Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Shepherds of Israel


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Here's a question to ask yourself today.  How is a shepherd different from a sheepherder?  Don't know?  I didn't either but President Ezra Taft Benson explains it to us:  

“In Jesus’ time, the Palestinian shepherd was noted for his protection of his sheep. Unlike modern sheepherders, the shepherd always walked ahead of his flock. He led them. The shepherd knew each of the sheep and usually had a name for each. The sheep knew his voice and trusted him and would not follow a stranger. Thus, when called, the sheep would come to him. (See John 10:14, 16.)


“At night shepherds would bring their sheep to a corral called a sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of these walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over.


“Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening them. Such a situation separated the true shepherd—one who loved his sheep—from the hireling—one who worked only for pay and duty.


“The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in amongst the sheep and fight for their welfare. The hireling, on the other hand, valued his own personal safety above the sheep and would usually flee from the danger”
(Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 61; or Ensign, May 1983, 43).

Now after reading the above definition, where does the shepherd walk in relation to the sheep?  The shepherd walks ahead of the sheep and leads them.  
Where does the sheepherder walk? The definition implies that the sheepherder walks behind the sheep and drives them.

What is the shepherd’s relationship with each of the sheep? He loves and cares for each one of his sheep.
What is the sheepherder’s relationship with each of the sheep? He cares for himself and has no relationship with the sheep, it is just a job.

How does the shepherd respond when the sheep are in danger?
He does whatever he can to save them, he was willing even to give his life.  
How does the sheepherder respond? He was only concerned for his personal safety.  
So why the story of Shepherd and sheepherders? What does this story have to do with our study of the Old Testament, and us? Our study of the Old Testament today teaches us our responsibilities as spiritual shepherds. We are not sheepherders, we are shepherds...

President James E. Faust:  “When I was a very small boy, my father found a lamb all alone out in the desert. The herd of sheep to which its mother belonged had moved on, and somehow the lamb got separated from its mother, and the shepherd must not have known that it was lost. Because it could not survive alone in the desert, my father picked it up and brought it home. To have left the lamb there would have meant certain death, either by falling prey to the coyotes or by starvation because it was so young that it still needed milk. … My father gave the lamb to me, and I became its shepherd.

“For several weeks I warmed cow’s milk in a baby’s bottle and fed the lamb. We became fast friends. … It began to grow. My lamb and I would play on the lawn. Sometimes we would lie together on the grass and I would lay my head on its soft, woolly side and look up at the blue sky and the white billowing clouds. I did not lock my lamb up during the day. It would not run away. It soon learned to eat grass. I could call my lamb from anywhere in the yard by just imitating as best I could the bleating sound of a sheep. …

“One night there came a terrible storm. I forgot to put my lamb in the barn that night as I should have done. I went to bed. My little friend was frightened in the storm, and I could hear it bleating. I knew that I should help my pet, but I wanted to stay safe, warm, and dry in my bed. I didn’t get up as I should have done. The next morning I went out to find my lamb dead. A dog had also heard its bleating cry and killed it. My heart was broken. I had not been a good shepherd or steward of that which my father had entrusted to me. My father said, ‘Son, couldn’t I trust you to take care of just one lamb?’ My father’s remark hurt me more than losing my woolly friend. I resolved that day, as a little boy, that I would try never again to neglect my stewardship as a shepherd if I were ever placed in that position again.

“Not too many years thereafter I was called as a junior companion to a home teacher. There were times when it was so cold or stormy and I wanted to stay home and be comfortable, but in my mind’s ear I could hear my little lamb bleating, and I knew I needed to be a good shepherd and go with my senior companion. In all those many years, whenever I have had a desire to shirk my duties, there would come to me a remembrance of how sorry I was that night so many years ago when I had not been a good shepherd” (Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 62–63; or Ensign, May 1995, 46).


In our Old Testament Study we now come to Ezekiel, who's example teaches us of the responsibilities we have as shepherds; as well as many lessons that are of great importance to us in our journey to return home.    

In 597 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carried into captivity many people from the kingdom of Judah. Among these captives was Ezekiel, whom the Lord called as a prophet five years later. In 587 B.C. the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took many more captives. Ezekiel ministered to his exiled people until 570 B.C.

Ezekiel’s writings include stern rebukes and glorious promises that apply not only to the ancient kingdom of Judah but to all Israel, including Church members today. Although Jerusalem had been destroyed, Ezekiel foresaw a day when Israel would be gathered and restored. This event is symbolized in his vision of the valley of dry bones and in his prophecy about the sticks of Judah and Joseph.
Ezekiel the Man
He was carried away captive into Babylon in the second group of captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kgs. 24:10-16). Josephus says that Ezekiel was carried away when he was young, and some scholars believe he would have been about twenty-five when he was taken into captivity. Some also have speculated that he may have served in the temple in Jerusalem before he was taken captive into Babylon, because in the later chapters it is obvious that he is intimately familiar with the temple rituals and other things that took place there. But he himself makes no mention of it, so that is merely speculation. While he was in exile the elders of the Jews came to his home to counsel with him (for example, see Ezek. 8:1; 14:1; 20:1). Most often they rejected his counsel, but it is interesting that he functioned as a prophet in a very personal, face-to-face setting. It was for this reason that one scholar referred to him as a "pastor as well as prophet."

