Lesson 27: The Influence of Wicked and Righteous Leaders

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 128–33


Purpose

To encourage class members to develop good leadership qualities so they can influence others to live righteously.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. a.

      1 Kings 12:1–20. Rehoboam succeeds his father, Solomon, as king over the twelve tribes of Israel. He rejects the counsel of wise men to serve his people, seeking instead to impose greater burdens on them (12:1–15). The kingdom is divided as ten tribes revolt (12:16–19; the ten tribes retain the title kingdom of Israel, while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain under Rehoboam’s rule and are called the kingdom of Judah). The kingdom of Israel selects Jeroboam, a former administrator in Solomon’s kingdom, as king (12:20).

    2. b.

      1 Kings 12:25–33; 13:33–34; 14:14–16, 21–24. Jeroboam leads his people into idolatry and replaces the priests with men who are not Levites (12:25–33; 13:33–34; for an explanation of groves and high places, see the second additional teaching idea). A prophet foretells the destruction of Jeroboam’s family and the scattering of Israel (14:14–16). Rehoboam leads the kingdom of Judah into idolatry (14:21–24).

    3. c.

      2 Chronicles 17:1–10; 20:1–30. Jehoshaphat, Rehoboam’s great-grandson, reigns righteously in the kingdom of Judah, destroying the groves and high places and sending Levites throughout Judah to teach from the book of the law of the Lord (17:1–10). As Judah’s enemies come against them, Jehoshaphat and his people fast and pray. The Lord tells them the battle is not theirs, but his. Their attackers war among themselves and destroy each other (20:1–30).

  2. 2.

    Additional reading: 1 Kings 11:26–40; 2 Kings 17:20–23.

  3. 3.

    If you use the attention activity, obtain an old piece of clothing that can be torn in pieces or a large piece of paper that is cut in the shape of a piece of clothing.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Take an old piece of clothing or a piece of paper that is cut in the shape of a piece of clothing and tear it into 12 pieces. Explain that toward the end of Solomon’s life, the prophet Ahijah prophesied that Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s 12 superintendents over taxes and labor, would take over much of the Israelite nation. To illustrate this, Ahijah seized the garment from the back of Jeroboam, tore it into 12 pieces, and gave 10 of the pieces to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29–32; footnote 32a points out that according to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, two tribes, not one, would be left in the kingdom ruled by the descendants of David).

The Savior taught that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Matthew 12:25). Explain that this is what happened to the kingdom of Israel after Solomon’s death. This lesson is about the influence of wicked and righteous leaders on the divided kingdom of Israel.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. The kingdom of Israel is divided, primarily because of Rehoboam’s harsh leadership.

Teach and discuss 1 Kings 12:1–20.

You may want to write the following statement on the chalkboard:

A good leader:

  1. 1.

    Gives service.

  • After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of Israel. What changes did the Israelites want Rehoboam to make from the way his father ruled? (See 1 Kings 12:3–4.) What counsel did the older men give Rehoboam about ruling successfully? (See 1 Kings 12:6–7; 2 Chronicles 10:7.) Why are we more likely to be influenced positively by a leader who is kind and who serves us? How can we apply this counsel at home? at church? at school? at work? (See D&C 121:41–46.) What are some examples you have seen of parents or other leaders applying this counsel successfully?

  • After refusing the counsel of older men, Rehoboam turned to young men he had known in his youth. What was their advice? (See 1 Kings 12:8–11.) What were the results of Rehoboam’s decision to follow their advice? (See 1 Kings 12:12–17. Explain that the phrase “Israel departed to their tents” refers to the ten tribes separating themselves from Rehoboam’s kingdom.) How might these results have been different if Rehoboam had followed the counsel of the older men? (See 1 Kings 12:7.)

