Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Friday, July 19, 2019

“The Word of God Grew and Multiplied”

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Continuing revelation is an essential characteristic of the true and living Church of Jesus Christ. We must be willing to accept continuing revelation and live “by every word of God” Luke 4:4, including “all that He has revealed, all that He does now reveal” and the “many great and important things” He will yet reveal “pertaining to the Kingdom of God” Articles of Faith 1:9.

For generations, the Jews had believed that being of “the seed of Abraham,” or a literal descendant of Abraham, meant that a person was accepted (chosen) by God Luke 3:8. Anyone else was considered an “unclean” Gentile who was not accepted by God. Then by revelation, after the Lord had ascended to Heaven leaving Peter as the prophet of the Church, it was made known that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was for everyone, Jew and Gentile.

In the Book of Acts 10–15  we learn that until the events in Acts the New Testament Church had two types of converts: Jewish and Gentile. The Gentile converts converted first to Judaism and then to the Church. There were probably no Gentile members of the Church who had not been converted to Judaism first.  However it was made known unto Peter, again through revelation that conversion to Judaism was not needed to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

During his mortal ministry, Jesus's teachings often challenged long held traditions and beliefs, this did not stop during the organization of His church after He ascended to Heaven.  There was great controversy in the new Church concerning revelation, converts, policies and practices.

In our day the idea of sharing the gospel is a natural principle, it is not foreign, terrifying maybe but not strange or out of place.  But the history of the early church of Christ in dealing with such things,  serves to teach us that pokicy and practice in both ancient and modern times comes by revelation from the Lord to His chosen leaders.  Continuing revelation is an essential characteristic of the true and living Church of Jesus Christ and like Peter we must be willing to learn and accept.

This week as we look at the development and changes of the early Church let us ask for the spirit to rest upon us that we may see that the church today as it has come from the beginning to now, is lead by the Lord.  We are in the right place and as we heed the council of our leaders, we heed the council of the God.

Summary of Chapters
Acts 10: . An angel appears to Cornelius in a vision and tells him to send for the Apostle Peter. Peter learns in a vision that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles (people who were not Jews). He goes to Caesarea to teach Cornelius and his family and friends. The Holy Ghost falls upon Cornelius and others, and they are baptized. Some members of the Church criticize Peter for teaching Gentiles, but when he tells of his vision, they accept it as revelation for the Church.

Acts 12. King Herod kills James and imprisons Peter. The Saints pray for Peter’s release, and an angel of the Lord frees him. Herod is smitten by an angel of the Lord and dies.

Acts 13–14. Saul (now known as Paul) and Barnabas make their first missionary journey, establishing the Church among the Gentiles in several cities.

Acts 15:1–35. Some Jewish Saints teach that Gentiles who join the Church must keep the law of Moses, including circumcision for men. The Apostles determine that this is not required by the Lord.

Part 1: Heavenly Father Teaches us line upon line through revelation.  Acts 10, 11:1-18, 15:1-25

Sometimes we find that members have misconceptions about receiving revelation. When seeking answers things may feel incomplete or unclear. Peter through the events in Acts 10 teaches that the Lord reveals unto His children step by step and when he does if they receive doubting nothing, all will be made clear. A great example of this is the story of Cornelius.

Cornelius was a Roman centurion living in Caesarea. He was a Gentile, who was described as being God-fearing, devout, generous, and prayerful. An angel appeared to Cornelius and instructed him to send for Peter, who was then in Joppa. This vision was the first of several events that would culminate in the gospel being preached to the Gentiles, whereas previously only Jews had been admitted into the Church.

1 There was a certain man in Cæsarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

What kind of man was Cornelius?  Acts 10:1–2, 30–31. He was a righteous man who believed in God, but he was a Gentile, or non-Jew. 

What was the angel’s message to Cornelius?  Acts 10:3–6.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

How did Cornelius react to this message?  Acts 10:7–8, 33.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

Why is it important to act immediately on instructions or promptings from God?

