Scheduled for study July 8-14, 2019. The Lord has given us a gospel, a plan that requires action. When Saul was actively pursuing doing what he thought was right, the Lord intervened and showed him his efforts could be put to much better use. How many of us could use a little redirecting our personal road to Damascus? 

Day 1

Acts 6-8 – My heart needs to be “right in the sight of God.”

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. The suggestions in this outline can help you identify some of the important principles in these chapters, though you may find others in your own study.

It is not easy to get our hearts “right in the sight of God.” Even when we have good motives and intentions, there are often temptations that cause us to do and say foolish things for which we need to repent. The manual mentions Simon, a man who joined the Church, supposedly because he believed in what he had been taught. But Simon had little to no understand of how God works. When he saw the brethren using their priesthood to heal people, he suddenly saw a way for him to regain his former glory in the city as a great person that everyone respected.

The scriptures aren’t really clear about Simon’s actual motives and understanding, but remember that he was a new convert. How much does any new convert really understand about how the Lord runs his kingdom? Before the missionaries had come to town Simon had been considered a man of great spiritual stature by all of society. He heard the gospel, along with the rest of the town, and was converted. But being converted didn’t mean he understood how the priesthood worked. When he saw the miracles being performed by those who held the priesthood he wanted to do the same. So he approached them using his worldly perspective that anything is for sale if the price is right.

Simon got properly scolded for his attitude towards the Lord’s priesthood power, and that is where the story of Simon ends, or just about. After the man accuses Simon of being “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,” he tells Simon he had better repent, because his heart was not right before God. Simon immediately asks the man to pray for him to save him from what he was told would happen to him if he didn’t change.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the ending of the story of Simon, but this is a good beginning. Also unfortunately, many of us fall under the same condemnation of not having our heart right before God. Even Joseph Smith was punished and severely reprimanded when he tried to take the gold plates from the ground before he had gotten his heart right before God. It didn’t happen overnight. Getting his heart right before the Lord took several years of work on his part so he could finally get the plates without temptation getting the better of him.

I would like to think that Simon repented of his original reaction to his temptation to purchase priesthood power. I would like to think that his request for the brothers around him to pray for him didn’t fall on deaf ears, and that they nurtured him in the good word and taught him how the Lord’s kingdom really worked.

What the Lord is looking for

The Lord wants people who don’t put themselves first, but the needs of others. That is how Jesus behaved. He is looking for people of good character, good reputation, someone filled with the spirit of wisdom, and someone who is full of the Holy Spirit. These things are all attributes that take years to build and maintain. When the Lord puts someone in charge of His children, He wants to know it is someone who can be trusted with that which is most precious in His eyes, His children’s salvation and their ability to come home. 

The attributes described in Acts 6:3, 5, 8 require constant study of the scriptures, regular prayer, meaningful prayer, and a personal decision to do the work of the Lord to the best of one’s ability everytime we are asked to do anything for the Lord. In other words, the Lord is looking for leaders. And one of the primary attributes of a real leader is that they act the same without a responsibility as they act with a responsibility. It is that consistency in their service and attitudes that the Lord identifies in those who have their hearts right before Him.

As an example of this consistency the Lord seeks from us, what do you think would happen to people’s testimonies or their commitment to the Church if their Bishop got release then was known to go on drinking binges? Or how would you feel if your Stake President was “godly” over the pulpit, but beat his family at home? If the Lord is going to put us in positions of responsibility, He really wants us to be consistent in our personal lives with what we preach. The callings we receive are incidental. What He really wants from us is commitment of a consistent basis, so He can call us to whatever position we need to be called to and there is no need for us to undergo any serious repenting in order to accept and perform that calling.

Day 2

Acts 6-7 – Resisting the Holy Ghost can lead to rejecting the Savior and His prophets.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. The suggestions in this outline can help you identify some of the important principles in these chapters, though you may find others in your own study.

Trying to describe the ways in which we can resist the Holy Ghost is almost like trying to list all the ways in which we can sin. These are areas in which we can get pretty creative. What we need here are some simple guidelines so we can have a better chance of knowing if we are resisting the Holy Ghost. The manual has already mentioned that resisting the Holy Ghost leads to rejecting the prophet and the Savior.

