Lesson 21

Abraham 3

“Lesson 21: Abraham 3,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

Before Abraham went to Egypt, the Lord spoke with him face to face and instructed him about the nature and order of the cosmos and the centrality of Jesus Christ in the plan of salvation. The Lord told Abraham to declare to the people in Egypt what he had learned. The Lord also showed Abraham the Council in Heaven, which occurred before the world was created, including Heavenly Father’s selection of Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world.

Suggestions for Teaching

Abraham 3:1–21

The Lord teaches Abraham about the order of the stars

Write the following incomplete statements on the board. Invite students to complete the first statement in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

The world tells me I am great if …

Real qualities of greatness include …

Invite a few students to tell the class how they completed the first statement.

Explain that Abraham 3 contains the account of the Lord teaching Abraham about the stars, which helped Abraham understand the greatness of Jesus Christ and the importance of each of God’s children. Abraham received this revelation through the Urim and Thummim, an instrument given to seers to assist them in receiving revelation and translating languages. Invite students to look for what the Lord taught Abraham about true greatness as they study this revelation.

Invite a student to read Abraham 3:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Abraham learned about the stars and planets. Invite students to report what they find. To help students visualize what Abraham saw, consider drawing or inviting a student to draw on the board a simple illustration of what students describe.

God and Kolob
  • Which star is nearest to the throne of God?

  • According to verse 3, what phrase did the Lord use to describe Kolob? (“The great one.”)

Summarize Abraham 3:4–17 by explaining that Abraham learned details about the planets and stars. For example, one day for Kolob is equivalent to 1,000 years on Earth (see verse 4). The Lord also showed Abraham His creations and promised Abraham that his posterity would be as numerous as the stars and sands. The Lord commanded Abraham to declare these truths in Egypt.

You may want to briefly explain that “A Facsimile from the Book of Abraham, No. 2” was part of a collection of Egyptian papyri purchased from an antiquities dealer by some of the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio. The facsimile contains symbolic figures relating to the planets and stars and the Lord’s plan of salvation. Other than the explanations provided by the Prophet Joseph Smith, we have no additional revelation about the facsimile from modern prophets.

You may want to point out that God’s instruction about the comparative differences in stars was also meant to teach Abraham about the greatness of Jesus Christ and the differences between Him and God’s other spirit children. Invite a student to read Abraham 3:18–19, 21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Abraham learned about the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • How would you summarize what Abraham learned about Jesus Christ? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: Jesus Christ is the greatest and most intelligent of all Heavenly Father’s children.)

Point out the word intelligent in verse 19. Explain that in the scriptures, the word intelligent often refers to the degree of light and truth an individual has received. We gain intelligence by obeying God’s commandments; thus, the more obedient we are, the greater our intelligence can be. (See D&C 93:28, 36.) Jesus Christ is nearest to and most like Heavenly Father because of the light and truth He has received through His perfect obedience.

  • How can knowing that Jesus Christ is the most intelligent of all our Heavenly Father’s children help you exercise faith in Him?

Abraham 3:22–28

The Lord shows Abraham the Council in Heaven

Invite students to think about a time they learned or discovered something new about themselves. (For example, they may have discovered a new talent or an interest in a particular hobby.) Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class.

Explain that Abraham 3:22–23 shows us that the Lord taught Abraham more about himself while showing him a vision of the Council in Heaven, which occurred before the earth was created. Invite a student to read these verses aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Abraham learned about himself.

  • Who did Abraham see gathered together in heaven?

Explain that in verse 22, the word intelligences refers to spirit children of God.

  • What did Abraham learn about himself from this vision?

  • What did Heavenly Father choose Abraham and other noble and great spirits to do on the earth? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following doctrine: Heavenly Father chose His noble and great children before they were born to become leaders in His kingdom on the earth.)