While Cornelius’s men were traveling to Joppa, Peter had a vision Acts 10:9–16.
9 ¶ On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

What did Peter see in this vision? Acts 10:11–12.
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

What was Peter told to do?  Acts 10:13.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

Why did Peter resist? Acts 10:14. He did not want to eat animals that were considered unclean under the law of Moses.   

How did the Lord respond to Peter’s concern? Acts 10:15–16
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

As he met with Cornelius, Peter understood his dream. What did it mean?  Acts 10:28, 34–35. The gospel was for all people, not just the Jews.  It explains that “God is no respecter of persons” meaning that God will provide every person with the opportunity to receive the blessings available through the plan of salvation. Why were the Gentiles represented in the dream by unclean animals? The Jews thought the Gentiles were spiritually unworthy or unclean, like the animals that the law of Moses forbade Jews to eat. By saying that the animals in the dream were now “cleansed,” the Lord was telling Peter that the gospel should now be preached to all people.

28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.


After Peter explained his dream, he began teaching Cornelius and his friends. What did he teach in his first sermon to them? Acts 10:36–43.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judæa, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.


What happened as Peter was preaching? Acts 10:44, 46.
44 ¶ While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,


Why did this convince Peter that Cornelius and his friends should be baptized?  Acts 10:47–48; see also Acts 11:15–17
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus 
Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

What can we learn about revelation from Peter's experience? Peter’s vision of the unclean animals illustrates the principle that revelation from God often comes incrementally or gradually Acts 10:17–34, 44–48. In this instance, Peter did not understand the vision when he first received it and he struggled at first to understand it and doubted in himself what it should mean?  Yet the Lord gave Peter greater understanding as Peter sought it.  As he pondered its meaning and acted in faith, events transpired that helped him gradually understand its meaning that Gentiles were now to be accepted into the Church without prior conversion to Judaism.

How have you sought and received greater understanding from God when you had questions?

What do Nephi’s teachings about revelation in 2 Nephi 28:30 tell us?
30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

Elder David A. Bednar made the following observations about the Lord’s pattern of revelation: “Many of us typically assume we will receive an answer or a prompting to our earnest prayers and pleadings. And we also frequently expect that such an answer or a prompting will come immediately and all at once. Thus, we tend to believe the Lord will give us a big answer quickly and all at one time. However, the pattern repeatedly described in the scriptures suggests we receive ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ or in other words, many small answers over a period of time. Recognizing and understanding this pattern is an important key to obtaining inspiration and help from the Holy Ghost” (“Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept,” New Era, Sept. 2010, 3–4)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave this counsel: “We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment” (“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 13–14).


Why might the Lord sometimes choose to reveal things in this way rather than giving us answers all at once?



How might you think more deeply about how you receive revelation?


“The Jerusalem Conference








How did some Church members react when they heard that Peter had been teaching the gospel to Gentiles?  Acts 11:1–3.
1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judæa heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

Why were these members upset? They did not consider the Gentiles to be part of God’s chosen people.  

How did the Church members’ opinions change after Peter told them about his vision and his experience with Cornelius?  Acts 11:4–18.
4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Cæsarea unto me.
12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:
13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

President Gordon B. Hinckley shared his perspective serving in the Church’s presiding councils:
“At the outset in considering matters, there may be differences of opinion. These are to be expected. These men come from different backgrounds. They are men who think for themselves. …“… Out of this very process of men speaking their minds has come a sifting and winnowing of ideas and concepts. But I have never observed serious discord or personal enmity among my Brethren. I have, rather, observed a beautiful and remarkable thing—the coming together, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit and under the power of revelation, of divergent views until there is total harmony and full agreement. Only then is implementation made. That, I testify, represents the spirit of revelation manifested again and again in directing this the Lord’s work” (“God Is at the Helm,” Ensign, May 1994, 54, 59).

What should we do when we receive new instructions from our Church leaders, even if we initially dislike the instructions or find them difficult to understand?  John 7:17; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 6:11, 14–15
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

14 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

15 Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;

Sometimes members have questions or concerns about changes in the policies and programs in the Church. But let us remember how the revelation to begin preaching the gospel to the Gentiles replaced the Lord’s earlier instructions to His disciples.  


