A few weeks ago, after priesthood meeting in our ward, I noticed a sheet of paper on the front table. It was an Old Testament handout from the previous week from one of the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School classes of the other ward that meets in our building. The two-page summary handout, which had been printed from Daniel and Steven Rona’s website, israelrevealed.com, contained details about broken cisterns in Israel (Jer. 2:13) and other information in connection with that week’s lesson on Jeremiah. At that website, they have Gospel Doctrine supplementary materials for both the Old and New Testaments.
According to Daniel’s online bio, he was born in Israel as a Jew, was educated in the U.S., and has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1950. He was a radio broadcaster in Salt Lake, St. Louis, Chicago, and New York, and was a newscaster for the “Voice of Israel.” He and his wife have five children, including Steven, with whom Daniel conducts commercial tours to Israel as licensed tour guides. By way of disclaimer, the website clearly promotes their tours.
Daniel and his family have lived in both Israel and the U.S. for many years. He served many years in the presidencies of the Israel District and Jerusalem Branches of the LDS Church. He and his wife now live in the other ward that meets in our building in Salt Lake; although I’ve talked to Daniel briefly in the hallway at church, I don’t know him personally, I haven’t toured with him, and I don’t have a financial interest in his tours. The information about the Old and New Testaments on their website includes many interesting facts and insights about the geography, history, and Jewish culture of Israel, particularly as it relates to LDS beliefs, but of course, I can’t personally vouch for the site’s informational or doctrinal accuracy, and the site is neither sponsored nor endorsed by the LDS Church.
That said, the website and their Old and New Testament materials are well worth a look. As Daniel says, he shares many of the same details about Israel, Judaism, and the gospel with readers that he does with people on his commercial tours, so you definitely get an “on-the-ground, you-are-there” feel.
At israelrevealed.com, click on the “Gospel Doctrine” tab at the top right and then on “New Testament Gospel Doctrine.” When you click on “New Testament Manual,” you’ll get the New Testament Supplemental Study Material: Holy Land and Jewish Insights, by Daniel Rona, with 46 lessons in over 200 pages that correlate with the 46 lessons in the Church’s New Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual; you can find the Church’s manual at https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual?lang=eng. (As you know, lds.org also has many other excellent teaching resources, including videos.)
Each of Daniel’s 46 lessons gives you four or five pages of helpful information, often including excerpts from the Encyclopedia Judiaca Jr. and from Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. (Unfortunately, the page numbers listed in the table of contents in Daniel’s New Testament manual don’t match up with the actual page numbers of the lessons.)
As of this writing (December 31, 2014), the two-page “Summary Lessons” for each of Daniel’s 46 New Testament lessons aren’t posted, but perhaps will be at a later date. You might want to check out the “Summary Lessons” in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine section to see what these are like; they make a great handout if you’re teaching a lesson or just want a summary for yourself.
The tribes of Joseph/Ephraim and Judah split and reunite. In the preface to his New Testament manual, on page 1, Daniel gives an insight into his purposes in writing the manual and introducing Latter-day Saints to Jewish beliefs and the history, geography, and culture of Israel: “Understanding the Jews (basically Judah) will help Joseph [Latter-day Saints] in the prophetic mission of reuniting ‘Joseph and Judah.’” The following quotes from the LDS Bible Dictionary and Ezekiel touch on the jealousy and resulting split between the tribes of Joseph’s son Ephraim and Joseph’s brother Judah and on the latter-day reuniting of Joseph/Ephraim with Judah:
“In the reign of Rehoboam [ca. 975–957 B.C.] the dominions of Solomon were broken up into two separate kingdoms [Israel in the north, Judah in the south], mainly in consequence of the jealousy between the tribes of Ephraim and Judah. The southern kingdom included the tribe of Judah and the greater part of Benjamin and had Jerusalem as its capital” (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Judah, Kingdom of”).
“Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph [the Book of Mormon], which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah [the Bible], and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezek. 37:19).