Sunday School: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 12: ‘Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction’

“Lesson 12: ‘Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction’” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (2001), 51–55

“Lesson 12,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 51–55

Lesson 12

“Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction”

Genesis 40–45


To help class members understand that if we are faithful and obedient, God will consecrate our afflictions for our good.


  1. Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. Genesis 40–41. In prison, Joseph correctly interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s servants. He then interprets Pharaoh’s dreams about cattle and corn. Joseph is made ruler over all Egypt under Pharaoh and prepares the people for the coming famine.

    2. Genesis 42–45. Jacob twice sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph makes himself known to his brothers and forgives them, and they rejoice together.

  2. Additional reading: 2 Nephi 2:2; Doctrine and Covenants 64:8–11; 122:5–9.

  3. You may want to ask a class member to prepare to present a brief summary of Genesis 42–43.

  4. You may want to show a brief excerpt from “Joseph’s Brothers” or “Reconciliation,” parts 3 and 4 of the Joseph and His Brothers videocassette (53152), as part of the lesson.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

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

Ask class members to imagine that they have died and entered the spirit world and are now reviewing their experiences in mortality. Explain that you will ask four questions to help them think about how adversity has shaped their lives. After asking all four questions, invite class members to comment on whichever questions they want.

  • What were some of the trials you faced in mortal life?

  • What lessons have you learned from life’s trials?

  • If you could live your life over, what would you change about the way you dealt with your trials?

  • How could you have taken better advantage of life’s experiences?

Explain that this lesson is about Joseph, son of Jacob, and how he was faithful and obedient even during great trials.

Scripture Discussion and Application

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

1. Joseph interprets the dreams of the butler, the baker, and Pharaoh. Pharaoh makes Joseph ruler over all Egypt.

Teach and discuss Genesis 40–41.

Have class members review the previous lesson by naming some of the trials Joseph experienced in the early part of his life (Genesis 37; 39). You may want to list class members’ responses on the chalkboard. Answers may include:

  1. He was hated by his brothers (Genesis 37:4).

  2. His brothers conspired to kill him, then sold him as a slave instead (Genesis 37:18–28).

  3. He was unjustly put in prison after refusing to do evil (Genesis 39:20).

  • How did Joseph respond to his trials? How did the Lord bless Joseph for being righteous even in times of trial?

  • Joseph was joined in prison by Pharaoh’s butler and baker, both of whom had had dreams they did not understand. When Joseph interpreted the butler’s dream, what did he ask of the butler in return? (See Genesis 40:14–15.) What happened when the butler was released from prison? (See Genesis 40:21, 23.) Why was this another trial for Joseph? (See Genesis 41:1, 14. He remained in prison for two more years.)

  • Why was Joseph finally let out of prison? (See Genesis 41:1, 8–15.) What was Joseph’s response when the Pharaoh said he had heard that Joseph could interpret dreams? (See Genesis 41:16.) How can we give proper acknowledgment to the Lord for our talents and gifts? (We can use them to glorify God and bless others, not for our own glory.)

  • What did Pharaoh dream? (See Genesis 41:1–7, 17–24.) What was the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream? (See Genesis 41:25–32.) After Joseph gave the interpretation, what did he suggest Pharaoh do? (See Genesis 41:33–36; see also the second additional teaching idea.) How did Pharaoh respond to Joseph’s suggestion to prepare for a famine? (See Genesis 41:37–43.)

2. Joseph makes himself known to his brothers and forgives them.

Teach and discuss Genesis 42–45. You may want to have an assigned class member briefly summarize Genesis 42–43.

  • Why did Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt the first time? (See Genesis 42:1–3.) Why did they return to Egypt a second time? (See Genesis 42:33–34; 43:2.) Why was Jacob reluctant to let Benjamin go to Egypt with his brothers? (See Genesis 42:36, 38.) Why did he finally agree to let Benjamin go? (See Genesis 43:3–5, 11–14.)

  • In sending Benjamin to Egypt with his brothers, Jacob felt that he would be losing another son (Genesis 42:36). How did the Lord turn this perceived trial into a blessing for Jacob?

  • When Joseph was young, he had a dream foretelling that his brothers would eventually bow down to him (Genesis 37:5–11). How was this dream fulfilled? (See Genesis 42:6; 43:26–28.) How did this fulfillment, which the brothers had thought would be a great trial to them, turn out to be a blessing?

  • More than 20 years after they sold Joseph into slavery, his brothers still felt guilty about their action (Genesis 42:21). How can guilt be a positive force in our lives? How can it be a negative force? How does complete repentance affect feelings of guilt? (See Enos 1:4–6.)