To help students understand that they too were chosen or foreordained in the premortal life to fulfill certain responsibilities on the earth, invite a student to read the following statement from True to the Faith:

“In the premortal spirit world, God appointed certain spirits to fulfill specific missions during their mortal lives. This is called foreordination. …

“The doctrine of foreordination applies to all members of the Church, not just to the Savior and His prophets. Before the creation of the earth, faithful women were given certain responsibilities and faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood duties. Although you do not remember that time, you surely agreed to fulfill significant tasks in the service of your Father” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 69, 70).

  • How can knowing you were chosen in the premortal life to “fulfill significant tasks in the service of your [Heavenly] Father” influence your choices and actions in mortality?

  • What might prevent someone in mortality from fulfilling the tasks God foreordained or chose him or her to do?

Read the following incomplete statement aloud, and ask students how they would complete it: “The test of life is …”

Invite a student to read Abraham 3:24–25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the test of life is. Before the student reads, you may want to explain that the word prove in this passage means to test.

  • After reading Abraham 3:24–25, what would you say the test of life is? (After students respond, you may want to write the following truth on the board: The test of life is to determine if we will do whatever God commands us.)

Explain that this test began in our premortal life, or our “first estate.” The scriptures refer to our premortal choice to follow Heavenly Father’s plan as keeping our first estate. Invite a student to read Abraham 3:26 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for the blessing Heavenly Father planned to give to His spirit children who kept their first estate.

  • What blessing did Heavenly Father plan to give to those who kept their first estate? (They would be “added upon.”)

  • What do you think it means to be “added upon”? (Students might mention that if we chose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan in the premortal life, then we were given the opportunity to progress to mortality and receive a physical body.)

  • What were the consequences for spirits who chose not to keep their first estate? (They would neither receive a physical body nor have the opportunity to attain eternal glory.)

  • What do you think it means to keep our second estate? (The second estate refers to the time between our mortal birth and the Final Judgment. To keep our second estate, we must accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ, including obeying all that Heavenly Father commands us to do.)

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we do all that Heavenly Father commands us to do, then …

Refer students to verse 26, and ask them how they would complete the statement on the board based on this verse. Invite a student to write the rest of the principle on the board. They may use different words, but students should identify something similar to the following principle: If we do all that Heavenly Father commands us to do, then we will have glory added upon us forever.

  • What do you think it means to have glory added upon us forever?

Read Abraham 3:27–28 aloud, and invite students to consider who the two spirits were who responded to Heavenly Father’s question concerning whom he should send.

  • Who were the two spirits who responded to Heavenly Father’s question? (Jesus Christ was the first, and Lucifer [or Satan] was the second.)

  • How did Lucifer react when Jesus Christ was chosen? (Lucifer was angry and rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan. He also persuaded many of Heavenly Father’s children not to follow the Father’s plan.)

Because Satan and his followers did not keep their first estate, they lost the opportunity to receive physical bodies, experience mortal life, and progress toward eternal glory.

To conclude, invite students to complete the second sentence on the board from the beginning of class in their class notebooks or scripture study journals (“Real qualities of greatness include …”).

Invite a few students to explain to the class what they wrote. Testify that we can achieve real greatness as we draw closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through obedience to Their commandments.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery—Abraham 3:22–23

To help students memorize Abraham 3:22–23, use this “one-word race” activity. Challenge the class to say one or both verses of Abraham 3:22–23, one word per student at a time. For example, if starting with verse 22, the first student would say the word now, the second student would say the, the third student would say Lord, and so forth until the class has completed the entire verse. Time the class, and give them multiple chances to achieve a target time or set a class record. As you repeat this activity, consider shifting the order of students so they have to say different words. After students have become familiar with the verses, invite the class to recite the passage aloud all together.

Remember that one key to memorization and scripture mastery is repetition. Consider ways to review this passage at the beginning or end of lessons over the next week or two.