Why was Peter the one who received the revelation to teach the gospel to the Gentiles?  He was the leader of the Church at that time.

"There is order in the way the Lord reveals His will to mankind. We all have the right to petition the Lord and receive inspiration through His Spirit within the realm of our own stewardship. Parents can receive revelation for their own family, a bishop for his assigned congregation, and on up to the First Presidency for the entire Church. However, we cannot receive revelation for someone else’s stewardship. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared:  ‘It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 197–98].

Who receives revelation today for the entire Church? “‘Revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the [First] Presidency. This is the order of heaven[Teachings: Joseph Smith, 197]” (“We Believe All That God Has Revealed,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 85–86).

Why is it important to have only one person who receives revelation for the entire Church?  D&C 43:2–6.
2 For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand.
3 And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.
4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.
5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;

6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.

How can the revelation in Acts 10 help us heed the Lord’s continuing revelation through His prophet?


Part 2: Acts 10:9–48 “God is no respecter of persons.”

The scriptures teach that “God is no respecter of persons” Acts 10:34 What does that mean? 
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

In the scriptures we find many examples that teach that God is not a respecter of persons, such as:  

5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.


34 Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.
35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.
36 Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.
37 And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked.
38 And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes.
39 He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool.
40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.

2 Nephi 26:32–33
32 And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.
33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

33 Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.

12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!

 Doctrine and Covenants 1:34–35.
34 And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh;
35 For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.

Based on these scriptures what are possible definitions of “no respecter of persons?”
Every person from Adam to the last person on earth will receive an opportunity to accept the gospel. The principles of salvation are the same for all of God’s children. Nephi declared: “He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” 2 Nephi 26:33.  

Before the events described in Acts 10, the gospel was taught predominantly to the Jews. The new revelation and understanding given through Peter opened the doors for the gospel to be taught to all people without consideration of lineage.  

“No respecter of persons” however, does not mean that God blesses everyone equally regardless of our actions. He wants all of His children to accept His gospel, but the fulness of the blessings of the gospel are reserved for those who make and keep covenants with Him.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:  “Not only is the gospel to go, on a priority basis and harmonious to a divine timetable, to one nation after another, but the whole history of God’s dealings with men on earth indicates that such has been the case in the past; it has been restricted and limited where many people are concerned. For instance, in the day between Moses and Christ, the gospel went to the house of Israel, almost exclusively. By the time of Jesus, the legal administrators and prophetic associates that he had were so fully indoctrinated with the concept of having the gospel go only to the house of Israel that they were totally unable to envision the true significance of his proclamation that after the resurrection they should then go to all the world. They did not go to the gentile nations initially. In his own ministration, Jesus preached only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and had so commanded the apostles. (Matthew 10:6.)

“It is true that he made a few minor exceptions because of the faith and devotion of some gentile people. There was one woman who wanted to eat the crumbs that fell from the table of the children, causing him to say, ‘O woman, great is thy faith.’ (Matthew 15:28; see also Mark 7:27–28.) With some minor exceptions, the gospel in that day went exclusively to Israel. The Lord had to give Peter the vision and revelation of the sheet coming down from heaven with the unclean meat on it, following which Cornelius sent the messenger to Peter to learn what he, Cornelius, and his gentile associates should do. The Lord commanded them that the gospel should go to the gentiles, and so it was [see Acts 10:1–35, 44–48]. There was about a quarter of a century, then, in New Testament times, when there were extreme difficulties among the Saints. They were weighing and evaluating, struggling with the problems of whether the gospel was to go only to the house of Israel or whether it now went to all men. Could all men come to him on an equal basis with the seed of Abraham? …

“You know this principle: God ‘hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him’ (Acts 17:26–27)—meaning that there is an appointed time for successive nations and peoples and races and cultures to be offered the saving truths of the gospel. …

“We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept [see Isaiah 28:9–10; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:11–12; 128:21]. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more. …

“On this occasion [the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males], because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced” (“The New Revelation on Priesthood,” in Priesthood [1981], 130–34).

