God revealed to Peter in a vision that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles. Peter taught the gospel to Cornelius and his household and later settled contention among Jewish Saints about the gospel being preached to the Gentiles. The Lord’s work continued to move forward despite persecution. Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, killed the Apostle James and then arrested and imprisoned Peter. The night before Peter was to be executed, an angel helped him escape from prison. Herod was smitten by an angel from God, and the gospel continued to move forward.
What gives you confidence to follow someone?
Imagine that you are with a group of people that becomes lost. Several members of the group offer to lead everyone back to safety, each suggesting a different route. What would determine or influence which person you would follow?
As you study Acts 10–12, look for truths that can help you gain confidence in following those whom the Lord has called to lead His Church.
Up to this point in New Testament times, the gospel had been preached, with a few exceptions, exclusively to Jews. Even Jesus preached only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and commanded His Apostles to do the same (see Matthew 10:5–6). However, the Savior told His disciples that after the Holy Ghost came upon them they would preach the gospel “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In Acts 10 we read about a significant change in the way the Church operated that would help this happen.
Read Acts 10:1–2, looking for details about a Gentile named Cornelius.
Cornelius was a centurion. A centurion was “an officer in the Roman army in command of a company of fifty to one hundred men. Such a company formed one-sixtieth part of a Roman legion” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Centurion,” scriptures.lds.org).
According to the procedure in the Church at that time, as a Gentile, Cornelius could not join Christ’s Church without first converting to Judaism. Even though Cornelius could not join the Church as a Gentile, how did he show his faith in God?
As recorded in Acts 10:3–48, Peter had a vision that he at first did not understand. However, by following the Spirit, Peter was introduced to Cornelius, who had seen a vision in which an angel said the Lord had heard Cornelius’s prayers. Peter entered Cornelius’s house and taught him and his family the gospel. The Holy Ghost came upon everyone in the house. Peter realized that his vision, in which he was commanded to eat animals that were designated as unclean, was a heavenly instruction to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and to allow them to be baptized without first converting to Judaism.
Complete the following in your scripture study journal:
Consider what the following statement says about God not being a “respecter of persons”:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God’ (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.
“People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. …
“The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that ‘no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. … Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children’ [“The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 58]” (“Race and the Church: All Are Alike unto God,” mormonnewsroom.org/article/race-church).
From what you read in Acts 10:28, how do you think the Jewish Saints might have felt when they heard about Peter’s interaction with a Gentile?
Read Acts 11:1–3, looking for how the disciples responded to what Peter had done.
As recorded in Acts 11:4–15, Peter described to the disciples the visions he and Cornelius had received. He told them Cornelius and his household had received the teachings of Jesus Christ and then had experienced the power of the Holy Ghost the same way in which Peter and other disciples had.
Read Acts 11:16–17, looking for Peter’s concluding remarks to the disciples.
What do you think Peter meant when he said, “What was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17)?
Read Acts 11:18, looking for how the disciples responded to Peter’s explanation.
How did the disciples respond once they learned that Peter had been led by God?
The following is one principle we can learn from this account: When we know that those who preside over the Church are led by God, we can confidently sustain and follow them. This principle has been confirmed in latter-day scripture, which records that God has revealed His will to those who hold the priesthood keys to preside over the Church (see D&C 1:38; 28:2, 7; 42:11; 107:65–66).
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How have you come to know that those who preside over the Church are led by God?
What counsel from the prophets have you chosen to follow because you know the prophets are led by God?
In your scripture study journal, write a goal that will help you gain a stronger testimony that those who preside over the Church are led by God.
Acts 11:19–26 records that because of persecution, some of the disciples were scattered throughout the region but faithfully preached the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever they went. Acts 11:27–30 records that prophets went “from Jerusalem unto Antioch” and that one of the prophets, Agabus, testified that there would be a famine. Efforts were then made to provide relief to the people in Judea.
A compass points north because the earth’s magnetic North Pole attracts the north end of the compass’s magnet. Draw an X somewhere near the compass (but not near the north compass point), and imagine that the X represents a handheld magnet.
How would this magnet influence the behavior of the compass needle?
How would this affect our ability to make the right choice about what direction we should go?
As you study Acts 12, look for an influence that can interfere with our ability to make correct decisions.
Since the martyrdom of Stephen, the Church members in and around Jerusalem had experienced increasing persecution. Read Acts 12:1–4, looking for how King Herod Agrippa contributed to this persecution.
Who did Herod have killed?
The James mentioned in verse 2 was the Apostle James, the brother of the Apostle John and the son of Zebedee. According to records, James was the first Apostle martyred in the early Christian Church. He was also a member of the First Presidency with Peter and John.
According to Acts 12:3, who was pleased with James’s death?
The phrase “the Jews” in verse 3 refers to influential Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who encouraged the persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ. Herod Agrippa “was anxious to be regarded as an orthodox Jew” (Bible Dictionary, “Herod”) and sought to please these Jewish leaders. Near the X by the compass, write: If we seek to please others rather than God, then …
What did Herod do after he saw that the murder of James pleased the Jewish leaders? (Note that one quaternion was made up of four soldiers.)
Considering the picture of the compass and the X, how did Herod’s desire to please others rather than God affect his direction in life?
Based on what we can learn from Herod’s example, complete the following principle: If we seek to please others rather than God, then .
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Besides Herod’s example, what are some other examples that demonstrate how seeking to please others rather than God can lead someone to sin?
What are some ways that a desire to please others might direct you away from your Father in Heaven? What will you do to resist being led into sin?
Ponder ways that you may be allowing your desire to please others to direct you away from your Father in Heaven.
Read Acts 12:5–6. What were the Church members doing at this time?
Read Acts 12:7–10. What restraints and barriers did Peter make it through during his escape?
Read Acts 12:11–15. When did Peter realize that what had happened was real and not a vision?
What happened when Peter knocked at the gate of Mary’s house?
Read Acts 12:16–17. To whom did Peter give credit for his escape from prison?
Look at Acts 12:5 again, and consider how this verse is related to Peter’s escape from prison.
What do you think the phrase “prayer was made without ceasing” (Acts 12:5) suggests about the sincerity and fervency of the Church members’ prayers?
This account illustrates the truth that our sincere and fervent prayers invite God’s miracles and blessings into our lives and the lives of others.
What does it mean to pray sincerely and fervently?
This principle does not mean that if our prayers are sincere and fervent, we will automatically receive what we are praying for. Other contributing factors to receiving God’s miracles and blessings include God’s will and timing as well as individual agency.
Read the following statement, looking for why prayer is important: “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer”).
Answer two or all of the following questions in your scripture study journal:
According to this statement from the Bible Dictionary, what is an important purpose of prayer?
Why is it important to remember that the purpose of prayer is not to change the will of God?
When has prayer invited God’s miracles and blessings into your life or into the lives of others for whom you have prayed?
Ponder who or what you may be praying for. Consider how you may be able to pray more sincerely and fervently in order to invite the blessings and miracles that God is willing to bestow upon you and others.
Acts 12:18–25 records that Herod learned of Peter’s escape and executed the guards he felt were responsible for allowing Peter to escape. In these verses we also learn that Herod gave a speech to the people, who showered him with praise and claimed that he spoke as a god. Because Herod did not give the glory to God, an angel smote him with a disease and he died.
It is important to understand that God’s punishment of the wicked is according to His will and timing. Not all wicked people are punished immediately (see Alma 14:10–11).
Review the truths you learned in this lesson, and ponder how you will apply them in your life.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Acts 10–12 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: