After the children of Israel built the tabernacle, the Lord revealed to Moses how they should offer various kinds of sacrifices to Him. These sacrifices pointed the Israelites toward Jesus Christ and emphasized their need to rely on His atoning sacrifice for redemption.
Read the following list of sacrifices we are asked to make as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and ask the students to ponder if they have sacrificed in that way during their life: pay tithing, give a fast offering, serve in a Church calling, fulfill an assignment.
Next, write the following question on the board: Why are we asked to sacrifice so much as members of the Church?
Explain that Leviticus 1–7 contains the Lord’s direction concerning the sacrifices He required of His people anciently, including animal sacrifices. The book of Leviticus was like a priesthood handbook for the children of Israel and gave instructions for performing ordinances, rituals, and other sacred responsibilities. Invite students to ponder the question on the board as they study Leviticus 1–7 during today’s lesson.
When did Heavenly Father first command His children to perform animal sacrifices? (After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden [see Moses 5:5].)
You may want to display the picture Adam and Eve Kneeling at an Altar (Gospel Art Book , no. 4; see also LDS.org).
What did those sacrifices represent? (The future sacrifice of Jesus Christ [see Moses 5:7].)
Explain that the sacrifices outlined in Leviticus were given to foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (see Alma 34:14) and to teach about the coming Atonement of the Savior. Leviticus 1 provides instructions for performing an animal sacrifice called a burnt offering. This sacrifice was performed at the tabernacle (and later at the temple in Jerusalem) every morning and evening, as well as on special occasions.
Invite a student to read Leviticus 1:3–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for elements of the burnt offering that could teach about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. You may want to invite students to mark what they find and share it with the class. (Students’ answers could include “a male without blemish” [verse 3], “of his own voluntary will” [verse 3], “blood round about upon the altar” [verse 5], and “burn all on the altar” [verse 9]. You may want to point out any elements students do not mention.)
To help students understand how these elements can teach about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, write the following scripture references on the board: Matthew 27:26–31, 35; Luke 22:41–44; John 6:38; John 19:34; 1 Peter 1:18–19; D&C 19:18–19. Invite students to choose one or two of these references and read them silently. Ask students to look for connections between these verses and the elements of sacrifice listed on the board. Invite students to explain what they learned.
You may want to explain that the Lord has not revealed all of the symbolic meaning involved in burnt offerings. Also, although Jesus’s body was not separated into pieces, it was cut when He was scourged, or whipped, and when He received the crown of thorns. It was also pierced by the nails in His hands and feet and by the spear that was thrust into His side.
Further explain that as animal sacrifices were burned on the altar, the smoke rising to heaven symbolized prayers and symbolized that the offering was going up to the Lord. Point out the phrase “burn all on the altar” in verse 9.
What can the word all teach us about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice?
Invite students to ponder how Jesus Christ set an example for us when He chose to sacrifice everything He had, including His will, to Heavenly Father. Point to the question you wrote on the board at the beginning of class.
Based on what you have learned from Leviticus 1, how would you answer this question? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including the following: We can become more like our Savior as we choose to give everything in sacrifice to Heavenly Father. Using students’ words, write this principle on the board.)
Point out the phrase “sweet savour unto the Lord” in Leviticus 1:9.
What can these words teach us about Heavenly Father’s feelings toward those who sacrifice everything to Him? (Their efforts become sweet or satisfying to Heavenly Father.)
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a few sentences explaining why they choose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His prophets rather than give in to worldly temptations that surround us. You may want to invite a few students to share with the class what they wrote. You may also want to share your thoughts and testimony concerning the importance of sacrifice.
Ask students to think about the following questions: Why would the Lord send down fire to consume some of the Israelites? If you had been a spy sent to search the land of Canaan, what kind of a report would you have given to Moses when you returned? Would you have exaggerated what you saw? Ask the students if they have ever struggled because of the attitudes or actions of others. Invite students, as they study about the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness, to look for how the Israelites’ choices to murmur and rebel affected them and Moses. Ask students: If you were dying and someone told you that all you needed to do to be cured was to look at a certain object, how would you react?