Sunday School: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 22: ‘The Lord Looketh on the Heart’

“Lesson 22: ‘The Lord Looketh on the Heart’” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (2001), 101–6

“Lesson 22,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 101–6

Lesson 22

“The Lord Looketh on the Heart”

1 Samuel 9–11; 13; 15–17


To encourage class members to trust in the Lord rather than their own understanding.


  1. Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. 1 Samuel 9–11. Saul seeks guidance from the prophet Samuel (9:1–14, 18–24). The Lord reveals to Samuel that Saul is to be king (9:15–17). Samuel counsels Saul and anoints him as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 9:25–27; 10:1–8). Saul is spiritually reborn, and he prophesies (10:9–13). Samuel presents Saul to the people (10:17–27). Saul leads Israel to victory in a battle with the Ammonites (11:1–11). He refuses to punish the men who had doubted his ability to lead the people (11:12–15).

    2. 1 Samuel 13:1–14. Saul offers a burnt offering without the proper authority.

    3. 1 Samuel 15. Saul is commanded to destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, but he saves some of their animals for a sacrifice (15:1–9). The Lord rejects Saul as king, and Samuel tells Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice (15:10–35).

    4. 1 Samuel 16. The Lord chooses David, a young shepherd boy, to succeed Saul as king (16:1–13). The Holy Spirit departs from Saul, and an evil spirit takes possession of him (16:14–16; note that the Joseph Smith Translation corrects these verses to show that the evil spirit was not from God). Saul chooses David to play the harp for him and to be his armor bearer (16:17–23).

    5. 1 Samuel 17. David slays Goliath in the strength of the Lord.

  2. Additional reading: 1 Samuel 12; 14.

  3. You may want to ask one class member to prepare to summarize the account of the Lord choosing David as king (1 Samuel 16:1–13) and another class member to prepare to summarize the account of David slaying Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1–54).

  4. If you use either of the attention activities, write the following scripture on the chalkboard or on a poster: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). If you use the first attention activity, select a word from the Bible Dictionary that may be unfamiliar to class members, such as diaspora, hyssop, or laver. Write this word on the chalkboard or on a poster.

  5. If the following audiovisual materials are available, you may want to use them as part of the lesson:

    1. “‘The Lord … Will Deliver Me,’” a four-minute segment about David from Old Testament Video Presentations (53224).

    2. The picture David Slays Goliath (62073; Gospel Art Picture Kit 112).

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use one of the following activities (or one of your own) to begin the lesson. Select the activity that would be most appropriate for the class.

  1. Refer class members to the unfamiliar word you have written on the chalkboard or on a poster (see “Preparation” above). Ask class members to guess at the definition of the word. After a few guesses, have class members look up the correct definition in the Bible Dictionary.

    Explain that guessing at the definition of an unfamiliar word is like making decisions based only on our own understanding. Display the text of Proverbs 3:5–6. Emphasize that just as we turned to a trusted source to learn the correct definition of the word, we need to trust the Lord and seek his will to make correct decisions in our lives. This lesson contrasts the experiences of two men, Saul and David, to teach the importance of trusting the Lord and seeking his guidance when we make decisions.

  2. Ask class members to tell about some of the important decisions they have made recently. Ask what helped them to make those decisions.

    Display the text of Proverbs 3:5–6 (you may want to have class members memorize this scripture). Explain that this lesson contrasts the experiences of two men, Saul and David, to teach the importance of trusting the Lord and seeking his guidance when we make decisions.

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. Because it would be difficult to ask every question or cover every point in the lesson, prayerfully select those that will best meet class members’ needs. If you want to focus on David and Goliath, for example, you could spend less time discussing Saul’s life.

1. Saul seeks guidance from Samuel and is anointed to be king.

Teach and discuss 1 Samuel 9–11.

  • The Israelites wanted a king like those of the nations around them. Yielding to the Israelites’ request, the Lord told Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was “a choice young man, … and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he” (1 Samuel 9:2). What did Saul do before he was anointed king and shortly thereafter that demonstrated his good qualities?

    1. He was diligent in his search for his father’s donkeys (1 Samuel 9:3–4).

    2. He was willing to listen to and follow the wise counsel of his father’s servant (1 Samuel 9:5–10).

    3. He trusted the prophet Samuel and communed with him (1 Samuel 9:18–25).

    4. He was humble (1 Samuel 9:20–21).

    5. He was spiritually reborn, and he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6–10).

    6. He forgave his critics (1 Samuel 11:11–13).

    7. He recognized the help of the Lord in Israel’s victory over the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:13).

2. Saul offers a burnt offering without the proper authority.

Teach and discuss 1 Samuel 13:1–14.