How do the events and principles in Acts 10:34–48 show that God is no respecter of persons?

How can the righteous be “accepted” and “favored” by God even though He is not a respecter of persons?  Acts 10:34–35; 1 Nephi 17:35
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.



Part 3: Acts 12:1–17 The prayers of the righteous can bring forth great miracles.
The account of Peter’s deliverance from prison in Acts 12:1–17 can help us build our faith in the power of prayer.

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.



King Herod killed the Apostle James, then cast Peter into prison and placed him under heavy guard Acts 12:1–4. How did members of the Church respond to Peter’s imprisonment? Acts 12:5.
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

James was the brother of John the Beloved and was a member of the original Twelve Apostles. James served in the First Presidency, along with Peter and John, until he suffered martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa I in about A.D. 44 (see Acts 12:1–2). He should not be confused with two other men named James in the New Testament: (1) James, the son of Alphaeus and Mary (see Mark 16:1; Acts 1:13), sometimes known as James the less, who was also a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve, or (2) James, the half-brother of Jesus, who like his other brothers did not accept the divinity of Jesus while the Savior lived (see John 7:1–7). To read more about James, the brother of Jesus, see the commentary for Acts 15:13–29.  (New Testament Student Manual)

How can our prayers help the prophet and other Church leaders today?  D&C 43:12; 93:51; 107:22
12 And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith.
51 Now, I say unto you, my friends, let my servant Sidney Rigdon go on his journey, and make haste, and also proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the gospel of salvation, as I shall give him utterance; and by your prayer of faith with one consent I will uphold him.
22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.


President Joseph F. Smith stated, “There never should be a day pass but all of the people composing the Church should lift up their voices in prayer to the Lord to sustain his servants” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 223)

How did Peter escape from prison?  Acts 12:6–10.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.

At what other times has the Lord miraculously preserved someone’s life until that person completed his or her earthly mission? Examples from the scriptures include Daniel; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Abinadi; Alma and Amulek; and Joseph Smith.


What happened to King Herod after Peter’s escape? Acts 12:21–23.
21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

Compare what happened to Herod with what happened to the Church, as described in the next verse Acts 12:24. How have you seen the Church flourish despite the efforts of some people to destroy it?
24 ¶ But the word of God grew and multiplied.

How have you experienced or felt a witness of the power of the united prayers of members?

Conclusion
Have you ever had spiritual experiences and later doubted what you felt or learned? When Peter was cast into prison, members of the Church gathered together and prayed for him. Is there someone your family feels inspired to pray for, such as a Church leader or loved one? In Acts 15:1-21  a disagreement came in the Church regarding whether gentile (non-Jewish) converts should be required to be circumcised as a sign of their covenant. The disagreement was resolved after the Apostles met together to consider the subject and then received an inspired answer. What does all this mean? 

God directs His Church by revelation to His prophet, the senior Apostle. We may receive revelation and understanding for ourselves and our families gradually as we obey the Lord. God may change or add to instructions He has given in the past according to His wisdom and the needs of His children. When we know that those who preside over the Church are led by God, we can confidently sustain and follow them. God is no respecter of persons, God does not favor people based on such distinctions as nationality or social position, He does however, judge all people by their works and blesses those who obey Him.

The experiences we study in the New Testament are many of the same situations we have today, personally and for the Church as a whole. When we prayerfully study how those of that time overcame and learned, we too can gain the knowledge to receive revelation, doubt not, pray with purpose and receive miracles, overcome disagreement, follow our Prophet, live righteously and endure. It is the purpose of the Lord in sharing these accounts with us that we may have help. Let us consider them wisely that we may have peace now and for eternity.

Resources
New Testament Student Manual
New Testament Seminary Manual
Ensign
Conference Reports
Gospel Doctrine Joseph F Smith 5th ed
Book of Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants


The Fall of Adam and Eve

  Scriptures are hyperlinked to Scriptures at ChurchofJesusChrist.org Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end...