Week 32 is scheduled for study July 31-Aug. 6, 2023. This week is all about loyalty between us and God. If we are willing to put our all on the line, He will stand with us.

Day 1

Impressions from the Holy Ghost are often quiet and sometimes fleeting. Recording your impressions allows you to reflect on them more deeply. As you read Acts 22-28, write down the thoughts and feelings that come to you, and take time to ponder them.

Acts 22:1-21; 26:1-29 – Disciples of Jesus Christ share their testimonies boldly.

As I read Paul’s account to the people of his vision I had several thoughts run through my head.

  • To an unbelieving people, visions at noonday would be a sign of pure madness.
  • Hearing voices and seeing people who (obviously) aren’t there makes him a danger to others. (Don’t know why someone experiencing something I haven’t experienced automatically makes them dangerous, but you know how people are.)
  • Only a crazy person would publicly recount such embarrassing experiences without any shame attached. There has to be something wrong with him.
  • Paul used his personal credentials to try to impress the people with his piety, only to turn around and try to convince them that his little series of miracles was a sign to all that they should also get baptized into this hated new religion.

After all these thoughts, and more, I thought, “Why would Paul be so open and bold about his testimony? How could presenting it in that way do anything but hurt him?” This was followed by my next thought, “If I have a testimony, no matter what it is about or how I got it, if I don’t speak of it openly and accurately as a fact, what does that say to God about how I perceive the knowledge He revealed to me?”

Trying to hide any part of my experience looks like I am ashamed of it. The hiding gives the appearance of shame and discredits the whole account. If what I have to share really is the truth, of what should I be ashamed? If I am to be true to what I know, shouldn’t I be honest and speak that truth with boldness? Are the truths that God gives to us usually meant to be hidden or are they usually meant to be shared? How can I help someone come to gain the same knowledge if I am so busy trying to minimize my own experience that I never show them the real way to gain that same truth. I must not have a very good opinion of what God has shown to me if I am too embarrassed to speak openly of it.

Paul and Joseph Smith had marvelous experiences, yet they were open and honest in their statements about what really happened. This shows that no matter the personal cost they valued the truths they had learned more than they cared for anyone else’s opinion of those truths. We may not have had such intense or grand experiences, but the principle still applies to us, just as it applied to them. Are we properly grateful for the truth we have been given? Are we openly or secretly ashamed of our experience with God that we try to hide what happened to us from others? We may say, “But I’m just afraid, not ashamed.” Tomato, tomahto. What does hiding our knowledge say to God who gave it to us? What will that unwillingness to shoulder the burden of knowledge do to us in the end?

Day 2

Impressions from the Holy Ghost are often quiet and sometimes fleeting. Recording your impressions allows you to reflect on them more deeply. As you read Acts 22-28, write down the thoughts and feelings that come to you, and take time to ponder them.

Acts 23:10-11; 27:13-25, 40-44 – The Lord stands by those who strive to serve Him.

Here is the first set of verses for today’s lesson.

10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

Really, it wasn’t enough that the people wanted to pull him to pieces, but now the Lord wants him to go and do it all again in Rome? And why does the Lord begin the conversation when He makes a personal appearance to Paul by saying, “Be of good cheer, Paul”? Christ did the same with Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, telling him to be of good cheer.

Not once in all the scriptures do I recall the Lord ever waiting to come to a prophet when they were in a resort or at home and at peace, telling them to be of good cheer while all was comfortable. So what is God seeing that we so often miss in these situations. First of all, the Lord never says these words, except when the prophet himself is down and discouraged, or at least in a very difficult situation and probably has some doubts about whether he is doing his job right. What is it that Jesus wants them to find cheer in? In each instance I have read the Lord follows this statement with the reason for their needed cheer. Sometimes they should be cheerful because they have boldly testified as they should, sometimes it is because the Lord is pointing out to the prophet that they have been obedient, and that obedience is saving their soul and will lead to their exaltation. There is always a ray of hope extended to the prophet in these dark times because they have done what was most important.

The difficulty here is knowing and doing what is most important. Rarely is what is most important also most convenient or easy. Probably never. When we have a wayward child, spouse, or friend, it is only after we have done all we can do that the Lord gives us the peace to our soul that He recognizes our effort and that He will handle the outcome, whatever that may be. God never expects us to be able to solve the unsolvable, that is His department. He does expect us to do all that we can for our own growth to happen. I don’t mean that God wants us to only be thinking about our own growth. I am saying that God wants us to do all that we can for others, because this is how our own growth happens. This is what pleases Him.

Don’t be discouraged if you have to go through your trials without a personal visitation from Christ. Remember that the stories we read in the scriptures are about exceptional situations and people. We take the principles their stories teach and apply them to our humble lives. The Lord may not physically stand by our side and tell us to lift up our head and be of good cheer. Most likely we will be given peace through the influence of the Holy Ghost. Our experience will be just as meaningful, because it will be just as personal. It will just come in a different way. God is not looking for perfection from us, but effort.

Day 3

Impressions from the Holy Ghost are often quiet and sometimes fleeting. Recording your impressions allows you to reflect on them more deeply. As you read Acts 22-28, write down the thoughts and feelings that come to you, and take time to ponder them.

Acts 24:24-27; 26:1-3, 24-29; 27 – There is safety and peace in heeding the words of God’s servants.

The examples in the verses listed for today’s lesson are all about those not listening to a prophetic voice when they didn’t know Paul was a prophet. I don’t think that really counts. For me, the test is for the members of the Lord’s church to listen to the words of the prophets. For example, how many times has our current prophet told us that the day is coming soon when those who aren’t being closely allied with the Spirit and receiving revelation (i.e. inspiration) on a regular basis, will not be able to stand? We should all be asking our self the question, “What am I doing differently now than I was a month ago to be closer to the Spirit’s voice? Am I seeing a change in my life that tells me I am on the right track?

We don’t have to listen to the Spirit, of course, but we also can’t expect to survive the turbulent times ahead if we have ignored the prophet’s warning today. Our choice, our consequence. In Acts 27 Paul warned them not to sail the ship. They did it anyway, and paid the price for ignoring the prophetic counsel they had been given. Even the prophet can’t change the outcome. He can only give the warning voice and then be personally ready for what is coming. How sad that so many of us will not be prepared to survive when the prophesied tests come. And it is all within our own control today.

FHE/Personal Study

Acts 24:16 – Offense towards God and man

Have you ever wondered why Paul was so sure that he was without offense towards God and man? This was the person who was so zealous against God’s people that he was consenting to their deaths, and hauling men and women off to prison for their beliefs! The secret lies in his attitude. Before his conversion he was just as committed to his path of doing what he thought was right and good as he was after his conversion. The difference was that when Jesus pointed out to Paul that he was “kicking against the pricks”, meaning that he was only hurting himself by following this path in life, Paul was willing to immediately repent and change his behavior. He learned of Christ’s teachings and readily accepted them, covenanting through baptism and the receipt of the Holy Ghost to follow Jesus all the days of his life.

It wasn’t so much Paul’s behavior that was at fault, but his knowledge was lacking. The zeal Paul had was just misdirected, and Jesus knew that. Once he was able to point out to Paul that he was headed in the wrong direction, Paul became one of Christ’s most ardent followers. I believe God is less worried about our behavior today, if our behavior is being done innocently. If we are being deliberately disobedient, that is another issue altogether. But when we are simply unaware of what is right, Jesus is patient and willing to teach us when we are willing to repent and be obedient from that time forward.

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NT32-2023 – A Minister and a Witness