  • Two years after Saul was anointed king, the Philistines gathered a mighty army to fight against Israel. Saul’s men were so afraid that many of them hid and scattered. Why did Saul want the prophet Samuel to come to him at this time? (See 1 Samuel 13:7–8. Saul wanted Samuel to offer sacrifices to the Lord in behalf of the people.) What did Saul do when Samuel did not come at the appointed time? (See 1 Samuel 13:9. Saul offered the sacrifices himself even though he did not have the priesthood authority to do so.)

    Elder James E. Talmage wrote, “Saul prepared the burnt offering himself, forgetting that though he occupied the throne, wore the crown, and bore the scepter, [he had] no right to officiate … in the Priesthood of God; and for this and other instances of his unrighteous presumption he was rejected of God and another was made king in his place” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 185).

  • What was Samuel’s response to Saul’s offering an unauthorized sacrifice? (See 1 Samuel 13:10–14.)

  • What did Saul’s offering an unauthorized sacrifice reveal about him? (He was no longer “a man after [the Lord’s] own heart” [1 Samuel 13:14]. He had grown impatient, failed to trust the Lord, and disobeyed. In addition, his presuming the authority to offer sacrifice suggests that he had an exaggerated opinion of his own power and importance.) In what ways are we sometimes impatient with the Lord or his servants? What may be the consequences of such impatience? How can we come to trust the Lord fully?

3. Saul disobeys the Lord in the battle with the Amalekites and is rejected as king.

Teach and discuss 1 Samuel 15.

  • What did the Lord command Saul to do to the Amalekites? (See 1 Samuel 15:1–3.) What did Saul do instead? (See 1 Samuel 15:4–9.) What did Saul’s actions reveal about him? (See 1 Samuel 15:11. He followed his own judgment rather than doing the Lord’s will.)

  • How did Saul try to justify his disobedience in saving the best of the Amalekites’ animals? (See 1 Samuel 15:13–15, 20–21, 24. He blamed his people for wanting to save the animals.) According to Saul, why did his people want to save the best of the Amalekites’ animals? (See 1 Samuel 15:15, 21.) In what ways do we sometimes try to justify disobeying the Lord? (We might tell ourselves, “It’s just a little sin,” “I’m obeying the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law,” “It won’t hurt anyone,” “I’ll try it just once,” “Other people are doing it,” or “That commandment doesn’t apply to me.”) How can we overcome the tendency to excuse or justify sin?

  • How did Samuel respond to Saul’s explanation for saving the Amalekites’ animals? (See 1 Samuel 15:22.) How can Samuel’s words apply to us?

  • When reprimanding Saul for being stubborn and rejecting the word of the Lord, Samuel told him, “Stubbornness is as … idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23). How is stubbornness like idolatry? What was the result of Saul’s becoming stubborn and rebellious? (See 1 Samuel 15:23, 26, 28.) How are we sometimes stubborn and rebellious? What are the results of our being stubborn and rebellious? How can we recognize and overcome these attitudes?

4. The Lord chooses David as king.

Teach and discuss 1 Samuel 16. You may want to have an assigned class member briefly summarize this account. Explain that although Samuel anointed David to be king, David did not become king until Saul died many years later.

  • What did Samuel learn while trying to determine which of Jesse’s sons should be the next king? (See 1 Samuel 16:6–7.) How did the Lord’s method of choosing David compare with the way He chooses leaders today? What does 1 Samuel 16:7 teach about how the Lord evaluates us? What does the Lord look for in our hearts?

    Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:

    “We … tend to evaluate others on the basis of physical, outward appearance: their ‘good looks,’ their social status, their family pedigrees, their degrees, or their economic situations.

    “The Lord, however, has a different standard by which he measures a person. … He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 17; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 15).

  • Why is it important that in our relationships with others, we see beyond the outward appearance and look on the heart? How can we improve our ability and commitment to do this?

  • Because Saul had been disobedient, the Spirit of the Lord departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). How did Saul seek relief from the evil spirit that came upon him? (See 1 Samuel 16:15–23.) What outside sources do people today sometimes turn to as they try to find relief from their sins? What is the Lord’s way for us to find relief from our sins? (See Matthew 11:28–30; D&C 58:42.)

  • What characteristics did David have that qualified him to be a leader? (See 1 Samuel 16:18.)

5. David slays Goliath in the strength of the Lord.

Teach and discuss 1 Samuel 17. You may want to have an assigned class member briefly summarize this account.

  • What could the Israelites gain or lose in the fight with Goliath? (See 1 Samuel 17:8–9.) Why were Saul and his army afraid to fight Goliath? (See 1 Samuel 17:4–11. They did not think they could defeat Goliath because of his size, strength, armor, and weapons.)

