Old Testament Lesson 44 (Ezekiel 1-3; 18; 33–34; 36–37; 43–44; 47–48)
“Thou Shalt Speak My Words”
● Ezekiel 2–3; 3:4 Ezekiel’s call to the ministry. The Lord gives him words of encouragement and instruction, despite the fact that the people of his day were rebellious.
Individual Responsibility for Sin
● Ezekiel 18:1–2 A proverb of Ezekiel’s day: The parents are sinning [eating sour grapes] and the children are being punished for it [reaping the results of being raised by parents who sin].
— The Jewish exiles in Babylon believed this. They felt they were suffering the horrors of captivity because of their forefathers’ sins.
— Article of Faith 2 Men will be punished for their own sins. Yet . . .
— Exodus 20:5–6 The “iniquity of the fathers [is visited] upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
— The sins—attitudes and actions—of parents who hate the Lord are often seen in attitudes or tangible effects in the lives of their children. Sin inevitably hurts more than the sinners, and children are affected by the sins of their parents. (Alcoholism, infidelity, and hostility to God are examples).
— It is perfectly clear, however, that whenever God actually punishes someone it is for his own sins and not for anyone else’s, And no child loses his agency because of the sins of his parents: he may be righteous or unrighteous, regardless of his parents.
● Ezekiel 18:3–4, 19–21 The soul that sinneth, it shall die” establishes clearly the accountability of each person for his own sins (see also Jeremiah 31:29–30; Deuteronomy 24:16).
— For example, if the response of children to their parents’ teachings are sinful, that sin is not upon the heads of the parents (D&C 68:25).
Repentance and Forgiveness
● Ezekiel 18:21–23 The repentant sinner shall live and none of his sins will “be mentioned.”
● Ezekiel 18:27–28 Prior to the resurrection, the Lord never closes the door against us, utterly withdrawing his offer of help and healing.
— Elder Marvin J. Ashton stated: “I believe we start to fail in the home when we give up on each other. We have not failed until we have quit trying. As long as we are working diligently with love, patience, and long-suffering, despite the odds or the apparent lack of progress, we are not classified as failures in the home. We only start to fail when we give up on a son, daughter, mother, or father.”
— What we must do to truly repent, and what the Lord does when we do (D&C 58:42–43).
The Lord Will Forgive Us
● Ezekiel 33:12–13, 18 God is concerned more with our desires for righteousness than our behavior. All who wish to be saved must endure to the end in righteousness (Matthew 10:22; Mosiah 4:30; 3 Nephi 15:9; 27;17; D&C 18:22; 53:7; 82:7).
● Ezekiel 33:14–16 The Lord no longer looks upon the repentant man as the sinner he used to be, but rather as a man who does what is “lawful and right.”
— Elder Matthew Cowley said: “There isn’t a man living who isn’t greater than his sins, who isn’t greater than his weaknesses. That’s a wonderful thing to know. It is a wonderful thing to know that even though a man may sink so low that he is at the bottom of the gutter, yet within him, there is a greatness that can regenerate him if he will submit himself to the right influences and to the power above and beyond himself.”
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of [his] pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.”
● Ezekiel 18:23, 32 The Lord’s feelings when he punishes the wicked.
● Ezekiel 18:24, 26–27 A person cannot be saved by his former righteousness. Many suppose that they can stockpile good works and that on a balance sheet they may cancel or counterbalance their sins. This is not true (v. 24).
— President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Having received the necessary saving ordinances—baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances and sealings—one must live the covenants made. He must endure in faith. No matter how brilliant was the service rendered by the bishop or stake president or other person, if he falters later in his life and fails to live righteously ‘to the end’ the good works he did all stand in jeopardy.”
● Ezekiel 18:25, 29–32 The Lord wants us to have “a new heart and a new spirit.”
— Repentance means turning away from sin and having a change of heart (Alma 5:7–14).
— Our lives are the product of what we really desire, and therefore do (Alma 29:5).
— Repentance must not be procrastinated (Alma 34:32–34).
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: [Repentance] “cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God.”
— Elder James E. Talmage said: “To procrastinate the day of repentance is to deliberately place ourselves in the power of the adversary.”
The Resurrection as a Metaphor for Restoring Israel
● Ezekiel 37:1–14 Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones.
