafting, how will the Gentiles who are adopted into the house of Israel benefit?
Do you see any difference between the blessings of those who are adopted and the blessings of literal descendants of Israel? (Have them explain their answers.)
How does this grafting process show the great love that the Lord has for all of His children?
Tell students Jesus Christ is the root of the tree we are grafted into (see Revelation 22:16). Testify that the most important part of the doctrine of adoption is that any person, whether born into the house of Israel or not, can receive nourishment and strength from the Lord. If they will accept and follow Jesus Christ, they will be grafted into His family, and all of the choicest blessings of the Lord will come to them as part of the covenant.