Jeremiah 20–29 contains Jeremiah’s warnings to his people who were about to face bondage in Babylon (see 2 Kings 24–25). But Jeremiah did not simply prophesy the downfall of the wicked. He saw the coming of the Savior and the restoration of His Church in the latter days (see Jeremiah 23). Like other Old Testament prophets (such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Lehi, Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zechariah), Jeremiah saw that scattered Israel would one day be gathered, that Judah would return to the lands of her inheritance, and that eventually all Israel would become great.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
True prophets tell us what we need to know, not always what we want to know (see Jeremiah 21:1–7).
Those who seek the Lord with all their hearts will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13).
False prophets always arise to oppose true prophets (see Jeremiah 28–29).
Suggestions for Teaching
Jeremiah 20–21. True prophets say what the Lord commands them to say. (15–20 minutes)
Tell students that the prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know. Ask them what that statement means and how it is true. Have them identify some counsel the prophet has given that some people do not want to know, or that they think is difficult or inconvenient to obey.
Explain that telling people what the Lord wants them to hear sometimes causes problems for the prophet. Have students read Jeremiah 20:1–2 and find out what happened to Jeremiah because he prophesied that Babylon would take Judah captive (see the commentary for Jeremiah 20:1–6 in Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, p. 245). Have students read Jeremiah 20:3–6, and ask:
Did the punishment cause Jeremiah to change his prophesy and say what the people wanted to hear? (For an example of what the people of Judah wanted to hear, see Jeremiah 28:1–4.) Why not?
Why did Jeremiah change Pashur’s name to Magor-missabib? What does that mean? (see the commentary for Jeremiah 20:1–6 in the institute manual).
Have students read Jeremiah 21:1–7 and look for what King Zedekiah wanted Jeremiah to do and how the Lord, through Jeremiah, answered Zedekiah’s question. Ask:
Why couldn’t Jeremiah say what the people wanted to hear?
Why doesn’t the living prophet say only what we want to hear?
“How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” in 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year , 28).
Jeremiah 23–29. Just like ancient Israel, we must be able to discern between true and false prophets. (20–25 minutes)
Ask students how they think we can keep from being deceived by false prophets. Display a picture of the current prophet and ask how we can know for certain that he is the Lord’s chosen prophet.
Tell students that in addition to true prophets, the people in Jeremiah’s day also had false prophets preaching to them. Read Jeremiah 23:9–34 and discuss the following questions:
What were those false prophets and priests doing wrong? (see vv. 9–17, 24–32).
What was going to happen to those false prophets? (see vv. 12, 15, 33–34).
“When a man goes about prophesying, and commands men to obey his teachings, he must either be a true or false prophet. False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365).
To illustrate this statement, have students search Jeremiah 27:6–14, 19–22 and find what Jeremiah prophesied about Judah and Babylon. Have them read Jeremiah 28:1–4, 10–11 and identify the false prophet who opposed Jeremiah and what his message was.
Read Jeremiah 28:5–9, 13–17 and discuss how Jeremiah responded to Hananiah and what the Lord did to that false prophet. Help them understand that Jeremiah’s reply in verse 6 did not mean he approved. “Amen: the Lord do so” might have been said ironically or as an expression of desire that the people would repent and make such blessings possible. Ask:
What can we do to avoid being misled by false prophets today?
Share your testimony of how keeping the commandments can help us avoid being deceived by false prophets. Share the following message from Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“How thankful we ought to be, my brethren and sisters, how thankful we are, for a prophet to counsel us in words of divine wisdom as we walk our paths in these complex and difficult times. The solid assurance we carry in our hearts, the conviction that God will make his will known to his children through his recognized servant is the real basis of our faith and activity. We either have a prophet or we have nothing; and having a prophet, we have everything” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 161; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 122).