Simple Principles

  1.  The Holy Ghost only tells us to do things that are good, because God, Himself, says that all good comes from Him. Do we get any prompting to do something that would benefit someone, especially if it will benefit someone other than yourself? Do you do it or do you find reasons for delaying, putting it off, or even turning down that impulse or call from the Spirit to do good?
  2. Answer this question honestly: Is there any reason for not doing what the Spirit tells us to do? There are a host of situations where someone might decide that it would hurt them to follow the prompting, or they might get hurt. It might hurt them financially, socially, or in some other way affect their reputation. Are any of these reasons sufficient for the Lord to say that it is okay not to follow the Spirit’s directives?
  3. The Lord has told us that what His servants, the Apostles and prophets tell us, is as though He has told us those things Himself. When the Lord’s servants tell us to be a certain way, or to do certain things, and you are so sure they are wrong, for whatever reason, are you prepared to declare your judgment higher than theirs, and your way better than theirs? Are you prepared to give counsel to the Lord and tell Him how He should be running the universe?
  4. What if the counsel, or request to do something, or the request to learn to think of things in a certain way that comes from our Church leaders is hard, and you would really rather not deal with it at this time, or you think they are foolish for thinking the way they do? Is that a good enough excuse for ignoring what the Lord has told you to do?

Rejecting the directives from the Spirit can be as simple as neglecting to go to the Temple or to Church, or it could be something far more pressing, like failing to prepare your children for baptism, or to teach your sons that it is their priesthood responsibility to go on missions? How many of these refusals to follow the Spirit do you think it takes before you start to see the Prophet and the Apostles as becoming less and less capable at their callings?

No one wakes up one morning and calls the prophet a fool and walks away from the Church. Falling away from the Church takes time. It comes from the lack of scripture study, the lack of praying, the lack of service, the lack, the lack, the lack. Those who live the gospel every day of their lives rarely ever seriously resist the promptings of the Spirit. Doing good is an act of submission and obedience to the urgings of the Spirit.

The Pharisees and the others who rejected Christ in his ministry did so because they no longer were able to feel the Spirit in their daily lives. And when they did feel Him, they rejected what He said because it would have hurt them socially, or politically, or financially. These things were just too important to them. Following the Spirit would have deprived them of what they craved the most in this life, power and influence. If Simon had truly been like the Pharisees, I don’t think he would have immediately asked for the Church leaders to pray for him to save his soul. I think he may not have known how the Spirit worked, but he was willing to learn, and that is what sets him apart from the Pharisees and other who resisted the promptings of the Spirit that would have brought their souls to Christ, but couldn’t because they fought Him every step of the way.

Day 3

Acts 7:54–60 – Besides Stephen, who else was martyred for their testimony of Jesus Christ?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. The suggestions in this outline can help you identify some of the important principles in these chapters, though you may find others in your own study.

The list of martyrs for Christ isn’t just those few mentioned in the manual. All the Christians who died in the Roman gladiatorial fights were martyrs as well. And they were killed for sport and entertainment value for the Roman masses. Did Jesus understand how much his followers would have to suffer? Did he do anything to prepare them for the really tough times ahead?

The answer is yes, Jesus most certainly did know how many of his followers would die for what he was teaching them. If anyone understands the hatred Satan has for God’s work, it is Jesus of Nazareth. We don’t have solid documentation for the death of each of the twelve Apostles, but each of them died as martyrs. The one exception was John the Beloved, who was translated. But even John was supposed to have been thrown into a vat of boiling oil in rome, but survived. Some were crucified, beheaded, stabbed, or stoned then clubbed to death. Jesus told them before sending them out that this would happen. He warned them they would be brought before kings and rulers for their message and that all of them would suffer, though none as much as he.

Martyrdom is a classic death for Christians. Many Christians even died at the hands of fellow Christians. In the early centuries of the faith Christians were known to kill other Christians for no better reason than that they had a different interpretation of the scriptures than those in the existing power structure. Many thousands died for their beliefs over differences of opinion. This brings up the question, “Why?” Why does the Lord let people die for what they feel is the truth?

I find it interesting that people die for a lot lamer reasons than religious convictions. Satan loves to have any dissenting voices killed or put down. The Lord allows such things to thrive. Prophets often seal their testimony with their blood, and the Lord has said he will use their deaths to judge those who rejected their message.

God has promised that there are far worse things in life than dying for the truth. He is in control both in this world and on the other side of the veil. His promise is that those who die to seal their testimony of Christ and his gospel will be amply rewarded in the eternities, for God knows better than any of us that we never die, but just go from one state of living to another, all of which are under his watchful eye.

Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum both died as martyrs, and they weren’t the first to die for the truth in this dispensation. There were a number of Church members who were murdered because of their faith when they were trying to settle in Missouri. And in current times, President Nelson has told us that we are running out of time, and that trouble is heading towards us. We have been told we will have to suffer more than the early saints did. This is why the prophets are working so tirelessly to strengthen our testimonies. If we stay close to the prophet, study our scriptures daily, and attend the temple as regularly as we can, we will be spiritually prepared for what is coming. If we aren’t doing these things, we may not be able to hang on when times get tough.

