Lesson 1: Introduction to the Old Testament

“Lesson 1: Introduction to the Old Testament,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 1,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 1

Introduction to the Old Testament


The Old Testament contains images, symbols, and teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ and His role as the Savior of Heavenly Father’s children. As students study daily from its pages, they will increase their understanding of prophets, covenants and ordinances, the scattering and gathering of Israel, and many other doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Teaching

The Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ

Gospel Art Book

The Gospel Art Book (item no. 06048) contains images that depict a variety of Old Testament accounts. You may want to display these images throughout the year as you teach the lessons they pertain to.

Before class, place several pictures depicting Old Testament accounts in a circular pattern on the board (see Gospel Art Book [2009], nos. 4–27; see also In the center of these pictures, place a picture of Jesus Christ and write the following statement by President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency. (This statement is found in “The Message of the Old Testament” [Church Educational System Symposium on the Old Testament, Aug. 17, 1979], 4;

“The message of the Old Testament is the message of Christ and his coming and his atonement” (President Marion G. Romney).

Begin by asking students if they recognize any of the stories represented in the pictures on the board. Invite them to explain what they know about the stories they recognize. After a few students have commented, draw an arrow pointing from each picture toward the picture of Christ and the statement in the middle. Invite a student to read the statement aloud.

  • How can the events depicted in these pictures teach of Jesus Christ, His coming, and His Atonement?

  • As you begin your study of the Old Testament, why do you think it might be helpful to know that this book of scripture testifies of Jesus Christ?

Point out that although the Old Testament may seem to focus on topics such as covenants, prophets, repentance, the law of Moses, and commandments, there is one theme that weaves through them all: Jesus Christ. Write the following truth on the board: As we learn to see how the Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ, our faith in Jesus Christ will increase.

Invite two students to read Mosiah 3:15 and Moses 6:63 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for ways the Lord tried to help His people learn of Jesus Christ during Old Testament times. After students report what they have found, explain that as they study the Old Testament this year, they will learn to see Jesus Christ in the prophecies, events, and symbols of the Old Testament.

To help students understand how the Old Testament testifies of Jesus Christ through symbols, show the class a picture of a lamb. Explain that one of the early commandments given to Adam and Eve was to sacrifice the firstborn males of their flocks of sheep as an offering to the Lord (see Exodus 12:5). They would kill the animal and then place it on an altar to be burned. Invite a student to read Moses 5:5–7 aloud.

white lamb
  • According to the angel, why did the Lord command Adam to offer sacrifices?

Explain that in the book of Leviticus we learn additional details about animal sacrifices. These details were meant to teach of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Invite a student to read Leviticus 1:2–4 aloud. Ask the class to look for words or phrases about the animal to be sacrificed that also describe the Savior and His Atonement. Ask students to report what they find. Ask questions such as the following to help students deepen their understanding of these verses:

  • What does “without blemish” mean? (Free of flaws or imperfections.) How does this symbolize Jesus Christ?

Point out that the offerings and sacrifices explained in the book of Leviticus are part of what was known as the law of Moses. Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 11:4 aloud. Ask students to look for what Nephi said was the purpose of the law of Moses.

  • What does the word “typifying” mean? (To symbolize or represent.)

In the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is known as Jehovah

Write the following titles on the board, and ask students if they know whom they refer to: Anointed One, Creator, Deliverer. If students need help answering this question, explain that these titles refer to the Savior Jesus Christ. Explain that as they study the Old Testament they will learn to recognize additional names and titles for Jesus Christ.

To help students become familiar with a few of these titles, write the following scripture references on the board: Job 19:25, Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 49:26. Invite students to select one of the passages and read it silently, looking for a name or title used for Jesus Christ. (For additional names and titles for Jesus Christ, see Topical Guide, “Jesus Christ.”) Then ask students to report what they find. Write the names they discover on the board. (The meaning of the name “Immanuel” can be found in the Bible Dictionary.)

Ask a student to read Genesis 2:4 aloud, and invite the class to look for a title of the Savior in this verse. After students locate the title “LORD God,” explain that this title implies supreme authority and that “when the word [LORD] appears in the Old Testament, it [usually] means Jehovah” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Jehovah”; Jehovah is the name of the premortal Jesus Christ, who is the God of Israel.

This may be a good time to encourage students to study the scriptures daily and read the Old Testament this year. Teachers and students are encouraged to read and study the portions of the Old Testament that have been selected for the seminary curriculum. Instruct students to begin their study of the Old Testament by reading Moses 1, which is part of Joseph Smith’s translation of the book of Genesis (see Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation”).

Additional themes in the Old Testament

Write the following heading on the board: Additional themes in the Old Testament. Explain to the class that in addition to finding that the mission of Jesus Christ is a theme in the Old Testament, they will discover other themes as they study this book of scripture.

Assign each student a partner and invite them to share with each other about a time when they were left behind or got separated from family or friends. Ask them to explain how or why they got left behind or separated and how they felt during the separation.

Explain that ever since Adam and Eve were cast out from the Garden of Eden, Heavenly Father’s children have lived in a fallen condition and are physically and spiritually separated from God.

  • How does Heavenly Father let us know that we are not forgotten?

  • How does Heavenly Father help us find our way back to Him?

Display a picture of an Old Testament prophet (consider using Building the Ark [Gospel Art Book (2009), no. 7; see also]). Explain that one of the ways Heavenly Father helps us return to Him is by calling prophets.

Noah preaching to the people
  • How do prophets help us return to our Heavenly Father?

