With special guest Patrick Degn
Patrick Degn has been an instructor in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion for more than 25 years. He has traveled and taught in the Holy Land and loves the people and their culture. He holds degrees in classical history, Latin, and Military History specializing in ancient Greek and Roman warfare. Most recently he has been teaching at BYU.
Background on the Times
King Ahab, who “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any [king of Israel] before him,” (1 Kings 16:30) married Jezebel, making her the queen over Israel. We learn in 1 Kings 16:31, Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, who was king of the Sidonians (or Phoenicians).
As detailed in 1 Kings 16:31-32, Jezebel persuaded her husband to promote the worship of deities, Baal and Asherah, among the people of Israel. It was common during this era of kingdoms for the king to establish worship facilities for foreign wives. In this case, Jezebel required the installation of a temple and an altar for Baal, which was built in Samaria.
During Ahab’s reign in Israel, the people were deeply divided as to either worship and serve Baal or the Lord. Animosities were so heightened that Jezebel ordered the death of the Lord’s prophets, while she fully supported the prophets of Baal and Asherah.
Obadiah was a governor in the region who greatly feared the Lord. He protected 100 of the Lord’s prophets, hiding them in caves and feeding them (1 Kings 18:3-4).
Who was Elijah?
Here is the abrupt introduction of the man who tried to counteract the influence of Ahab and Jezebel. “Some have claimed that after Moses, Elijah was the greatest man in Israel’s religious life. Some regard him as the best-known person in Hebrew history. Even today questions about Judaism and Jewish living that resist solutions are ultimately answered by the rabbis with the phrase, “when Elijah comes,” meaning the returning prophet will have to solve this problem. Although Elijah left no extant writings himself, historians have preserved his story in 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2. In 1 Kings 17:1 we learn that Elijah was a Tishbite, an inhabitant of Gilead.
“Transjordan (east of the Jordan River). Elijah’s name in Hebrew means “my God is Jehovah.” All true prophets testify of Christ. Elijah held the keys of the sealing power and the fulness of the priesthood in his day (see Smith, History of the Church, 4:211; 6:251–52).
“Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote about Elijah: “For dramatic manifestations and the visible exhibition of divine power, the ministry of Elijah the prophet scarcely has an equal. He sealed the heavens, was fed by the ravens, extended the widow’s barrel of meal and cruse of oil, raised the dead, destroyed the priests of Baal, called down fire from heaven on at least three occasions, fasted 40 days and nights, was attended frequently by angelic ministrants, and finally was translated and taken up into heaven without tasting death. (1 Kings 17; 18; 2 Kings 1; 2.)
“Centuries later Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Mal. 4:5–6.) With Moses, another translated being, he appeared to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration to give those apostolic ministers the keys of the kingdom. (Matt. 17:1–13; Teachings, p. 158.) During the night of September 21st–22nd, 1823, Moroni told Joseph Smith that the Lord would soon reveal unto him the priesthood by the hand of Elijah the Prophet [Joseph Smith–History 1:29–39]; and on April 3, 1836, Elijah came (in fulfilment of the promises of Malachi and Moroni) to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, in the Kirtland Temple, and conferred upon them the keys of the sealing power. (D. & C. 110:13–16.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 222–23).”(Verse by Verse The Old Testament Vol 1 & 2 by Andrew C. Skinner, D.Kelly Ogden.
Elijah’s Sealing Power
Elijah’s first recorded use of the sealing power was to shut up the heavens, causing a dearth of rain for three and a half years. His purpose in stopping the rains was the same as expressed later by Nephi in the Book of Mormon:
“O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but . . . rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee” (Helaman 11:4)
1 Kings 17
1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
Sacrifice of the Widow of Zarephath
1 Kings 17
9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.
15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.
Discuss the importance of sacrifice.
Why does the Lord ask sacrifice of us? Why does he ask sacrifice even of those who would seem to have almost nothing to give like the widow of Zarapheth. Is there a level of poverty so low that the Lord would not ask a sacrifice?
In what ways is a sacrifice a blessing for this family?
Is a sacrifice ever convenient?
How does a sacrifice help us put God first instead of our own natural-man demands?
“Faith isn’t tested so much when the cupboard is full as when it is bare. In these defining moments, the crisis doesn’t create one’s character—it reveals it. The crisis is the test.” Lynn Robbins “Tithing, A Commandment even for the Destitute”)
The Lord illustrates doctrines with the most extreme examples to eliminate excuses.
The Prophet Joseph Smith prepared this remarkable statement on the principle of sacrifice for the Lectures on Faith: “Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith, 6:7).
Any stories about sacrifice that stand out to you?
Elijah Raises Widow’s Son from the Dead
17 ¶ And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sicknesswas so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
18 And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?
19 And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.
20 And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soulcome into him again.
22 And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
23 And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
What does it mean that the Lord refers to the widow at Zarapheth when he announces that He is the messiah in Nazareth?
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptedin his own country.
25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
1 Kings 18
Remember the meaning of Elijah’s name, “My God is Jehovah.”
–It is the third year and the famine is sore.
–Jezebel had been “cutting off” the prophets of the Lord and Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s house was hiding 100 of them.
