“How Can I Do This Great Wickedness?”
Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers.
Joseph refuses to “sin against God.”
Shechem, Reuben, and Judah commit serious moral sins.
A study of this lesson will help us (1) learn how to make all experiences and
circumstances work together for our good and (2) strengthen our commitment to
obey the Lord’s standard of sexual morality.
Scripture references for study: Genesis
34; Genesis 37–39
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
notes: Click on links for expanded information.
Lesson 11 Handout (PDF
WHAT MOVIES, TELEVISION SHOWS, BOOKS, OR MAGAZINES ARE CURRENTLY POPULAR?
The moral behavior of society often differs from the moral standards that
the Lord has established. While the standards of society can change, the
Lord's standards are constant.
WHAT STANDARDS OF SEXUAL MORALITY ARE PRESENTED BY THESE POPULAR MEDIA
HOW DO THESE STANDARDS DIFFER FROM THE LORD'S STANDARD AS TAUGHT IN THE
SCRIPTURES AND BY CHURCH LEADERS?
First Presidency Message (President Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr.,
David O McKay): "By virtue of the authority
in us vested as the First Presidency of the Church, we warn our people
who are offending, of the degradation, the wickedness, the punishment that
attend upon unchastity; we urge you to remember the blessings which flow
from the living of the clean life; we call upon you to keep, day in and
day out, the way of strictest chastity, through which only can God's choice
gifts come to you and His spirit abide with you.
"How glorious is he who
lives the chaste life. He walks unfearful in the full glare of the noonday
sun, for he is without moral infirmity. He can be reached by no shafts
of base calumny, for his armor is without flaw. His virtue cannot be challenged
by any just accuser, for he lives above reproach. His cheek is never blotched
with shame, for he is without hidden sin. He is honored and respected by
all mankind, for he is beyond their censure. He is loved by the Lord, for
he stands without blemish. The exaltations of eternities await his coming."
(CR, Oct 1942)
Joseph - Sold Into Slavery
As you recall from Lesson
10, Jacob went to Padan-Aram in search of a suitable wife. There he married Leah and Rachel, daughters of his mother's brother Laban. He also married their handmaids, Zilpah and Bilhah. These wives bore
Jacob twelve sons who became the beginnings of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob's name was changed: "Thy
name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel" (Genesis 32:28).
Joseph, Eleventh Son of Jacob.
According to President Joseph Fielding Smith: "At
the present time most of those who are receiving the Gospel are of the
tribe of Ephraim [son of Joseph]." (Answers To Gospel Questions,
HOW MANY KNOW THAT THEY ARE OF THE TRIBE OF EPHRAIM?
President Spencer W. Kimball: "Whether we
recognize it or not, we are connected with our past and we can fashion
a better future if we draw upon the inspiration of the past and the lessons
of history." (quoted in Studies In Scripture, 3:63)
Few examples from the past can surpass that of Joseph.
Joseph was born in Haran, the first child of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel
Joseph was the youngest of Jacob's eleven boys.
The 12th son, Benjamin, was born as the family was returning to Canaan
Joseph spent the remaining years of his youth at Hebron (about 20 miles
south of Jerusalem).
He primarily watched the flocks of sheep and goats.
Reuben was the firstborn through Leah. He was the automatic heir
of the birthright and birthright blessing.
HOW DID JOSEPH, THE ELEVENTH SON, BECOME THE RECIPIENT OF THE BIRTHRIGHT?
Reuben lost the birthright as a result of transgression with one of his
father's concubines (Genesis 35:22).
The birthright then fell to the first son of the next wife.
Joseph was the first son of Rachel, Jacob's second wife.
The sons of the concubines did not follow next in order because they were
handmaids to Leah and Rachel.
The coat of many colors was a symbol of Jacob's favoritism towards Joseph.
"Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children,
because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours"
Perhaps the coat of many colors was the badge of birthright.
As we know, it compounded the antagonism of Joseph's brothers until they
him, and could not speak peaceably unto him" (Genesis 37:4).
HOW DO WE, OR OUR CHILDREN, REACT WHEN MEMBERS OF OUR FAMILIES OFFEND YOU
OR RECEIVE BETTER TREATMENT?
HOW CAN WE OVERCOME FEELINGS OF JEALOUSY OR ANGER TOWARDS FAMILY MEMBERS
Joseph & His Brothers.
Dreams played a central role in the life of Joseph. These dreams
were visions of meaning and eternal implications.
GENESIS 37:5-9. Joseph's two dreams.
These dreams revealed the special relationship Joseph would have with his
family and also foreshadowed the eventual mission of his posterity in the
eternal salvation of the House of Israel.
