Leviticus 1–16

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 87–90


The law of Moses was a “schoolmaster to bring [the children of Israel] unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24; see 2 Nephi 25:24). Leviticus 1–16 contains instruction concerning some of the performances and ordinances of the law that taught gospel principles.

  • Chapters 1–7 describe various kinds of sacrifices that the people were to make. These sacrifices represented the Savior and His atoning sacrifice.

  • Chapters 8–10 explain the requirements placed upon the priests for them to be worthy to perform the sacrifices.

  • Chapters 11–15 explain various laws regarding cleanliness and uncleanliness. These laws demonstrated the need to be clean personally (see chapter 11), as families (see chapter 12), and as a people (see chapters 13–15).

  • Chapter 16 is the spiritual culmination of all the laws of cleanliness. It gives instructions concerning the great cleansing sacrifice offered each year on the Day of Atonement.

As you study these chapters, look for why the law of Moses is called a strict law of performances and ordinances (see Mosiah 13:29–30), a law of carnal commandments (see D&C 84:27; carnal means dealing with the flesh), and a schoolmaster (see Galatians 3:24). Notice particularly how the whole meaning of the law of Moses was to point to the great and last sacrifice of the Son of God (see Alma 34:13–14).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Suggestions for Teaching

video iconOld Testament Video presentation 15, “The Law of Moses” (12:40), suggest ways to teach the law of Moses. It is not indented to be shown to students. (See Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions.) Old Testament Symposium 1995 Resource Videocassette presentation 2, “Sacrifice and Sacrament” (13:10) can be used together with the teaching suggestion for Leviticus 1–7.

weekly icon Leviticus 1–27. The law of Moses helped teach basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It centered on four main principles: sacrifice, cleanliness, separation from worldliness, and remembrance. (40–50 minutes)

Bring the ingredients for a recipe to class. Without giving the recipe, invite a student to mix the ingredients together and make something good to eat for the class. After the student struggles with this project for a couple of minutes, discuss how difficult or impossible it is to work without a recipe. Ask:

  • What are some consequences of not following instructions?

  • What are some benefits of instruction manuals?

Have students list some of the instruction manuals used in the Church (such as the Aaronic Priesthood handbook and Young Women Personal Progress book). Show students a copy of a Church handbook and discuss what value such materials have.

Invite students to read and discuss the introductory material to the book of Leviticus in their student study guides (p. 56). Ask them to look for how the book of Leviticus is like an instruction manual. Read Mosiah 13:29–30 and ask:

  • Why did the people in Moses’ day need such specific guidelines as the law of Moses?

  • How might their handbook of instructions be of value to our generation?

Tell students that the book of Leviticus contains instructions about four basic principles in the law of Moses. Draw four pillars on the board and label them sacrifice, cleanliness, separation, and remembrance. Describe each of these principles and discuss why they were important. Use the following information and any of the commentary for Leviticus in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 159–91) that you think would be helpful:

  • Sacrifice: Animals were sacrificed to teach the people that a Savior, Jesus Christ, would sacrifice His life for their sins (see Moses 5:6–7). The way each sacrifice was performed reminded the people of the Savior’s future Atonement. Only sacrificial animals that met certain requirements were selected, since they were symbolic of Jesus Christ.

  • Cleanliness: Under the Mosaic law, the people were required to maintain physical cleanliness. This included eating properly and avoiding people and animals that were unclean or diseased. These laws also helped remind the people to be clean from sin through obedience and repentance.

  • Separation: The Lord commanded the Israelites not to intermingle with the wicked people of the world. This taught the Israelites to separate themselves from worldliness, or from sin. Because they would eventually live among a very wicked people (the Canaanites), they needed to remain distinct with their own lifestyle and standards of behavior. They were not to intermarry with members of these nations.

  • Remembrance: The law of Moses helped the Israelites remember how the Lord had previously blessed them, their heritage (the examples set by their fathers), and that they were the Lord’s chosen covenant people. Feasts, celebrations, and Sabbath day observance helped the Israelites better remember the Lord.

Write some of the following scripture references on the board. Divide students into groups and ask them to read and identify which of the four supporting principles of the Mosaic law the verses illustrate.

When students have completed matching the scriptures with the principles of the law of Moses, invite them to share some important ideas they learned from the activity. Ask students to identify ordinances, commandments, or instructions we have today that help us live those same four principles. (For example, Church callings require sacrifice, baptismal covenants remind us of the importance of cleanliness, the Word of Wisdom helps separate us from the destructive practices of society, and the sacrament is an ongoing reminder of Jesus Christ.) Discuss questions like the following:

  • Why is it important for you to sacrifice or remain clean?

  • How does remaining separate from the world help you remain holy?

  • What helps you to remember the Lord?

  • How do priesthood ordinances teach us basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

If your students have worked through any of the student study guide activities for Leviticus, you could invite them to share some of what they learned with the class.

