Amos warned the Israelites that they would be destroyed if they did not repent. He prophesied that because the Israelites had rejected the Lord’s prophets, the Lord would remove the prophets from among them. Amos also warned the nations bordering Israel and Judah that they would be destroyed.
Ask students to ponder how they would respond to the following questions:
Have you ever tried to warn someone who did not heed your warning? What happened to that person as a result?
Has someone ever tried to warn you, but you did not heed the warning? What happened to you as a result?
After students have had sufficient time to ponder, invite a few of them to share their responses with the class.
Invite students to look for truths as they study the book of Amos that might help us understand the importance of heeding the warnings that the Lord gives us through His prophets.
Introduce the book of Amos by explaining that Amos was a shepherd from the kingdom of Judah. Amos was called by the Lord to preach to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and warn the people of the consequences of their sins. To help students understand the historical context of Amos’s ministry, you may want to invite them to locate “Amos” on the diagram “The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah at a Glance” (see lesson 102).
Summarize Amos 1–2 by explaining that Amos prophesied that destruction would come upon many nations for their wickedness. Invite a student to read Amos 2:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for two kingdoms the Lord said would be destroyed and why. (You may want to explain that the phrase “for three transgressions … and for four” does not refer to a specific number of sins but suggests that the wickedness of these nations was very great; a certain level of wickedness would have justified their destruction, but they had sinned above and beyond that level (see Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 90].)
Who did Amos say would be destroyed?
What sins had the people of Judah and Israel committed?
Invite a student to read Amos 2:10–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord reminded the Israelites of all that He had done for them.
What had the Lord done to help the Israelites?
Explain that the Lord had raised up prophets and Nazarites to help the people of Israel (see Amos 2:11). The term Nazarite comes from a Hebrew word that means consecrated or dedicated. (It has no connection with the town of Nazareth where the Savior lived.) Nazarites wholly dedicated themselves to the Lord for a certain period of their life. The Nazarite vow could last for a short or long time. As part of this vow, they did not drink wine. (See Bible Dictionary, “Nazarite.”)
Invite a student to read Amos 2:12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the people responded to the Nazarites and prophets.
How did the people of Israel respond to the Nazarites and prophets? (You may want to explain that Israelites encouraging Nazarites to drink wine was similar to Church members today encouraging fellow Church members to break their covenants.)
Write the following statement on the board: Prophesy not.
What does it mean that the Israelites told the prophets to “prophesy not”? (They told the prophets to stop warning them about the consequences of sin and the coming destructions of Israel and Judah.)
Point out that Amos later personally experienced this rejection when Amaziah, a wicked priest of King Jeroboam, told Amos to return to Judah and stop prophesying to the people of Israel that they would be destroyed (see Amos 7:10–13).
Why would someone want the prophets to “prophesy not”?
Summarize Amos 2:13–3:2 by explaining that the Lord expressed sorrow for Israel’s rejection of Him and His servants and warned the people that they would not be able to save themselves from destruction. Amos 3:3–8 records the Lord’s response to the people who wanted Amos and the other prophets to stop prophesying.
Invite a student to read Amos 3:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord inspired Amos to teach to the people who demanded that the prophets stop prophesying about the destruction of Israel.
What did the Lord want His people to understand? (He would not destroy His people unless He first warned them through His prophets.)
To help students understand verse 8, explain that Amos declared that just as the roar of a lion naturally instills fear in those who hear it, so also a prophet is bound to prophesy when he is commanded by God. Amos understood this concept and would not allow the complaints of the people to stop him from fulfilling his sacred duty as a prophet.
Point out that Amos 3:7 records an important doctrine about the role of prophets in our day as well as in the days of Amos.
What doctrine about prophets do we learn from Amos 3:7? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: The Lord reveals truth through His prophets. Erase the statement “Prophesy not” from the board, and write this doctrine in its place.)
Point out that the Joseph Smith Translation of Amos 3:7 replaces the word but with until (see Joseph Smith Translation, Amos 3:7 [in Amos 3:7, footnote a]). You may want to suggest that students write this change in the margin next to verse 7.
To help students understand the importance of the doctrine they just identified, divide them into small groups and invite them to discuss the following questions. You could write these questions on the board, distribute handouts with the questions printed on them, or read the questions aloud one at a time, pausing between each one to give students time to discuss them.
Testify that the Lord reveals what we need to know through prophets. Invite students to always look to the latter-day prophets for direction and then follow them.
Summarize Amos 3:9–6:14 by explaining that Amos continued to warn the people of destruction. He also explained that although the Lord had used famines, droughts, pestilences, and war to teach His people the error of their sinful ways, they would not return to Him.
Explain that in spite of the prophets’ warnings, the Israelites continued to sin.
Summarize Amos 7:1–8:10 by explaining that Amos reiterated his duty to declare God’s word and described another consequence of Israel’s rejection of the prophets. Invite a student to read Amos 8:11–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Amos prophesied would happen.
What type of famine did Amos prophesy of? (Without revelation through a prophet, they would experience a spiritual famine.)
What did Amos prophesy that the people would do during this famine?
What principle does this teach about the consequence of rejecting the Lord’s prophets? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: When people reject the Lord’s prophets, they lose the blessing of hearing the words of the Lord.)
What are examples of times when people lost the blessing of hearing the words of the Lord because they rejected His prophets?
Explain that the prophecy in Amos 8:11–12 has been fulfilled during several different periods in history (see verse 11, footnote a). One important fulfillment of this prophecy is the Great Apostasy. To help students better understand the Great Apostasy, invite a student to read aloud the following explanation:
“The Great Apostasy … occurred after the Savior established His Church. After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. …
“During the Great Apostasy, people were without divine direction from living prophets. Many churches were established, but they did not have priesthood power to lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ. … This apostasy lasted until Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 and initiated the restoration of the fulness of the gospel” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference , 13).
How would you summarize what happened during the Great Apostasy?
How does understanding that a universal apostasy occurred explain the need for the Restoration? (“If there had been no apostasy, there would have been no need of a Restoration” [Preach My Gospel, 36].)
Summarize Amos 9 by explaining that although Amos saw the Great Apostasy, he also saw the Restoration in the latter days, when Israel would be gathered again and restored to their promised land.
To conclude, you may want to review the truths students have identified in the lesson. Invite students to share their testimonies of the importance of heeding the words of the Lord’s prophets, and encourage students to follow the teachings of the prophets.
To help students memorize Amos 3:7, ask them to list the numbers one through five on a piece of paper. Invite them to find five other students and write those students’ names in the five spaces on the paper. Once students have five names on their paper, ask them to meet with the first person on their list. Instruct them to recite Amos 3:7 to that person (using their scriptures as necessary) and allow the other student to recite Amos 3:7 too. Then ask students to move on to the second name and repeat the activity. (If you do not have at least 10 students in class, students could meet with a smaller number of classmates or repeat the activity with some of the same students.) Once students have met with all five students on their paper, invite them to recite Amos 3:7 from memory as a class.