This lesson focuses on Genesis 45, which tells how Joseph made himself known to his brothers and how his brothers returned to Canaan to bring their father, Jacob, to Egypt.
Fill a glass jar three-fourths full of rice or wheat, place a ping-pong ball on top, and then place the lid on the jar. Explain to the students that the ping-pong ball represents them, and the rice or wheat represents trials and difficulties they face today in their homes, school, or community. Tip the jar upside down so the ping-pong ball is buried by the rice or wheat, and invite students to describe some of these trials and afflictions. After students respond, shake the jar up and down until the ping-pong ball rises to the top. Invite students to think of a principle that this illustration could teach about the life of Joseph and that could help them know how to rise above their own trials and discouragements.
Invite two students to take turns reading Genesis 45:1–4 aloud. Ask half of the class to follow along and consider what Joseph might have been thinking and feeling. Ask the other half to follow along and consider what the brothers might have been thinking and feeling.
After hearing Judah express his concern for his father and brother Benjamin (see Genesis 44:18–34), what do you think Joseph may have thought and felt as he decided to reveal his identity to his brothers?
Verse 3 indicates that Joseph’s brothers “were troubled” when Joseph told them who he was. What thoughts and feelings might Joseph’s brothers have had when they learned that this Egyptian ruler was really their brother?
Invite students to review what they have studied about Joseph and think about the trials and difficulties he experienced throughout his life. After students have had sufficient time, invite them to list the trials and difficulties on the board. (Their list might include the following: Joseph’s brothers hated him, his brothers threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery, he was separated from his parents, he was tempted to be immoral, he was falsely accused, and he was kept in prison for years.)
Invite a student to read Genesis 45:5–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Joseph’s perspective about his trials. Have students report what they find.
What did Joseph understand about his trials? (Help students understand that Joseph recognized God’s hand in his life.)
According to verse 8, who did Joseph say sent him to Egypt?
What advice might Joseph give today to someone experiencing trials or difficulties in life? (Students’ answers may include something similar to the following principle: If we are faithful, God can direct our lives and help us make trials become blessings for ourselves and others. Using the students’ words, you may want to write this principle on the board.)
Invite students to share experiences in which God has directed the course of their lives (or the life of someone they know) and helped them make trials or difficulties become blessings.
What has helped you remain faithful to God during the trials you have experienced in your life?
You may wish to share how you have seen this principle in your own life. Encourage students to look for God’s hand in their lives and to see how He can help us turn challenges to our benefit and the benefit of others.
Remind students that Joseph’s brothers “were troubled at his presence” (Genesis 45:3) when they discovered who he was.
Why would the brothers have felt troubled?
Invite a student to read Genesis 45:9–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Joseph helped ease their concerns. Ask students to report what they find.
How do you think Joseph and his brothers felt at this time?
What can we learn from Joseph’s response to his brothers and the joy he experienced as a result? (Among other things, students may identify the following truth: Forgiving those who have wronged us helps us experience healing and peace. You may wish to write this principle on the board.)
To help students understand this principle better, consider sharing the account of Christopher Williams. Explain that while he was driving home one night, his car was struck by a drunk teenage driver, killing his pregnant wife and two of his children. President James E. Faust of the First Presidency referred to this experience in a general conference talk. Invite a student to read the following statement aloud. Ask the class to listen for why it is so important to forgive those who have wronged us.
“When a car crashed into Bishop Christopher Williams’s vehicle, he had a decision to make, and it was to ‘unconditionally forgive’ the driver who had caused the accident so that the healing process could take place unhampered” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).
Explain that while it can be very difficult to forgive some wrongs against us, President Faust taught of the necessity to forgive others as soon as possible. Invite a student to read the following statement aloud:
“Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.
“Some hold grudges for a lifetime, unaware that courageously forgiving those who have wronged us is wholesome and therapeutic. …
“… Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” 68–69).
Invite students to think about someone who may have hurt or wronged them. Ask them to consider what they can do to forgive so that they and others can experience greater healing and joy.
Summarize Genesis 45:16–46:34 by explaining that when Pharaoh heard about Joseph’s family, he sent Joseph’s brothers back to Canaan with wagons loaded with food and gifts and invited Jacob’s family to come to Egypt. When the brothers arrived home in Canaan, they told Jacob that Joseph was alive and in Egypt. At first Jacob did not believe them, but when he saw the wagons, he said, “Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (Genesis 45:28). Jacob took all of his family and their possessions and traveled to Egypt. On the way, the Lord spoke to Jacob in a vision and told him not to fear settling his family in Egypt because He would be with Jacob and would make of him a great nation.
Invite a student to read Genesis 46:29–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and imagine the tender reunion between Joseph and his father, Jacob.
Both Jacob and Joseph had likely thought that they would never see one another again in this life. How might their reunion have strengthened their trust in God and His plan for their lives?
Conclude by inviting one or two students to share what they learned today that was meaningful to them and why it was important to them.
Ask students if they have ever seen someone courageously refuse to follow someone who was trying to get him or her to do something wrong. Explain that in the next unit they will study about the Hebrew midwives who defied an evil command of Pharaoh and chose to obey God rather than man. Ask students: How would you feel if you were asked to go before the leader of the most powerful nation in the world and demand that he let God’s people go? How many miraculous signs did Pharaoh need to witness before he finally softened his heart?