Our Father in Heaven values life. He understands how much we value our own lives. And for us to be willing to give up our life for His cause means a lot to Him. This is why those who sacrifice their lives for God have special blessings held in reserve for them in the eternities.

Day 4

Acts 8:26–39 – The Holy Ghost will help me guide others to Jesus Christ.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. The suggestions in this outline can help you identify some of the important principles in these chapters, though you may find others in your own study.

The very title of this day’s lesson got me thinking about my own perception of how the Holy Ghost works. Following are some questions I urge you to seriously consider and answer, each in its turn.

Does the Holy Ghost inspire missionaries in their efforts to find people to teach?

Does the Holy Ghost inspire missionaries in their efforts to teach people they have found?

Does the Holy Ghost teach those taught by the missionaries to understand the principles of the gospel of Christ?

Does the Holy Ghost only help those who have been set apart for the ministry to help others come unto Christ?

Read Mosiah 18:8–10 and Doctrine and Covenants 4:3. Who is called to minister to others and to do the Lord’s work for the salvation of souls in mortality?

In the verses above, is anyone excluded from the call to save the souls of others?

Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–17

12 And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.

13 And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.

14 And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.

15 And all this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching, until the fulness of my scriptures is given.

16 And as ye shall lift up your voices by the Comforter, ye shall speak and prophesy as seemeth me good;

17 For, behold, the Comforter knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son.

According to the verses above, who can teach without the Spirit?

What does the Spirit teach (“beareth record of”)?

Which faithful members of the Church are excluded from these verses in the Doctrine and Covenants?

I believe these questions affirm today’s topic that, indeed, the Holy Ghost will help me guide others to Jesus Christ, because that is his purpose in the Godhead.

Day 5

Acts 9:1–31 – When I submit to the Lord’s will, I can become an instrument in His hands.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. The suggestions in this outline can help you identify some of the important principles in these chapters, though you may find others in your own study.

Yesterday’s lesson (I hope) demonstrated that all of us have been given the assignment, calling, responsibility (call it what you want) to follow the Spirit and to do all things he tells us to do.

Who directs the work of the Holy Ghost?

If I submit myself to the Spirit’s influence, voice, urging, or prompting, will he have me do anything that will go against a commandment of God?

In submitting myself to the influence of the Holy Ghost am I submitting myself to God?

If the Holy Ghost is doing God’s will by teaching me what God wants me to know or do, am I doing God’s will to follow the Holy Ghost’s promptings?

How does following the Holy Ghost make me an instrument in God’s hands?

Who is there to do God’s work and will if not for His children? (And don’t go the angel route, we both know they are held in reserve for special occasions.)

Today’s lesson demonstrates that the plan of salvation is a family affair. The Lord expects all of us to do our part in saving our own family members, because saving all of God’s children cannot be done by relinquishing the responsibility for everyone’s salvation to just the Savior or to only God’s messengers. Our Father in Heaven expects all of us to become completely involved in making everyone’s salvation our life’s work. He has stated as much when he said that we without our kindred dead cannot be saved, and that they without us cannot be saved. We need each other to save ourselves. No one is exempt or left out. Salvation is a family affair, and we all belong to God’s family.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Acts 9:5 – What does it mean to “kick against the pricks?”

I don’t normally do this, but I found a resource that has such a great statement about this line that I feel justified in quoting it in its entirety to you. You can find this at the following URL: https://www.gotquestions.org/kick-against-the-pricks.html

Question: “What does it mean to kick against the pricks?”

Answer: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

Of the better-known Bible translations, the actual phrase “kick against the pricks” is found only in the King James Version. It is mentioned only twice, in Acts 9:5 and Acts 26:14. The apostle Paul (then known as Saul) was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians when he had a blinding encounter with Jesus. Luke records the event: “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 26:14 KJV). Modern translations have changed the word pricks to goads. All translations except the KJV and NKJV, omit the phrase altogether from Acts 9:5.

The conversion of Saul is quite significant as it was the turning point in his life. Paul later wrote nearly half of the books of the New Testament.

Jesus took control of Paul and let him know his rebellion against God was a losing battle. Paul’s actions were as senseless as an ox kicking “against the goads.” Paul had passion and sincerity in his fight against Christianity, but he was not heading in the direction God wanted him to go. Jesus was going to goad (“direct” or “steer”) Paul in the right direction.

There is a powerful lesson in the ancient Greek proverb. We, too, find it hard to kick against the goads. Solomon wrote, “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path” (Proverbs 15:10). When we choose to disobey God, we become like the rebellious ox—driving the goad deeper and deeper. “The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). How much better to heed God’s voice, to listen to the pangs of conscience! By resisting God’s authority we are only punishing ourselves.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 28