We know from Ezekiel's own record that he lived among the exiles in Tel Abib (Ezek. 1:1, 3; 3:15), which seems to have been a colony of the Jewish exiles on the river Chebar. He spent his life among the captives, and the record indicates that he ministered for at least twenty-two years after his call as a prophet. Some questionable traditions indicate that he died a martyr at the hands of one of the Jewish leaders offended by his prophecies. Beyond that we know virtually nothing more about Ezekiel the man.

However, the Book of Mormon provides one additional interesting insight. In 1 Ne. 1:4, Nephi writes, "For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed" Ezekiel was contemporary with Lehi and could easily have been one of those prophets.

We know the names of four of the prophets of that day—Lehi, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel. Lehi's call was to lead a colony out of Jerusalem to a promised land. Jeremiah's call was to stay and bear witness of the destruction of Jerusalem. Daniel was called into exile, but he went into the royal courts and there was allowed to get a picture of the grand world view of history. Ezekiel was called to go among the captives and explain to them why this terrible tragedy had happened.

Ezekiel and History

In 612 b.c., Babylon began to seriously challenge the might of Assyria. Assyria was in a state of serious decay, so Babylonia moved north, and in 612 b.c. Nineveh fell. Basically that signaled the end of the Assyrian Empire. In 609 b.c. Egypt, preferring a weak Assyria to a strong Babylonia, made an alliance with Assyria. When the final battle between those two empires began, Egypt moved north to side with Assyria. It was at that time, though the scriptural record doesn't say why, that the righteous King Josiah of Judah tried to stop Pharaoh Necho at Megiddo. As nearly as we can tell, it was like a fly trying to stop a bull. Necho swatted the fly and moved on, leaving Josiah dead and Judah mourning (see 2 Kgs. 23:29-30; 2 Chr. 35:20-24). Though Assyria was destroyed, the battle between Egypt and Babylon ended more or less in a draw. Pharaoh Necho made Judah a vassal state, appointed King Jehoiakim as his puppet king, and made Judah pay tribute (see 2 Kgs. 23:31-35).

But Babylon was not through with Egypt. In 605 b.c., in what is called one of the significant battles of history, Egypt challenged Babylon in the battle of Carchemish. This time Babylon crushed Egypt and drove her all the way down into the plains of Philistia, which bordered Judah on the west. While he was there, King Nebuchadnezzar, having decided that he would teach this state of Judah who their new master was, besieged Jerusalem. Jerusalem was no match for his power and therefore capitulated easily. Nebuchadnezzar withdrew, taking a small group of captives back with him to Babylon. This was the first of three times captives were taken. Daniel was almost certainly taken to Babylon in this first group.

Even though Jehoiakim was now a vassal king to Babylon, for some reason not fully explained in the scriptures he still gave his allegiance to Egypt. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned that Egypt was weak and not to be trusted (see Jer. 44:29-30; 46:1; Ezek. 17:15; 29:3, 19). Surprisingly, Egypt and Babylon clashed again in 601 b.c., but fought to a standstill this time. So Nebuchadnezzar withdrew back to Babylon. Ignoring the prophetic warnings, Jehoiakim decided that Babylon wasn't nearly as strong as Nebuchadnezzar had claimed, and he openly switched his allegiance to Egypt and stopped paying tribute to Babylon.

About 598 b.c. (traditional dating), Nebuchadnezzar decided to teach Judah a lesson. He laid siege to Jerusalem, killed King Jehoiakim, threw his body off the walls, and took three thousand captives. 7 Jehoiachin was appointed as the successor king.

In 2 Kgs. 24 we read the final outcome of this event. The passage beginning in verse 14 is particularly noteworthy in our study of Ezekiel: "And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.

"And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.

"And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand," and so on, and so on.

So Nebuchadnezzar virtually took the entire upper and middle classes of Jerusalem captive. Ezekiel, being a priest, was certainly included. Even though Ezekiel was now in Babylon, the events in Jerusalem still affected him and his work and are therefore of interest to us.

During the next ten years, Zedekiah, who was appointed to replace Jehoiachin as the ruler in Jerusalem, did not learn a thing from the previous tragedy, nor did Judah. In Jerusalem, false prophets began to abound, predicting that Babylon would be overthrown and the captives returned. While both Jeremiah and Ezekiel strongly denounced these men (see Jer. 28, 29; Ezek. 13), their presence added to the general confusion abounding in Jerusalem.

Then a second interesting event happened. Two prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, reportedly uttered "contradictory" prophecies. Because these two prophecies seemed to directly contradict each other, Zedekiah rationalized that the two true prophets couldn't be trusted and went on listening to the false prophets. Let's examine the "contradictory" prophecies.

