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Minor prophets gave significant counsel

Twelve religious leaders in the Old Testament are referred to as "minor prophets." Such designation does not mean their ministries were less significant than those of other prophets. Warnings issued by them bore equal weight. "Minor" refers to the length of their writings or accounts of their ministrations as recorded in the current Old Testament.

Minor prophets named were Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. In the English translation, the writings named after these prophets are the last 12 books of the Old Testament.During the time of Hosea and other prophets who were his contemporaries, the Israelites were influenced by the worship and ways of the Canaanites. Although the Israelites had covenanted at Sinai to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto God, by the time of Hosea, they had become heavily involved in the pagan religious rites of the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land to which they had been delivered.

The Cannanite farmers invoked pagan dieties on behalf of the fertility of their fields and flocks. It wasn't long before many of the Israelite farmers appealed to the gods and goddesses of fertility. "The rites by which the people supplicated the gods of fertility were lewd, licentious and immoral," states the Church Educational System's Old Testament Student Manual.

Hosea used the imagery of a marriage to teach that while the people had been unfaithful to the Lord by turning to false gods, He would not "divorce" them, or cast them off, if they would turn back to Him. (See Hosea, chapters 1-3.)

In his April 1982 general conference message, Elder Ronald E. Poelman said: "Portraying God to ancient Israel as a loving, forgiving father, Hosea foreshadowed, more than most Old Testament prophets, the spirit and message of the New Testament, the Book of Mormon and modern revelation. . . .

"By disobeying the laws of God and breaking His commandments, we do offend Him, we do estrange ourselves from Him, and we don't deserve His help and inspiration and strength. But God's love for us transcends our transgressions.

"When we disobey the laws of God, justice requires that compensation be made - a requirement which we are incapable of fulfilling.

"But out of His divine love for us, our Father has provided a plan and a Savior, Jesus Christ, whose redeeming sacrifice satisfies the demands of justice for us and makes possible repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with our Father."

Elder Poelman said individuals may accept this gift through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance, followed by a covenant made with Him through baptism of the water and of the Spirit.

The promise attached to the covenant and renewed through the sacrament, he said, is that the members "may always have His Spirit to be with them." (D&C 20:77.)

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