Week 28 is scheduled for study July 3-9, 2023. We all need to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. Here is a beginning list of things we should consider as his witnesses.

Day 1

As you study Acts 1-5, the Holy Ghost can inspire you to find truths that are relevant for your life. Take note of verses that impress you, and look for opportunities to share what you are learning.

Acts 1:1-8, 15-26; 2:1-42; 4:1-13, 31-33 – Jesus Christ directs His Church through the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost changes our very nature. The truth He reveals to us, and the testimony He bears to our soul causes us to desire things above and beyond what we were capable of before we learned of Him and His ways.

I admit that I was, at first, very disturbed by Acts 1:2. This verse tells us plainly that Jesus gave his apostles commandments through the Holy Ghost BEFORE he ascended to heaven. Yet they didn’t fully enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost until the day of Pentecost. He gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost the first day he appeared to them after his resurrection, but they didn’t fully experience the gift until 50 days after Christ’s resurrection. And since Jesus stayed with the apostles for 40 days after his resurrection, the day of Pentecost would (by my calculations) have happened about 10 days after his ascension to heaven.

I was only disturbed by the wording of the verse because the writer of Acts doesn’t explain how it is possible for the apostles to receive revelations from the Spirit before they had the baptism of fire that happened on the day of Pentecost. What brings me comfort is knowing that all things are done in Christ’s church through the Holy Ghost, for without the Spirit there is no lasting conversion, and the Spirit is all about that lasting change that converts us from sinners to Saints.

My concern over the timing of verse two is trivial, now that I have had time to think about it. However it happened, the Savior will have been consistent with the laws laid down by God, our Father regarding how revelation is given and received, so I really have nothing to worry about.

What we know from the modern church is that the influence of the Spirit is everywhere. His companionship is given to each of us at baptism, and from then on in our lives, all that reveals anything spiritual to us or that opens the eyes of our spiritual understanding comes from the Holy Ghost. The governing of the Lord’s kingdom is done through the words of the Spirit to Christ’s leaders on earth. The leading of our families and personal lives should be through the Spirit’s influence as well. There is nothing new in this doctrine. The position and workings of the Spirit in the lives of God’s children has been the same since the days of Adam. It is through His influence that we all come to one accord in all things. It is how we become a Zion people, a happy people.

Day 2

As you study Acts 1-5, the Holy Ghost can inspire you to find truths that are relevant for your life. Take note of verses that impress you, and look for opportunities to share what you are learning.

Acts 2:36-47; 3:12-21 – The principles and ordinances of the gospel help me come unto Christ.

The fourth Article of Faith lists two principles and two ordinances that hold the honor of being the first in each category for anyone wanting to enter Christ’s church. The first two principles are faith, followed by repentance. We can exercise faith all by itself, but repentance requires faith in Christ to be effective. But both faith and repentance are required in order to make the first covenant with God, which is made through the ordinance of baptism.

Sadly, in my mind, baptism has become the be all and end all of the first two ordinances of the gospel. Socially, baptism is often celebrated with parties, printed invitations, photos, food, decorations, etc. One would think the child was graduating from high school from the fuss some parents make over their child’s baptism. It is as though there is only one ordinance that really counts, and that is the one we physically make as we enter the water and are immersed.

The laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost has apparently, in many minds, been relegated to an almost annoying necessity, like receiving the diploma of the high school graduation. The work has already been done, but no one will accept your graduation as valid without that piece of paper. This is sad to me. So often we don’t hear anything about the receipt of this gift, just the baptism. But isn’t the whole point of being baptized so that God can give us this gift?

It is the gift of the Holy Ghost that enables our repentance to change us so that we can become more pure, more justified, and more sanctified before the Lord. Without the gift of the Holy Ghost, baptism is not pointless, but it is worthless. The point of baptism is to declare before God that you have faith in Christ and are willing to repent of your sins and follow Jesus for the rest of your life, and that is done by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and learning to listen to Him. Exaltation cannot happen with just baptism. The gift of the Holy Ghost is required for us to progress to become like Jesus. It is His (the Spirit’s) influence in our lives that directs us, counsels us, reveals things to us, and testifies to us of eternal truths. All of our eternal progression depends on our obedience to God through our faithfulness to the gift of the Spirit we receive after we are baptized.