After students respond, write the following doctrine under the heading on the board: God calls prophets to preach the gospel and administer His covenants and ordinances. Ask students to explain what covenants and ordinances are.

To help students deepen their understanding of covenants and ordinances, organize them into pairs. Assign one student to learn about covenants and the other student to learn about ordinances. Give them time to study their assigned topics using a copy of the Basic Doctrines document from the appendix of this manual, the Bible Dictionary, or the Guide to the Scriptures. Ask them to prepare to explain their assigned topics to their partners. Then give them time to teach one another what they have learned. (After this exercise, students should understand that a covenant is a sacred agreement between God and man and that an ordinance is a sacred, formal act that has spiritual meaning. You may also want to explain that an ordinance can connect the person who receives it with the power of God. A modern revelation explains that “in the ordinances … the power of godliness is manifest” [D&C 84:20].)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for the purpose of covenants and ordinances.

President Henry B. Eyring

“Heavenly Father has always helped his children by offering them covenants and empowering his servants to offer ordinances. …”

“… Every covenant with God is an opportunity to draw closer to him” (“Making Covenants with God” [Brigham Young University fireside, Sept. 8, 1996], 2, 3;

  • How do covenants and ordinances help us overcome our separation from God?

Testify that making and keeping eternal covenants is essential in order to return to live with God. Explain that the prophet Abraham entered into a covenant with God that would help him “walk before [God]” and become perfect (see Genesis 17:1–2).

  • How well do you think the covenant-making and covenant-keeping process worked for Abraham?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 132:29 aloud. Ask students to listen for where Abraham is.

Explain that when people in Old Testament times kept their covenants with God they were blessed and preserved. Invite a student to read Deuteronomy 29:25–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what would happen to God’s covenant people if they chose to break their covenants. Ask students to report what they find.

After students respond, write the following truth under the heading on the board: God’s covenant people were scattered because they broke their covenants with Him.

Invite a student to read Ezekiel 36:24–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord promised to do for His scattered people as they repented and turned to Him. Ask students to report what they find.

  • How would you relate the Lord’s words in these verses to us?

Write the following truth under the heading on the board: God has promised to gather His covenant people. Point out that the term gather refers not only to a physical gathering of God’s people but also to the spiritual condition of being gathered to the Lord. We gather to Him as we receive sacred ordinances and covenants and worship the Lord at church, in temples, at home, and in our daily lives.

  • When have you been able to help someone else gather to the Lord? What feelings did you experience in that process? (You may also want to share an experience of your own.)

After students have shared their experiences and feelings about gathering others to the Lord, consider showing the video “Inviting All to Come unto Christ: Sharing the Gospel” (4:30), found on Invite students to look for how the young men in the video participated in the gathering.

Testify that as students study the Old Testament, they can learn more about their Savior Jesus Christ, the role of prophets, the importance of ordinances and covenants, and the Lord’s efforts to gather and bless His children. Remind students to begin their study of the Old Testament by reading Moses 1 before the next class.

Commentary and Background Information

What is the Old Testament?

“In the Old Testament the word testament represents a Hebrew word meaning ‘covenant’” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Bible”;

The Old Testament contains “writings of ancient prophets who acted under the influence of the Holy Spirit and who over many centuries testified of Christ and his future ministry. It also contains a record of the history of Abraham and his descendants, beginning with Abraham, and the covenant, or testament, the Lord made with Abraham and his posterity” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Old Testament”;

Daily scripture study

President Ezra Taft Benson emphasized the importance of daily scripture study:

“Let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts he has given us. I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 82).

The Lamb without blemish

Elder Russell M. Nelson taught:

“The Old Testament has many references to atonement, which called for animal sacrifice. Not any animal would do. Special considerations included:

“• the selection of a firstling of the flock, without blemish [see Leviticus 5:18; 27:26],

“• the sacrifice of the animal’s life by the shedding of its blood [see Leviticus 9:18],

“• death of the animal without breaking a bone [see Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12], and

“• one animal could be sacrificed as a vicarious act for another [see Leviticus 16:10].

“The Atonement of Christ fulfilled these prototypes of the Old Testament. He was the firstborn Lamb of God, without blemish. His sacrifice occurred by the shedding of blood. No bones of His body were broken—noteworthy in that both malefactors crucified with the Lord had their legs broken [see John 19:31–33]. And His was a vicarious sacrifice for others” (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

The name Jehovah

The name Jehovah is “the covenant or proper name of the God of Israel. It denotes ‘the eternal I AM’ (Ex. 3:14; John 8:58). Jehovah is the premortal Jesus Christ and came to earth as a son of Mary (Mosiah 3:8; 15:1; 3 Ne. 15:1–5). Usually, when the word Lord appears in the Old Testament, it means ‘Jehovah.’ Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “In general, in the King James version of the Bible, the name Jehovah has been translated Lord” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 392).

Jehovah is Christ: Jehovah was known to the ancient prophets (Ex. 6:3; Abr. 1:16). The Apostle Paul taught that Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament (Ex. 17:6; 1 Cor. 10:1–4). The brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon saw the premortal Christ and worshiped Him (Ether 3:13–15). Moroni also called Christ ‘Jehovah’ (Moro. 10:34). At the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw the resurrected Jehovah (D&C 110:3–4)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Jehovah”).

In the King James Version of the Bible, the word LORD in small capital letters was used in place of the Hebrew letters that represented the name of Jehovah in the Hebrew Bible. Those letters are called the tetragrammaton and are represented in English by the letters YHWH, pronounced “Yahweh” by some and “Jehovah” by most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.