— Dualism: As we have learned, prophetic utterances sometimes have dual meanings. Such is the case for the well-known allegory of the scattered dry bones:
— Resurrection: Ezekiel describes a literal resurrection of the dead.
— Restoration: He uses the resurrection as a metaphor for Israel’s gathering together.
— President John Taylor said:
“The Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” [Gen. 13:14–15.] What did Stephen say, generations afterwards? That God “gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him when as yet he had no child.” [Acts 7:5.]
“Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones explains this seeming contradiction. The Lord said to him, “Son of man, can these bones live? . . . ” [Ezekiel 37:3.] Who are they? We are told, in the same chapter, they are the whole house of Israel, and that they shall come out of their graves, bone come to its bone, and sinew to sinew, and flesh come upon them, and they shall become a living army before God, and they shall inherit the land which was given to them and their fathers before them. The measuring line shall again go forth upon those lands, and mark out the possessions belonging to the tribes of Israel.”
An Invitation to “Feed His Sheep”
● Ezekiel 34:11–31 The Lord refers to the leaders of His people as “shepherds.” One of the reasons for their captivity in Babylon was that their leaders did not lead them to righteousness. We are invited to be good shepherds in our day.
The Sticks of Judah and Joseph
● Ezekiel 37:15–20 Ezekiel predicted the uniting of the sticks of Judah and Joseph.
— These “sticks” are historical and scriptural records of these tribes.
— The coming together of these two records plays an important part in the restoration
— Shortly after the joining of these two records, the Prophet Joseph Smith was given the keys to the gathering of Israel (D&C 110:11).
— Dualism: This passage is an example of the dual nature of prophecy. It refers to the latter-day combining of the scriptural records of Judah and Joseph (Israel). It also refers to the latter-day reunion of the kingdoms of Judah and Joseph.
Elder LeGrand Richards said:
“In ancient times, in addition to keeping records on metal plates, it was the custom to write upon parchment, which was then rolled upon sticks for preservation. Thus when Ezekiel was commanded by the Lord to ‘take thee one stick and write upon it, For Judah . . . then take another stick and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim,’ in our present-day language, it was the equivalent of commanding the prophet to write one record for Judah and a separate one for Joseph.
“It is evident that when this commandment was given to Ezekiel, the Lord did not anticipate that all His promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to the twelve sons of Jacob, would be recorded in the record of Judah. Recall that at the time this command was given, the house of Joseph had already departed northward into unknown lands, where they had been for some one hundred twenty years. Nevertheless, the Lord wanted all Israel to know that there would be two records kept, one ‘For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions,’ and the other ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.’
“The Lord made it plain that in His own due time He would ‘make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.’
“Therefore, the earnest seeker after truth should realize that he cannot expect to have all the record of the Lord’s hand dealings with His children if he has but one of these records. Since we have had the record of Judah with us always, we must inquire, ‘Where is the record of Joseph?'”
— This verse refers to “the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim” (v. 19).
— The Lord declared in the Doctrine and Covenants that this is the Book of Mormon (D&C 27:5).
— All these other scriptures also speak of the records of the Jews and the records of the Nephites being gathered together into one (1 Nephi 13:40–41; 2 Nephi 29:10–14).
— Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “The stick or record of Judah—the Old Testament and the New Testament—and the stick or record of Ephraim—the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ—are now woven together in such a way that as you pore over one you are drawn to the other; as you learn from one you are enlightened by the other. They are indeed one in our hands. Ezekiel’s prophecy now stands fulfilled.”
— President John Taylor said: “It is one of those sticks that Ezekiel saw should be written upon, even the stick of Joseph which should be written for Ephraim, and be united with the stick of Judah, and become one stick—one in prophecy, one in revelation, one in doctrine, one in ordinances, one in unfolding the purposes and designs of God, and in leading mankind to a knowledge of the truth, as it was to be introduced in “the times of the restitution of all things spoken of by all the holy Prophets since the world began.”