HOW DID JOSEPH'S BROTHERS FEEL ABOUT THESE DREAMS? DID THEY HAVE
ANY IDEA THAT THESE DREAMS MIGHT BE FROM THE LORD?
"And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed
reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated
him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words." (Genesis
WHY WERE HIS BRETHREN UNABLE TO ACCEPT HIS DREAMS?
We know that his brethren had been living wickedly. Joseph had been
out tending the flocks with his brethren and returned to his father "their
evil report" (Genesis 37:2).
"Light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one
that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his
deeds should be reproved." (John 3:19-20)
Remember the situation with Nephi and his older brothers. After Nephi
had shared the meaning of Lehi's dream they said: "Thou
has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear" (1 Nephi
16:1). Nephi went on to say that "the
guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center"
Joseph's brothers went to Shechem to feed the flocks (Genesis 37:12).
Later, Jacob sent Joseph about forty-five miles to check on his brothers and asked
him to return with a report (Genesis 37:13-14). Arriving in Shechem Joseph
learned that his brothers had gone on to Dothan, another twelve miles (Genesis 37:15-17).
One wonders if Jacob knew of the intense animosity his other sons held
for Joseph. He certainly would not have sent Joseph if he had any idea what
they might do.
WHAT DID JOSEPH'S BROTHERS DO WHEN JOSEPH CAME TO THE FIELDS WHERE THEY
WERE FEEDING THE SHEEP?
"And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer
cometh" (Genesis 37:19). One can imagine his brothers laughing
and joking about this younger brother and his aspirations.
They were also angry with Joseph because he reported to their father about
their evil doings and Joseph had been the one honored by their father with
the coat of many colors.
"And when they saw him afar off, even before he
came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him"
"Let us slay him, and cast him into some pit,
and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what
will become of his dreams" (Genesis 37:20).
Reuben, being the eldest, must have felt more responsibility for his brother. He argued that Joseph must not be killed, but returned to his father.
WHAT DID THE BROTHERS DO?
He was stripped of his coat of many colors and thrown into a dry cistern
Led by Judah, he and his brothers sold Joseph to a caravan of Ishmeelites
headed for Egypt. He was sold for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:27-28).
They then tore Joseph's coat into many pieces, covered it with goat's blood,
and returned it to Jacob as evidence that a wild beast had "devoured"
Joseph (Genesis 37:31-33).
Joseph Refuses To "Sin Against God"
Joseph Sold In Egypt.
Joseph - A Man of Integrity
"And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar,
an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard" (Genesis
HOW WAS JOSEPH BLESSED AFTER BEING SOLD IN EGYPT?
Joseph became a servant in the household of Potiphar, "a prosperous
"And his master saw that the Lord was with him,
and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph
found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over
his house, and all that he had he put into his hand" (Genesis
WHY WAS JOSEPH SO BLESSED BY THE LORD?
"And Joseph was a goodly person" (39:20).
Joseph was a righteous man and abided by the principles of right living.
GENESIS 39:7-13. Joseph and Potiphar's
WHAT EXCUSES MIGHT JOSEPH HAVE USED IF HE HAD WANTED TO GIVE IN TO THE
ADVANCES OF POTIPHAR'S WIFE?
WHAT EXCUSES DO PEOPLE OFFER TODAY TO TRY TO JUSTIFY MORAL TRANSGRESSION?
They say that they are in love.
They might say that they were overcome by feelings and could not control
Everybody is doing it.
WHY ARE THESE EXCUSES NOT VALID JUSTIFICATIONS?
As someone once said, "The ten commandments are
not the ten suggestions."
There is no justification or excuse for sin. Sin is still sin.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM JOSEPH ABOUT RESISTING EVIL?
Potiphar's wife persisted in asking Joseph to lie with her. He refused
her each time. Potiphar trusted Joseph and he did not wish to break
that trust or sin against the Lord.
We must always say no and never even consider the thought.
Finally, when he was caught in a most difficult situation, when no one
would have known, he "left his garment in her
hand, and fled, and got him out" (39:12).
When caught in a difficult situation, just leave and go to a place of safety. Do not hesitate.
Brother Todd Parker: "Joseph of Egypt was
lured into a tempting situation by Potiphar's wife. She tempted him 'day
by day,' but 'he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.'
Joseph knew if he didn't 'pluck himself out' by not even being around her,
he might begin to entertain the temptation. When Potiphar's wife attempted
to seduce Joseph by clutching him, he 'fled, and got him out. Joseph didn't
run because of cowardice, but because he understood the principle: 'Can
a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?' (Proverbs
6:27.) One who remains near a tempting situation is probably going to be
affected. The only proper course of action is to remove oneself from the
situation. Preferably, one would never get into it in the first place.