Jer. 34:2-3 says: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire:

"And thou [Zedekiah] shalt not escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; [and then notice this phrase] and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the kingof Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon" (emphasis added). That is Jeremiah's prophecy.

But in Ezek. 12:13, Ezekiel said of Zedekiah, "My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare: and I will bring him to Babylon to the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there" (emphasis added).

It is obvious why the king thought the two prophets contradicted each other. Jeremiah said Zedekiah would look into the eyes of the king of Babylon, while Ezekiel said he would be taken into the land of the Chaldeans but would not see it, even though he would die there.

But of course they did not contradict each other. The fulfillment is an interesting one. When Nebuchadnezzar came a third time and conquered Jerusalem in 587 b.c., his generals captured all of the nobles, including Zedekiah and his sons (except Mulek, who escaped), and brought them north to the encampment of their king. Nebuchadnezzar came face to face with his prisoners (so they looked into his eyes) and killed the sons of Zedekiah as Zedekiah watched. Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes, blinding him, and carried him away captive into Babylon. Thus both predictions were fulfilled: Zedekiah looked into the eyes of the Babylonian king, yet he never saw the land of Babylon, where he was carried captive and later died.

But whatever the cause, Zedekiah and Judah did not repent. Again they revolted against Babylon, and so in 589 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar returned. This time he said, in effect, "We'll provide a lesson that everyone will listen to. Let us show the world what happens to those who rebel against Babylon." He left Jerusalem leveled and in ruins, and Judah was no more.

That is the historical setting in which Ezekiel lived and prophesied. Without an understanding of those circumstances, the meaning of Ezekiel's writings will largely remain obscure.  (Selected Writings of Gerald N Lund Gospel Scholar Series) 

The Call of Ezekiel

Ezekiel 1 through 3 contains an account of Ezekiel's call to be a prophet. Like the commissions of many of the prophets in scripture Ezekiel 1 through 3 contains a record of a remarkable vision of the heavenly realms, as well as several other regularly recurring features: a historical introduction, a divine confrontation, the reaction, the throne-theophany, the prophetic commission, divine reassurance, and the conclusion of the call. The prophetic call of Ezekiel in chapters 1 through 3 shows particularly close parallels to the calls of Lehi in 1 Nephi 1 and 2 and of Isaiah in Isaiah 6  

In the "divine confrontation" either God, an angel, or some other manifestation of the divine appears to the individual. The "divine confrontation" (Ezek. 1:4-28a) unfolds in a manner unique in scripture, through a symbolic vision of the chariot with four wheels and of "the likeness of the glory of the Lord." This highly ornate, difficult, and puzzling passage has probably engendered more commentary than any other chapter in the Old Testament and has spawned a whole genre of mystical literature in later Judaism known as merkavah (chariot) mysticism. 3

In the "reaction" section the prophet reacts to his confrontation with the divine through words or actions reflecting awe, fear, or unworthiness. Thus, following his vision, Ezekiel reports that "when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake" (Ezek. 1:28b).

In the course of the "divine confrontation," the prophet has a "throne-theophany" vision in which he sees God seated on his throne. In Ezekiel, the image of God seated on his throne is less direct than it is in the visions of Lehi and Isaiah: "above the firmament" is "the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man" (Ezek. 1:26). 4

In the "commission," the individual recipient is commanded to perform a given task and assume the role of prophet to the people. Ezekiel's commission is accompanied by a description of the people to whom he was being sent: "And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house), yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them" (Ezek. 2:3-5).

In the "reassurance" section of the prophetic call passages, God or his representative promises the prophet that he will be protected so that he can fulfill his call. Sometimes combined with the "reassurance" is some act that symbolizes God's protecting power. The prophetic "reassurance" in Ezekiel contains such a supernatural, symbolic act. Ezekiel was handed a book containing "lamentations, and mourning, and woe" (Ezek. 2:10), which he was commanded to eat. Amazingly, despite the book's content, it was like honey in taste, perhaps symbolizing that God's gifts, of whatever sort they may be, are sweet.

The prophetic call generally concludes with a statement indicating that the prophet begins to execute his commission. As we shall see below, although Ezekiel was disposed to preach to the people, he was constrained from doing so because of their wickedness.  (Studies in Scripture Vol 4 Kent P Jackson)

His Ministry

Through Ezekiel, the Lord gave wayward and backsliding Israel a message of warning and reproof, of justice and judgment, of mercy and love that left no doubt of His indignation at their unrighteousness nor of His desire for their repentance. Ezekiel taught that all are responsible for their own actions and will be rewarded or punished according to the way they use the agency given them. He taught that no one can reject the Lord’s counsel and escape the judgments that invariably follow justice and that are intended to purge the soul of iniquity. He taught also that no one who repents and turns from his iniquities will lose the blessings of God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness.

These principles apply to individuals and to nations. They applied to the individual Israelite and the whole nation of Judah (Israel) to whom Ezekiel prophesied. God will not justify the sinner nor forsake those with whom He has made covenants if they will but fulfill their part of the agreement. In Ezekiel’s time the Lord’s covenant people had rejected Him and needed to be refined in the fires of tribulation and sorrow in order to be turned from their iniquitous way of life. Although, because of His justice, God allowed those tribulations, because of His infinite love and mercy, He continued to extend the promise of forgiveness and life to the repentant soul and of the restoration of all former blessings to Israel if they would return to Him.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel no longer spoke of God’s judgments on his contemporaries but of Israel’s redemption in the latter days. It was as though he had done all he could to stave off the destruction of his people, and when that was impossible and they were actually experiencing the suffering that captivity had imposed upon them, he turned their hearts to the future and the source of their ultimate hope in the Lord.

So Saints of the latter days should be most enthusiastic about Ezekiel’s prophecies.  Of Ezekiel’s twelve, precisely recorded visions, seven were given after the fall of Jerusalem and dealt with such events of the last days as the building of the great Jewish kingdom under a shepherd named David, the gathering of scattered Israel, the unification of all the tribes of Israel, the joining of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the battle of Armageddon, and the building of a modern temple in Jerusalem. Truly, Ezekiel was a prophet of the Restoration.

1. The shepherds of Israel Ezekiel 34

In this chapter the Lord reproved the self-serving shepherds of Israel who had not fed the flock. He then described himself as the Good Shepherd who would gather his flock in the latter days and lead them during the Millennium.  In a tone very similar to Jeremiah’s (see Jeremiah 23:1–8), Ezekiel condemned the pastors, or shepherds, of the Lord’s spiritual flock, the religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.  In contrast to the Lord’s care of His flock, the shepherds of Israel fed themselves but not the flock. The negligent shepherds did not strengthen the sick, bind up the broken, bring back again those who were driven away, or seek for the lost sheep, all of which any real shepherd would do for his own sheep. Instead, they ruled the sheep with force and cruelty and let them wander to become a prey to beasts.

In Ezekiel the powerful metaphor of sheep and shepherds is developed only in chapter 34 (cf. Jer. 23:1; 31:10; 50:6, 17). The Lord condemns the shepherds of Israel for their gross neglect of the flock: "Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?"  Nowhere are the shepherds of Israel defined, but the meaning seems quite clear. Shepherds are leaders, those to whose care God's children have been entrusted. In ancient Israel the leaders included the prophets, the priests, and the kings. With callings of prophecy, priesthood, and royalty, these individuals had been charged with the responsibility of presiding in the house of Israel and providing leadership within their respective spheres. 

Unfortunately, the Bible shows evidence for all-too-frequent corruption in each of these areas: most of the kings were wicked, 14 many priests defiled themselves, and false prophets were popular. A few passages, in fact, list these three as a triad of wickedness: "Her priests have violated my law. . . . Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves. . . . And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them" (Ezek. 22:26-28). "Her princes within her are roaring lions. . . . Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary" (Zeph. 3:3-4). "The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money" (Micah 3:11).   These shepherds were not worthy of their callings, the Lord told Ezekiel, so God himself would become Israel's shepherd and gather his flock:  (Studies in Scripture Vol 4 Kent P Jackson)

Who are the “shepherds of Israel” spoken of in Ezekiel 34?  The religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.

Why was the Lord displeased with them?  Ezekiel 34:2–4.

2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.

4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

What happened to the sheep when the shepherds neglected them? Ezekiel 34:5–6

5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.

6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.


In what ways can each of us be considered a shepherd of Israel?  We are to watch over and strengthen each other as family members, Church members, neighbors, home teachers and visiting teachers, and members of quorums and classes.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety (salvation) of his sheep” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 710).

The Lord was displeased with some shepherds for feeding themselves rather than feeding the flocks (Ezekiel 34:2–3, 8). 

8 As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;


How might some of us make this error today? 


President Spencer W. Kimball, in a priesthood session of general conference, charged the present shepherds, priesthood leaders, of the kingdom to be concerned about the welfare of the flock: “As we read and study the scriptures, we are made conscious of the fact that the Savior has always been concerned about the welfare of the members of his flock, both individually and collectively. It is about that principle of caring for and ministering to the needs of the Church membership in these troubled days that I desire to speak to you brethren tonight.

“Bishops and branch presidents, please be ever alert to the needs of the precious individuals and families who make up the membership of your wards and branches. You are the nurturing shepherds of our people. To the greatest extent possible, let your counselors and others who serve and work under your direction be the managers of programs. If you will pursue this emphasis, you will often be able to detect very early some of those members who have serious difficulties, while their challenges and problems are still small and manageable. Be conscious of the little tensions and problems you may see in families so that you can give the required attention, counsel, and love when it is most needed. An hour with a troubled boy or girl now may save him or her, and is infinitely better than the hundreds of hours spent in their later lives in the reclamation of a boy or girl if they become inactive.