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Now if you will carefully analyze this verse, you will discover that it positively states that this “stick” which is the “stick of Joseph,” thus covering both tribes, is “in the hand of Ephraim.” The record, after its presentation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, was placed in the hand of Ephraim, for Joseph Smith was of Ephraim. There is no reason for us to attempt a reconciliation. The Book of Mormon is as much the stick of Ephraim as it is of Manasseh because both Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph. The record of Joseph is now in the hand of Ephraim. So far as the fulfilment of the prophecy is concerned, it becomes the record of Ephraim, for the Latter-day Saints are, in the main, of Ephraim.”
— Parley P. Pratt said: “Now, nothing can be more plain than the above prophecy: [Ezek. 37]. There are presented two writings, the one to Ephraim, the other of Judah: that of Ephraim is to be brought forth by the Lord, and put up with that of Judah, and they are to become one in their testimony and grow together in this manner, in order to bring about the gathering of Israel.”
— The sign that Jesus Christ gave the Nephites that the restoration of the tribes of Israel was at hand was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which made the combining of the records possible (3 Nephi 20:46; 21:1–7; 29:1).
Events after the Combining of the Two Sticks
● Ezekiel 37:21–22 The children of Israel will be gathered together and united into one kingdom with the Savior as King.
● Ezekiel 37:23 The people will be cleansed and purified.
● Ezekiel 37:24 The people will observe the Lord’s statutes.
● Ezekiel 37:25 The people will dwell in a promised land.
● Ezekiel 37:26–28 The restoration of the Lord’s sanctuary or tabernacle—meaning the temple.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Because [the Book of Mormon] came forth, as the seeric insight of Ezekiel has so plainly set forth, latter-day Israel would be gathered, her people would become clean before the Lord, he would make with them again his everlasting gospel covenant, and his tabernacle and temple would be in their midst forevermore.”
A GLORIOUS LATTER-DAY TEMPLE
Ezekiel received a glorious vision of that latter-day temple that will be built at Jerusalem.
● Ezekiel 43:2, 4–5 The glory of the Lord will fill the temple.
● Ezekiel 43:7 The temple is “the place of [the Lord’s] throne” on earth.
● Ezekiel 43:7 The Lord will walk in the temple, calling it “the place of the soles of my feet.”
● Ezekiel 43:7 The temple is a place where the Lord will “dwell in the midst” of his people.
● Ezekiel 43:11 The laws of the Lord in the temple.
● Ezekiel 43:11 There are ordinances that the Lord wants us to perform in the temple.
● Ezekiel 43:12 Even the grounds that surround the temple “shall be most holy.”
● Ezekiel 44:6–9 Only those who are worthy should enter the temple.
● Ezekiel 44:23 In the temple we learn the difference between holy and profane and between clean and unclean.
● Ezekiel 45:1–8 A part of the land will be set aside for the temple and the priests.
Animal Sacrifices Again
● Ezekiel 43:13–27 Sacrifices will again be offered in the latter days.
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“When these temples [the temple seen by Ezekiel and others to be built in the New Jerusalem] are built, it is very likely that provision will be made for some ceremonies and ordinances which may be performed by the Aaronic priesthood and a place provided where the sons of Levi may offer their offering in righteousness. This will have to be the case because all things are to be restored. There were ordinances performed in ancient Israel in the tabernacle when in the wilderness, and after it was established at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, and later in the temple built by Solomon. The Lord has informed us that this was the case and has said that in those edifices ordinances for the people were performed. . . .
“We are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since the beginning. Even this earth is to be restored to the condition which prevailed before Adam’s transgression. Now in the nature of things, the law of sacrifice will have to be restored, or all things which were decreed by the Lord would not be restored. It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation. Sacrifice by the shedding of blood was instituted in the days of Adam and of necessity will have to be restored.
“The sacrifice of animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood sacrifices will be performed long enough to complete the fulness of the restoration in this dispensation. Afterward sacrifice will be of some other character.”
● Ezekiel 44:5–31; 45:9–46 Only worthy Levites and priests will administer in the house of the Lord; instructions are given here to regulate their conduct and worship.
— Ezekiel 44:15; 48:11 The Sons of Zadok: Zadok was the first high priest to officiate in Solomon’s temple. Apparently the Lord desired the descendants of the righteous Zadok to officiate in the latter-day temple in Jerusalem.
Geographical Changes in the Holy Land
● Ezekiel 47:1–5 Water will spring forth from under the foundation of the temple (see also Zech. 14:8; Joel 3:18).
