Scheduled for study July 15-21, 2019. The Lord looks upon the heart. He sees our potential for good in life. His gospel is for anyone who believes, no matter what they are doing in their lives at this moment. Anyone who is willing to repent will be freely forgiven and readily accepted into his kingdom. This is the lesson the Saints in Peter’s day needed to learn, and in our day as well.

Day 1

Acts 10 – God is no respecter of persons.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read Acts 10-15 carefully, allowing time for the Spirit to prompt you with thoughts and feelings. What is there for you to learn in these chapters?

The Lord has many patterns that repeat themselves many times over throughout history and in the scriptures. One of these patterns is to take a principle and have the people live it physically then later on in history have them live it spiritually. Such is the case with the family of Israel. From the time of Abraham on the people were taught to keep themselves unspotted by the sins of their neighbors by not having any interactions with their neighbors that were not absolutely necessary. They became ritually unclean if they went into someone’s home who wasn’t of the house of Israel. There were many conditions in the law given to Moses that would make a person unclean, and ceremonies and conditions were observed to cleanse oneself after becoming unclean.

This habit of steering a course around anyone who wasn’t also of the house of Israel made them a difficult nation to deal with, because the people became snobbish about anyone who wasn’t a member of the “family.” They rarely married outside their own religion, dealt with those outside their own religion, or even spoke to those outside their own religion. Such dealings were reserved to people like merchants and rulers. Common people might go a whole lifetime without talking to anyone outside their own faith.

Even becoming sick could get you segregated from your own kind. Every month a woman going through her monthly period was considered unclean and had to hide herself away until she could go to a priest and make herself clean again. Anyone with a severe skin condition was considered leperous and made to live in separate colonies, away from those considered “clean.”

This isolationism made the people feel like the world revolved around themselves. This was especially true when it came to the God they worshiped. God only spoke to their prophets. He didn’t deal with people outside of their covenant. They were the chosen people, those beloved of God, no one else. When Jesus told the Apostles to go to every nation and preach the gospel, what they interpreted was the instructions to go and preach to all the Jews in every nation. It never would have occurred to them to preach to everyone, for only the Jews were considered “clean” according to the law of Moses.

The importance of three

Jesus set up a pattern with Peter of doing things in threes. This pattern didn’t escape the notice of Peter. Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times the night they took Jesus to try him. Peter did deny him three times. Later, after the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. He asked him and waited for an answer three times. Now in Acts 10, Peter falls into a trance and is shown in vision a giant cloth container full of what is considered unclean foods. The Lord commands Peter to rise, kill, and eat of those foods the law of Moses had declared off limits to the people.

Peter protested three times the Lord’s command to eat that which was unclean, saying that never had he, at any time, touched that which was unclean. The Lord’s response was to chastise Peter by telling him that what the Lord has declared to be clean, is clean. In other words, the Lord can change the way we live, change the laws by which we live, and whatever the Lord does is the right thing. So if he tells Peter that what Peter viewed in the past as unclean, and in the past Peter would have been correct, the Lord has just changed the rules, and now Peter needs to change his perspective and get with the new program.

Remember that Peter doesn’t yet understand what the vision he received is referring to. He thinks it has something to do with the food they are supposed to eat. He is not yet aware, at the time of the vision, that the Lord has already prepared the answer to Peter’s questions about the vision, and those answers were currently knocking on his gate down below his rooftop where he had the vision.

In Acts 10:19–20 the Spirit tells Peter to go with the men the Lord has sent to him, “nothing doubting.” That is an interesting phrase. Why would Peter question going with some men to their master’s house? The answer is because their master is an unclean gentile. This is the first hint to Peter that going to this gentile’s house may have something to do with the issue of clean/unclean he was dealing with in his vision. So Peter entertains the servants and goes with them to the home of Cornelius the next day, nothing doubting, with an open mind.

A change in perception and perspective

It is an interesting setup for Peter. He goes into the house of a gentile, who is supposed to be unclean, but when he gets there Cornelius has assembled all his household, family, and friends together in preparation to hear the word of the Lord as promised by the angel. Peter walks into a small congregation of people all waiting to be taught the gospel. And when he teaches them about Jesus, and bears his testimony of his resurrection, the Holy Ghost falls upon the people just like it did on the Jews on the day of Pentecost, the touchstone or standard by which they measured all their spiritual experiences. For the day of Pentecost was the first time they had experienced an outpouring of the Spirit of God all together.

