Lesson 31: “Happy Is the Man That Findeth Wisdom”

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 151–56


Purpose

To inspire class members to be more Christlike by applying the wise counsel in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the scriptures discussed in the lesson outline and as much of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as you can.

  2. 2.

    If you use the first attention activity, write the following sentences on a poster or on the chalkboard before class:

    1. a.

      ______ goeth before destruction.

    2. b.

      Train up a ______ in the way he should go.

    3. c.

      To every thing there is a ______, and a ______ to every purpose under the heaven.

    4. d.

      ______ in the Lord with all thine heart.

    5. e.

      A ______ ______ turneth away wrath.

    6. f.

      For as he ______ in his heart, so is he.

    If you use the second attention activity, ask one or two class members to prepare to share a favorite passage from Proverbs or Ecclesiastes and tell why it is important to them.

  3. 3.

    If Old Testament Video Presentations (53224) is available, you may want to show “Trusting in the Lord,” a five-minute segment, as part of the lesson.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use one of the following activities (or one of your own) to begin the lesson. Select the activity that would be most appropriate for the class.

  1. 1.

    Refer class members to the sentences you have written on a poster or on the chalkboard (see “Preparation” above). Explain that these are well-known statements from the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and ask class members to fill in the blanks. If necessary, give the following references so class members can look up the scriptures to find the words they do not know.

    1. a.

      Proverbs 16:18 (Pride)

    2. b.

      Proverbs 22:6 (child)

    3. c.

      Ecclesiastes 3:1 (season, time)

    4. d.

      Proverbs 3:5 (Trust)

    5. e.

      Proverbs 15:1 (soft answer)

    6. f.

      Proverbs 23:7 (thinketh)

  2. 2.

    Ask one or two assigned class members to share a favorite passage from Proverbs or Ecclesiastes and tell why it is important to them.

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. Because it would be difficult to ask every question or cover every point in the lesson, prayerfully select those that will best meet class members’ needs. You may need to adapt some questions to fit class members’ circumstances.

Proverbs are short sayings that generally give counsel about living righteously. The Old Testament records that Solomon “spake three thousand proverbs” (1 Kings 4:32). Some of these wise sayings are included in the book of Proverbs. Although Solomon and the other authors of this book were not prophets, much of what they wrote was inspired by the Lord. Their writings generally reflect a belief that true wisdom comes from God.

The book of Ecclesiastes also contains wise sayings, and some people believe Solomon to be its author. The message of Ecclesiastes is that life is meaningful only through God.

This lesson is divided into seven sections that focus on important topics in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In your personal study, you may find other topics that you would like to discuss in class.

1. Wisdom

Teach and discuss the following passages from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

  • The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes emphasize the importance of wisdom. What differences are there between being learned and being wise? (See Proverbs 1:7; 9:9–10; 2 Nephi 9:28–29. Point out that in biblical language, to fear the Lord means to reverence and obey him. Explain that wisdom is more than knowledge; it is the proper application of knowledge. To the Israelites, wisdom meant obedience to God’s laws.)

  • What can we learn from Proverbs 2:2–6 about how to obtain the knowledge of God? Why do you think it requires diligence to obtain this knowledge?

  • How does the value of wisdom compare to the value of earthly treasures? (See Proverbs 3:13–18; Ecclesiastes 7:12. Note that the words she and her in Proverbs 3:15–18 refer to wisdom.) How does wisdom bring happiness and peace?

  • Proverbs 3:18 says that wisdom “is a tree of life” to those who have it. What can this symbol teach us about the value of wisdom? (See 1 Nephi 11:8–11, 21–25, noting that the tree of life is a symbol of God’s love.)

  • What qualities of wise people are listed in Proverbs 9:9–10 and Proverbs 15:31–33? Why are these qualities necessary to gain wisdom?

2. Trust in the Lord

Teach and discuss Proverbs 3:5–7.

  • What counsel is given in Proverbs 3:5–7? How does the Lord direct our paths? What experiences have taught you to trust the Lord?

  • What does it mean to acknowledge God? (See Proverbs 3:6; Alma 34:38; D&C 59:21.) How are we blessed as we acknowledge him?

3. The words we speak

Teach and discuss the following passages from Proverbs.

  • Proverbs 6:16–19 lists seven things the Lord hates. Three of these things—lying, bearing false witness, and sowing discord—apply to the words we speak. Why is the Lord so concerned with the words we speak? (See Proverbs 16:27–28; 18:8; 25:18; Matthew 12:36–37.) How can we overcome the problems of lying, gossiping, or speaking negatively about others?

  • Proverbs 16:24 says that “pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul.” How is this true? What are the results of speaking kindly? (See Proverbs 12:25; 15:1; 16:24.) How have the kind words of others helped you?

  • What benefits come from speaking softly when a disagreement arises? (See Proverbs 15:1.)

    Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: “We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 82; or Ensign, June 1971, 72).

To reinforce the importance of speaking kind words, you may want to have class members sing “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words” (Hymns, no. 232).

4. Pride

Teach and discuss Proverbs 8:13; 13:10; 16:18–19.

  • Proverbs 8:13 states that the Lord hates pride. Why is pride such a serious sin?