“As we have said so many times, delegate those tasks which others can do so that you are free to do those things which you, and you alone, can do. Home teachers are to help watch over the flock. Even though they don’t counsel as bishops and branch presidents do, home teachers can render much appropriate and preventive help under the direction of the quorum leaders and bishoprics.

“Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. The Savior has told us to feed his sheep (see John 21:15–17). I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time when they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1980, p. 67; see also Ensign, Nov. 1980, pp. 45–46.)

According to Ezekiel 34:11–16, what do true shepherds do for their sheep? (Note the verbs search, seek, deliver, gather, feed, bind up, and strengthen.) 

11 ¶ For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God.

16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

How can we help prevent others from straying or becoming scattered? 

How can we help gather those who have strayed?

How can we feed and strengthen the Lord’s flocks? 

How have you been blessed by true shepherds who have done these things?

President Ezra Taft Benson said: “We call on you to extend yourselves with renewed dedication. … We want you to watch, to feed, to tend, and to care for the flock and, in the event that some are temporarily lost, we challenge you to find them” (Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 64; or Ensign, May 1983, 45). 

How is the Savior like a shepherd to us?  Ezekiel 34:11–16; Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11; John 10:11–15.) 


Psalm 23  David declares, The Lord is my shepherd.

A Psalm of David.


1 The Lord is my ashepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.


11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.



2. Watchmen to raise a warning voice 


When calling Ezekiel as a prophet, the Lord said, “I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:17). 
17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

How were Ezekiel’s duties as a prophet like those of a watchman?  Ezekiel 3:17–21; 33:1–9. In Ezekiel’s day, a watchman on a tower would warn the people of impending danger from enemy armies. Ezekiel warned his people about enemies that would endanger them spiritually.


17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.


Who are our watchmen in the latter days? Why is it important to have these watchmen? What is our responsibility to be watchmen? (See D&C 88:81. Part of this responsibility is to teach the gospel to those who have not received it.) 


To teach the importance of heeding the warnings of the prophets and of warning our neighbors by teaching them the gospel; Elder Boyd K. Packer told of a devastating flood caused by the collapse of the Teton Dam in Idaho in 1976. In the immediate path of the fast-moving floodwaters were 7,800 people. As the flood rushed down the valley, it destroyed 790 homes and severely damaged another 800 homes, churches, schools, and businesses. Considering the amount of water, its speed, and the population of the area, one expert estimated that 5,300 people should have been killed. Incredibly, only 6 people drowned.

Elder Packer asked:  “How could there be such a terrible destruction with such little loss of life? … Because they were warned! They didn’t have very long, but they were warned; and every man who was warned, warned his neighbor. …

“What about the six that drowned? One of them was just below the dam and had no choice. Two of them wouldn’t believe the warning until it was too late. They later found them both in their car, but they hadn’t heeded the warning. Three of them went back to get some material possessions, and they lost their lives.

“But it was a miracle of tremendous proportion. As Latter-day Saints we learn to heed warnings. …

“Now, I see a great similarity in what is happening in the world, a great tidal wave of evil and wickedness in the world. It just seeps around us and gets deeper and deeper. Our lives are in danger. Our property is in danger. Our freedoms are in danger, and yet we casually go about our work unable to understand that it behooves every man that has been warned to warn his neighbor. …

“[We have been] warned by a prophet. Will [we] heed the warning, or will [we] be as those six in Idaho who thought the warning was not for them?”
(That All May Be Edified [1982], 220–21, 223).




2. Repentance and forgiveness Ezekiel 18:21–32

The heading for this chapter tells us that men will be punished for their own sins.  Sinners will die, and the righteous will surely live.  A righteous man who sins will be damned, and a sinner who repents will be saved.

Now lets read Ezekiel 18:21–32

21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

24 ¶ But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

25 ¶ Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?

26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.

27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.

28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

31 ¶ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.



What does this passage teach about repentance and forgiveness?  Ezekiel 18:21–22, 27–28
The Lord has given individuals the freedom to exercise their own agency. They are therefore accountable for their own actions while they work out their salvation. No one is punished for the sins of someone else. The Lord takes no pleasure in those that die from sin.  It is his desire to forgive all, and for all to live, but in order to do so all must repent and accept the ways of God.  

To help explain God's love and His desire for all to live in the beginning of Chapter 18 Ezekiel used the example of a man, his son, and his grandson to teach the principles of accountability as they relate to spiritual life and death. He said that if a man (the grandfather in this case) is just, he shall live ( Ezekiel 18:5–9). If his son, having seen the good example and been exposed to the good teachings, turns to iniquity, he shall not live (vv. 10–13). “His blood shall be upon him” (v. 13), that is, he will be punished for his own sins. If he, in turn, has a son who sees his father’s iniquities and yet lives righteously, “he [the son] shall not die for the iniquity of his father” (v. 17; see also vv. 14–18). Verse 20 is a clear summary of these principles.