Joseph Smith taught that baptism, without the bestowal of the gift of the Spirit, is as effective as baptizing a bag of sand for all of its saving properties. It was my reflections on the statement in Acts 2:38 that change my perspective on the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost in our lives.

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I have read and reread this verse many times. It looks to me that Peter is saying that the point of our faith and repentance is so we can get the gift of the Holy Ghost. Reread the verse. Is that how you see it? Baptism is required to get the gift. God will not bestow this gift without first exacting from us the covenant that makes this gift possible. It is this gift from God that is the goal we seek, not just the covenant we make to get it. We can make the covenant of baptism, but it is worthless (according to Joseph Smith) without the accompanying ordinance of the laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Spirit.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting the importance of baptism as an ordinance, nor am I discounting its power as a symbol of obedience to Christ’s commandments. The point I am trying to make is that we may have focused so heavily on the covenant that we have ignored the purpose of the covenant, and that is to receive the gift of the the Holy Ghost. It is He who will guide us back home to our Father in Heaven. That is why baptism, without this gift, is meaningless in the end.

Day 3

As you study Acts 1-5, the Holy Ghost can inspire you to find truths that are relevant for your life. Take note of verses that impress you, and look for opportunities to share what you are learning.

Acts 3:19-21 – What are “the times of refreshing” and “the times of restitution of all things”?

I think we are all plenty familiar with what the “restitution of all things” refers to. That act of restoring all things from past dispensations is what the Restoration is all about. What fascinates me most, and captivates my attention is the wording of “the times of refreshing.”

The earth, in the beginning, was pure, clean, wholesome, and perfectly functional in her terrestrial state. All things worked as the Creator intended them to work. After the fall the earth was in a telestial condition. As evil spreads upon her face, the earth suffers and physically reacts to the evil she is experiencing from those of us living on her. She (the earth) has already been baptized. She is now awaiting the day of cleansing that comes with a baptism from the Holy Ghost. In her case her cleansing, that time of refreshing, will come with a purging by spiritual and physical fire of all that is impure and evil from off the face of the earth, leaving her refreshed, new, and back to her terrestrial state that Adam and Eve enjoyed. This is the event that ushers in the Savior’s millennial reign.

Day 4

As you study Acts 1-5, the Holy Ghost can inspire you to find truths that are relevant for your life. Take note of verses that impress you, and look for opportunities to share what you are learning.

Acts 3; 4:1-31; 5:12-42 – Disciples of Jesus Christ are given power to perform miracles in His name.

I have an acquaintance on Facebook from another country who has, for a long time now, problems with the apostles of the church. Evidently, he has a sister who is crippled. He can’t figure out why an apostle hasn’t come and publicly healed her, like the public healings done in the New Testament. I think he secretly fears that they don’t have the faith to do it. His obsession over this situation has become a one note melody. It is all he can talk about.

What he is missing is that the nature of the Restoration of the priesthood and the truths of the gospel of Christ have made it so that anyone worthily holding the priesthood should be able to do anything the apostles of old did. It is a matter of faith. Lacking the faith to perform miracles is a personal deficit. It has nothing to do with whether or not the priesthood can do such things, only if you, personally, can do them. It is true that some of us have more faith than others. Some of us require more preparation time and effort to do things that our neighbor might be able to do with little mental or spiritual preparation. My friend should be looking inward for his missing faith, not outward to someone else’s apparent lack of faith.

Do miracles happen today? Yes, they do. We can, and should expect to see them as we exercise our faith in Christ. The prophets have told us to expect it to happen. The power to perform a miracle is not found in just having the priesthood in your life. The power comes from being worthy to do what is necessary for miracles to happen, because of our faith in Christ. If we truly believe and have the confidence that he can and will give us what we ask for, it can happen. The needed ingredients are all here, the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost. All we have to bring to the table is our faith in Christ.

