Lesson 82: 1 Samuel 3
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“Lesson 82: 1 Samuel 3,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 82,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 82

1 Samuel 3


As a child, Samuel served in the tabernacle under the high priest, Eli. One night Samuel received a revelation from the Lord in which he was told of the judgments that would befall Eli and his household for their wickedness. Samuel told Eli of his vision, and Eli recognized that the Lord had spoken through Samuel. As Samuel grew, the Lord continued to speak through him, and the people recognized him as a prophet.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Samuel 3:1–14

The Lord calls Samuel

Before class, make preparations to produce several different sounds. (For example, you could bring items such as a bell, a whistle, or blocks of wood to hit together.) Select some sounds that students may recognize and others they may not recognize. (Instead of preparing to make sounds, you could record the voices of six individuals, choosing some people whose voices students may recognize and others whose voices they may not recognize.)

Invite students to close their eyes before each sound is made (or before each voice recording is played). After each sound, invite them to try to identify what (or whose voice) they think they heard.

Afterward, ask students why they recognized some sounds (or voices) and may not have recognized others. Encourage students to look for principles as they study 1 Samuel 3 that can help them understand the importance of recognizing the voice of the Lord.

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 3:1 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for the spiritual condition of the people during Samuel’s youth.

  • What do you think it means that “the word of the Lord was precious in those days”? (Revelations from the Lord were rare.)

  • What might this tell us about the spiritual condition of the people at this time?

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Samuel 3:2–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened in the tabernacle one night.

  • Why do you think Samuel didn’t recognize the voice?

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 3:7–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what helped Samuel recognize the Lord’s voice.

  • According to verse 7, why did Samuel initially not recognize the voice?

  • What did Eli counsel Samuel to do if he heard the voice again?

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 3:11–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord told Samuel after Samuel recognized His voice. Invite them to report what they find.

  • Why do you think the Lord spoke to Samuel and not to Eli?

Explain that the Lord was displeased with Eli for allowing the iniquity in his household to continue without correction. The Lord was also giving Samuel guidance and instruction in preparation for his calling as a prophet.

Invite students to ponder what Samuel’s experience teaches about learning to recognize the Lord’s voice. Ask them to write down a principle they have learned. After sufficient time, ask several students to share a principle they identified. Students’ responses might include the following:

If we are willing and receptive, we can grow in our ability to recognize the voice of the Lord.

Trusted leaders and parents can help us learn to recognize the voice of the Lord.

As we increase our ability to receive and understand personal revelation, we will be able to recognize the voice of the Lord more easily and receive His guidance and instruction.

You may want to write these principles on the board using the students’ own words.

To help students understand the principles on the board, ask each student to silently read one of the following references and look for the answer to the corresponding question. (You may want to write the references and questions on the board or provide each student with a strip of paper with one of the references and the associated question written on it.)

1 Nephi 17:45 (What can prevent me from recognizing the Lord’s voice?)

Alma 5:57 (What is one thing I need to do if I want to learn to recognize the Lord’s voice?)

Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 (Who may speak for the Lord?)

Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3; 11:12–13 (How can I recognize when the Lord speaks to me through the Spirit?)

Doctrine and Covenants 18:34–36 (What is one way I can hear the voice of the Lord daily?)

After sufficient time, invite five students to each read aloud a different set of verses and the associated question and then answer the question in their own words.

Ask the class to list on the board different ways the Lord can speak to us. (After they identify several ways, make sure they understand that the Lord can communicate with us through visions, speech, dreams, and sometimes appearances. Most often we hear His voice through His prophets, the scriptures, and the Holy Ghost as impressions, thoughts, and ideas (see John 16:13–15).

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who described one way the Lord communicates with us through His Spirit:

Packer, Boyd K.

“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. …

“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

  • What are some preoccupations that may deter us from hearing and recognizing the gentle whisper of the Lord’s voice?

Explain that quiet spiritual promptings may not seem as spectacular as visions or angelic visitations, but they can be just as powerful and life-changing. The witness of the Holy Ghost can make an impression on the soul that is more meaningful than anything we can see or hear.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy:

Packer, Allan F.

