The Gospel Doctrine lesson #30 manual objective is “to help class members recognize that the gospel is for all people and that the Church is guided by continuing revelation.”
To understand how God guides us as individuals and as a church.
Consider Peter, commissioned by Jesus at Galilee to establish the Church of Christ. Jesus didn’t use those words, “establish the church;” instead he said, “feed my lambs,” and “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17).
But in Acts 10, Peter sees in vision another kind of flock: Descending from heaven is an assortment of odd animals, and Peter is told “Rise, kill, and eat.” At first glance, these two groups – the flock that he is told to feed and the animals that he is commanded to eat – seem completely unrelated. But remember that Jews tended sheep not as pets but as food. The Mosaic law identified which animals were “clean,” and raising these clean flocks for food and for religious sacrifice went hand in hand. Some animals were unclean and therefore unfit for consumption: pigs, snakes, shellfish, birds of prey…but sheep were set apart from these other animals just as Jews were set apart from the rest of the world, apart from the Gentiles. Jesus himself only preached to the house of Israel, his covenant people and in fact his extended family. His teachings made them worthy to present to the Lord, as lambs were presented to the Lord in sacrifice.
With the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles, Christianity is suddenly no longer Jewish and no longer a family story. Imagine the fear in venturing out of the house of Israel- mixing sheep and pigs and lobsters in one flock? How could it ever work? Could Greeks, Italians, Jews, and Egyptians really consider each other brothers and sisters?
So what does make this radical integration work? As head of the church, Peter takes this step because he sees a vision, but he is not alone. The membership of the church also receives a convincing witness during what becomes a second day of Pentecost (see Acts 2). At a gathering of these believing Gentiles and Jews, Peter makes his case, asserting that God is no respecter of persons. Then, in Acts 10:44-48, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 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. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”
The witness of the Holy Ghost is crucial: The Gentiles receive it as various spiritual gifts. In their turn, the Christian Jews who witness these manifestations cannot deny the hand of God. And so inspiration and revelation is given to all who need it. Peter’s reasoned explanation of his vision couldn’t have accomplished this transition alone. Neither could the honorable reputation or honest sincerity of Cornelius justify his initiation into what had been a closed group of covenant people. It is the Holy Ghost that makes this “mighty change” (Mosiah 5:2).
I believe that God still guides us through change and uncertainty by sending us the gifts and power of the Holy Ghost. So much has changed in our world since Peter and the apostles shaped the church, and now we have our own baffling decisions to make and our own frightening changes to confront. Thank goodness for apostles and prophets today who seek inspiration and act according to the Spirit they receive. And thank God for sending His Spirit to all of us who seek it, to bring as many who desire into unity as the family of Christ.
I’ll close with some lines from one of the most spiritually powerful hymns I know. Little is known about the 18th century hymn writer, Katharina von Schegel. It is believed that she was both a noblewoman and a Pietist, following a religious movement that nurtured individual spirituality and private devotion. Of the many hymns she wrote in German, only one is commonly translated into English. In this hymn, she proclaims her trust in God’s guidance:
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last. (Hymn 124)
The early church had rough times after Acts 10. It wasn’t always peace and plenty, and at times even the leading authorities disagreed. But the Spirit was strong, making miracles abundant and dark mysteries into bright truths. It is through this same power that God guides our future as he guided our Christian forebears. And what is our part? The Lord’s words to Hyrum Smith in 1829 apply to us: “Keep my commandments; hold your peace; appeal unto my Spirit.” (D&C 11:18). Simple but powerful counsel.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
All Here Together, Bianca Morrison Dillard
I felt like I needed to be involved in helping people feel like they could be a part of the community, and not feel like they were the only ones who didn’t fit in.
An American Education, Raquel Perez Johnston
The day I was baptized, something extraordinary happened to me. I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and found that I was given the strength to stand alone not only that day but for many years following…Acting on what I knew to be right was a very difficult thing for me to do, but decisions are like that. I have learned from this experience that sometimes years and years pass before you can see all the blessings you would have missed if you hadn’t said yes when given the opportunity. I could have said no! But because of it, my life has been very rich and abundantly blessed — I have never regretted my decision.
Threads Woven Together, Callie Appelstein
My interest was piqued when my husband and I were living in Seattle and we decided to take a weekend trip to Las Vegas for our first anniversary. We had a layover in Salt Lake City and when I stepped off the plane, I remember seeing all of these signs inviting us to go to Temple Square. I remember thinking, “Wow! I want to do that! I wonder what this is all about!” My husband thinks that this was the start of everything and jokes, “I should have seen where this was heading!” So we got home from Las Vegas, and I was fascinated; I wanted to learn more about the Church. I discovered on TV that we had the BYU channel, so I started watching that in the evenings. In the Jewish world at the end of the Sabbath, all of the men go back to the synagogue after sundown to have a prayer service to mark the end of the Sabbath, and I remember watching BYUtv while my husband went to the synagogue. I felt a real sense of shame about it, but I was fascinated. My friends and family teased me about what they called “my Mormon thing.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Belonging is Our Sacred Birthright, Bonnie D. Parkin
It’s the variety in a garden that contributes to its beauty—we need daisies and lilies and buttercups; we need gardeners who water, nurture, and care. Unfortunately, Satan knows that sharing unites our sisterhood through the everyday and the eternities. He knows that selfishness will begin to destroy sharing, which destroys unity, which destroys Zion. Sisters, we cannot let the adversary divide us. You see, “A perfect oneness,” said Brigham Young, “will save a people.” And I would add that a perfect oneness will save our society.
Remembering the Lord’s Love, Kathleen H. Hughes
As faithful women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have been blessed with the Holy Ghost. As we invite the Savior into our lives, the Holy Ghost will bear witness to us of the love which the Father and His Son, our Savior, have for each of us. But feeling Their love is dependent not only on our desire but upon our actions as well. And the actions we need to take are known to us: genuine prayer that is specific and humble, followed by quiet listening for the Lord’s answers; regular scripture study and time to ponder what we read; and, finally, a willingness to be introspective about ourselves and to trust in the Lord’s promise that He will “make weak things become strong unto [us]” ( Ether 12:27 ). As we study and ponder, we are entitled to the promptings of the Spirit, and as we grow more attentive to these promptings, we come to recognize each day the workings of the Lord in our lives. We will find Him, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated, “in the details of our lives” (“Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 19). And when that recognition comes, we feel His peace and recognize that we are truly encircled in the arms of His love.
What Greater Goodness Can We Know: Christlike Friends, Kathleen H. Hughes
I have been blessed throughout my life with Christlike friends—from friends of my youth to the many people who have blessed our family in all the wards we have lived in. Their faith and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, their service, their wise and gentle instruction have enriched our lives. Some of my friends are very different from me. We disagree about things, and we can even irritate each other. But friendship allows for differences—in fact, it embraces them. I love to visit stakes made up of people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and ethnic origins.