Now Peter was in a house of a gentile and was experiencing the same thing he had experienced with all the Jewish saints earlier. Was it true, was God really accepting the gentiles as freely as He had accepted the Jews? The only thing that made them the same was the gentile’s willingness to believe in their message. So it appeared that God would accept anyone who was willing to believe. Peter didn’t dare call “unclean” these people whom the Lord had so obviously declared “clean” spiritually.

Peter took six others with him to visit Cornelius. This experience forever changed their collective perception about what God wanted them to do with respect to the gentiles. This new revelation and realization opened, literally, the whole world to the preaching of the gospel. Now they just had to convince the rest of the Church to accept this revolutionary doctrine.

Modern application

Take a moment and consider your own perception of the world. Are there any groups you would consider off limits to preaching the gospel? Are there religions or people out there you dislike enough that you wouldn’t want them living near you? What about people you consider to be ruffians, rough characters, “trashy” or unclean in some way? Are there refugees that don’t “qualify” for the Lord’s gospel message? Are there religions of violence who don’t deserve to hear of the Lord’s offered salvation? Many of us are not far from the mindset of the Jews of old with our mentality of exclusion and philosophies of isolation. The Lord is telling us today, just as he told Peter and the saints of his day that what the Lord has declared clean is, in fact, clean. We are called to preach the gospel to ALL the world, not just those with whom we are comfortable.

Day 2

Acts 10; 11:1-18; 15 – Heavenly Father teaches me line upon line through revelation.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read Acts 10-15 carefully, allowing time for the Spirit to prompt you with thoughts and feelings. What is there for you to learn in these chapters?

Some people complain that when the Lord restored his kingdom to the earth through Joseph Smith, Jr. that it couldn’t be true. Why? Because it was so messy. It wasn’t revealed all at once, and everything set up from the beginning. How could Joseph Smith be a prophet and not get all the answers at once? These people have obviously never had personal revelation, or at least they have not connected their own experiences with revelation to how the Lord deals with everyone else. Most of the time revelation is messy. That is just a fact.

Today’s example is Peter receiving the revelation to take the gospel to all the world, and the decision to no longer circumcise new members of the Church, meaning gentiles. All the Jewish male members were already circumcised.

When the Lord gave the revelation to Peter he was making a statement about what was clean vs. common (unclean). He demonstrated this concept to Peter with foods the Jews were forbidden to eat, those foods considered common or unclean. They were an offense to any good Jew. The Lord never just came out and stated that gentiles were no longer to be considered unclean to the Jewish members of the Church. He was teaching a principle, and left how it was learned and applied to his leaders to figure out and use.

At first Peter puzzled over what the revelation could possibly mean. Then he began to catch on to what the Lord was referring to when he listened to the Spirit, who told him to go to Cornelius’s house, nothing doubting. That was a key phrase, “nothing doubting.” Once he got into the experience at the gentile’s house, he suddenly realized in a powerful way that the Lord had just expanded his commandment to preach the gospel to all the world. Now he realized that when the Lord said “all” he meant ALL, not just fellow Jews.

This change affected more than just who the members of the Church spoke to and worshiped with. They now were expected to live alongside gentiles as fellow citizens in Christ and treat them like they would any good Jew. This was something not taught specifically in the revelation, but was an important part of learning the principle the revelation was meant to teach to the saints. The Lord was trying to show the saints that all people were acceptable and loved by Him, and were worthy of all His blessings, if they would but believe in Jesus, and him resurrected.

Circumcision

When it came to the issue of circumcision for gentiles, this was a doctrinal holdover from the law of Moses. Why do you think it wasn’t just accepted as part of the new Church without question? I believe it was because of this revelation Peter had. The Lord was changing the rules about how the kingdom was to be run and who was acceptable to be in it. If the Lord now recognized gentiles as acceptable/clean, does this mean they needed to be held to the old standard taught by the Law or had the law truly been fulfilled and hence was done away with?

This is why the Brethren held a special council to discuss the issue for the Church. They needed to have the Apostles reason through all the arguments and ask for the Spirit’s guidance to learn the answer. Look at Acts 15:13–18. This passage demonstrated to the members present in the meeting that the Lord foreshadowed this day in ancient scripture. I have added italics to the key words (verse 17).

13 ¶ And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:

14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,

16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

The Lord had told them centuries before that at some point in the future he would build up the ruins of the house of David (i.e. his covenant people) and that both Jew and gentile, “upon whom my name is called” would do it. The Brethren realized in this scripture that the Lord had known from the beginning that the gentiles would someday be included as “His” people. They could now see that this was a prophecy being fulfilled in their presence. They further reasoned that circumcision was the symbol of the old covenant, and baptism was the symbol of the new covenant, so it stands to reason that circumcision was no longer needed.

