Lesson 19: Abraham 1

Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2014


Introduction

While living in Ur, Abraham sought the blessings of the priesthood and desired to be a greater follower of righteousness. However, his fathers had turned from righteousness to the worship of false gods. Wicked priests attempted to sacrifice Abraham to their false gods, but Jehovah (Jesus Christ) miraculously delivered him. After recounting the story of his deliverance, Abraham explained the origins of the ancient government of Egypt. He also explained that he had been entrusted by the Lord to preserve the sacred records of the righteous.

Note: On July 5, 1835, Joseph Smith wrote of the coming forth of the book of Abraham and the importance of these ancient Egyptian writings: “‘I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham. … Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth’ (History of the Church, 2:236)” (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2000], 28). Some have wondered how the Prophet translated the ancient writings. “The Prophet Joseph Smith never communicated his method of translating these records. As with all other scriptures, a testimony of the truthfulness of these writings is primarily a matter of faith. The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the book of Abraham is not found in an analysis of physical evidence nor historical background, but in prayerful consideration of its content and power” (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, 28). Although we do not know the exact method Joseph Smith used to translate the writings of Abraham, we do know that he translated them by the gift and power of God.

Suggestions for Teaching

Abraham 1:1–20

Abraham seeks righteousness and is persecuted by false priests

Invite students to imagine that they have a friend who is a member of the Church who has a difficult home life where the Lord’s commandments are taken lightly and there is no support to keep them. She wants to receive all the blessings that come from living the gospel, but some of her family members make it difficult for her. In fact, they often ridicule her and discourage her from living her beliefs.

  • What would you tell your friend that could help her remain faithful? Can she hope to obtain her desires despite her circumstances? Why?

The situation of this young woman could be likened to that of a man named Abraham, who was born about 300 years after the Flood. Invite students to read Abraham 1:1–2 silently, looking for the spiritual blessings Abraham desired and sought to obtain. (As students read, write the phrase Desire and Seek on the board.) After sufficient time, point out the phrase “having been myself a follower of righteousness” in verse 2, and ask the following questions:

  • Even though Abraham was already a follower of righteousness, what spiritual blessings did he desire and seek to obtain? (Write students’ responses on the board under “Desire and Seek.”)

  • According to verse 2, why did Abraham desire these things and seek to obtain them?

  • What are some synonyms for the word desire?

To help students understand what it means to desire something, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Desire denotes a real longing or craving. …

“… What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity” (“According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21).

  • What do you think it means to desire “to be a greater follower of righteousness”?

Point to the word “Seek” on the board.

  • What are some synonyms for the word seek?

To help students understand what it means to seek, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

“The word seek means to go in search of, try to discover, try to acquire. It requires an active, assertive approach to life. … It is the opposite of passively waiting for something good to come to us, with no effort on our part” (“Seeking the Good,” Ensign, May 1992, 86).

Invite a student to read Abraham 1:3–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what happened to Abraham because he desired and sought for the blessings of the gospel. Ask students to report what they find.

Make sure students understand that Abraham received what he sought and that the blessings of the priesthood were conferred upon him.

  • Based on what God did for Abraham, what do you think God will do for us if we seek for righteousness? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we seek for righteousness, God will bless us according to our desires.)

Remind students of the scenario you presented at the beginning of class, and ask the following question:

  • How might the principle on the board help your friend remain faithful even though her family members make it difficult for her to live the gospel?

Explain that even though Abraham sought after righteousness in his life, he lived in circumstances that made it difficult to obtain his righteous desires. Ask a student to read Abraham 1:5–7 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and identify the difficult circumstances Abraham faced.

  • What difficult circumstances did Abraham face?

  • According to verses 5 and 7, what did Abraham do even though he lived in difficult circumstances? (He tried to teach his family the gospel.)

Invite a student to read Abraham 1:8–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify other difficult circumstances that existed for Abraham and other righteous people in Chaldea.

  • What difficult circumstances existed in the land of Chaldea?

  • According to verse 11, why were the three daughters of Onitah sacrificed?

  • Based on the examples of Abraham and the three daughters of Onitah, what can we choose to do regardless of the circumstances in which we live? (Students may give a variety of answers. As they respond, help them identify the following principle: We can choose righteousness regardless of the circumstances in which we live.)

  • How might believing this principle help your friend continue to live the gospel even though it is difficult for her to do so?

Invite students to think of a time when they or someone they know made righteous choices while they were in difficult circumstances. Ask a few students to share their experiences.

Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith:

President Joseph Fielding Smith

“We all know something of the courage it takes for one to stand in opposition to united custom, and general belief. None of us likes to be ridiculed. Few are able to withstand popular opinion even when they know it is wrong, and it is difficult to comprehend the magnificent courage displayed by Abraham in his profound obedience to Jehovah, in the midst of his surroundings. His moral courage, his implicit faith in God, his boldness in raising his voice in opposition to the prevailing wickedness, is almost beyond comparison (The Way to Perfection [1953], 86)” (Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, 30).