–Obadiah is to tell Ahab that “Elijah is here”
17 ¶ And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
Who was actually troubling Israel? Not Elijah.
18 And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.
The Showdown at Mt. Carmel. Prophets of Baal gathered.
19 Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.
20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel,and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
Elijah asks the people—How long halt ye between two opinions? Why did the people respond to Baal worship? What is the attraction? What makes people turn to false gods?
Do we also sometimes halt between two opinions?
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
The question of the Old Testament. God is Jehovah. No other gods. The Lord must continue to remind people of this.
Elijah is one against 450 + 400. They must have represented some pomp, some authority,
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
They will call on Baal.
24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
It is quite the show—even to cutting themselves.
26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us.
But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.
31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
Elijah takes 12 stones
32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
33 And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
Why is this always in question? Why can’t people hold on to true worship?
38 Then the afire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. How long will they remember this?
The priests of Baal are slain.
The Lord sends rain.
43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
1 Kings 19
Jezebel is not happy about this and wants to take Elijah’s life.
4 ¶ But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
We see first hand, the challenge of a prophet.
Compare 2 Nephi 33:3
3 But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great aworth, and especially unto my people. For I bpray continually for them by day, and mine ceyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
He fasts 40 days and 40 nights and comes to Mt. Horeb, which is the same as Mt. Sinai.
9 ¶ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
What have we been learning about hearing the voice of the Lord?
Discussion on receiving revelation.
Elder David A. Bednar teaches:
“We often make it hard on ourselves to receive personal revelation. Our covenant promise is that as we honor our covenants, we may always have the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion. But we talk about it and we treat it as if hearing the voice of the Lord through His Spirit is the rare event. That just strikes me as a little curious. It’s like we have to follow these four steps. Everywhere we turn we get formulas, we get checklists—do these four things and the Holy Ghost is going to speak to you and you’re going to hear it. And I go, wait a minute, we shouldn’t be trying to recognize it when it comes. We should be recognizing what happens that causes it to leave.
“It ought to be with us all of the time, not every nano-second, but if a person is doing his or her best—you don’t have to be perfect—but if we are doing our best and we are not committing serious transgression, then we can count on the Holy Ghost guiding us. So, I think that sometimes we start from a disadvantage in thinking I have to gear up to recognize it when it ought to be there all the time.
“Secondly, I think in the culture of the church, especially in the western world, we seem to believe that the Holy Ghost is dramatic and big and sudden when it is still and small and incremental over time and that you don’t have to recognize that you are receiving revelation in the moment that you are receiving revelation. Because we think it has to be big, and I have to know it, we have all of these things that are just exactly the opposite of what happens when we receive revelation.
“I think Nephi is the perfect example of this model. He went, not knowing beforehand, the things which he should do. What is striking to me about that experience is writing this after it happens, so he has to look back and reflect on his experience. I don’t mean to use careless language, but in the vernacular of today, I think he was saying, “I was absolutely clueless how this was going to work.” But he goes, he goes, and as he goes he is being guided, but I am not sure he knows that in every instant that he is pressing forward and going.
“…You read [this story] over and over, but we never make the connection that what happened to him is probably how it ought to be working for us. I find members of the church who are terrified that they are going to make a mistake. Did Nephi make a mistake the first time when they drew lots? Didn’t work out, but boy did he learn a lesson—and his family. Didn’t work out when they got their gold and all their possessions, but they learned a lesson, so it doesn’t have to be big, dramatic, quick and it works every time. It’s just probably the opposite of that, but somehow…I think those assumptions get in our way.
“You feast upon the word of God so you can hear the Lord’s voice…We have to wait upon the Lord. He delivers it, we don’t demand it. We have to aware of and responsive to His timing, not our demands about timing.”
You are living in the revelation. That phrase I think is significant. Instead of thinking, we cruise along, and [think], I’ve got to stop what I am doing now, I have to get geared up to receive revelation. You’re always in it. ‘That we may always have His Spirit to be with us.’
“Now there are people who will be extreme and think the can of beans at the grocery store. This does take a little common sense as well. But to think that somehow our daily life is divorced from the ongoing influence of the Spirit and it only comes when we gear up somehow, according to a formula, I think gets in the way and messes us up.”
“Think of how Oliver Cowdery came to become Joseph Smith’s scribe. He hears about golden plates. He hears the story about Joseph Smith and he has a desire to go meet him. Where did that come from? This is the 6th section of the Doctrine and Covenants…‘If thou wilt do good and hold faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest gifts of all the gifts of God for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation…
“‘Verily, verily I say unto thee blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me and behold, as often as thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldn’t not have come to this place where thou art at this time.[emphasis added]
“‘Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind.’ Now the next sentence in this verse is the most compelling. Oliver was being inspired and he had no idea that he was being inspired. He was receiving revelation and he had no idea he was receiving revelation.
“So, a revelation comes through Joseph to tell Oliver that had had been inspired and was receiving revelation. “‘and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the spirit of truth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:13-15). That’s what I mean by we’re in it, not just stopping to try and get it.” (Meridian Magazine, “Living in Revelation” https://latterdaysaintmag.com/elder-david-a-bednar-on-living-in-revelation/