This was a major change in doctrinal understanding for the Jews, because circumcision was one of the covenants that set them apart from the rest of the world for millennia. To the gentile converts this was not an issue, because gentiles weren’t usually circumcised, but to the Jews this was a major change that would require confirmation by the Holy Ghost for them to accept.

Lesson learned

This is the lesson about the Spirit we all need to learn in our own way. The Lord often gives us little promptings that are clear and specific, mainly because they only apply to one thing in our life. But there are times when he teaches a principle that we learn later will be applicable to multiple situations. We can’t expect the Lord to give us a laundry list of every place in the future when this principle will be useful. He leaves it to us to be searching for understanding and knowledge, and to learn, through the use of the Spirit, where to apply these principles and where not to. It is all part of how we learn to think and live like God. This is why we are taught line upon line, and precept upon precept. This method allows us to learn at our own pace and in our own way, but eventually all come to the same basic understanding.

Day 3

Acts 11:26 – I am a Christian because I believe in and follow Jesus Christ.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read Acts 10-15 carefully, allowing time for the Spirit to prompt you with thoughts and feelings. What is there for you to learn in these chapters?

What is in a name?

When we hear someone’s name said out loud all kinds of things happen in our brains. For example, being from the United States of America, I will use some names of past leaders of our country. If you are familiar with any of these leaders, when you read their names I would like you to take note of what your physical and emotional reaction is when you even see their name on your screen. Here are the names of several of our past Presidents: Lincoln, Washington, Bush, Obama, Carter, Reagan, and Kennedy.

Any name in that list above with which you are familiar would have caused you to think of either their noteworthy, or praiseworthy actions, their good reputation, and whether or not they were trustworthy, or the opposite would have happened. You would have read the name and immediately thought, “What a scoundrel!”

Names, and what we do with them, are important; they matter. Take, for example, the surname of Smith. Smith is both one of the most common names in America, as well as a name that is special in our Church, because it is the name of our prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. What happens to us when we take upon us someone else’s name? This happens to all of us at birth or when we are adopted by a family. Their last name becomes a big part of our identity. Our surname influences how others see us and what they think of us. And just as importantly, how we choose to behave also influences how others see and interact with others of our family.

I heard a story once of a person whose family was all raised in the same area. Each of the children went to the same high school, and all of them had the same teachers. As the youngest member of the family entered high school he was confronted by one of the teachers and asked what could be expected from him that year in class. Would he be like his eldest brother who was brilliant, helpful, and gave the teacher no grief at all, or was he going to be like his next older brother who was a goof off and trouble maker? This boy had never even met this teacher, yet the teacher already had notions in mind as to how this boy was possibly going to be in class.

Our adopted name

When we accept baptism we are adopted into the family of Christ. We become members of his kingdom on earth, one of his citizens if you will. The designation of Christian tells everyone what they should be able to expect from us. The very word Christian brings with it expectations of behavior, attitudes, and the lifestyle that name implies. We now belong to two families, just like you are members of multiple families when you marry.

The Savior has expectations for us as his children. Those expectations are given to us in the form of commandments. We accepted these expectations/commandments when we made our covenant with him at baptism. We obligated ourselves to do his will, learn of his ways, and to work every day to become more like him. This is what it means to be a Christian – we live our lives in service of our new master, our Redeemer. This means we learn to love as he loves, serve as he serves, and behave as he behaves. It is a tall order, but we all understand that this is a lifelong pursuit.

The important thing to remember is that every name by which we are known carries with it responsibilities and expectations. Those names could be mother, father, manager, clerk, or any one of a thousand different titles, each of which carries their own set of expectations to live up to. But of all our titles and names in this life, the most important names we have been given are our family names and the name of Christian.

Day 4

Acts 10:17, 20 – Experiencing doubt

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read Acts 10-15 carefully, allowing time for the Spirit to prompt you with thoughts and feelings. What is there for you to learn in these chapters?

I think the key to dealing with doubts about our testimonies is to remember that doubts come from forgetting. When we first receive a testimony about something our mind and heart are opened to new and amazing realizations. We are excited, thrilled, and moved by the witness we receive from the Holy Ghost. There is something so satisfying to the soul to know with such certainty that something is absolutely true. There is no wondering, debating, or doubting, because in that moment we know it is true. What a thrill.