What does it mean to “make … a new heart and a new spirit”? Ezekiel 18:31.  
One must be converted.  In true repentance, a person's heart, desires, actions, their whole being needs to change.  And not only does it need to change but one's life must change, one must turn away from old sins and iniquity and choose to live with God.  This to many sounds like an impossible or unbelievable task, but it is not impossible, in fact it is very real for on a personal note, after my heavy repentance and amends I am not the same person; in fact after choosing to live with God; I scarcely remember the old me and when it is mentioned by family members for friends it all seems foreign.  I thank Heavenly Father for that everyday for I am truly new... 

Why is it important to understand that repentance includes both turning away from sin and having a change of heart? How can we experience this change of heart?  Alma 5:7–14

7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

8 And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

9 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?

12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.

13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.

14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

What does this passage teach about people who turn away from righteousness and do not repent? Ezekiel 18:24, 26  When a man is judged by God, his position is determined by what he is now, not by what he has been

24 ¶ But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. 

26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. 

President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “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.” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 121.)


What does this passage teach about the Lord’s feelings when he punishes the wicked? Ezekiel 18:23, 32

23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

What does this passage teach about the Lord’s justice and mercy? Ezekiel 18:25, 29–32   

25 ¶ Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? 

29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

31 ¶ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye

On the basis of the doctrine just explained, the Lord now reasons with the poeple of Israel that it is His way that is equal and just and not theirs. They have every opportunity for a bright future, because their fate is not in the hands of their unrighteous ancestors. Nor will the Lord hold their own guilty past as a stumbling block against them if they truly repent and come to him with a new heart and a new spirit

Why is it important to know that the Lord is just and merciful?   Even now, in this period of wickedness and chaos in the earth, the Lord would gladly lead us from the path of destruction if we truly repented of our sins.  We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. The prophets have pointed out the path.

3. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones Ezekiel 37:1–14

In this chapter, Ezekiel is shown the valley of dry bones.  Israel will inherit the land in the Resurrection and The stick of Judah (the Bible) and the stick of Joseph (the Book of Mormon) will become one in the Lord’s hand.  The children of Israel will be gathered and cleansed.  David (the Messiah) will reign over them—They will receive the everlasting gospel covenant.


1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
5 Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
11 ¶ Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
13 And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,

14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.

Commentary:  Often prophetic utterances have dual meanings. Such is the case for the well-known allegory of the scattered dry bones. The beauty of prophecy is that the Lord can reveal to those who are spiritually alert more than one truth in one prophecy.


Sidney B. Sperry wrote the following commentary on the dual nature of this prophecy: “It will be seen from this passage that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead … is invoked to symbolize the restoration of Israel’s exiles to their own land. The exiles are represented—so it seems to me—as having lost hope (their bones are dried up) of ever living again as a nation. But the Lord shows them that they can be restored through His mighty power even as the dead will be raised in the resurrection. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is assumed. Some writers contend that the idea of resurrection was not known among the Hebrews at this early time. But the fact that Ezekiel speaks as he did would seem to me an indication that the doctrine had long been understood in Israel. Any true prophet would understand the doctrine of the resurrection, so Latter-day Saints believe, and Israel had had many prophets long before Ezekiel’s time.” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 225–26.)



The symbolic meaning of this prophecy as it relates to the gathering of Israel is apparent: The bones represent Israel in its lost and scattered state; the graves indicate where Israel is as well as its condition of spiritual death. The spirit, or ruach in Hebrew (see Ezekiel 37:9), means the new spirit of righteousness the people will have when they have been resurrected, that is, restored from their fallen state. The source of this new life will be the Holy Ghost.


But Ezekiel’s account of the Resurrection is literal, as well as symbolic of the future gathering of Israel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie testified: “There is nothing more real, more literal, more personal than the resurrection, as Ezekiel then beheld in vision. He saw the dead live again, live literally and personally, each one becoming in physical makeup as he had been in mortality. It was with each of them as it would be with their Lord, when he, having also come forth from his valley of dry bones, stood in the upper room with his disciples, ate before them, and permitted them to handle his physical body. To his people the Lord’s voice came: ‘I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.’ (Ezek. 37:1–14.) He who shall do all this, as we are now acutely aware, is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the God of Israel.” (The Promised Messiah, pp. 270–71.)  (Quoted from Old Testament Student Manual) 

Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of bones symbolizes both the Resurrection and the restoration of the children of Israel to their promised land.  Ezekiel’s vision can also be read as an analogy describing the renewal of the “hope” of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11). Although Israel’s hope may be as dead as the “great army” of bones that Ezekiel saw, the Savior can bring it back to vitality and life. 

How is the Resurrection symbolized in Ezekiel’s vision?  The bones came together, were covered with flesh and skin, and were given life; Ezekiel 37:1–10; (see also Alma 11:42–44; 40:23.)

How is the restoration of the children of Israel to their promised land symbolized in Ezekiel’s vision?
Ezekiel 37:11–14.   The Resurrection is used to symbolize this restoration.