  • Jeroboam had been one of Solomon’s 12 superintendents over taxes and labor. Toward the end of Solomon’s reign, the prophet Ahijah had prophesied that Jeroboam would become king over many of the tribes of Israel (1 Kings 11:29–31; see the attention activity). How was this prophecy fulfilled? (See 1 Kings 12:20, including footnote 20b. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin stayed with Rehoboam in the Southern Kingdom, or kingdom of Judah. The other ten tribes followed Jeroboam in the Northern Kingdom, or kingdom of Israel.)

2. Jeroboam and Rehoboam lead their kingdoms into idolatry.

Teach and discuss 1 Kings 12:25–33; 13:33–34; 14:14–16, 21–24.

You may want to add to the statement you have written on the chalkboard:

A good leader:

  1. 1.

    Gives service.

  2. 2.

    Trusts and obeys the Lord.

  • Through the prophet Ahijah, the Lord promised Jeroboam that he would be given a “sure house” (a secure kingdom) if he would walk in the Lord’s ways (1 Kings 11:38). How did Jeroboam forfeit the blessings of that promise? (See 1 Kings 12:25–33.) Why did Jeroboam build the golden calves and high places and ordain false priests? (See 1 Kings 12:26–33; 13:33–34.)

    Explain that Jeroboam was afraid that if his people went to Jerusalem to worship, they might go back to Rehoboam. In an effort to control his people and retain their loyalty, he made golden calves in Bethel and Dan, two cities in the Northern Kingdom, and invited his people to worship in those cities. In doing this, he allowed his fear of defeat to override his trust in the Lord’s promises. Point out that a wise leader trusts the Lord and does not base decisions on fear or personal judgment.

  • When his son became sick, Jeroboam sought the help of the prophet Ahijah. What did Ahijah prophesy concerning Jeroboam’s house (family) and kingdom? (See 1 Kings 14:14–16. The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in 2 Kings 17:20–23.)

  • Like Jeroboam, Rehoboam also disobeyed God by leading people into idolatry (1 Kings 14:21–24). The wicked leadership of these two kings had long-lasting results. Both kingdoms were scattered or carried away captive many years later (Israel by the Assyrians and Judah by the Babylonians) because they continued in their wicked traditions. How can one wicked leader have such a profound effect on so many people?

    You may want to point out that we need not mirror the acts of wicked leaders as the people of Israel and Judah did. God has given us agency, and we can use that power to choose good, even if leaders choose evil (Helaman 14:30–31).

3. Jehoshaphat leads the kingdom of Judah to follow the Lord and His prophets.

Teach and discuss 2 Chronicles 17:1–10; 20:1–30.

You may want to add again to the list on the chalkboard:

A good leader:

  1. 1.

    Gives service.

  2. 2.

    Trusts and obeys the Lord.

  3. 3.

    Has faith in God.

  4. 4.

    Teaches from the scriptures.

  5. 5.

    Follows the prophets.

  • Three generations after Rehoboam, his great-grandson Jehoshaphat reigned over the kingdom of Judah. How did Jehoshaphat demonstrate his personal righteousness? (See 2 Chronicles 17:3–4, 6.) How does our private devotion affect our ability to lead others?

  • Jehoshaphat “took away the high places and groves out of Judah” (2 Chronicles 17:6). What do you think the people learned from this? (See 2 Chronicles 20:12–13, noting that “all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.”) What might we remove from our homes and our personal lives so we can worship God with greater devotion?

  • Jehoshaphat sent Levites throughout the kingdom to teach the people from “the book of the law of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 17:9). How do you think being taught from the scriptures affected the people of Judah? How has personal and family scripture study helped you? How does scripture study in the home influence our families and the Church as a whole?

    President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings. We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple. All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 44).

