In the New Testament, Peter was originally known as Simeon or Simon (2 Pet. 1:1), a fisherman of Bethsaida living at Capernaum with his wife. Jesus healed Peter’s wife’s mother (Mark 1:29–31). Peter was called with his brother Andrew to be a disciple of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–18; Luke 5:1–11). His Aramaic name, Cephas, meaning “a seer” or “stone,” was given to him by the Lord (John 1:40–42; JST, John 1:42 [Appendix]). While the New Testament mentions some of Peter’s mortal weaknesses, it also illustrates that he overcame them and was made strong by his faith in Jesus Christ.
Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God (John 6:68–69), and the Lord selected him to hold the keys of the kingdom on earth (Matt. 16:13–19). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter saw the transfigured Savior, as well as Moses and Elias (Elijah) (Matt. 17:1–9).
Peter was the chief Apostle of his day. After the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Savior, he called the Church together and directed the calling of an Apostle to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15–26). Peter and John healed a man who was lame from birth (Acts 3:1–16) and were miraculously released from prison (Acts 5:11–29; 12:1–19). It was through Peter’s ministry that the gospel was first opened to the Gentiles (Acts 10–11). In the latter days, Peter, with James and John, came from heaven and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys thereof upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 27:12–13; 128:20).
The first epistle was written from “Babylon” (probably Rome) and was sent to the Saints in what is now called Asia Minor soon after Nero began persecuting the Christians.
Chapter 1 speaks of Christ’s foreordained role as the Redeemer. Chapters 2–3 explain that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the Church, that the Saints hold a royal priesthood, and that Christ preached to the spirits in prison. Chapters 4–5 explain why the gospel is preached to the dead and why the elders must feed the flock.