Sharing the Gospel with the World
Jonah is called to preach to Nineveh, but runs away.
The people of Nineveh respond to Jonah's message and repent.
Micah prophesies of the mission of latter-day Israel.
A study of this lesson will encourage us to fulfill our responsibilities as
latter-day Israel to love all the people of the world and share the blessings of
the gospel with them.
Scripture references for study: Jonah 1–4;
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 33 Handout (PDF
Jonah Called To Preach To Ninevah
JONAH 1:1-3. Jonah flees his mission.
Jonah's mission: about 788 BC.
He probably lived during the early reign of Jereboam II of Israel.
He prophesied to the nation of Assyria (also to Israel, but not mentioned
in the Book of Jonah - see
2 Kings 14:25).
Many Bible critics consider the story of Jonah to be an allegory or a parable.
Jesus said that Jonah preached repentance to Nineveh (Luke 11:29-32) and
that the episode with the whale was a sign of Christ's own death and resurrection.
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "Are we to
reject it as being an impossibility and say that the Lord could not prepare
a fish, or whale, to swallow Jonah? If Mr. Robert Ripley and some of the
others are to be believed, a similar occurrence has taken place-perhaps
more than once-within the memory of man now living. Surely the Lord sits
in the heavens and laughs at the wisdom of the scoffer, and then on a sudden
answers his folly by a repetition of the miracle in dispute, or by the
presentation of one still greater.
"Is it more of a miracle for
the Lord to prepare a fish to carry Jonah to shore that he might fill the
mission assigned to him, than it is for the President of the United States
to speak in an ordinary tone and be heard, under certain conditions, by
all people in all parts of the earth? Honestly, which is the greater miracle?
"I believe, as did Mr. William
J. Bryan, the story of Jonah. My chief reason for so believing is not in
the fact that it is recorded in the Bible, or that the incident has been
duplicated in our day, but in the fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord, believed
it." (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:314)
While Jonah was sailing to Tarshish a great tempest came up and threatened
the ship (Jonah 1:4).
WHY DID THE LORD WANT JONAH TO GO TO NINEVEH?
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE JONAH WAS RELUCTANT TO GO TO NINEVEH?
It was a city of great wickedness and violence (see
WHY DID JONAH FLEE TO TARSHISH?
"...to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of
the LORD" (1:3).
Sidney Sperry: "A call on a mission - and direct
from the Lord! But it was no surprise to the prophet to be called, for
he had probably carried out many missions for the Lord in Israel before.
His surprise lay not in the fact of the call but in the kind of call, and
rebellion arose in his heart. It was a call to go to Nineveh, 'the great
city' of Assyria, and preach to its heathen inhabitants, for their wickedness
had come up before the Lord. . . .
"Jonah was torn between
his loyalty to God and the whip of his emotions. The latter were at a fever
pitch and in the end determined his actions. Because he couldn't face the
mission call, he determined to flee the country and get away from the unpleasant
responsibility. He did not intend to lay down his prophetic office; he
merely wanted to absent himself without leave for a time until an unpleasant
situation adjusted itself." (Voice Israel's Prophets, pp328-29)
HOW MIGHT WE SOMETIMES TRY TO HIDE FROM THE LORD?
Consider these possibilities (see Old Testament Student Manual, p100):
A person who refuses to accept a call in the Primary because she would
not be able to attend Relief Society meetings.
A young man who turns down a mission call so he can accept a scholarship
from a university.
A family who does not hold regular family home evenings.
A person who gets behind on his bills and does not pay his tithing.
A young woman too shy to accept a call as a Young Adult Relief Society
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF OUR EFFORTS TO HIDE FROM THE LORD?
"Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the
fish's belly" (Jonah 2:1).
All those in the ship gathered to cast lots to find who it was that brought
evil upon the ship. The lot fell upon Jonah (Jonah
Jonah explained the reason for the tempest and said, "Take
me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you:
for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you"
The crew of the ship was hesitant to throw Jonah overboard, but eventually
were forced to take action because of the continuing tempest. When
they did so, "the sea ceased from her raging"
"Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow
up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights"
This was a tough way for Jonah to learn that the Lord is serious about
his commandments. And yet the Lord was merciful in that he put Jonah
in a situation that would humble him and provide the opportunity to repent.
While Jonah was in the belly of the fish he had a change of heart (I know
I would). Consider a few of the words of his prayer:
"I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again
toward thy holy temple" (Jonah 2:4).
"When my soul fainted within me I remembered the
LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple"
"But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice
of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the
LORD" (Jonah 2:9).
"And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited
out Jonah upon the dry land" (Jonah 2:10).
During his earthly ministry, the Savior spoke about the "sign of the
prophet Jonas" or Jonah (Matthew 12:39).
IN WHAT WAYS DOES THE LORD HELP US TO REPENT AND RETURN TO HIS WAYS?
When we disobey the Lord, we may set up a chain of circumstances that can
humble us. If we are honest in heart, then these circumstances should
provoke us to repent, as did Jonah.
WHAT IS THIS SIGN AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Our Lord refused to
give the wicked and adulterous Jews any sign proving his divine Sonship,
except the sign of Jonas (Jonah). This was that 'as Jonas was three days
and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three
days and three nights in the heart of the earth.' (Matt. 12:38-41; 16:4.)
Thus Jonah's burial in and coming forth from the 'great fish' (Jonah 1:15-17;
2) symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, so that 'as
Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevehites, so shall also the Son of man be to
this generation.' (Luke 11:29-30.) By repenting and believing Jonah, wicked
Nineveh was saved; by repenting and believing Christ, the wicked Jews could
have freed themselves from sin. And the miracle of the resurrection, symbolized
by the sign of Jonas, stands as a witness against them that they rejected
their God." (Mormon Doctrine, p711)
President Spencer W. Kimball: "When I ask
for more missionaries, I am not asking for more testimony-barren or unworthy
missionaries. I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries
better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge--that
the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on
a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually
well, and that 'the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of
"The question is
frequently asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer
has been given by the Lord. It is 'Yes.' Every young man should fill a
mission." (Ensign, Oct. 1974, pp7-8)
Jonah was commanded by the Lord to go to Nineveh and preach repentance.
Like Jonah, the young men of the Church have been called by the Lord to
go into the world and preach repentance.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS WHY SOME ABLE YOUNG MEN CHOOSE NOT TO SERVE
There are a variety of reasons used by young men for not serving a mission
such as school, academic and athletic scholarships, jobs, girl friends,
and even sin. These are only excuses or symptoms. I think the
real reason is the lack of testimony and commitment to the Lord. He who is truly committed to the Lord is willing to sacrifice whatever
he must to give missionary service.
Elder Charles A. Callis: "The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown great in service and sacrifice.
This Church will always be a missionary church, and its glorious work will
be performed in a spirit of service and sacrifice. Sacrifice will bring
forth the blessings of heaven." (CR, Oct. 1925)
Elder David B. Haight: "In behalf of the Brethren,
this is a call for retired couples to seriously consider serving a mission.
we desperately need more couples to help meet our needs.... Less than 50
percent of the requests for couple missionaries from [our] mission presidents
are being filled....
"The Brethren hope
that many, many more couples will make themselves available for full-time
service to the Church. The need is great! Hundreds of thousands of new
members join the Church each year, and they need to hear a friendly voice
of support and comfort from experienced members.
"The refrain, 'I'll
go where you want me to go, dear Lord' should be more than a hymn we sing
on Sunday. It should be our own prayer of faith as we serve wherever the
Lord has need of us." (Ensign, Feb. 1996, pp7, 12)
While on my mission in eastern Oklahoma, I had the opportunity to work
with a missionary couple from Pleasant Grove, Utah. They were a wonderful
blessing to the local branch. As young missionaries, we were primarily
in the business of seeking out prospects and teaching them the gospel. This older couple was able to pick up where we left off. They continued
to teach and fellowship new members. They worked with inactive members. They were a wonderful resource to those holding various positions throughout
the branch. I learned of the tremendous blessing such couples bring
to an area. The need is great.
Though older couples have not been given the same commandment to serve
as the young men of the Church, according to Elder Haight, each retired
couple needs to prayerfully consider missionary service. Like the
young men, couples can also come up with reasons for not serving. Many of those reasons can be overcome if there is a willingness to do whatever
the Lord asks. Indeed, it is a great sacrifice to leave a comfortable
home, the relaxation of retirement, chances for travel, and the companionship
of grandchildren. We must remember as Elder Callis stated, "Sacrifice
will bring forth the blessings of heaven."
HOW CAN WE BE MORE VALIANT IN OBEYING THE LORD AND SHARING THE GOSPEL?
It is important that we establish an attitude of missionary service in
our homes. I was blessed to grow up in a family with a legacy of
missionary service. Missionary service was often talked about. From my earliest memories I expected to go on a mission. My
great great grandfather, Heber C. Kimball, opened the British Mission,
as well as serving on many other missions. My parents took pride
in this legacy and often talked about this great man.
My father served on a mission to Texas during
the Great Depression. He was asked to stay out an additional year
because of the great need for young elders. It was a sacrifice for
dad to give up another year of his life and a sacrifice for grandfather
to come up with the additional funds. My older brother served a mission
to England. My grandmother served two missions after the passing
of her husband. Grandma often talked of her missions and the importance
of the work. I often remember her reminding me to sit up at the dinner
table and have proper manners as we should always present a positive image
to those with whom we would come in contact.
When it came time for me to go on a mission,
the Vietnam War was raging and the Church had a quota system. Due to the
quota, my mission was postponed for six months. Still, there was
still no question that I would serve. About that same time, my father was
operated on for cancer and laid up for several weeks. The bishop
asked dad if I would still be able to serve. My dad responded
that his operation had nothing to do with my missionary service. He said
that if I wanted to go on a mission, I should go and he would make sure
I had the money needed to stay in the field. My parents continued
financial support for each of the grandchildren that served on missions. Dad passed away a few years ago.
Knowing that he might
not live long enough to see my son serve, he gave us money to put in the
bank for his mission. My oldest son returned from his mission to
Bulgaria having been blessed by the missionary spirit
of my parents.
I was blessed with a great missionary spirit in my home. We need
to pass this legacy on to our children. We need to talk of the importance
of the work. We need to share stories of those whose lives have been
touched by missionary service. We need to invite the full-time missionaries
into our homes. As parents, we need to set the example for our children,
and make plans and talk about the mission we will serve when we retire. Like Jonah, we are heading out into a society as wicked as Ninevah. But there are those who will repent and accept the gospel. We must
prepare ourselves to serve.
The People of Ninevah Respond To Jonah's Message
"And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the
second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach
unto it the preaching that I bid thee" (Jonah 3:1-2).
HOW DID THE PEOPLE OF NINEVEH RESPOND?
Jonah learned his lesson "and went unto Nineveh,
according to the word of the LORD" (Jonah 3:3).
He preached repentance and warned the people of their destruction (Jonah 3:4).
HOW DID THE LORD RESPOND TO THE ACTIONS OF THE PEOPLE?
JONAH 3:5-9. The people repent.
Anciently, people clothed themselves in a coarse cloth, called sackcloth,
and sat in ashes to show they were humble and repentant.
HOW DID JONAH RESPOND WHEN THE LORD FORGAVE THE PEOPLE OF NINEVEH?
"And God saw their works, that they turned from
their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he
would do unto them; and he did it not" (Jonah 3:10).
JST: "And God saw their works that they
turned from their evil way and repented; and God turned away the evil that
he had said he would bring upon them."
The Lord then gave Jonah an object lesson to teach him that God loves all
his children and desired to show mercy to the repentant people of Nineveh
(see Jonah 4:4-11).
"...it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was
very angry" (Jonah 4:1).
"Here Jonah demonstrated a second problem: a weakness
of character. He pouted because the people did repent and God turned his
wrath away. Jonah was so upset that he wished he were dead. Though he had
repented of his desire to escape the call of the Lord and went to Nineveh,
Jonah had not substantially changed his attitude toward the Gentiles."
(Old Testament Student Manual 2:100).
- Brother LeGrande Davies: "Jonah's perception
of his mission was different from the Lord's and he tried to force his
ideas on the Lord. He wanted to destroy the people of Nineveh, but God
forgave them. In the midst of Jonah's rebellion, the Lord introduces a
kikion tree, to grow up, shelter and protect Jonah from the heat of the
sun, for which Jonah is very grateful. But in the night a worm eats out
the inside of the plant, and when the sun comes up and the hot east winds
or 'death winds' off the deserts blow, it withers and dies. To Jonah's
distress God then asks, 'Are you so angry over the kikion?' 'Yes,' Jonah
answers, 'I am very angry about it.' The Lord replies, 'You are sorry for
the kikion but you didn't have any part in growing it. It is a plant which
came in the night and withered in the night, and why should not I be sorry
or feel concerned for the great city of Nineveh?' (Jonah 4:6-11)."
(Isaiah and the Prophets, pp93-94)
Micah prophesied about the destruction of Israel and Judah.
Micah's mission: about 740-697 BC.
His mission began during Hosea's and extended some years beyond it. He prophesied to both Judah and Israel.
Israel (the northern kingdom) was taken captive to Assyria in about 721
Brother Duane S. Crowther: "Micah is a product
of the open hills and shows dislike for the cities. As a member of the
oppressed peasantry he speaks for the common people and defends them against
the nobles and rich landlords of Judah. He is primarily an ethical and
religious teacher and shows little knowledge or interest in political matters."
(Prophets & Prophecies of The Old Testament, p282)
MICAH 5:2. The birth of the Savior prophesied.
MICAH 2:12. The remnant of Israel to be
MICAH 1:2-9. Destruction of Israel and
HOW WAS THIS PROPHECY FULFILLED?
Israel (Jacob) was taken captive by Assyria in 721 BC.
Jerusalem was destroyed and Judah taken captive by the Babylonians in 587 BC.
Micah, like Hosea, pointed out the sins of Israel and Judah. He prophesied
the judgments which would come upon them. Unlike Jonah and Nineveh,
the people failed to heed the words of the Lord and their destruction was
MICAH 4:6-7, 11-13. Israel to be gathered
and made a strong nation.
MICAH 5:8-9. The remnant of Israel to be
like a lion.
HOW IS THIS PROPHECY BEING FULFILLED?
MICAH 6:6-8. What does the Lord require?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "These words of
our Lord to the Nephites are quoted from Micah 5:8-9 and have reference
to the desolations and ultimate burning that shall destroy the wicked at
the Second Coming. Except for a few who are the humble followers of Christ,
the Gentiles will not repent. They will revel in their abominations and
sin against the restored gospel, and they will be burned by the brightness
of our Lord's coming while the righteous -- here called the remnant of
Jacob -- shall abide the day. And then, in the prophetic imagery, it will
be as though the remnant of Israel overthrew their enemies as a young lion
among the flocks of sheep." (The Millennial Messiah, p248)
This verse sums up what is required of us.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
- The story of Jonah is an interesting story about the importance of doing
missionary work. The Lord will see to it that his work goes forth. Our
responsibility is to accept his call and preach the gospel wherever and
with whomever we have the opportunity. It is a great work and we live in
a day when the ancient prophecies are being fulfilled. We can be part of
- Record your thoughts on Jonah and his attempt to avoid a mission to
Nineveh when called by the Lord. How do you sometimes evade the call of the
Lord? How can you do better?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Conference Reports (CR).
Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 2, by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Isaiah and the Prophets edited by Monte S. Nyman.
Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.
Old Testament Student Manual - Religion 302.
Prophets & Prophecies of The Old Testament by Duane S. Crowther.
Voice Israel's Prophets by Sidney B. Sperry.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
06 August 2014