As the Israelites traveled in the wilderness, Moses grew weary of their murmuring and sought help from the Lord. As a result, the Lord chose 70 leaders to help Moses govern Israel. Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses, and the Lord chastised them for speaking against His chosen servant.
Note: This lesson provides an opportunity for two students to teach the class. To help prepare these students to teach, provide them with a copy of the section they are to teach a few days in advance. Or you could choose to teach the section yourself.
After the student teachers conclude, thank them for teaching.
Invite a student to read Numbers 11:24–25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how the Lord relieved Moses’s burden of leadership.
How did the Lord relieve Moses’s burden?
Explain that verse 25 teaches that these 70 elders were blessed to receive revelation and speak as inspired by the Holy Ghost. Summarize Numbers 11:26–28 by explaining that Joshua (Moses’s servant and successor) suggested to Moses that he stop two of the elders from prophesying.
Ask a student to read Numbers 11:29 aloud, and invite the class to look for how Moses responded to Joshua’s concern.
What do you think Moses meant when he said that he would like it if all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Spirit rested upon them? (Moses was not saying that he wanted everyone to be a prophet to lead and receive revelation for the Church. Rather, he likely meant that he would like it if all people lived worthy to receive revelation for their own lives, callings, and responsibilities.)
What truth is implied in Moses’s desire “that all the Lord’s people were prophets”? (Students may use different words, but they should identify a principle such as the following: If we are spiritually prepared and worthy, we can receive revelation. You may want to write this principle on the board.)
You may want to briefly share an experience you have had when you were blessed by receiving revelation for your own life. Consider inviting students to also share if they feel comfortable doing so.
Summarize Numbers 11:30–35 by explaining that in response to Moses’s prayer, the Lord also provided an abundance of quail for the Israelites to eat. As the people gathered the quail, many overindulged and gathered more than was needed. The Lord was again angry with them (apparently because they lusted after or hoarded the quail—again showing ingratitude). The Lord then sent a plague, and many Israelites died.
Ask a student to read aloud the following situations when people criticized the Savior or the Lord’s prophets:
The Savior was criticized for eating with sinners (see Luke 15:2) and was accused of being in league with Beelzebub (see Luke 11:14–15). Abinadi and Paul were both judged to be insane (see Mosiah 13:1; Acts 26:24). Nephi’s brothers mocked him when he followed the Lord’s instruction to build a ship (see 1 Nephi 17:17–18). Samuel was cast out of the land of Zarahemla because he was a Lamanite and because his prophecies offended the wicked (see Helaman 13:2; 14:10). Joseph Smith was accused of deserting the Saints when, in June 1844, he crossed the river into Iowa to avoid being taken to Carthage (see History of the Church, 6:549).
Invite students to look for truths as they study Numbers 12 that can help them when they hear or read about criticisms directed against the Lord or Church leaders.
Ask a student to read Numbers 12:1–3 aloud, and invite the class to look for why Miriam and Aaron (Moses’s sister and brother) criticized Moses.
Why did Miriam and Aaron criticize Moses?
Explain that the Lord authorized Moses’s marriage to the Ethiopian woman (see D&C 132:1, 38). Therefore, Miriam and Aaron had no basis to criticize Moses for the marriage.
In addition to criticizing Moses because of the marriage, what else might Miriam and Aaron’s words in verse 2 suggest? (Their words might suggest that because the Lord had also spoken by them, or given them revelation, they thought they were equal in status to the prophet Moses.)
Point out the phrase “and the Lord heard it” at the end of verse 2. Then invite a student to read Numbers 12:3–9 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for the Lord’s response to Aaron and Miriam’s criticism of Moses.
According to verses 6–8, how was Moses different from others who may receive revelation? (The Lord appeared to Moses and spoke directly to him.)
What truths can we learn from the Lord’s words in verses 6–8? (Students may use different words, but they should identify truths similar to the following: The Lord speaks to His prophets. The Lord reveals His will to the leaders He has chosen. You may want to write these truths on the board.)
To help students further understand these truths, consider asking a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The Lord’s house is a house of order. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that ‘it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one [else], to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves’ [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 21].
“You may receive revelation individually, as a parent for your family, or for those for whom you are responsible as a leader or teacher, having been properly called and set apart.
“If one becomes critical and harbors negative feelings, the Spirit will withdraw. Only when they repent will the Spirit return. My experience is that the channels of inspiration always follow that order. You are safe following your leaders” (“Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 61).
Ask students to consider how the truths they have learned from Numbers 12 can help them when they encounter someone who is criticizing the Lord or Church leaders. Summarize Numbers 12:10–16 by explaining that because she criticized the Lord’s chosen servant, Miriam was struck with leprosy and was shut out of the camp for seven days. The Lord then healed her, and she returned to the camp.
Conclude by inviting one or two students to testify of the truths they have learned from Numbers 12.