Acts 8-9: The Conversion of Saul

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 99–100

Have you ever done something boldly and enthusiastically because you thought you were doing the right thing, only to find out later that what you were doing was wrong? Acts 8–9 introduces us to Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee. Saul was one of those who, just as the Savior predicted, thought persecuting the followers of Jesus of Nazareth was doing service to God (see John 16:2). But Saul’s greatest desire was to do what was right. In these chapters you will read about how Saul the Pharisee became Paul the Apostle and changed from persecutor to prophet.
Saul's vision

Understanding the Scriptures

Acts 8

Consenting (v. 1)Agreeing to 
Made havock (v. 3)Caused disorder or ruin 
Bewitched (v. 9)Amazed 
Gall of bitterness (v. 23)Extreme wickedness 
Bond of iniquity (v. 23)Slavery of sin 
Eunuch (v. 27)Trusted servant 

Acts 8:14–17—The Power to Give the Gift of the Holy Ghost

We learn from modern revelation that there is a difference in authority between the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood holds the authority to baptize (see D&C 20:46), but additional authority is needed to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Melchizedek Priesthood is this higher authority. With it, one can confer all the spiritual blessings of the Church, including the gift of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 20:38–41). Philip’s missionary work in Samaria illustrated this difference in authority. Because he held the Aaronic Priesthood he had the authority to teach and baptize the people, but the Apostles had to come to give the new members the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 9

Any of this way (v. 2)Any who believe in Jesus Christ 
Kick against the pricks (v. 5)Fight against the promptings of the Spirit 
Chosen vessel (v. 15)Person foreordained for special service 
Assayed (v. 26)Attempted 

Acts 9:7—What Did the Men See or Hear?

The Joseph Smith Translation clears up differences in the accounts of what the men saw and heard during Paul’s experience in Acts 9:7 and 22:9 (see JST, Acts 9:7).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A–C as you study Acts 8–9.

Activity A iconSimon the Sorcerer

The Church members faced great persecution because of persecutors like Saul and had to flee from Jerusalem. Phillip fled to Samaria where he met Simon, a sorcerer. Review Acts 8:1–24 and answer the following questions:

  1. 1.

    What did the people think of Simon before Philip came?

  2. 2.

    Where did they think Simon’s power came from?

  3. 3.

    What did Simon think of Philip’s message?

  4. 4.

    Why did Peter and John go to Samaria? (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Acts 8:14–17).

  5. 5.

    What did Simon want from Peter?

  6. 6.

    What did Peter teach Simon about the priesthood?

Activity B iconPhilip and the Ethiopian

Philip took many opportunities to use his priesthood as he traveled. When he saw an Ethiopian man struggling to understand the scriptures, he ran and preached the gospel of repentance to him. In Doctrine and Covenants 13 we learn that the Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys, or power, to (1) receive the ministering of angels, (2) teach the gospel of repentance, and (3) baptize by immersion for the remission of sins. Read Acts 8:26–40 and describe in your notebook how Philip used each of those powers.

Activity C icon“Saul, Why Persecutest Thou Me?”

Acts 9:1–31 contains an account of Saul’s miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus and the beginning of his missionary career. Several events help us understand why Saul (who became known as Paul) was so dedicated to the gospel after this experience.

  1. 1.

    From your reading of Acts 9, write an explanation of each event illustrated.

  2. 2.

    Write a paragraph summarizing what this chapter teaches about Saul and about the Lord’s patience with His children, especially those who want to do what is right.

scenes from Paul's life