Jacob’s Encounter with Sherem
• Print the scripture story visual aids. (The visual aids are from Book of Mormon Stories chapters nine and ten.)
• Items needed: one package of toothpicks, masking tape or stickers, fine tip markers, several pieces of string or ribbon cut into three inch lengths, and packages of stick gum (stick gum can be found at Dollar Tree). (The amounts needed for each item will be based on how many children are in the class.)
• Carefully remove the gum from the wrappers in one of the packages of gum. Replace the empty wrappers back into the package, making it appear as if the gum is still in the wrappers.
• Fold two inch pieces of masking tape or stickers in half over the end of the toothpicks. Each should look like a small flag when done. Cut off the other pointy end of the toothpick with scissors. Make five toothpick flags per child. Save the remaining flag free toothpicks for the object lesson.
Scripture Story Introduction
Tell the following scripture story using the visual aid pictures.
Remind the children that in last week’s lesson they learned about Nephi and his family crossing the sea and arriving at the promised land. In the promised land, Lehi eventually grew old and died.
After Lehi died, Laman and Lemuel once again became angry with Nephi for urging them to keep the commandments. They complained saying their younger brother wanted to rule over them. They became so angry they sought to kill him. The Lord warned Nephi that he should flee into the wilderness and take all those who would go with him. All those who believed in the warnings and revelations of God followed Nephi. They traveled into the wilderness for several days. They settled in a land and prospered there. They constructed buildings and a temple. They called themselves the people of Nephi.
The people who followed Laman and Lemuel were called Lamanites. A curse was put upon the Lamanites; they were cut off from the Lord’s help and guidance because they chose to do wicked things. The Lord also caused their skins to darken so the Nephites would be reminded not to mix or intermarry with them and bring the curse upon themselves. The Lamanites became an idle people, full of mischief and trickery. They hated the Nephites and wanted to destroy them. The Lord told Nephi that the Lamanites would be a scourge to his people to help turn the Nephite’s hearts back to the Lord when they faltered.
Nephi led his people in righteousness and helped protect them against the Lamanites, but eventually he grew old. He gave the historical and spiritual records to his younger brother Jacob. Jacob had been consecrated a priest and teacher by the hand of Nephi. He was ordained of God to preach to the people.
(Direct the children to turn to the “Book of Jacob” in their Book of Mormons.) Some of Jacob’s words are recorded in the “Book of Jacob”. In the seventh chapter of the “Book of Jacob” Jacob tells about a man named Sherem who came among the Nephites preaching and trying to convince the people to accept his teachings.
Before telling the story of Sherem, tell the children you brought some gum to share with them, and show them the empty gum package. Offer it to the children. After they take a piece, ask them how they felt when the discovered the wrappers were empty. Explain to the children that during their life people will try to convince them to accept things that are empty and have no value. In today’s lesson they will learn how to discern divine truth so as to help them avoid the disappointment and sorrow that comes from accepting false beliefs. (Give each child a piece of real gum to take home.)
The man named Sherem, who came among the Nephites preaching, tried to convince the people to accept false things that were not true. One of the main things he tried to convince the people was that there would be no Christ. He taught that the people only had to follow the basic laws and rituals of the Law of Moses in order to gain salvation. That it was not necessary for an atonement to be made for the sins of mankind.
• Is it possible to gain salvation without Christ’s atonement? We cannot undo the sins we have committed, and no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God. Only through Christ’s Atonement can we become clean again.
• Why would Sherem try to convince the people there would be no Christ? Sherem was under Satan’s influence. Satan did not want people to believe in Christ and be saved.
Sherem was a learned man, and he was very good at speaking to people and flattering them. Many people believed his words.
• Why did people find his words to be so appealing? Possibly because they wanted to follow the easier path of just obeying the basic rituals and performances of the Law of Moses, instead of the more difficult path of obeying the higher laws of the gospel.
Sherem knew that Jacob had faith in Christ, so he sought to speak to Jacob. He hoped to shake Jacob’s faith.
• Why would Sherem want to shake Jacob’s faith? Perhaps he hoped to shake Jacob’s faith so that all the people that listened to Jacob would be in confusion, and Sherem could then try to influence them to believe his teachings. But Jacob’s faith could not be shaken. Jacob had received many revelations, he had seen angels, and he had heard the voice of the Lord.