I’m sure there is more than what I have mentioned, but these are the essential component parts of seeing miracles. When I was young, asking for miracles was frowned upon as sign seeking. Today, looking for miracles is something that comes from living a faithful life. We may not see lifechanging, overwhelming miracles, but every-day miracles is not out of anyone’s reach. We just have to recognize the many things we can credit the Lord with providing for us out of His mercy and kindness.

FHE/Personal Study

Acts 2:37 – Pricked in their heart

Instinctively we all know what it means to be pricked by something. It could have been with a thorn, a needle, or any other sharp object. The object of today’s lesson is to recognize what it means to be pricked in our heart, then know what to do about it. Here is part of the definition of the word prick from dictionary.com.

verb (used with object)

  1. to pierce with a sharp point; puncture.

  2. to affect with sharp pain, as from piercing.

A prick is just a poke with something sharp, but to prick is what the above definition is addressing. This is what the Spirit and our conscience does to us. When we are pricked by our conscience we are said to have been smitten by guilt, a sudden awareness of a wrong we have committed or allowed to happen. It comes as a conviction of having performed a wrongdoing. Often there is shame accompanying being pricked by our conscience. We know better than what we did.

Spiritual pricking

When the Spirit pricks our heart we experience a sudden, sharp realization about something that just happened to us. Someone may have testified of a truth that convicts us, told us what we need to do to find favor with God, or any one of a number of other things. Sometimes the prick we receive is the realization that what we have just heard is the truth and that we are not currently living in harmony with that truth. We need to change something in our life to come into harmony with what we were just told.

My guess is that when someone is living a life in harmony with the things of God, the promptings of the Spirit are more often pleasant and rewarding. It is when we are living parts of our life out of harmony with the teachings of Christ that the Spirit’s testimony of the truth comes across as more of an accusation than a confirmation. Only when we bring ourselves into line with revealed truth do His witnesses of the truth become peaceful to our soul. The pricking of our conscience or of our soul can be sharp and sometimes painful. The truth can come across as a painful awareness of how out of harmony we truly are with revealed truth.

Someone looking into the church may suddenly recognize that their life will have to change in order to incorporate Christ’s restored gospel into their life. This means changes that might be highly unpleasant, like being disowned by family members, or having to give up longtime friends who won’t be tolerant of your new life choices. To those in the church already, the pricking of the Spirit may tell us that we need to give up habits that are counter productive to the life of happiness we claim we want. We may have to start or restart doing things that will create happiness in our life.

All addictions will eventually have to be overcome, and these are always painful and difficult. Being pricked by the Spirit is a two-edged sword. On the one hand it cuts us deeply, and on the other hand, obedience and acknowledgment to that pricking leads to healing and joy.

There will never come a day in mortality when the pricking of the Spirit will be completely behind us. We are not yet perfect in our ability to make wise choices and our ability to live wisely. As long as we are still learning from the Holy Ghost how to become more like Christ, we will need to accept that the pricking we receive at the Spirit’s hand is a prized possession that always leads the repentant soul into a state of joy. the pain of the process is just a given. It’s a good thing mortality is short.

The pattern

In the next verse in Acts, Peter tells the men that to obey the pricked hearts they just experienced they needed to repent and be baptized so they could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This pattern doesn’t change once we are baptized and already have the gift of the Spirit. Whenever we are pricked in our heart the pattern is still the same. We need to turn to God, exercise our faith in the commandments Jesus has given us, and seek more diligently to live by our baptismal covenants. This process of recognizing and repenting, paired with the weekly ordinance of the sacrament is what brings us to Christ and helps us in our quest to become more Christlike. The pattern for new members of the church is no different from the pattern for longtime members. All of us need to seek Christ, live his commandments, and listen to the Spirit. It is simple and effective.

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NT28-2023 – Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me