Invite students to set a goal to make righteous choices regardless of the circumstances they may be in. Testify that God will bless them as they make those righteous choices.

Invite students to look at “A Facsimile from the Book of Abraham, No. 1,” which is located at the beginning of the book of Abraham. Summarize Abraham 1:12–14 by explaining that this depiction represents Abraham on the altar and the false priest preparing to sacrifice him. The depiction also contains images of the many false gods the people worshipped at that time.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Abraham 1:15–17. Ask the class to look for what happened to Abraham after he was placed on the altar.

video iconTo illustrate the events in Abraham 1:15–17, you may want to show the video “Deliverance of Abraham” (1:31). This video can be found on Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs or on LDS.org.

  • What happened to Abraham?

  • What did Jehovah say to Abraham?

You may want to point out that the three daughters of Onitah set a courageous example for Abraham to follow when they refused to bow down to false gods. These virtuous young women were willing to die rather than deny what they believed or yield to bowing down before idols. Abraham followed their example of virtue and bravery, and he was willing to accept the same fate.

Ask students to read Abraham 1:18–19 silently, looking for the promises Jehovah gave to Abraham. You may want to suggest that they mark what they find.

Invite a student to read Abraham 1:20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord did after He delivered Abraham from the wicked priests. Ask students to report what they find. You may want to point out that the Lord also sent a famine into the land (see Abraham 1:29–30).

Abraham 1:21–27

The origins of the government of Egypt are explained

Summarize Abraham 1:21–24 by explaining that after the Flood, a woman named Egyptus, who was Noah’s granddaughter through Ham, settled in a land with her sons. The land became known as the land of Egypt, and Egyptus’s oldest son, Pharaoh, established the first government (subsequent leaders of Egypt were also called Pharaoh). Ask a student to read Abraham 1:25–27 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for how Pharaoh tried to set up his kingdom.

  • What did Pharaoh try to imitate? (Even though Pharaoh did not have “the right of priesthood,” he tried to imitate the same “[priesthood] order established by the fathers.”)

  • According to verse 27, what did trying to imitate the priesthood eventually lead to?

You may want to explain that idolatry refers to worshipping idols, false gods, and images of any kind.

Abraham 1:28–31

Abraham is entrusted as a record keeper

  • What does it mean to preserve something? (To keep something in good condition or ensure its continued existence; to protect something from harm or loss.)

Ask students how someone might preserve a letter or a photograph. You may wish to show students a letter or photograph you have preserved.

Invite a student to read Abraham 1:28 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the Lord charged Abraham to preserve. (You may need to explain that the word delineate means to describe in detail.) Ask them to report what they find.

Invite another student to read Abraham 1:31 aloud. Ask students to identify what these preserved records contained.

  • What was preserved in the records Abraham kept? (Information about the right of the priesthood and knowledge of the beginning of creation, the planets, and the stars.)

  • How might Abraham’s posterity benefit from knowing about these truths?

Invite students to share something they learned from today’s lesson. You might also invite them to testify of the principles you discussed as you studied Abraham 1.

Commentary and Background Information

Abraham 1:2. What is “the right belonging to the fathers”?

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. …

“Abraham, a righteous servant of God, desiring as he said, ‘to be a greater follower of righteousness,’ sought for [the eternal blessings associated with the priesthood]. Speaking of the order of the priesthood, he said: ‘It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time … even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through the fathers unto me.’ (Abr. 1:2–3.)” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 9).

Abraham 1:3. Who conferred the priesthood upon Abraham?

Abraham’s record shows that his fathers had “turned from their righteousness” (Abraham 1:5) and therefore could not confer the holy priesthood upon him. Thus Abraham did not receive the priesthood from his father, Terah. Yet Abraham became a “rightful heir” to the priesthood through his righteousness, and he “sought for the blessings of the fathers” who held the priesthood (Abraham 1:2). Doctrine and Covenants 84:14–16 indicates that “Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah,” who had received it through the lineage of his fathers, all the way back to Enoch and Adam.

The Prophet Joseph Smith referred to Abraham receiving the priesthood from Melchizedek when he wrote: “Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood” (in History of the Church, 5:555).

Abraham 1:8–11. Egyptian human sacrifice

President Joseph Fielding Smith, commenting on the human sacrifices that took place during the time of Abraham, wrote:

“Abraham was of the [tenth] generation from Noah. Several hundred years had passed since the flood, and people had multiplied and spread over the face of the earth. The civilizations of Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria and the petty nations of Canaan, had been established. In the midst of this scattering the true worship of the Father was nearly lost. Sacrifice instituted in the days of Adam and continued in the practice and teaching of Noah, in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of Man, had become perverted. Instead of offering clean animals, such as the lamb and bullock, the apostate nations had dwindled in unbelief to the extent that human sacrifice was offered to their idol gods” (The Way to Perfection [1953], 85).