  • How did David get the courage to fight Goliath? (See 1 Samuel 17:32–37, 45–47. David recognized that the Lord had delivered him from a lion and a bear while tending his father’s sheep, and he trusted the Lord to help him fight Goliath.)

  • What did Goliath say when he saw David come to fight him? (See 1 Samuel 17:42–44.) What did David say in response? (See 1 Samuel 17:45–47.) How can remembering David’s response help us when people mock or threaten us?

  • As a youth, David’s victories over a lion and a bear helped prepare him to face the greater challenge of Goliath. What challenges might we face now that prepare us for greater challenges? How do our responses to these challenges affect our ability to battle the Goliaths that may come later? Testify that as we defeat the lions and bears in our lives, we will develop the confidence, character, and faith to defeat our Goliaths.

  • What Goliaths do we encounter today? What can we learn from David about how to overcome them? (See 1 Samuel 17:45; Ephesians 6:11–18.) How has the Lord helped you overcome Goliaths that you have encountered?

    President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

    “There are Goliaths all around you, hulking giants with evil intent to destroy you. These are not nine-foot-tall men, but they are men and institutions that control attractive but evil things that may challenge and weaken and destroy you. Included in these are beer and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these products would like to enslave you into their use. There are drugs of various kinds which, I am told, are relatively easy to obtain in many high schools. For those who peddle them, this is a multimillion-dollar industry, a giant web of evil. There is pornography, seductive and interesting and inviting. It has become a giant industry, producing magazines, films, and other materials designed to take your money and lead you toward activities that would destroy you.

    “The giants who are behind these efforts are formidable and skillful. They have gained vast experience in the war they are carrying on. They would like to ensnare you.

    “It is almost impossible to entirely avoid exposure to their products. You see these materials on all sides. But you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in your hands. You have been counseled and taught and advised. You have the stones of virtue and honor and integrity to use against these enemies who would like to conquer you. Insofar as you are concerned, you can hit them ‘between the eyes,’ to use a figurative expression. You can triumph over them by disciplining yourselves to avoid them. You can say to the whole lot of them as David said to Goliath, ‘Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.’

    “Victory will be yours. … You have His power within you to sustain you. You have the right to ministering angels about you to protect you. Do not let Goliath frighten you. Stand your ground and hold your place, and you will be triumphant” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 66; or Ensign, May 1983, 46, 51).


Encourage class members to trust and obey the Lord. Promise that by doing so they will grow stronger and have the Lord’s assurance that he will help them triumph over personal Goliaths. Remind class members that the Lord looks upon our hearts, not upon our wealth or position or conformity to popular standards.

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. Rationalizing sin

The following quotation from Elder Spencer W. Kimball may be helpful as you discuss Saul’s disobedience with regard to the Amalekites:

“Saul rationalized. It was easy for him to obey as to the disposition of the kings, for what use were conquered kings? But why not keep the fat sheep and cattle? Was not his royal judgment superior to that of lowly Samuel? …

“How like Saul are many in Israel today. One will live some of the Lord’s revelation on health except that he must have his occasional cup of coffee; she will not use tobacco nor liquor for which she has no yearning anyway but must have the comforting cup of tea.

“He will serve in a Church position, for here is activity which he likes and honor which he craves, … but rationalization is easy as to tithepaying which he finds so difficult. He cannot afford it. … He is not sure it is always distributed as he would have it done, and who knows anyway of his failure?

“Another will attend some meetings but Saul-like rationalize as to the rest of the day. Why should he not see a ball game, a show, do his necessary yard work, or carry on business as usual?

“Another would religiously attend his outward Church duties but resist any suggestions as to family frictions in his home or family prayers when the family is so hard to assemble.

“Saul was like that. He could do the expedient things but could find alibis as to the things which countered his own desires” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1954, 51).

2. Defeating our Goliaths

Cut a piece of string 9 1/2 feet (3 meters) long, the approximate height of Goliath. Take the string, some tape, several sheets of paper, and a marker to class. Fasten the string vertically to the wall with one piece of tape at the top and one at the bottom (if the wall is not tall enough, run the last part of the string onto the floor). Tell class members that the string represents Goliath. Ask class members to name things that could be dangers to them (answers may include pride, pornography, jealousy, and drugs). Write each danger on a piece of paper and tape each piece of paper to the wall and the string, covering the string from top to bottom.

Explain that we need weapons to defeat Goliath. Ask class members to name weapons that can defeat Goliath (answers may include trusting the Lord, praying, studying the scriptures, learning the truth, being morally pure, and choosing good friends). As class members mention each weapon, remove a paper. Begin at the top of the string, removing the paper and tape holding the string to the wall. Allow the string to fall to the next paper. After all the papers and tape have been removed, the string will fall to the floor and Goliath will be defeated.