  • How did Joseph’s brother Judah show that he had become a kinder person since he had last seen Joseph? (See Genesis 44:18, 30–34. Remind class members that it had been Judah’s idea to sell Joseph as a slave.)

  • Why do you think Joseph’s brothers were worried when Joseph revealed his identity to them? (See Genesis 45:1–3.) How did Joseph show that he had forgiven his brothers? (See Genesis 45:4–11, 14–15.) How do you think Joseph’s forgiveness helped lift his brothers spiritually?

  • What does the world tell us to do when someone has wronged us, as Joseph’s brothers did him? What does the Lord tell us to do? (See D&C 64:8–11.) How have you been blessed when you have dealt kindly with others who have mistreated you? How can we become more forgiving?

  • How did Joseph’s imprisonment in Egypt, which was a trial for him, become a blessing for him, his family, and all Egypt? (See Genesis 45:4–8.) How can we follow Joseph’s example in dealing with our own challenges and trials?

  • In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul told the Romans that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). How has this been true in your life? Invite class members to share personal experiences in which an event that at first appeared negative later became a blessing.


Remind class members that throughout his many trials, Joseph remained faithful. He even forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Because of his righteousness, Joseph was greatly blessed. Testify that if we are faithful, God will bless us by making all things work together for our good.

Additional Teaching Ideas

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

1. The great latter-day Joseph

The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 50:24–38 contains prophecies that Joseph made about one of his descendants who would become a “choice seer.” The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi restated these prophecies in 2 Nephi 3:5–15. The descendant referred to in these prophecies is the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Discuss how the following prophecies made by Joseph of Egypt were fulfilled in the life of Joseph Smith:

  1. One of Joseph’s descendants would be a “choice seer” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:26; 2 Nephi 3:6).

  2. This seer would be greatly respected by the other descendants of Joseph (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:27; 2 Nephi 3:7).

  3. He would teach them of the covenants that God had made with their ancestors (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:28; 2 Nephi 3:7).

  4. He would be obedient to God (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:28; 2 Nephi 3:8).

  5. He would be a great prophet, like Moses (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:29; 2 Nephi 3:9).

  6. He would be the means for bringing forth new scripture (the Book of Mormon) that would support and work with existing scripture (the Bible) (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:30–31; 2 Nephi 3:11–12).

  7. Although he would be weak, the Lord would make him strong (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:32; 2 Nephi 3:13).

  8. Both he and his father would be named Joseph (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:33; 2 Nephi 3:15).

2. Preparing for famine

  • Joseph counseled Pharaoh to use the seven years of plenty to prepare Egypt for the seven years of famine that would follow (Genesis 41:29–30, 34–36). What counsel do our Church leaders give us about preparing for times of famine or other difficulty?

    Elder L. Tom Perry taught:

    “Just as it is important to prepare ourselves spiritually, we must also prepare ourselves for our temporal needs. … We have been instructed for years to follow at least four requirements in preparing for that which is to come.

    “First, gain an adequate education. Learn a trade or a profession to enable you to obtain steady employment that will provide remuneration sufficient to care for yourself and your family. …

    “Second, live strictly within your income and save something for a rainy day. Incorporate in your lives the discipline of budgeting that which the Lord has blessed you with. As regularly as you pay your tithing, set aside an amount needed for future family requirements. …

    “Third, avoid excessive debt. Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice. We need the discipline to stay well within our ability to pay. …

    “Fourth, acquire and store a reserve of food and supplies that will sustain life [if local laws permit such storage]. Obtain clothing and build a savings account on a sensible, well-planned basis that can serve well in times of emergency. As long as I can remember, we have been taught to prepare for the future and to obtain a year’s supply of necessities. I would guess that the years of plenty have almost universally caused us to set aside this counsel. I believe the time to disregard this counsel is over. With events in the world today, it must be considered with all seriousness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 46–47; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 36).

  • During the famine, “all countries came into Egypt to Joseph” to buy food because Egypt was the only country that had prepared for the famine (Genesis 41:54–57). How can being prepared provide us with opportunities to serve others?

3. Joseph’s sons

  • After Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt, Joseph married a woman named Asenath, and they had two sons (Genesis 41:45, 50). What did Joseph and Asenath name their sons? (See Genesis 41:51–52.) Why were these appropriate names for sons of Joseph? (You may need to tell class members that Manasseh means “forgetting” and Ephraim means “fruitful.” See the Bible Dictionary, pages 666 and 728.)