Leviticus 1–7. The sacrifices outlined in the law of Moses helped the Israelites repent and express thankfulness and commitment to God. The gospel helps us do those same things today. Studying the requirements of the law of Moses can help us review principles that pertain to our relationship with God. (35–45 minutes)

Write the following phrases on the board:

Forgiveness for our human weakness and mistakes

Forgiveness for specific sins

•Commitment to God

•The direction of your life is acceptable to God

•All you have comes from God

For each phrase, have students write about something in the gospel or the Church that helps them feel, obtain, or demonstrate the idea expressed—such as praying, confessing sins, taking the sacrament, baptism, paying tithing, and feeling the comforting influences of the Spirit. Discuss what students write.

Tell students that the law of Moses provided ways for the children of Israel to demonstrate each of the ideas noted on the board. Although the specific practices of the Mosaic law do not apply today, the principles it taught still do, and the law of sacrifice applies to each idea.

Write the following offerings next to their corresponding idea on the board:

Forgiveness for our human weakness and mistakes: sin offering

•Forgiveness for specific sins: trespass offering

•Commitment to God: burnt offering

•The direction of your life is acceptable to God: peace offering

•All you have comes from God: meat offering

Use the chart “Sacrifices and Offerings of the Mosaic Law” in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 162–63) to help students gain a basic understanding of each of those offerings. You may want to start with the burnt offering, since it is discussed in Leviticus 1.

You could have students do activity A for Leviticus 1 in their student study guides (p. 57) to help them think about and discover what each requirement for the burnt offering teaches about repentance and the Atonement. After discussing each offering, ask students how that offering can teach us to obtain the idea written next to it on the board.

Invite students to share any new insights they gained about how we practice the principles involved in each sacrifice today. Then ask the following questions:

  • How are the priests who officiated in Mosaic sacrifices like our deacons, teachers, and priests today?

  • Who did the priest represent in Old Testament times?

  • Who do Aaronic Priesthood holders represent today?

  • How does the sacrament serve a purpose today that is similar to the sacrifices of Old Testament times?

Share the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Reflecting upon our Church history has focused my mind on the eternal nature of the law of sacrifice, which is a vital part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“There are two major, eternal purposes for the law of sacrifice that we need to understand. These purposes applied to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and the New Testament Apostles, and they apply to us today as we accept and live the law of sacrifice. The two major purposes are to test and prove us and to assist us in coming unto Christ. …

“While the primary purpose of the law of sacrifice continued to be that of testing and assisting us to come unto Christ, two adjustments were made after Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. First, the ordinance of the sacrament replaced the ordinance of sacrifice; and second, this change moved the focus of the sacrifice from a person’s animal to the person himself. In a sense, the sacrifice changed from the offering to the offerer. …

“… After his mortal ministry, Christ elevated the law of sacrifice to a new level. In describing how the law of sacrifice would continue, Jesus told his Nephite Apostles that he would no longer accept burnt offerings, but that his disciples should offer ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ (3 Nephi 9:19–20; see also D&C 59:8, 12). Instead of the Lord requiring a person’s animal or grain, now the Lord wants us to give up all that is ungodly. This is a higher practice of the law of sacrifice; it reaches into the inner soul of a person. Elder Neal A. Maxwell described it this way: ‘Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 91; or Ensign, May 1995, 68).

“How is it that we show the Lord that we have symbolically put ourselves upon today’s sacrificial altar? We show the Lord we are willing to live the law of sacrifice today by living the first great commandment. Jesus said:

“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“‘This is the first and great commandment’ (Matthew 22:37–38).

“When we overcome our own selfish desires and put God first in our lives and covenant to serve him regardless of the cost, then we are living the law of sacrifice. One of the best ways to keep the first great commandment is to keep the second great commandment. The Master himself taught that ‘inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40) and that ‘when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God’ (Mosiah 2:17). Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love. The degree of our love for the Lord and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them” (The Law of Sacrifice [address to religious educators, 13 Aug. 1996], 1, 5–6).

Leviticus 10. Priesthood ordinances must be performed as the Lord has outlined and by those who are clean and worthy. (20–25 minutes)

Ask students to write brief answers to the following questions:

  • Why do you feel the priesthood is sacred?

  • How sacred do you feel the ordinances of the priesthood (such as baptism, sacrament, priesthood ordinations, and temple ordinances) are? Why?

Invite several students to share their responses. Ask:

  • Why is it important that only those who are worthy participate in priesthood ordinances?

  • What is done if someone who is administering a priesthood ordinance does it incorrectly? (Students have probably noticed a presiding authority kindly correct the way an ordinance was performed, such as a sacrament prayer or a baptism.)

  • How important do you feel it is that sacred ordinances are performed with exactness? Why?

Have students read Leviticus 10:1–2 and see if they can identify what was wrong with the way Nadab and Abihu performed the sacrifice (see the commentary for Leviticus 10:1–7 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 169). Ask: What was the consequence to these two priesthood holders for disobeying the Lord’s instructions?

Have students read Leviticus 10:3–7. Ask:

  • Why do you think Aaron and his other sons were forbidden to show outward signs of mourning for the deaths of Nadab and Abihu?

  • What can we learn about the sacredness of priesthood ordinances from this chapter?

  • What happens to priesthood holders who misuse their priesthood today?

Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

False prophets perform false ordinances that have no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection. …

“Think … of Nadab and Abihu, who offered ‘strange fire’—ordinances of their own devising—upon the altar of the Lord, and wonder if the fire from heaven that devoured them was not a type and a shadow of the spiritual destruction awaiting all who pervert the right ways of the Lord with ordinances of their own” (The Millennial Messiah, 80).

Leviticus 11. The dietary rules of the law of Moses reminded Israel to remain holy, or pure, and helped them remember their covenants. (35–40 minutes)

Before class, draw the following chart on the board:

Clean or Unclean



hares (rabbits)


Tell students that the Lord told Moses that some animals were “clean” and others were “unclean.” The children of Israel were allowed to eat clean animals but not unclean. Ask students which of the animals in each box they would guess were considered clean, and put a check mark by the names of those animals. Have them search Leviticus 11:1–31 to see if they guessed right. (The “clean” animals were cows, chickens, fish with scales and fins, beetles, and grasshoppers.)

Your students will probably notice that some of the animals forbidden to the Israelites are commonly eaten today. That is because that law was fulfilled by the Atonement of Jesus Christ and is no longer required. Have them look up “clean and unclean” in the Bible Dictionary (pp. 646–47) and ask them why they think those dietary rules were given.

Help students understand that although there were some practical health reasons for declaring some animals “clean” and therefore fit for food and others “unclean,” this part of the law of Moses was given as an outward, physical sign that conveyed spiritual truths. The Lord used this dietary law as a teaching tool. People may forget or neglect prayer, exercise, work, or worship, but they seldom forget to eat. By voluntarily abstaining from certain foods or by cooking them in a special way, obedient Israelites made a daily, personal commitment to their faith. A formal choice was made, generating quiet self-discipline. Strength came from living such a law, and vision came from understanding it. Furthermore, what we eat (embrace) or do not eat (separate ourselves from) can symbolically remind us to remain pure and keep our spirits, like our bodies, free from contamination.

Ask students what health and dietary law the Lord has given us today. Read through the Lord’s counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 89 and list on the board which substances might be called “clean” and “unclean” today. Discuss how the Word of Wisdom, unlike the dietary law given to the ancient Israelites, warns of actual health dangers and gives nutritional counsel. However, it also serves as a symbolic reminder of our covenant status, sets us apart from much of the world, and is a test of our obedience. Share your testimony of how God’s covenant people have always had special instructions to be clean.

Have the class read Leviticus 11:43–44; 1 Corinthians 3:16–17; and Doctrine and Covenants 89:18–21. Ask:

  • What blessings has the Lord promised those who remain clean?

  • Why are those promises worth the required sacrifice?

Encourage students to remain clean by avoiding what the Lord has declared to be unclean in our day. Share the following promise from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“The spiritual blessings of ‘wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures’ [D&C 89:19], come to those who keep their bodies free from addictive substances. When we obey the Word of Wisdom, windows of personal revelation are opened to us and our souls are filled with divine light and truth. If we keep our bodies undefiled, the Holy Ghost ‘shall come upon [us] and … dwell in [our] heart[s]’ [D&C 8:2] and teach us ‘the peaceable things of immortal glory’ [Moses 6:61]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 102; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 76).

Leviticus 16. Through Jesus Christ’s Atonement, we can receive forgiveness of sin and return to God’s presence. Studying the Day of Atonement helps us learn more about this doctrine. (25–30 minutes)

Have students help you draw an outline of the floor plan of the tabernacle on the board. Help them identify the Holy of Holies and explain what it represented (see the “Points to Ponder” commentary and diagrams in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 154–56). Tell them that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies once a year and in accordance with the Lord’s strict instructions. Leviticus 16 tells what the high priest was to do on that day, which is called the Day of Atonement.

Have students do activity A for Leviticus 15–16 in their student study guides (p. 60). When they are finished, discuss their answers to each of the questions. Ask:

  • Who did the high priest represent on the Day of Atonement? (Christ.)

  • How do you think the priest represented Christ? (This kind of a question helps students think more deeply about their answer and review what they learned.)

Read Mark 15:37–38 and share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“Deity rent the veil of the temple ‘from the top to the bottom.’ The Holy of Holies is now open to all, and all, through the atoning blood of the Lamb, can now enter into the highest and holiest of all places, that kingdom where eternal life is found. Paul, in expressive language (Heb. 9 and 10), shows how the ordinances performed through the veil of the ancient temple were in similitude of what Christ was to do, which he now having done, all men become eligible to pass through the veil into the presence of the Lord to inherit full exaltation” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:830).

Ask students what principle is taught by the fact the veil was rent. (Christ’s Atonement made it possible for all mankind to return to God’s presence.)

Ask students to finish the following phrase using as many words or sentences as they think cover the idea: “Without the Atonement of Christ …”

After a few minutes, invite students to share what they wrote, and list their answers on the board. Read 2 Nephi 9:7–9 and Jacob 7:12 and identify ways Jacob in the Book of Mormon might have finished that statement. Ask:

  • Which sacred ordinances help us remember the forgiveness available through the Atonement?

  • How can we make these ordinances more meaningful and remember them more often to help us receive the forgiveness Christ offers and ultimately enter into God’s presence to live?