How has the Savior renewed your hope?  Moroni 7:41 
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.


The bones in Ezekiel’s vision began to take life after Ezekiel told them to “hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4). How does the word of the Lord give us life?  


4. The stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph Ezekiel 37:15–28


Lets read these verses:  

15 ¶ The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 ¶ And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20 ¶ And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

Commentary:  (Quoted from the Old Testament Student Manual) 

What Is the Symbolism of the Two Sticks Being Joined Together?  This passage is another example of the dual nature of prophecy. Sperry explained: “What is the meaning of these ‘sticks’ and what is their significance? Most commentators simply believe that each piece of wood represents one of the two kingdoms, either Judah or Israel (Ephraim), which are to be bound together or united under the Lord’s direction. This act symbolizes the reunion of Ephraim and Judah into one kingdom. … However, the Latter-day Saints insist that such an interpretation is by no means complete. … What they do believe is that each of the sticks represents a scripture, a significant piece of writing. The Bible represents the scripture of Judah. To an average person not of our faith this conclusion may seem reasonable, but he will ask immediately what scripture represents the stick of Ephraim. To which we reply, the Book of Mormon. The Nephite scripture is the record of the descendants upon this continent of Joseph who was sold into Egypt.” (Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 226–27.)

The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon affirm that Ezekiel’s prophecy deals with the Bible and the Book of Mormon being joined together. Doctrine and Covenants 27:5teaches that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Ephraim. The Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi 13:40–41; 2 Nephi 29:10–14; and Mormon 7:8–9speaks of the records of the Jews and the records of the Nephites being gathered together into one.

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 (see 3 Nephi 20:46; 21:1–7; 29:1). This truth is sustained by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “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. (Ezek. 37:15–28.)” (Promised Messiah, p. 146.)

What Was the Meaning Anciently of the Word Stick?
  Bible scholars who are not Latter-day Saints have insisted that the traditional Christian interpretation of the word stick should be a “rod or scepter” rather than a record of some kind. They conclude that uniting the two tribal scepters vividly symbolizes the reunification of the divided tribes. But as Keith H. Meservy pointed out:

“Recent exciting discoveries now confirm the correctness of Joseph Smith’s interpretation in a way impossible in 1830. But before discussing these new discoveries, let’s take a quick look at some linguistic points. Both stick, in the English King James Version, and rod, in the Greek Septuagint Version, are very unusual translations of the Hebrew word etz … whose basic meaning is wood . …

“The modern nation of Iraq includes almost all of Mesopotamia, the homeland of the ancient kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia. In 593 B.C., when Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, he was living in exile in Babylonia. … As he walked its streets, he would have seen the typical scribe pressing a wedge-shaped stylus into moist clay tablets to make the complex writings familiar to us as cuneiform (wedge-shaped). But scholars today know that other kinds of records were being made in Mesopotamia: papyrus, parchment, and wooden tablets. Though only the clay tablets have survived the millennia, writers referred to the other writing materials on their clay tablets. [One such writing style was called “wood tablets.”] 

“Modern archaeologists knew what papyrus and parchment were, but what were these wood tablets? How could cuneiform be written on wood? …

“… Some years ago … San Nicolo [an archaeologist] remembered that Romans and Greeks both made wooden wax tablets for record-keeping purposes out of boards whose surfaces had been cut below the edges in order to hold a thin coating of wax. Scribes wrote on the wax. The raised edges protected the inscribed surfaces when two tablets were put together.

“Could the Babylonians have done the same thing? … Five years later, … a discovery made in the territory that had been ancient Assyria confirmed his theory to the letter.

“The discovery, directed by archaeologist Max Mallowan, was made in a layer of sludge deep in a well in Nimrod, a city known as Calah in the Bible. … By the end of the day workmen had found … fragments of two complete sets of tablets, one of ivory and the other of walnut, each composed of sixteen boards. …


“All of the surfaces of the boards were cut down a tenth of an inch, leaving a half-inch-wide raised edge all around. The lowered surfaces provided a bed for wax filling, of which some thin biscuit-like fragments were found either still adhering to the boards or mixed in the sludge nearby. …

“The cover boards … had hinge marks on both sides, making it evident that all sixteen in each set had once been joined together like a Japanese folding screen. The whole work made such an extensive record that Mallowan could announce his discovery as the oldest known example of a book. …

“With these things in mind, we can see how we might translate Ezekiel 37:15–17in this way:

“‘These were the words of the Lord to me: Man, take one leaf of a wooden tablet and write on it, “Judah and his associates of Israel.” Then take another leaf and write on it, “Joseph, the leaf [wooden tablet] of Ephraim and all his associates of Israel.”

“‘Now bring the two together to form one tablet; then they will be a folding tablet in your hand.’

“This translation is faithful to what we now know of Ezekiel’s language and culture.” (“Ezekiel’s ‘Sticks,’” Ensign, Sept. 1977, pp. 24–26.)

