Lesson 29: “He Took Up … the Mantle of Elijah”

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 139–43


Purpose

To help class members understand how the authority (mantle) passes from one prophet to another, to encourage them to obey the words of the prophets, and to assure them that the power of God is greater than any other power.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. a.

      2 Kings 2:1–18. Elijah prepares Elisha to become the new prophet (2:1–10). Elijah is taken up into heaven. Elisha takes up Elijah’s mantle and becomes the prophet (2:11–15). Fifty men search for Elijah for three days despite Elisha’s counsel that they should not do so (2:16–18).

    2. b.

      2 Kings 5. Elisha heals Naaman of leprosy (5:1–14). Naaman praises God and offers Elisha a reward, which Elisha declines (5:15–19).

    3. c.

      2 Kings 6:8–18. Elisha guides the king of Israel in a war with Syria (6:8–10). The king of Syria commands his men to capture Elisha, and the army surrounds the city of Dothan (6:11–14). Unafraid, Elisha prays, and the Lord reveals a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire, then smites the Syrian army with blindness (6:15–18).

  2. 2.

    If you use the attention activity, bring a piece of cloth to use as a mantle.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Drape a piece of cloth around your shoulders (or around the shoulders of a class member). Explain that the prophet Elijah wore a mantle. We do not know exactly what the mantle looked like, but it apparently was a cloak made of cloth. The passing of the mantle from Elijah to Elisha symbolized the passing of prophetic authority to Elisha.

In modern times we sometimes speak of the “mantle” of authority that the prophet receives when he is ordained and set apart. Although the prophet today does not carry a cloak or piece of cloth, God bestows the keys of the priesthood on him. These keys give him the power to act in God’s name as the leader of the Church on the earth. When a prophet dies, this mantle of authority is given to the new prophet.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. Elisha succeeds Elijah as the prophet.

Teach and discuss 2 Kings 2:1–18.

  • What relationship existed between Elijah and Elisha? (See 2 Kings 2:2–10.) Why do you think Elisha was so intent on staying with Elijah? What did Elisha do after Elijah was taken up into heaven? (See 2 Kings 2:11–13. If you did not use the attention activity, refer to it to explain what Elijah’s mantle was and what it represented.)

  • Who has the mantle of the prophet today? (The current President of the Church.) How is this mantle transferred when the prophet dies?

    President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:

    “There is no mystery about the choosing of the successor to the President of the Church. The Lord settled this a long time ago, and the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church, and he is so sustained by the Council of the Twelve which becomes the presiding body of the Church when there is no First Presidency. The president is not elected, but he has to be sustained both by his brethren of the Council and by the members of the Church” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:156).

    President Gordon B. Hinckley explained how this procedure was followed when he was ordained and set apart as the prophet and President of the Church following the death of President Howard W. Hunter:

    “With President Hunter’s passing, the First Presidency was dissolved. Brother Monson and I, who had served as his counselors, took our places in the Quorum of the Twelve, which became the presiding authority of the Church.

    “[A few days later] all of the living ordained Apostles gathered in a spirit of fasting and prayer in the upper room of the temple. Here we sang a sacred hymn and prayed together. We partook of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, renewing in that sacred, symbolic testament our covenants and our relationship with Him who is our divine Redeemer. The Presidency was then reorganized, following a precedent well established through generations of the past [this precedent is explained in the preceding statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith]. There was no campaigning, no contest, no ambition for office. It was quiet, peaceful, simple, and sacred. It was done after the pattern which the Lord Himself had put in place” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 92; or Ensign, May 1995, 69).

    You may want to point out that as he did anciently, the Savior has given the keys of the priesthood to each of the latter-day Apostles. However, only the President of the Church, who is the senior living Apostle, may use these keys (or authorize others to use them) on behalf of the entire Church (see D&C 132:7).

  • How did the people respond when they saw Elisha duplicate Elijah’s miracle of parting the waters of Jordan? (See 2 Kings 2:14–15.) Why is it important that we immediately accept and sustain a newly ordained President of the Church? (See D&C 43:2–3, 7.)

  • Soon after Elijah had been taken into heaven, the people wanted to send 50 strong men to look for him. What did Elisha tell the people? (See 2 Kings 2:16.) How did the people respond to Elisha’s answer? (See 2 Kings 2:17. They pleaded with Elisha until he permitted the men to go.)

  • What did Elisha say to the people when the 50 men came back without finding Elijah? (See 2 Kings 2:18.) What can we learn from the experience of the 50 men? (We should follow the counsel of the prophet the first time we hear it.) Why do we sometimes wait for prophets to repeat counsel before we follow it? What counsel have Church leaders given us in recent years? How have you been blessed as you have followed this counsel?