    President Ezra Taft Benson said:

    “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

    “Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Philippians 2:21).

    “Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled (see Alma 38:12; 3 Nephi 12:30).

    “The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives (see Helaman 12:6). They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.

    “Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. …

    “Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression (see Alma 12:10–11). The proud are not easily taught (see 1 Nephi 15:3, 7–11). They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3–5; or Ensign, May 1989, 4, 6).

  • Proverbs 13:10 and 16:18 teach that pride leads to contention and destruction. How can pride do this? How does pride affect our families?

    President Ezra Taft Benson said:

    “Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.

    “Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. …

    “Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 5; or Ensign, May 1989, 6).

  • How can we overcome pride? (See Proverbs 16:19.) What can we do to be more humble in our relationships with our family members and with God?

5. Friendship

Teach and discuss the following passages from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

  • Why are we warned about unrighteous friends? (See Proverbs 13:20; 22:24–25.)

  • What are some characteristics of good friends? (See Proverbs 17:17; 27:9.) How have good friends helped you through difficult times?

  • What can we do to gain true friends? (See Proverbs 18:24. Point out that to have good friends we need to be good friends.)

  • How do true friends react when we make unwise choices? (See Ecclesiastes 4:9–10.)

    Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:

    “Someone has said, ‘A friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am.’ Accepting this as one definition of the word, may I quickly suggest that we are something less than a real friend if we leave a person the same way we find him. …

    “No greater reward can come to any of us as we serve than a sincere ‘Thank you for being my friend.’ When those who need assistance find their way back through and with us, it is friendship in action. When the weak are made strong and the strong stronger through our lives, friendship is real. If a man can be judged by his friends, he can also be measured by their heights. …

    “Yes, a friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am but who is willing and able to leave me better than he found me” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 32, 35; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 41, 43).

  • How can we strengthen friendships among family members?

  • Jesus Christ has often called his followers his friends (D&C 88:62; 93:45). How has he shown that he is our friend? (See John 15:13.) How do we show that we are his friends? (See John 15:14.) How have you felt his friendship?

6. Raising children

Teach and discuss the following passages from Proverbs.

  • Proverbs 22:6 says to “train up a child in the way he should go.” What should parents do to follow this counsel? (See D&C 68:25–28.) How can we more effectively teach children the principles of the gospel and nurture their testimonies?

    Elder Richard G. Scott said: “You must be willing to forgo personal pleasure and self-interest for family-centered activity, and not turn over to church, school, or society the principal role of fostering a child’s well-rounded development. It takes time, great effort, and significant personal sacrifice to ‘train up a child in the way he should go.’ But where can you find greater rewards for a job well done?” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34).

  • Why do children need rules, boundaries, and loving correction? (See Proverbs 19:18; 29:17.) How should children respond to the righteous counsel of their parents? (See Proverbs 6:20–23.) How should parents give correction? (See D&C 121:41–44.)

7. Happiness and good humor

Teach and discuss Proverbs 15:13 and Proverbs 17:22.

  • Why is it important to develop a happy attitude and a good sense of humor? (See Proverbs 15:13; 17:22.)

    President Hugh B. Brown said: “I would like to have you smile because after all we must keep a sense of humor whatever comes. I think of all the people in the world we should be the happiest. We have the greatest and most joyous message in the world. I think when we get on the other side, someone will meet us with a smile (unless we go to the wrong place and then someone will grin), so let us be happy. But let our happiness be genuine—let it come from within” (The Abundant Life [1965], 83).

  • What can we do to encourage uplifting humor in our families? (You may want to ask class members to tell about times when humor has helped their families solve problems and grow in love for each other.)

Conclusion

Share your feelings about the topics you have discussed. Encourage class members to remember and follow the counsel in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. You may also want to encourage them to memorize a favorite passage from one of those books.

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. Proverbs activity

Write several references from the book of Proverbs on separate slips of paper and put them in a bowl. Have class members take turns choosing a slip of paper from the bowl, reading the passage of scripture cited on the slip of paper, and explaining how that passage applies in our lives.

2. Scripture application

Draw a figure of a body on the chalkboard. Have class members find the following verses and write the references next to each corresponding part of the body. Read the verses together and discuss how they apply in our lives.

  1. a.

    Proverbs 2:2 (ear and heart)

  2. b.

    Proverbs 3:5 (heart)

  3. c.

    Proverbs 3:7 (eyes)

  4. d.

    Proverbs 3:27 (hand)

  5. e.

    Proverbs 4:26–27 (foot)

  6. f.

    Proverbs 8:7 (mouth)

  7. g.

    Proverbs 10:4 (hand)

  8. h.

    Proverbs 12:15 (eyes)

3. “A virtuous woman” (Proverbs 31:10)

Have class members review Proverbs 31:10–31 and list the qualities of a virtuous woman. Point out that these are qualities that all of us, male and female, should strive to develop. You may want to write class members’ answers on the chalkboard. Answers might include the following:

Verse

Quality

11

Can be trusted

13

Works willingly

20

Is compassionate

25

Is strong and honorable

26

Speaks with wisdom and kindness

28

Is a dedicated wife and mother

30

Obeys the Lord

Invite a few class members to talk about people they know who exemplify these qualities.