Commentary and Background Information

Abraham 3:1. Urim and Thummim

A Urim and Thummim is “an instrument prepared of God to assist man in obtaining revelation from the Lord and in translating languages. [See Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65; Joseph Smith—History 1:35.]

“Using a Urim and Thummim is the special prerogative of a seer, and it would seem reasonable that such instruments were used from the time of Adam” (Bible Dictionary, “Urim and Thummim”).

Some have wondered about how Abraham and the brother of Jared could both possess the Urim and Thummim while residing on two different continents. The scriptures teach that there is more than one Urim and Thummim (see Exodus 28:30; Mosiah 28:11–20; Ether 3:21–28; Abraham 3:1). Aaron, the high priest in Israel, carried a Urim and Thummim inside of a breastplate that was part of his priestly clothing. In the latter days, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the Urim and Thummim that had been given to the brother of Jared, which Moroni hid up along with the plates of the Book of Mormon (see Ether 3:21–28; D&C 17:1). A partial description of that instrument is recorded in Mosiah 28:13–14 and Joseph Smith—History 1:35. The Nephites referred to this instrument as “interpreters” (see Mosiah 8:13; 28:20; Alma 37:21; Ether 4:5).

The use of a Urim and Thummim by the Prophet Joseph Smith is a confirmation of his divine calling as a translator (particularly of the Book of Mormon) and a seer who, like Abraham, could receive revelations through a Urim and Thummim.

Abraham 3:19. Jesus Christ is “more intelligent than they all”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified that Jesus Christ is the greatest and most intelligent of God’s children:

“I testify that He is utterly incomparable in what He is, what He knows, what He has accomplished, and what He has experienced. Yet, movingly, He calls us His friends. (See John 15:15.) …

“In intelligence and performance, He far surpasses the individual and the composite capacities and achievements of all who have lived, live now, and will yet live! (See Abr. 3:19.)

“He rejoices in our genuine goodness and achievement, but any assessment of where we stand in relation to Him tells us that we do not stand at all! We kneel!” (“O, Divine Redeemer,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 8).

Abraham 3:22. “Noble and great ones”

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught about foreordination:

“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 511).

Adding to this understanding, President Joseph F. Smith saw in his vision of the spirit world that Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and “other choice spirits” were “reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work” (D&C 138:53). President Smith “observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God” (D&C 138:55).

Abraham 3:24. “We will make an earth”

Jesus Christ created the heaven and the earth under the Father’s direction (see Moses 1:31–33; 2:1). Others were privileged to assist Him in the Creation, including Michael, or Adam.

Regarding this fact, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed?” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:74–75).

Abraham 3:27. “Whom shall I send?”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles affirmed that it is “extremely important to get straight what happened in that premortal council. It was not an unstructured meeting, nor was it a discussion between plans, nor an idea-producing session, as to how to formulate the plan for salvation and carry it out. Our Father’s plan was known, and the actual question put was whom the Father should send to carry out the plan” (Deposition of a Disciple [1976], 11).

However, even though Heavenly Father asked “Whom shall I send?” it was not because He did not know whom to send to earth to be the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. He always knew whom He would send, as he explained: “My Beloved Son … was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning” (Moses 4:2; see also 1 Peter 1:20). Elder Maxwell testified that “Jesus, being sinless and being the Firstborn of the Eternal Father in the spirit world, was utterly and uniquely qualified to perform the Atonement. No one else was qualified in full conformance with the Father’s will” (One More Strain of Praise [1999], 42–43).

Yet if Heavenly Father always knew who would be the Savior, why did He ask, “Whom shall I send?” By asking this question, our Heavenly Father allowed His Firstborn Son to offer Himself “of his own voluntary will” (Leviticus 1:3). Through His submissive response, Jehovah established a perfect pattern for offering all future sacrifices, which were to be given with “real intent” (Moroni 7:6) and “not grudgingly” (2 Corinthians 9:7), just as He gave Himself (see D&C 34:3).