Acts 15gives an account of an important Church council held in Jerusalem about A.D. 50, just before Paul’s second missionary journey. Church leaders attending the conference included Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, and Titus. Many Gentiles had been baptized after hearing Paul and Barnabas preach. Some Jewish members of the Church in Jerusalem became concerned because the new male converts had not been circumcised. Church leaders convened the council at Jerusalem to consider whether or not gentile converts to the Church should be required to obey the law of Moses. As you study Acts, notice how cultural and emotional factors often influence the behavior of people, sometimes running contrary to the teachings of Church leaders.
Prayerfully study Acts 15and consider the following principle before preparing your lessons.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 264–65.
Suggestions for Teaching
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Acts 15.
Acts 15. The Lord guides His Church by revealing His will to His prophets.
Ask a student to read or recite the ninth article of faith. Explain that when Heavenly Father reveals something for the entire Church, He reveals it through the prophet. Ask: Can you think of any recent revelations the Lord has given to the Church through the prophet? (Answers might include Official Declaration 2 , “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” , and the decision to build small temples .)
Have students turn to Acts 15. Explain that this chapter illustrates how in the ancient Church, just as in the modern Church, the Lord revealed His will to Church leaders. These leaders in turn taught the people and helped them understand and obey.
Read Acts 15:1–6with your class and ask:
What issue did this Church council deal with? (Whether circumcision was necessary for salvation. If desired, refer to the commentary for Acts 15:1 in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p. 264.)
Why was it difficult for Jewish Christians to give up certain requirements of the law of Moses?
What difficulties might old traditions present to members of the Church today?
Have students read Acts 15:7–21looking for the roles played in the council by Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and James. Ask:
What is significant about Peter’s testimony in the council?
Whose will was it that the gospel be preached to the Gentiles?
What evidence did Peter give that the Gentiles were accepted by God through faith without circumcision?
Read Acts 15:22–35with the class and consider asking questions like the following:
Why was circumcision such a critical issue in the Church at this time?
How did the leaders tell the members that circumcision was no longer required?
How do modern Church leaders communicate decisions and counsel to members of the Church?
What is our obligation regarding the counsel and direction of Church leaders?
What can we do if we don’t understand something our leaders ask us to do?
What should we do if we don’t agree with something our Church leaders ask us to do? (For additional help with this answer, see The Teachings of the Living Prophets [religion 333 student manual, 1982], chapters 8–11; and Dallin H. Oaks,
“Criticism,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, pp. 68–73.)
Conclude by assuring students that the Lord’s prophet will never lead us astray (see “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto,” following Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants). Tell students that we should always prayerfully follow the counsel of the living prophet and sustain him in every way.
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