“When I was a young man in high school, one of my passions was American football. I played middle linebacker. The coach worked the team hard, teaching us the basics. We practiced until the skills became natural and automatic. During one play against our biggest rival, I had an experience that has helped me over the years. We were on defense. I knew my assigned opponent, and as the play unfolded, he moved to my right into the line of scrimmage. There was a lot of noise from players and fans. I reacted as the coach had taught us and followed my man into the line, not knowing if he had the ball. To my surprise, I felt the ball partially in my hands. I gave it a tug, but my opponent didn’t let go. As we tugged back and forth, amid all the noise I heard a voice yelling, ‘Packer, tackle him!’ That was enough to bring me to my senses, so I dropped him on the spot.

“I have wondered how I heard that voice above all the other noise. I had become acquainted with the voice of the coach during the practices, and I had learned to trust it. I knew that what he taught worked.

“We need to be acquainted with the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and we need to practice and apply gospel teachings until they become natural and automatic. These promptings become the foundation of our testimonies” (“Finding Strength in Challenging Times!” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 17).

  • How was Elder Packer able to know that he needed to tackle the player?

  • What can we learn from Elder Packer’s experience about learning to recognize the Lord’s voice?

Ask students to ponder an experience they have had when they recognized the Lord’s voice and followed His guidance. Consider inviting one or two students to share their experiences with the class. (Caution them about sharing experiences that are too personal or sacred.)

Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals what they feel they need to do to become more familiar with the Lord’s voice.

You may want to share an experience you have had when you recognized the voice of the Lord.

1 Samuel 3:15–18

Samuel tells Eli of his experience

Ask students if they have ever had to deliver difficult or painful news to another person.

Invite students to read 1 Samuel 3:15–18 silently, looking for what Samuel told Eli. Explain that Eli wanted Samuel to tell him everything the Lord had said.

  • Why do you think it might have been difficult for Samuel to tell Eli what the Lord had said? (If necessary, invite students to review verses 12–14.)

  • What can Samuel’s decision to tell Eli teach us about Samuel?

1 Samuel 3:19–21

The people recognize Samuel as a prophet

(Caution: If you use the following activity, explain to a few students before class what you plan to do and ask for their assistance.) Ask a few students to let you borrow nonbreakable objects that have some value or worth to them, such as wallets, schoolbooks, or other personal items. When each of these students hands an object to you, throw it on the ground as if you don’t care about it and it has no value to you.

  • What message does it send if I throw something you value on the ground?

Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 3:18–21 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that indicate that the Lord was supporting Samuel as a prophet. (You may need to explain that Dan was a location at the northern extreme of Israel’s boundaries, and Beersheba was located at the furthest south. Thus, the phrase “from Dan even to Beer-sheba” was a way of saying “the whole country.”)

  • What do you think it means that “the Lord … did let none of [Samuel’s] words fall to the ground” (verse 19)? (All of Samuel’s prophecies were fulfilled, which showed the people that his words came from the Lord.)

The Lord also sustains the words of modern prophets (see D&C 1:37–38) and the words of local priesthood leaders and parents. Invite students to consider how they treat the words of the Lord’s servants.

Conclude by inviting students to make a greater effort to study and follow the words of the Lord’s prophets.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Samuel 3:1. “The word of the Lord was precious in those days”

“The word precious as used [in 1 Samuel 3:1] means ‘scarce.’ The word of God was seldom heard in all the land” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 269).

President Harold B. Lee said: “The story commences with a significant statement. ‘And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.’ (1 Samuel 3:1). … That means that there was no prophet upon the earth through whom the Lord could reveal his will, either by personal experience, or by revelation” (“‘But Arise and Stand upon Thy Feet’—and I Will Speak with Thee” [Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Feb. 7, 1956], 2).

1 Samuel 3:19. “The Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground”

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles applied 1 Samuel 3:19 to youth in our day:

“Samuel paid attention to all of the words of the Lord. Samuel as a prophet was now speaking for God. The surrounding verses indicate that the Lord does not let Samuel’s words fall to the ground, because they are His words. Soon all Israel knows that God has established Samuel as His prophet (1 Samuel 3:20).

“As youth of Zion, you have been given wise counsel by prophets, parents, and local priesthood leaders. Do you pay careful attention to that counsel, or do you let it fall to the ground because you don’t understand it or think it isn’t important or doesn’t apply to you? What the Lord said in 1831 applies to the youth today when it comes to For the Strength of Youth and other prophetic counsel you have been given: ‘These words are given unto you, and they are pure before me; wherefore, beware how you hold them’ (D&C 41:12)” (Return: Four Phases of Our Mortal Journey Home [2010], 128).