  • 2 Chronicles 20 tells of a period of terrible anxiety for the people of Judah, as three nations had declared war on them. The outcome seemed bleak for King Jehoshaphat and his people, who were greatly outnumbered. What did Jehoshaphat do to receive help? (See 2 Chronicles 20:3–13.) What was the Lord’s answer to this supplication? (See 2 Chronicles 20:14–17. Note that this answer came through the prophet Jahaziel.) What counsel did Jehoshaphat give his people? (See 2 Chronicles 20:20.) As Latter-day Saints, how are we outnumbered today as were the people of Judah anciently? How does Jehoshaphat’s counsel apply to us?

  • Remembering the prophet Jahaziel’s assurance that the battle was God’s, Jehoshaphat appointed singers to praise the Lord rather than fight. When they began to sing, the Lord protected them by causing their attackers to war among themselves and destroy one another (2 Chronicles 20:21–24). How are we protected when we remember and obey the words of the living prophet?

  • In contrast to Jeroboam and Rehoboam, who led their people into idolatry, Jehoshaphat influenced the people of Judah to humble themselves before the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:3–4). What examples have you seen of the influence of righteous leaders? What can we do to help those we serve live righteously?

Conclusion

Testify of the power that leaders have to guide people to wickedness or righteousness. Remind class members of our responsibility to lead in our Church callings, in our communities, at work, and at home. Encourage class members to be good leaders by giving service, trusting and obeying the Lord, having faith in him, teaching from the scriptures, and following the prophets.

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. Overcoming negative peer pressure

  • The kingdom of Israel was divided largely because Rehoboam chose to follow the unwise counsel of his peers (1 Kings 12:9–16). How can we resist the temptation to follow unwise advice from our friends?

    Elder Malcolm S. Jeppsen said:

    “Many of you … will be, at some time or another, approached by one or more of your ‘friends’ who will entice you to do something you know you should not do. …

    “‘No one will ever know,’ the so-called friends will tell you. ‘Besides, what difference will it make?’

    “… You don’t have to reject your friends who are on the wrong path; you don’t even have to give them up necessarily. You can be their caring friend, ready to help them when they are ready to be helped. You can talk to them and lift them and bear your testimony to them. Lead them by example.

    “But don’t ever be led into displeasing your Father in Heaven by your friends who might ask that as a condition of being your friend, you must choose between their way and the Lord’s way.

    “If that happens, choose the Lord’s way and look for new friends” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1990, 59; or Ensign, May 1990, 45).

2. Meaning of high places and groves

The following definitions will help you explain the false worship instigated by Jeroboam and Rehoboam.

High places (1 Kings 12:31): altars that were built on hilltops. When the people fell into idolatry, they desecrated these altars and used them for idol worship.

Groves (1 Kings 14:15): places of pagan worship where people sometimes engaged in immoral behavior.

3. “And … ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands” (Deuteronomy 4:28)

  • When Jeroboam set up the golden calves and the people worshiped on the high places and in the groves, he and his people were ignoring the warnings of Moses given 500 years earlier (Deuteronomy 4:25–28). What calamity were they setting themselves up for? What was promised if they would turn to the Lord instead of false idols? (See Deuteronomy 4:29–31.)

4. Leadership object lesson

Bring to class two identical sets of blocks (or other objects). Invite two class members to participate in the following demonstration. Give each participant a set of blocks. Designate one class member to be the leader and the other to be the follower. Have the two class members turn their backs to each other so they cannot see each other’s blocks. Have the leader quickly build something with the blocks and give directions to the follower on how to build an identical structure. The follower should not ask questions as he or she follows the directions. Neither participant is to look at the other’s blocks until the project is complete.

When the follower is finished building, discuss how important it is for leaders to give clear instructions and for followers to listen carefully. If the follower has built a structure identical to the leader’s, praise both participants and ask other class members to comment on why they were successful. If the demonstration has resulted in differing structures, ask the following questions:

  • Could the leader have stated the instructions more clearly? Could the follower have listened more carefully? How would it have helped to allow the follower to watch as the leader built the structure?

  • How can we apply what we have learned from this demonstration in our Church callings and in our homes?