Jeremiah lamented the destruction of Jerusalem and the affliction of its people. But even in his grief, Jeremiah testified of the Lord’s compassion. Jeremiah compared the lives of the people when they were righteous to their lives when they were wicked. Jeremiah pled with the Lord to forgive the people of Judah and turn them back to Him.
Invite students to imagine that a young man has some friends who try to convince him to break a commandment. Ask students to describe what this young man’s peers might say to convince him to break a commandment. Write students’ responses on the board.
What would you tell your friends to convince them that they should not commit sin?
Invite students to look for truths as they study Lamentations 1 that can help them understand why we should not sin.
Remind students that because the people of Judah chose to ignore the warnings of Jeremiah and other prophets and disobey their teachings, choosing wickedness instead, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Sometime after Jerusalem was destroyed, Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations. The term lamentation refers to words that express deep sorrow or grief.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Lamentations 1:1–5. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jeremiah lamented. Explain that the terms she and her in these verses refer to Jerusalem.
How did Jeremiah describe Jerusalem, according to verse 1?
What do these phrases mean? (If necessary, explain that these phrases imply that Jerusalem was abandoned and alone.)
Invite students to review Lamentations 1:1–5, looking for words or phrases that help us identify some of the consequences of sin. Consider inviting students to mark these words or phrases. Invite students to report what they find. Write students’ responses on the board.
Explain that in Lamentations 1:6–11 we read that Jeremiah continued to lament the destruction of Jerusalem. Lamentations 1:12–22 includes lamentations written from Jerusalem’s perspective, as though the city itself were speaking. Invite a student to read Lamentations 1:16, 18, 20, and 22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional consequences of sin.
Point out that the phrase “my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity” in verse 18 refers to the loss of the rising generation. The phrase “my bowels are troubled” in verse 20 refers to the mental and spiritual anguish we experience when we commit sin.
What words or phrases from verses 16, 18, 20, and 22 can help us understand what can happen when we commit sin? (Add students’ responses to the list on the board. Consider inviting students to mark these words or phrases.)
Refer to the list on the board. Invite students to use what they learned from Lamentations 1 to write a principle that summarizes the results of committing sin. After sufficient time, invite students to share what they wrote with one of their classmates. Then ask several students to report to the class what they wrote. After they report, write the following principle on the board: When we sin, we will feel troubled. Explain that this is only one of the many possible principles we can learn from Lamentations 1.
Why do you think we feel troubled or distressed when we commit sin?
To help students better understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:
“You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible! Years of happiness can be lost in the foolish gratification of a momentary desire for pleasure. Satan would have you believe that happiness comes only as you surrender to his enticements, but one only needs to look at the shattered lives of those who violate God’s laws to know why Satan is called the Father of Lies” (“A Message to the Rising Generation,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 30).
How might this truth help someone who is tempted to commit sin?
Ask students to ponder a time when they have felt troubled after committing a sin. Invite students to avoid sin so they do not have to experience these consequences.
Invite students to look as they study Lamentations 2–3 for principles that can help us when we feel troubled or distressed after committing sin.
Explain that in Lamentations 2 we read Jeremiah’s record of the misery and sorrow that the people of Jerusalem felt after their city was destroyed.
Explain that Lamentations 3 records that Jeremiah lamented the destruction of Jerusalem from the perspective of the people of Judah. Lamentations 3:1–18 describes the wicked people of Judah and their relationship with God. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Lamentations 3:1, 3, 7–9, 11, and 18. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the people’s sins had affected their relationship with God.
How had the people’s sins affected their relationship with God? (Help students understand that in their sinful state the people felt that the Lord had abandoned them. In reality, the people had moved away from God.)
Explain that because the people had damaged their relationship with God, they felt deep despair. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Lamentations 3:19–26. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a truth that might have helped the people of Judah. Explain that the phrase “the wormwood and the gall” in verse 19 refers to bitter suffering.
What reasons did Jeremiah give to explain why the people could still have hope even after they had experienced great despair?
According to verse 25, whom does the Lord help?
What principle can we learn from these verses about why we can have hope even after we have sinned? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but make sure they identify the following truth: Because the Lord is compassionate, we can find hope in knowing He will help us if we seek Him. Write this principle on the board.)
Underline the following words in the statement on the board: compassionate, hope, and help. Ask students to explain what they think each of these words means.
How might understanding this principle help someone who feels despair or is troubled because of his or her sins?
Summarize Lamentations 3:31–39 by explaining that Jeremiah explained that the Lord does not take pleasure in punishing people. Invite a student to read Lamentations 3:40–41 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the afflictions we experience as a result of sin might inspire us to do.
What could the afflictions we experience as a result of sin inspire us to do? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that the afflictions we experience as a result of sin can help motivate us to turn again to the Lord. Consider writing this truth on the board.)
In what ways do you think the afflictions we experience as a result of sin can help inspire us to turn to the Lord?
Explain that in Lamentations 3:42–66 we learn that Jeremiah continued to lament the state of Judah but again recognized that the Lord will draw near to those who call upon Him.
Ask students if they have ever wondered how their lives might be different if they chose to be wicked instead of righteous.
How do you think your life would be different?
Explain that in Lamentations 4 we read that Jeremiah compared the lives of the righteous people who had lived in Judah in the past to the lives of the wicked people of Judah who lived during his own time.
Invite a student to read Lamentations 4:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Jeremiah described the people when they were righteous as opposed to when they were wicked.
How did Jeremiah describe the people when they were righteous and when they were wicked?
In Lamentations 4:3–10, Jeremiah made more statements comparing the state of the people when they were righteous to their state when they were wicked. For example, he said that when they were righteous they had had enough to eat, lived comfortably, and enjoyed good health. Jeremiah said that when they were wicked they faced starvation, did not have homes to live in, and were sickly.
What had caused these changes in the lives of the people? (The people’s wickedness, which had resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem.)
What principle can we learn from these verses about what happens when we live righteously instead of choosing to commit sin? (Students may give a variety of answers, but make sure they identify that when we live righteously, our lives will be better than they would be if we chose to sin.)
How do you think people’s lives will be better when they live righteously?
Invite students to share examples of people from the scriptures whose lives were better because they chose to live righteously. Point out that being righteous does not mean that we will not experience trials and sorrow in our lives. It also does not mean that all who experience trials somehow deserve those trials because of unrighteousness. However, when we are righteous the Lord gives us strength, peace, and blessings to help us both temporally and spiritually (see Mosiah 2:41).
Summarize the rest of Lamentations 4 by explaining that Jeremiah continued to describe the pitiful condition of those who chose to be wicked.
Explain that Lamentations 5 records one of Jeremiah’s prayers to the Lord. Summarize Lamentations 5:1–18 by explaining that in Jeremiah’s prayer he acknowledged the sins of the people and the consequences they had suffered because of their sins.
Invite a student to read Lamentations 5:19–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what else Jeremiah prayed for.
What stands out to you about Jeremiah’s prayer?
Point out the phrase “renew our days as of old” (verse 21), and explain that Jeremiah pled that the Lord would forgive the people and make them clean, as they had been in former times.
Invite students to ponder what they can do to turn themselves more fully to the Lord so they can be renewed.