"King David provides us
with a negative example of this principle. Finding it too hot to sleep
one evening, he went for a walk. He noticed his neighbor's wife, Bathsheba,
bathing. David did not immediately 'pluck out his eye.' He tarried and
let Satan, using curiosity and allurement, trap him. David then invited
Bathsheba to see him. This only increased the temptation, and adultery
was the result. David then arranged for the murder of Bathsheba's husband.
David, a king, a prophet, who killed Goliath with a sling and wrote the
beautiful twenty-third psalm, had 'fallen from his exaltation.' Why? Ultimately
because 'at the time when kings go forth to battle . . . David tarried
still at Jerusalem.' What was David's mistake? He was in the wrong place
at the wrong time. Many people, young and old alike, have committed sexual
transgressions because of similar circumstances; they were in the wrong
place at the wrong time." (Counseling: A Guide To Helping Others,
WHAT NEXT HAPPENED TO JOSEPH?
Potiphar's wife reported that Joseph had attempted to seduce her. As a
result Potiphar "took him, and put him into the
prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there
in the prison" (39:14-20).
"Because Potphar had great power with the pharaoh
and perhaps was even head of the royal executioners, it is remarkable that
Joseph was only put into prison and not executed. A slave accused of attempting
to rape his master's wife would seem to have deserved the most severe punishment,
and yet Joseph was only imprisoned. Could it be that Potiphar, knowing
of Joseph's character and his wife's character, suspected the truth and,
although he had to take action, chose comparatively lenient punishment?
Whatever the case, the hand of the Lord certainly preserved Joseph from
what would otherwise have been almost certain death." (Old Testament
Student Manual, p95)
GENESIS 39:21-23. Joseph in prison.
WHAT DOES THIS REVEAL ABOUT JOSEPH?
Martin Luther King: "The
ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but
where he stands at times of challenge." (quoted
in On Earth As It Is In Heaven, p160)
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM JOSEPH ABOUT TURNING BAD EXPERIENCES AND CIRCUMSTANCES
INTO GOOD ONES?
Hartman Rector Jr: "[The] ability to turn
everything into something good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our
Heavenly Father always seems able to do this. Everything, no matter how
dire, becomes a victory to the Lord. Joseph, although a slave and wholly
undeserving of this fate, nevertheless remained faithful to the Lord and
continued to live the commandments and made something very good of his
degrading circumstances. People like this cannot be defeated."
(Ensign, Jan 1973, p130)
Robert H. Schuller wrote:
"A Jew, one of many hiding from Hitler, once knew
such a dark time. We know neither his name nor his face, but we know about
his faith. For scrawled on the basement walls of a German house are these
- I believe in the sun even when it is not
- I believe in love even when I do not feel
- I believe in God, even when He is silent."
(Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking, pp174-175)
"For three years Reverend Martin Neimoller survived
the horrors of Dachau--the smells of burning human flesh and the sights
of walking dead men. For three years this German pastor who dared to defy
Adolf Hitler was kept in solitary confinement in the world's worst concentration
"'How could you stand it
without losing your sanity?' an interviewer asked Pastor Neimoller years
later over a Chicago radio station. 'A man doesn't realize how much he
can stand until he is put to the test,' Neimoller answered confidently,
continuing, 'you can stand far more than you think you can. You are much
stronger than you think you are...if God is dwelling in your life'."
(Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking, p180)
"What happens to good people when bad things happen
to them? They become better people." (The Be Happy Attitudes,
One of my favorite quotes: "Out of every adversity
grows an equal or greater opportunity."
WHAT IS INTEGRITY?
President James E. Faust: "I should like
to emphasize three important elements of integrity--dealing justly with
oneself, dealing justly with others, and recognizing the law of the harvest."
(CR, Apr 1982)
WHAT IS THE LAW OF THE HARVEST?
What one sows is what one will reap. That which is sown does not
necessarily bear fruit quickly. The tomato seed sown early in the
spring will not bear fruit until mid to late summer.
HOW DID JOSEPH DEMONSTRATE INTEGRITY?
Dealt justly with himself.
While in the house of the heathen he was true to the principles which he
believed in - as a consequence he was blessed by the Lord.
Rather than complain to the Lord about the situation he was in, he worked
hard at making the best of it.
Dealt justly with others.
While in the employ of Potiphar he endeavored to do the best at his job. Because of his integrity he was made overseer of Potiphar's home.
When seduced by Potiphar's wife, he remained true to Potiphar and himself
by not giving in to her desires.
Understood the law of the harvest.
No matter what situation Joseph was in, he practiced the Law of the Harvest
by always planting righteous seeds - even though the immediate consequences
looked dismal. As one studies the story of Joseph, this integrity
is evident throughout the experiences of his life.