A Latter-day Temple in Jerusalem

Ezekiel prophesied in 37:26–28 about a holy sanctuary or temple that would be part of the great reunification of Israel. Soon after this vision, Ezekiel received a detailed vision of what the new temple in Jerusalem would be like (see Ezekiel 40–48). President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Ezekiel predicted the building of a temple in Jerusalem which will be used for ordinance work after the gathering of Israel from their long dispersion and when they are cleansed from their transgressions” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:244).
Ezekiel prophesied in 37:26–28 about a holy sanctuary or temple that would be part of the great reunification of Israel. Soon after this vision, Ezekiel received a detailed vision of what the new temple in Jerusalem would be like (see Ezekiel 40–48). President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Ezekiel predicted the building of a temple in Jerusalem which will be used for ordinance work after the gathering of Israel from their long dispersion and when they are cleansed from their transgressions” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:244). 
Ezekiel’s prophecy of the sticks of Judah and Joseph has a dual meaning. 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 (Israel).

How has the prophecy in Ezekiel 37:15–20 been fulfilled? 1 Nephi 5:14; 2 Nephi 3:12; D&C 27:5.  The word stick in these verses refers to a type of wooden writing tablet commonly used in Ezekiel’s day. The stick of Judah symbolizes the Bible, and the stick of Joseph symbolizes the Book of Mormon.

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” (Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53). 

What blessings have come from having the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible?  1 Nephi 13:39–40; 2 Nephi 3:12.  Many precious parts of the Bible that have been lost are found in the Book of Mormon, along with explanations, the filling in of gaps and missing history.  It is a great blessing in being able to understand the Bible as Holy Scripture.  Most importantly the Book of Mormon is a great witness of Jesus Christ as the literal son of God and Savior of the world. 

How has the Book of Mormon helped you better understand the Bible? On a personal note, many times for me, the Book of Mormon helps it to make sense, it puts things in order and prospective, and fills me with understanding.  

How has it reinforced for you the Bible’s witness of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Book of Mormon, confirms and shows Christ.  It explains Christ, it teaches of Christ, it testifies of Christ.  With the Book of Mormon Christ becomes unshakable, he is real, he lives and that is the confirmation all are searching for and desire.  

What did Ezekiel say would occur after the two sticks were put together?
  The children of Israel would be gathered together and united into one kingdom with the Savior as King Ezekiel 37:21–22
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: 

The people would be cleansed and purified Ezekiel 37:23
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.

The people would observe the Lord’s statutes Ezekiel 37:24.
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.

The people would dwell in a promised land Ezekiel 37:25
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. 

What other blessings did the Lord promise in Ezekiel 37:26–28? One important blessing is the restoration of the Lord’s sanctuary or tabernacle, meaning the temple. The next lesson (Blog) discusses the blessings of the temple in more detail.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

Conclusion 

These chapters have shown the great prophetic insight with which the Lord blessed Ezekiel. Certainly the Lord trusted Ezekiel. He knew that this prophet among the exiles in Babylonia would see that these precious truths would be safely recorded and delivered to the nations of the earth.

Do you rejoice when you read the prophecies of Ezekiel? Does your soul burn within you to realize that the Lord is at the helm in the affairs of His children and that He will bring again His people Israel to their lands of promise and cleanse iniquity from their midst? Do you thrill with the knowledge that He will protect Israel from her enemies and punish the wicked and that a great and magnificent temple will be built upon Mount Moriah in the holy city Jerusalem for the tribe of Judah? If you had been in the presence of the Jews in Babylon, would you “know that a prophet hath been among them”? (Ezekiel 33:33).

Certainly we cannot take for granted that the prophecies of Ezekiel will come to pass. We must do as Nephi did when he heard Lehi’s recital of the vision of the tree of life and personally seek a confirmation of the truthfulness of Ezekiel’s vision from the Lord (see 1 Nephi 10:17). Ezekiel himself was taught by the same principle (see Ezekiel 44:5).

As you seek to know the truthfulness of what the prophets have revealed, remember that obtaining that knowledge is a gradual process. The Lord said: “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are they who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom” (2 Nephi 28:30). 

Ezekiel’s teachings help us understand how much the Savior loves and cares for each of us. He is our Shepherd. He is eager to forgive. He made it possible for us to be resurrected. He is directing the latter-day gathering of Israel. And he brought forth the Book of Mormon as another witness of him.   Through Ezekiel He teaches us how to be like Him, how to be shepherds, how to be watchmen, how to forgive, how to gain forgiveness, how to live with God gaining eternal salvation; and he gives us direction, warnings, and information about the last days we live in now. 

Take some time to reflect upon, ponder, and pray about the significance of Ezekiel’s great message. “Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds” (D&C 43:34).



Resources 
Old testament student manual
Studies in Scripture Vol 4 Kent P Jackson
Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament Ellis T Rassmusen
Ensign
Conference Reports

The Fall of Adam and Eve

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