2. Elisha heals Naaman of leprosy.

Teach and discuss 2 Kings 5.

  • Who was Naaman, and what was his affliction? (See 2 Kings 5:1.) Why did he go to Elisha? (See 2 Kings 5:2–9.) What did Elisha’s messenger tell Naaman to do to be healed? (See 2 Kings 5:10.) Why, at first, did Naaman refuse to follow Elisha’s instructions? (See 2 Kings 5:11–12.)

  • How did Naaman’s servants convince him to do what Elisha had told him to do? (See 2 Kings 5:13.) What happened after Naaman dipped himself seven times in the Jordan River? (See 2 Kings 5:14.)

  • What can the story of Naaman teach us about following the counsel of the prophet—even when we may not like or understand it or when it may be about small and simple matters? What are some of the small, simple things we have been asked to do by the prophet or other Church leaders? Why are these things sometimes hard to do? How can we increase our willingness to follow the counsel of Church leaders?

    Elder Rex D. Pinegar asked, “Are we not sometimes like Naaman, looking for big or important things to do and bypassing simple things which could change our lives and heal us of our afflictions?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 106; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 80).

    After recounting the story of Naaman, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: “The way of the gospel is a simple way. Some of the requirements may appear to you as elementary and unnecessary. Do not spurn them. Humble yourselves and walk in obedience. I promise that the results that follow will be marvelous to behold and satisfying to experience” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 143; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 96).

  • What did Naaman learn from his healing? (See 2 Kings 5:15.) How has obedience in simple things strengthened your testimony?

  • What did Naaman try to give Elisha after being healed? (See 2 Kings 5:15.) Why do you think Elisha refused Naaman’s offer? Why is it important to serve without concern for earthly rewards?

3. Elisha guides Israel in a war with Syria.

Teach and discuss 2 Kings 6:8–18.

  • How did Elisha help the king of Israel in the war against Syria? (See 2 Kings 6:8–10.) What did the king of Syria do when he learned what Elisha was doing? (See 2 Kings 6:11–14.)

  • How did Elisha’s servant respond when he saw the Syrian horses and chariots surrounding the city? (See 2 Kings 6:15.) How did Elisha respond? (See 2 Kings 6:16.) What did Elisha mean when he told his servant, “They that be with us are more than they that be with them”? (2 Kings 6:16). How have you seen that Elisha’s statement is still true today?

  • What modern-day circumstances might lead some of us to believe that we are helpless against the evils of the world? How can the confidence that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them” help us as we battle against these evils?

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “When I read this wonderful story as a boy, I always identified with the young servant of Elisha. I thought, If I am ever surrounded by the forces of evil while I am in the Lord’s service, I hope the Lord will open my eyes and give me faith to understand that when we are in the work of the Lord, those who are with us are always more powerful than those who oppose us” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 54; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 39).

  • How can the confidence that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them” help us as we take the gospel to all people? (See D&C 84:87–88.)

    President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “We have not as yet carried the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. But we have made great strides. We have gone wherever we are permitted to go. God is at the helm, and doors will be opened by His power according to His divine will. Of that I am confident. Of that I am certain” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 93; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 70–71).

  • What was Elisha’s prayer in his servant’s behalf? (See 2 Kings 6:17.) Why, at first, didn’t the servant see the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire that God had sent? What can we do to open our eyes more fully to the power of God in our own lives and in the world?

Conclusion

Testify that the President of the Church is a prophet of God. Encourage class members to sustain new Church leaders and to follow the counsel of the prophets. Testify that the power of God is greater than any other power.

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. Elisha’s miracles

Elisha performed many great miracles, showing compassion for the people and giving further evidence that he was Elijah’s authorized successor. He parted the waters of Jordan, healed the waters of Jericho, multiplied a widow’s oil, raised a boy from the dead, healed people who had been poisoned, fed the hungry, healed Naaman’s leprosy, caused an ax to float, and guided kings in war. You may want to review some of these miracles from 2 Kings 2–6.

  • Do you think that miracles occur in our day to the same extent that they occurred in Elisha’s? What are the dangers of looking only for the spectacular miracles? What seemingly small miracles occur in our lives?

2. A young Israelite girl tells Naaman of Elisha

  • How did Naaman learn about Elisha and his healing powers? (See 2 Kings 5:2–4. A young Israelite girl whom the Syrians had taken captive told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal Naaman.) How is this young Israelite girl an example for us? (Regardless of our age, circumstance, or Church calling, we can do much good by directing people to the prophets—and to the Lord.)