Malachi prophesied concerning the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Lord commanded the Jews to return to Him by paying their tithes and offerings. He assured the righteous that their efforts to serve Him would be rewarded and that when He returned to earth, they would be His.
Ask students if they have ever been in a situation where they needed to be prepared for something important but were not. Invite a few students to describe how that feels.
Explain that Malachi 3 teaches of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and some ways we can prepare ourselves for it. Invite a student to read Malachi 1:1–2 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for phrases that describe the Second Coming.
What title refers to Jesus Christ in verse 1?
How would you summarize the questions asked in verse 2? (Malachi is asking who will be ready and worthy for the Second Coming.)
Write the phrases refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap on the board. Explain that a refiner uses fire to heat a metal like silver or gold until it reaches a liquid state. The heating process allows dross, or impurities, to rise to the surface of the liquid metal, where the refiner can remove them, thus purging the metal of its impurities. A fuller is someone who cleans or whitens fabrics using soap.
According to verse 2, why do we need to be ready for the Second Coming?
What are some ways Jesus Christ is like a refiner’s fire or fullers’ soap?
To help students understand this imagery, read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The fierce flames, the fervent heat, the burning fires of the Second Coming that destroy the wicked shall also cleanse the righteous. … Evil and sin and dross will be burned out of their souls because they qualify to abide the day” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 543–44).
Invite students to read Malachi 3:1 again silently, looking for what the Lord said He would do to prepare people for His Second Coming.
Who do you think is the “messenger” that would prepare the way for the Second Coming?
To help students understand who this messenger is, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“John the Baptist did this very thing in the meridian of time, but it remained for Joseph Smith to perform the glorious work in our day. He is the latter-day messenger who was sent to restore the gospel, which itself prepares a people for the return of the Lord” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 629).
Who prepared the way for the Messiah’s first coming? (John the Baptist.)
Who was sent to prepare the way for the Lord’s Second Coming? How does Malachi 3:1 help us understand the importance of the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith? (Following students’ responses, write the following truth on the board: The Lord sent Joseph Smith to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.)
What did Joseph Smith do to prepare us for the return of Jesus Christ? (Joseph Smith restored and taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. By living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can be refined, purified, and prepared for the Second Coming.)
Invite students to ponder how well they are living the gospel of Jesus Christ and preparing for the Second Coming.
Summarize Malachi 3:3–6 by explaining that these verses describe how the Savior will, like a refiner’s fire, purify the sons of Levi and destroy the wicked at His Second Coming. The “sons of Levi” were priesthood holders in ancient Israel. Today the phrase can refer to modern-day priesthood holders (see D&C 84:33–34).
Invite students to imagine that they have a close friend or family member who some time ago stopped keeping the commandments and left the Church. However, this person has recently expressed a desire to return to Church but does not feel worthy to do so.
What would you do to try to help this person?
Explain that Malachi 3:7–12 records what the Lord said to the Israelites who had broken their covenants and turned from Him. Invite students to read Malachi 3:7 silently, looking for the Lord’s counsel to these people.
What principle did the Lord teach those who were not keeping their covenants? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we will return to the Lord, He will return to us.)
What do you think it means to return to the Lord?
What does this principle teach you about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
Invite students to look in verse 7 for a question that the people asked the Lord. Ask students to report what they find.
Explain that in Malachi 3:8–12 we learn of one way the Lord indicated the people could return to Him.
Invite a student to read Malachi 3:8–9 aloud. Ask students to follow along looking for a question the Lord asked the people.
What question did the Lord ask the Israelites?
How had the Israelites robbed the Lord?
Write the words tithes and offerings on the board. Explain that the way tithes and offerings have been paid has changed over the years. For example, Abraham gave a tenth of all he possessed to the high priest Melchizedek, and his offerings were animals or crops that were given as sacrifices to Jehovah. Today we pay one-tenth of our income as tithing and contribute the cost of two meals as fast offerings (see True to the Faith , 67–68, 181).
Remind students that according to Malachi 1–2, the people had been offering animals that were lame, blind, or otherwise unsuitable as sacrifices to God.
What did these feeble sacrifices reveal about the Israelites’ feelings toward God? How could this also be considered robbing God?
Explain that Malachi 3:10–12 records that the Lord invited the Israelites to return to Him by paying tithing. Invite a student to read these verses aloud, and ask the class to follow along and look for the blessings the Lord promised to give the Israelites if they would accept His invitation.
What do you think the phrase “prove me now herewith” means?
What does the Lord promise those who faithfully pay their tithes and offerings?
You may want to suggest that students mark the phrases that teach about these promises. You might ask questions such as the following to help them analyze these promises:
What does it mean that the Lord will open the windows of heaven?
Anciently, the “devourer” was often something like locusts that destroyed a person’s crops. How might the promise to “rebuke the devourer” be fulfilled in our day?
What principle can we learn from these verses? (Although students may use different words, they should identify a principle similar to the following: If we return to God and pay our tithes and offerings, then the Lord will pour out blessings upon us.)
To help students understand how the Lord blesses those who keep the law of tithing, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask students to listen for the types of blessings Elder Bednar says may come from keeping the law of tithing.
“Often as we teach and testify about the law of tithing, we emphasize the immediate, dramatic, and readily recognizable temporal blessings that we receive. And surely such blessings do occur. Yet some of the diverse blessings we obtain as we are obedient to this commandment are significant but subtle. …
“Sometimes we may ask God for success, and He gives us physical and mental stamina. We might plead for prosperity, and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace. He may bestow upon us conviction and confidence as we strive to achieve worthy goals. And when we plead for relief from physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties, He may increase our resolve and resilience.
“I promise that as you and I observe and keep the law of tithing, indeed the windows of heaven will be opened and spiritual and temporal blessings will be poured out such that there shall not be room enough to receive them (see Malachi 3:10)” (“The Windows of Heaven,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 17–18).
What are some of the significant but subtle blessings Elder Bednar mentioned that come from keeping the law of tithing?
In what ways have you or your family been blessed for faithfully paying tithing?
Invite students to ponder how they are doing at paying tithes and offerings. Invite them to qualify for the windows of heaven to be opened by deciding to faithfully keep or continue keeping the law of tithing.
Summarize Malachi 3:13–18 by explaining that in these verses the Lord addressed two groups of people. The first were those in Israel who questioned the need to keep the ordinances of the gospel. They complained that the proud and the wicked seemed to prosper despite their unrighteousness.
Invite a student to read verses 16–17 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for how the second group of people felt toward God. Invite students to report what they find.
According to verse 17, how does the Lord refer to those whose names are written in this book of remembrance?
How can these verses help us understand why it is important to be faithful even when it doesn’t appear to be worth it?
Conclude by inviting students to share their testimonies of the principles found in Malachi 3.
To help students master this passage, invite them to read the verses silently several times and plan how they would explain the law of tithing to someone who has never heard it before. After sufficient time, assign students in pairs and invite them to explain the law of tithing to their partner. Encourage them to use analogies and personal experiences to explain this commandment and how keeping it shows their love for God.