Shechem, Reuben, & Judah Commit Serious Moral Sins
Not all of Joseph's family members and acquaintances were as valiant as
Joseph when facing temptation.
Shechem's temptation (Genesis 34):
HOW DID SHECHEM, REUBEN, AND JUDAH REACT TO SEXUAL TEMPTATION?
Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, was tempted when he saw Dinah, the
daughter of Leah, "and lay with her, and defiled
Only after he had done this did he wish to properly marry her.
Eventually, some of Dinah's brothers took revenge and killed Shechem.
Judah's temptation (Genesis 38):
"And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that
land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine"
When Jacob blessed each of his sons at the end of his life, he referred
to Reuben's moral transgression and described Reuben as "unstable
as water" (Genesis 49:3-4).
Judah forgot the importance of marrying in the covenant and married a Canaanite
women, "And it came to pass at that time,
that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite,
whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite,
whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her"
This disregard for marrying outside of the covenant led to other sins which
included the seduction of his daughter-in-law.
WHAT ARE THE SPIRITUAL AND TEMPORAL CONSEQUENCES OF SEXUAL SIN TODAY?
HOW IS THIS A VALID COMPARISON?
Consider water: It runs all over unless it is contained. If
it gets too hot, it boils and turns to steam. If it gets cold, it
freezes solid. Joseph was more like a rock. A rock is not affected
by hot and cold. It stays put. You can depend on a rock. Reuben, being more like water, was undependable. He even defiled one of
his father's concubines. Reuben needed to be contained and frozen.
(I wouldn't carry this analogy too far)
Because of this instability, Jacob told Reuben, "thou
shalt not excel" (Genesis 49:4).
WHAT DID REUBEN LOSE BECAUSE OF HIS IMMORALITY?
Reuben lost the birthright which then fell to Joseph. Consider the
blessings that have fallen to Joseph's descendants through the centuries
- the domino effect.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard: "Certainly our
teachers were right when they held up an ideal that virtue was as sacred
as life itself, and that we had better lose our lives than lose our virtue
. . . . Next to the crime of murder itself is the crime of sexual impurity."
(CR, Apr 1929)
Unrepented sin can keep us from receiving our eternal birthright.
Like Reuben, we may affect generations of children yet to be born.
What can it do to our own lives? It can lead to deceit, the destruction
of marriages and families, and lead to other sins.
It may even cost us our life.
President Spencer W. Kimball: "May I talk
to you just a moment or two about that which is most dear and precious
above all things. Can you think what it would be? Would it be bonds, stocks,
or diamonds? Would it be herds or flocks? Would it be automobiles and houses?
Would it be medals in athletics? This is the greatest blessing, the most
dear and precious above all things—above all things. It cannot be purchased
with money, but may be enjoyed by all, even those of humble circumstances
as well as the affluent, as much by the high school student as by those
who have doctors degrees. Even mortal life when placed upon the balance
scales weighs less. That of which I speak is chastity and virtue. The lack
of it has caused rivers of tears to flow, broken numerous homes, and deprived
large numbers of innocent children." (quoted in We Believe)
Elder Boyd K. Packer: "The power of creation—or
may we say procreation—is not just an incidental part of the plan: it is
essential to it. Without it the plan could not proceed. The misuse of it
may disrupt the plan." (CR, Apr 1972)
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Joseph, like his great-grandfather Abraham, is a great example and ideal man. He was absolutely true to the principles of righteousness. When sold by his brothers as a slave, he remained faithful and became the
chief overseer of his master's possessions. Joseph refused to give
into Potipher's wife. Was he tempted? I think not. He
ran from the house when she attempted to seduce him. Joseph saw the big
picture. He was not about to give up his destiny for the sake of
a few moments of temporary pleasure.
- We need to be like Joseph. We need to be true to the principles we
have been taught. We must look at the big picture and remember that
adversity is temporary and makes us better people. We need to be
constantly vigilant in not allowing our standards to be lowered by the
media, associates, or other negative influences. We need to teach
our children to be like Joseph and not his brethren.
- Record your thoughts on the integrity of Joseph and his steadfastness in
remaining true to himself, those who depended on him, and his Heavenly Father.
Compare his faithfulness to the weakness of his brothers. What does this mean
in your life?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Answers To Gospel Question, Volume 5, by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Conference Reports (CR).
Counseling: A Guide To Helping Others edited by R. Lanier Britsch and Terrance
Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking by Robert H. Schuller.
Old Testament Student Manual - Religion 301.
On Earth As It Is In Heaven by Jeffrey R. & Patricia
Studies In Scripture, Volume 3, edited by Kent P. Jackson &
Robert L. Millet.
The Be Happy Attitudes by Robert H. Schuller.
We Believe by Rulon T. Burton.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
12 February 2014