Amos was called to be a prophet during a time of relative prosperity in Israel and Judah. He had to bear a message of destruction that was soon to come on the disobedient and the idolatrous. The book of Amos is a well-organized and articulate compilation of the prophet’s teachings. His message was primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel (see Amos 2:6–9:15), but he also prophesied against Judah and the idolatrous nations that surrounded them (see Amos 1:3–2:5).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
The judgments of God will come upon the wicked (see Amos 1–2).
Suggestions for Teaching
Amos 1–3. The Lord poured out His judgments on Judah and Israel anciently for the same reasons He warned of punishments in these latter days. (20–25 minutes)
Before class, cut out eight pieces of paper about four inches or ten centimeters square. Label seven of them as follows: Syria (Damascus), Philistia (Gaza), Phoenicia (Tyrus), Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah. Carefully burn the edges of each paper. Burn the eighth paper completely, put its ashes in a small, clear bottle, and label the bottle “Israel.”
Show students the pieces of paper with the burnt edges and ask: Supposing a prophet showed you these papers, what might they signify? Show the bottle labeled “Israel” and ask what that might mean in comparison to the other pieces.
Have students search Amos 1:3–2:5 and find what the Lord said through the prophet Amos that explains the burnt papers. Help them find those nations on Bible maps 3–4. Ask them how the reasons for Judah’s punishment are different from those of the gentile nations. (For additional help, see the commentaries for Amos 1–2 in
Tell students that the rest of the book of Amos contains a prophecy about Israel’s future. (Hold up the bottle.) Read Amos 2:6–16 and 3:1–2, 9–15 with your students and have them find some of the reasons the Lord decreed punishments on Israel (see the commentary for Amos 2:4–16 in
How is the bottle of ashes a good symbol for what was prophesied for Israel?
How do we receive correct knowledge?
When do we make covenants with Heavenly Father today?
Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 82:3, 10 and discuss how what the Lord said in those verses are like what He told ancient Israel.
Amos 3:3–8 (Scripture Mastery, Amos 3:7). The Lord reveals His will to His prophets, who then declare it to the people. (10–15 minutes)
Tell students that you are going to give them a little quiz. Ask five or six questions to which the answers are obviously “no.” For example: Do you answer the telephone when it doesn’t ring? or Would you buy cat food when you don’t have a cat? Make the questions appropriate for your area.
Ask students what the questions all have in common. (The answers to them are all “no.”) Tell them that Amos asked his people similar questions. Read Amos 3:3–6 and explain that Amos asked seven rhetorical questions with obvious answers. Note that the last question in verse 5 means “Would a trap spring shut for nothing at all?” and that the Joseph Smith Translation changes the last line of verse 6 to read, “shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not known it?”
Ask students to read and mark Amos 3:7, then ask:
What does Amos 3:7 have to do with the preceding questions?
What did Amos say about prophets that is also obvious?
What other obvious truth does verse 8 add to our understanding of prophets?
Help students understand that the seven obvious questions lead up to the Lord’s conclusion, which is just as obvious: The Lord will always reveal His will to His prophets before He does anything here on earth.
Amos added two more questions in verse 8 that also have obvious answers. A prophet delivers the message the Lord gives him, just as surely as a lion’s roar inspires fear. Perhaps Amos’s unspoken question was: Will people who fear the lion know enough to fear the Lord’s judgments? Israel refused to listen and repent and would have to pay the consequences.
Tell students that when the Lord speaks, the prophet will not fail to communicate that message to the people. Elder Mark E. Petersen, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:
“When there are no prophets, there is no divine direction, and without such guidance the people walk in darkness.
“It is an infallible sign of the true church that it has in it divinely chosen, living prophets to guide it, men who receive current revelation from God and whose recorded works become new scripture” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 95; or Ensign, May 1978, 62).
Note: The rest of the teaching suggestions for Amos focus on some additional obvious truths that Amos wanted his people to understand. Use any or all of them as a way to help your students see how well-organized the book of Amos is.
Amos 4–5. We receive help with our problems when we turn to the Lord and seek His counsel. (10–15 minutes)
Have students look for and underline the phrase “yet have ye not returned unto me” in Amos 4 (vv. 6, 8–11) and phrases in chapter 5 that counsel the people to “seek the Lord, and ye shall live” (vv. 4, 6, 8, 14). Help them discover that Amos tried to teach his people that they could solve their problems by returning to the commandments and counsels of the Lord, but they refused to do so.
Have students list on the board some of the problems facing society today. Ask: Which of these problems could be solved by a return to the Lord’s commandments and counsels?
Amos 5:21–27. The Lord desires inward righteousness, not outward displays of religion. (10–15 minutes)
Put on a costume or disguise of some sort. Ask students what the difference is between what you appear to be on the outside and what you really are in the inside. Have them read Amos 5:21–27. Ask:
How is wearing a disguise like what Israel was doing?
What truth was Amos trying to teach? (see the commentary for Amos 5:4–27 in
Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, p. 92).
What are some examples of how people might slip into that same mistake today?
Amos 8. When the word of the Lord is scarce, people suffer spiritually as much as they do physically in a famine. (10–15 minutes)
Bring a piece of ripe fruit to class. Read 1 Nephi 17:35, 43 and discuss how the children of Israel were “ripe in iniquity” (see the teaching suggestion for Ezekiel 4–18,
Amos 9:8–15. The Lord promised to forgive and gather His people. (10–15 minutes)
Have students read Amos 9:8–10 and tell what Amos prophesied for Israel that has already come to pass. Read Amos 9:11–15 and ask them what has not yet fully come to pass. List and discuss the blessings the Lord promised Israel when they repent and turn to Him. Ask students how the promises made to Israel also apply to us (see the paragraph on Amos 9:1–6 in the commentary for Amos 7–9 in
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