The Lord gave the children of Israel laws and ordinances that would bless them. If they would follow these laws and ordinances, they would be physically clean and clean from the sins of the world. The Lord also instructed Israel concerning the Day of Atonement. He further commanded the Israelites not to follow the wicked practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites.
Ask students to think of a time when they were physically very dirty. Invite them to ponder that experience as you read the following account by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in which he and other soldiers during World War II were transported across the United States in boxcars on a freight train:
“We had no change of clothing during the six-day trip. It was very hot. … Smoke and cinders from the engine made it very uncomfortable. There was no way to bathe or wash our uniforms. We rolled into Los Angeles one morning. …
“We thought first of food. The 10 of us in our crew pooled our money and headed for the best restaurant we could find.
“It was crowded, and so we joined a long line waiting to be seated. I was first, just behind some well-dressed women. Even without turning around, the stately woman in front of me soon became aware that we were there.
“She turned and looked at us. Then she turned and looked me over from head to toe. There I stood in that sweaty, dirty, sooty, wrinkled uniform. She said in a tone of disgust, ‘My, what untidy men!’ All eyes turned to us.
“No doubt she wished we were not there; I shared her wish. I felt as dirty as I was, uncomfortable, and ashamed” (“Washed Clean,” Ensign, May 1997, 9).
How might the feelings we experience when we are spiritually unclean be similar to the feelings we have when we are physically unclean? (You may want to clarify that even though we may feel ashamed by our sins, we can feel hope and know that the power of the Atonement can redeem us.)
Ask students to ponder how they feel about being spiritually clean before the Lord. Invite students to look for truths as they study Leviticus 12–15 that can help us learn how to become clean from our sins.
Invite a student to read Leviticus 13:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for another circumstance that caused a person to be pronounced unclean under the law of Moses. Invite students to report what they find.
Explain that in the Old Testament, the term leprosy refers to a variety of skin diseases and conditions. The instructions in Leviticus 13 provided the priests with ways to diagnose leprosy and guidelines to help them determine when someone was no longer infected and contagious.
Invite a student to read Leviticus 13:45–46 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what was required when someone had leprosy.
What was required of someone who had leprosy?
Why might separation from the camp of Israel be required?
Explain that although individuals diagnosed with leprosy were not necessarily spiritually unclean, the laws regarding leprosy can teach about sin symbolically. Write on the board: For a moment, we will liken leprosy to sin.
How do the instructions for a leper in verses 45–46 also relate to committing sin? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Our sins make us unclean and unable to dwell in God’s presence.)
To help students understand this truth, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer, in which he likens his experience of being in a nice restaurant while wearing filthy clothes to the experience of feeling the shame of sin:
“When I began a serious study of the scriptures, I noticed references to being spiritually clean. One verse says, ‘Ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell’ [Mormon 9:4].
“I could understand that. I remembered how I felt that day in Los Angeles. I reasoned that to be spiritually unclean would bring shame and humiliation immeasurably more intense than I felt then” (“Washed Clean,” 9).
Why do you think that no unclean thing or person can dwell in God’s presence? (As students respond, it may be helpful to refer to 1 Nephi 15:33.)
Explain that many of the skin diseases and conditions described as leprosy in Leviticus 13 would heal with time. However, before a leper could be considered clean under the law of Moses, he or she needed to participate in two rituals outlined in Leviticus 14. One reason these rituals were given was to teach about the Savior’s Atonement and to help them understand principles of repentance.
Invite a student to read Leviticus 14:1–3 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for who lepers went to for help so they could be pronounced clean. Ask students to report what they find.
Who may the priest represent in our own experiences seeking to be cleansed from our sins?
Write the following on the board: The priest is like a bishop or branch president.
Summarize Leviticus 14:4–32 by explaining that the leper was required to bring two birds, three lambs, flour, and oil to the priest as offerings to the Lord. If the leper could not afford to bring lambs, he or she could bring pigeons or turtledoves instead. In one of the rituals required to cleanse a leper, the priest sacrificed a bird. He then dipped another bird in the blood of the sacrificed bird and set it free (see Leviticus 14:4–7).
Ask a student to read Leviticus 14:13–14, 19–20 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what was done with the lambs that the leper brought to the priest.
What can the rituals with the birds and the lambs teach us about the Savior and what He does for those who repent?
Write the following statement on the board: The offerings are like our repentance.
What can we learn from these rituals about what we must do to be cleansed from our sins? (Help students identify the following principle: To be forgiven of our sins, we must turn to the Lord and obey the conditions of repentance He has given.)
Point out that lepers were not allowed to perform these offerings for themselves. It was necessary to go to the priest. Similarly, repentance for some sins may require that we seek help from our bishop or branch president.
How can a bishop or branch president help an individual to receive the blessing of forgiveness through the Savior’s Atonement? (You might want to explain that if a person has committed serious sin, such as sexual transgression or indulging in pornography, those sins must be confessed to the bishop. The bishop holds priesthood keys and has the authority to receive revelation to help the individual through the process of repentance.)
You may want to briefly testify that repentance is a gift from the Lord that helps us to experience the joy of Heavenly Father’s forgiveness through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Encourage students to seek this gift as often as they need it.
Summarize Leviticus 14:33–57 by explaining that the Lord set forth additional procedures to cleanse houses that contained mildew and mold that could threaten the health of the individuals living there. Leviticus 15 contains additional laws, rites, and sacrifices that were set forth to help priests know how to cleanse other types of uncleanliness.
Display the following pictures: Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Gospel Art Book , no. 56; see also LDS.org) and The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book, no. 57; see also LDS.org). Ask students to imagine they have the opportunity to teach another person who does not know what the Atonement is.
Which of these pictures would you use to teach this person what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is? Why?
Explain that in Leviticus 16, the Lord gave instruction that helped Israel learn about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This chapter describes a sacred ceremony the Israelites were commanded to perform on one day each year called the Day of Atonement (also known today as Yom Kippur). On this day the high priest offered sacrifice for all the people.
Invite students to consider as they study Leviticus 16 what this chapter can teach them about the Savior’s Atonement.
Summarize Leviticus 16:1–6 by explaining that Aaron, who served as the high priest, was required to change into simple white linen clothing and offer sacrifice for himself before he could enter the tabernacle and perform the sacrifices the Lord required on the Day of Atonement.
Draw two goats on the board. Write Leviticus 16:15–16 next to one goat and Leviticus 16:21–22 next to the other goat. Ask students to read these verses silently, looking for how the rituals involving these two goats could teach the children of Israel about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
What can the ritual described in verses 15–16 teach us about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
What can the ritual described in verses 21–22 teach us about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
How would you summarize what the Atonement of Jesus Christ included? (Students may use different words, but they should identify doctrines similar to the following: Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ took away the sins of the world by taking them upon Himself. Jesus Christ’s Atonement included His infinite suffering and the shedding of His blood in Gethsemane and on the cross.)
Point out that the Savior’s Atonement also included His Resurrection, which enables all mankind to be resurrected and overcome physical death. Refer to the pictures you displayed earlier.
Based on what you have learned, which of these pictures could you use to teach about the Atonement of Jesus Christ? (Both of them.)
To conclude this lesson, invite students to sing “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, no. 193). Ask them to look for phrases in the song that relate to what they have learned today.
Invite students to testify of the importance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives based on what they have learned today.
Summarize Leviticus 17–18 by explaining that the Lord commanded the people to avoid idolatrous practices, forbade marriages of close relatives, and identified homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions as an abomination. Israel was to keep God’s ordinances and remain undefiled.