It is when we forget such moments that doubts start to creep into our lives. This is why in one of the General Conferences we were told to “doubt our doubts.” It really is a truism that if an eternal truth is valid today then why would it not be valid tomorrow, five years from now, or anytime in the future? Truth of eternal reality doesn’t change just because we do or our circumstances do.

This is why I believe the key to dealing with doubts is to remember when we came to know the truth of a principle or doctrine. Elder Ronald A. Rasband referred to our need to remember as an important way to feel the truthfulness of things we once had burning brightly in our souls, but may have since lost some of their luster.

When I have counseled individuals such as my friend, I have explored their decisions made over the years which led them to forget sacred experiences, to weaken, and to doubt. I encouraged them, as I encourage you now, to recall, especially in times of crisis, when you felt the Spirit and your testimony was strong; remember the spiritual foundations you have built. I promise that if you will do this, avoiding things that do not build and strengthen your testimony or that mock your beliefs, those precious times when your testimony prospered will return again to your memory through humble prayer and fasting. I assure you that you will once again feel the safety and warmth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The quote above is true. When we humble ourselves before the Lord and seek to know once again that which we once knew and held so dear, he will reveal those truths to us once again. The secret to keeping the flame of truth burning brightly in our souls is to continually have them re-revealed to us through the Holy Ghost. When we are living the principles of the gospel the Lord gives us witnesses of their truthfulness. We see demonstrations of God’s truths on a regular basis when we are seeking to see how the truths we have learned are used in our lives.

Day 5

Acts 14 – Why does God allow difficult things to happen to righteous people?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read Acts 10-15 carefully, allowing time for the Spirit to prompt you with thoughts and feelings. What is there for you to learn in these chapters?

I laughed to myself when I read the following in the manual – “Why does God allow difficult things to happen to righteous people?” Allow? We need to pass through difficult things. It is the difficult things in life that teach us the highest and most difficult lessons. Difficulty is critical to our growth and learning to be like Christ. Ease and comfort are great for short periods, but too much of them lulls us into a false sense of security and we forget our need and dependence on the Lord.

Difficulties in this life come from the actions of others, but also from our own actions. They are unavoidable. I have a young friend who is newly wed. They just had their first child, and he was telling me how difficult life always is. And it is for him. He lives in a country where life is rarely easy for anyone. I told him that life will always be hard, but that the nature of his trials would not always be the same. Our trials change as we change. The Lord is always one step ahead of us, anticipating what we need next to spur us onto the next phase of our personal growth.

It isn’t that only the wicked are supposed to suffer, all of us are supposed to suffer. The scriptures tell us that even Jesus, the only perfect person to come to earth learned obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). Can we really expect our lives to be any different than his was? We may not have his sacred mission to fulfill, but we all have a sacred mission to fulfill. None of us have come to earth for no purpose. Earth life is supposed to be difficult. That is why the scriptures refer to life as a test, a place to “prove them” to see if we will do everything the Lord commands us to do. Review Abraham 3 to refresh your memory that this life is all about difficulties in one form or another.

So it doesn’t really matter if we are good or bad when it comes to challenges or difficulties coming our way in this life. All of us will be tested on a regular basis from our youth through old age. It is these constant tests that will prove our mettle, our resolve to be obedient to the Lord in all things.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Acts 15:1–21 – Finding answers to difficult questions

These verses give us a great pattern to follow for finding answers to difficult questions. The Church met together so the leaders could figure out what to do about the issue of circumcision. This was an ordinance that was as old as the Jew’s relationship with father Abraham, who was the first to receive this covenant from the Lord. It set them apart as a people, and was a symbol of their position of favor with God.

Now the Church was open to gentiles, who did not have this ancient relationship with God. Should they be made to practice this custom as the Jews always had? Here is what they did to figure out the answer to their dilemma.

  1. They met together to discuss the issue.
  2. They listened to everyone’s opinion and perspective.
  3. They counseled together to try to learn wisdom.
  4. They prayed.
  5. They read the scriptures to see what information they had in them that might help their situation.
  6. Finally, they listened to the Holy Ghost and got a confirmation on the subject.

The final step (step 7) was to go out and teach the truths that had been learned to the members of the Church so they could all live them. This pattern is pretty universal, whether something that is done for the Church or in our homes. The Lord expects us to do all in our power to figure out what he would want us to do then seek for guidance in the scriptures and from the Holy Ghost.

When have you followed this pattern in your personal life or in your family?

What were the results of using this process?

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Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 29