● Ezekiel 47:6–8 The waters of the Dead Sea “shall be healed.”
— The sequence and proximity of these verses would seem to indicate that the river from the temple mount will be one of the causes of the healing of the Dead Sea.
— At the present time, the Dead Sea is approximately 27 percent salt, while the normal seas of the earth are about 5 percent.
— Not all the areas around the Dead Sea will be healed (“the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be . . . salt”). But the sea itself will support fish life, and on the banks of the river “shall grow . . . trees for meat [food] . . . and the leaf . . . for medicine.”
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.”
Temple Symbolisms: Living Water and Trees of Life
● Ezekiel 47:2–5 The water became deeper each time Ezekiel waded across it. This symbolically represents the idea that the power of the temple increases in our lives the more often we attend.
● Revelation 22:1–3 In a vision similar to Ezekiel’s vision of the temple, John the Beloved was shown the throne of God (a temple in heaven) from which the “water of life” flows.
● Ezekiel 47:12 The trees along the banks of the river also had healing and life-giving powers.
— The tree of life grew along the banks of the river in John’s vision (Revelation 22:2).
— Lehi also saw water flowing beside the tree of life (1 Nephi 11:25; 1 Nephi 8:10–11).
Political Boundaries in the Holy Land
● Ezekiel 47:13–23 The borders of the land and the inheritances of the various tribes of Israel are described. The division of the land among the twelve tribes of Israel in the last days will correspond roughly to the division determined in the days of Moses and Joshua (Ezekiel 47:13–48:35; Ezekiel 48:1–35; Joshua 13–21).
● Ezekiel 47:13 The Holy Land will be divided in strips running between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Dead Sea and the Jordan River on the east. Each of the twelve tribes will be given a strip of land with a strip out of the middle for the prince, the city, and the Levites, that is, the priests. Joseph will receive a double portion since Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, both became tribes in Israel.
— Sidney B. Sperry said: “Of interest to the Latter-day Saints is the fact that provision is made for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It is quite evident from Ezekiel’s vision that not all of Joseph’s descendants are to have their inheritance on the American continent, as some of our people have supposed. We may be justified in believing, however, that most of Joseph’s seed will be provided for on this land (Ether 13:5–12), but Ezekiel very obviously implies that some of Joseph’s descendants will dwell in Palestine.”
● Ezekiel 47:22–23 Strangers. Undoubtedly there will be converts who are not part of blood Israel who will receive an inheritance because of their devotion to the gospel. They will then be adopted into the house of Israel. These strangers may be some of the gentile peoples who will accept the gospel in the last days.
The Holy City of Jerusalem
● Ezekiel 48:31–34 Ezekiel described the gates of the city. The city will have twelve gates, one for each tribe (including Levi and one for Joseph).
— Revelation 22:13–17 The requirements to enter into the gates of the holy city.
● Ezekiel 48:35 Jerusalem will be called holy. Jerusalem will be called Jehovah-shammah— “the Lord is there.”
— JST Ezekiel 48:35 The Joseph Smith Translation reads: “And the name of the city from that day shall be called, Holy; for the Lord shall be there.” The temple will be built as a symbol to Israel that the Lord is with his people.
● Ezekiel 43:1–12; 44:1–4 The Lord will come to the temple and His glory will be there.
THE CENTRALITY OF THE TEMPLE IN OUR LIVES
● David wrote “I have loved the habitation of thy house” (Psalm 26:8). Many others of his psalms also contain his expressions of gratitude:
● President Howard W. Hunter spoke often of the temple during his brief period of presiding over the Church in the 1990s. On one occasion he said:
“I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would e worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.”
1: In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 15.
2: Elder Matthew Cowley Speaks , 218.
3: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 191.
4: The Miracle of Forgiveness, 121.
5: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148.
6: The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. , 115.
7: In Journal of Discourses, 1:226.
8: Israel! Do You Know, 26–27.
9: In Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53.
10: In Journal of Discourses, 10:126.
11: Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 3:198.
12: Key to the Science of Theology/A Voice of Warning , 94.
13: The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ , 146.
14: Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:93–94.
15: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 286.
16: The Voice of Israel’s Prophets , 236–237.
17: In Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8.