Sherem eventually got the opportunity to speak to Jacob. He accused Jacob of leading the people into changing the right ways of worshiping God by preaching of a being named Christ. Sherem said that no man could know of such things, or of what was coming in the future.
The Lord blessed Jacob with the spirit, and he was able to confound and thwart everything Sherem said. Jacob asked Sherem if he believed in the scriptures. Sherem said he did believe in the scriptures. Jacob said he must not understand them then because all the prophets in the scriptures testified of Christ. Jacob also testified that he personally knew that Christ would come because it had been revealed to him by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Sherem said he wanted to see a sign by that power. Jacob said he would not ask God for a sign to show Sherem something he already knew was true. (Sherem must have had a belief in Christ, but his personal notions and desires became so powerful that he tried to ignore that knowledge.)
Jacob said if it was the will of the Lord to smite Sherem, then that would be his sign that God has power and that Christ will come. The power of the Lord came upon Sherem, and he fell to the earth. He was so stricken and incapacitated that others had to feed him and take care of him for many days.
• Did Sherem ask for a sign so he could believe in Christ? No. He did not expect a sign to be produced, and if none was produced he could accuse Jacob of being false. Sherem had not planned on being struck down by God.
• If we want to gain a testimony of Christ would seeking for signs be a good way to do it? Have the children look up and read D&C 63:9 & 11-12. Explain that signs and miracles come because of faith. Signs do not give a person faith. Faith in Christ comes through the witness of the Holy Ghost. Remind the children of Laman and Lemuel. They did not have faith even though they had seen an angel, heard the voice of the Lord, and had seen many mighty miracles. They did not have faith because they would not open their hearts to the Holy Ghost. If we seek for signs it will be to our condemnation.
Sherem suffered for many days after being struck down by the power of God. He asked that the people be gathered. He knew he was dying, and he wanted to speak to them before he died. When the people were gathered he denied the things he had taught them and confessed that Christ was true. He said he had been deceived by the devil and now feared for his soul. He knew he was about to die and face God. He was afraid of the eternal judgement he would face for his sins.
• How did Sherem feel when he realized he would have to suffer the consequences of preaching false doctrines? (Fear and sorrow) How would someone feel if they had accepted false doctrine and then realized they would have to suffer the consequences of that choice?
After confessing, Sherem died. The power of God came upon the people. They felt the Spirit’s witness of the truth of the matter. They fell to the earth in awe. The people once again turned their hearts to God.
There are many people in today’s world that are influenced by Satan. They try to lead people away from Christ. Some try to convince us that Jesus is not the Son of God, that He didn’t suffer and die for our sins. They say we do not have to believe in Christ and follow the commandments to receive salvation.
• How can we find out for ourselves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he atoned for our sins, and that only through Him can we be saved? Jacob had faith in Christ because the Holy Ghost had revealed the truth of it to him. We can receive that same witness of Christ if we will pray and seek for the Holy Ghost to reveal the truth to us. We also learn from Jacob that we can gain a testimony of Christ through reading the scriptures. The scriptures testify of Christ.
Ask for a volunteer. Instruct the volunteer to break one of the toothpicks. Point out how easy it was. Tell the children that the broken toothpick represents someone who does not have a strong testimony. That person’s resolves to follow Christ is easily broken when temptation comes along.
Someone who has built up their testimony of Jesus Christ through study, prayer, and obedience to the commandments can gain spiritual strength like Jacob’s. Jacob’s testimony was strong and firm.
Add toothpicks to a pile as you mention (or as the children mention) things that will strengthen a testimony such as: studying the scriptures every day, praying every morning and night, listening to General Conference, listening carefully to teachers and speakers at church, listening and participating in Family Home Evening and family scripture study, reading stories from the Friend magazine, studying for and giving talks in Primary, and obeying the words of Christ.
After you have at least 10-12 toothpicks in the pile, have a volunteer try to break the pile. They must keep them bundled close together. If they do this, it should not be possible to break them. Explain that our testimony can start out weak and small, but it can be reinforced and built up until it is strong and firm.
Hand out five toothpicks with labels to each child. Direct the children to write on each side of the labels things they can do to strengthen their testimony. Tie each person’s toothpicks together in a bundle with string or ribbon. Instruct the children to put their bundle somewhere where they will see it daily to help remind them of the things they need to do to strengthen and build up their testimonies.
Weekly Reading Assignment
Remind the children to do their scripture reading assignment for this week – 2 Nephi 5:1-25 and Jacob 7:1–23.