Day 19 August 28 - Acts 5-9

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Saul a chosen vessel unto the Lord

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have aappeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; - Acts 26:16

Scripture Reference: Acts 9:10-18

10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my cname before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

The Persecutor

Exactly when Paul began his bloody mission of savagery against the church of Christ is unknown with any degree of precision. The fear of him was significant, and those beyond the borders of Palestine trembled at the mention of the name of this “wolf” who stalked “the fold of the Lamb” (Acts 9:13,26; cf. 26:11).

Saul of Tarsus first appears in the biblical record as a witness to the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr to the cause of Christ—even “consenting” to his death (Acts 7:58; 9:1). Henceforth his persecution of Christians, as portrayed in the book of Acts via his own testimony, was relentless—though he thought sincerely he was doing Jehovah’s will (23:1; 26:9). Pursuing the saints even unto foreign cities (26:11), he beat, imprisoned, and had them put to death (22:19). Later he would write that “beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it” (Galatians 1:13). The horrible memories of these vicious attacks would linger with the sensitive apostle for the balance of his earthly days (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).

That frenzied ambition to exterminate Christianity from the face of the earth was to radically change, however. And the record of how that occurred is as amazing as it is inspiring.

The Conversion

According to Luke’s historical record (Acts 9:1ff), Saul, armed with arrest warrants for those of the Christian Way, departed from Jerusalem en route to ancient Damascus, some 140 miles to the north. As he drew near that city, a light brighter than the noonday sun suddenly engulfed him. A voice inquired: “Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute me?” The double use of his name suggests a reproof (cf. Matthew 23:37; Luke 10:41; 22:31). Saul responded: “Who are you, Lord?” The title “Lord” was employed at this point as a mere term of respect, for he knew not who had addressed him.

The voice was identified as Jesus of Nazareth! The stunned persecutor was instructed to enter Damascus where he would be informed as to what he “must do.” Blinded as a consequence of this miraculous vision in which Christ actually appeared to him (9:17; 1 Corinthians 15:8), Saul was led into the city.

For three agonizing days he fasted and prayed. Finally, Ananias, a messenger selected by God, arrived. He restored Saul’s sight and commanded him to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). After certain days passed, the former persecutor began to proclaim among his fellow Jews that Jesus “is the Son of God” (see Acts 9:19-22).



The life and work of the great apostle Paul is recorded at considerable length in the Acts and the epistles. It is only possible to indicate here a few of the chief facts. He was known in early life as Saul; his Latin name Paul is first mentioned at the beginning of his gentile ministry (Acts 13: 9).

He belonged to Tarsus, in Cilicia (Acts 9: 11); was a Pharisee and a pupil of Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3); was active in the persecution of Christians (Acts 8: 3; Acts. 26: 10; Gal. 1: 13; Philip. 3: 6); and took part in the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7: 58; Acts 8: 10).

He started for Damascus for the purpose of further persecution (Acts 9: 1) and on the road saw a vision of the Lord Jesus, which changed the whole current of his life (Acts 9: 4-19; Acts 22: 7; Acts 26: 14; Gal. 1: 15-16). After his baptism by Ananias (Acts 9: 18), he retired into Arabia (Gal. 1: 17), and then returned to Damascus, where he preached (Acts 9: 19-25; 2 Cor. 11: 32; Gal. 1: 17-18). Being compelled to flee, about three years after his conversion he went to Jerusalem, where he stayed 15 days, Barnabas introducing him to Peter and James (Acts 9: 26-30; Gal. 1: 18-19). Being in danger, he retired to Tarsus (Acts 9: 29-30) and there remained six or seven years, preaching in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1: 21-24). He was then brought by Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11: 26), and after one year paid a visit to Jerusalem (Acts 11: 29-30). After two more years’ work in Antioch, he started with Barnabas and Mark on his first missionary journey (Acts 13: 1 - 14: 26). Then came another visit to Jerusalem with Barnabas to attend a conference with the other apostles (Acts 15: 1-33; Gal. 2: 1-10), after which they returned to Antioch (Acts 15: 35). He then started on his second missionary journey (Acts 15: 36 - 18: 22), which lasted about three years, and ended with a visit to Jerusalem. After a short stay in Antioch, Paul began his third journey, which occupied about 3 1/2 years (Acts 18: 23 - 21: 15). On his return to Jerusalem he was arrested and sent to Caesarea (Acts 21: 17 - 23: 35), where he remained a prisoner for two years (Acts 24: 1 - 26: 32), and was then sent for trial to Rome, suffering shipwreck on the way (Acts 27: 1 - 28: 10). He remained in Rome two years (Acts 28: 30) and was then released. He then appears to have visited Asia, Macedonia, Crete, and perhaps Spain. At the end of about four years he was again taken a prisoner to Rome, and suffered martyrdom, probably in the spring of A.D. 65.

Dennis Spackman, A Priest from the Lewiston 2nd Ward, Benson Stake; Conference Report, October 1968, Priesthood Meeting

I enjoy the story of Saul's conversion to the gospel. In it is found the key to seeking and finding a better relationship with our Heavenly Father. As you remember, Paul, who was known as Saul, was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, and he had vowed that he was going to bring these Christians back to Jerusalem. As he journeyed close to the city of Damascus a bright light shone round about him, and he fell to the earth stunned, and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And Paul asked, "Who art thou, Lord?" And the voice said, "I am Jesus."

Paul, now realizing that he had to establish a good relationship with him whom he had been persecuting said, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" With this question Paul began his great mission for our Heavenly Father.

I believe that if all of us priesthood holders would ask this question, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" that we would be able to serve as greatly and as nobly as Paul did, and we would find a true relationship with our Heavenly Father in this priesthood calling.

Elder Alma Sonne, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles; Conference Report, October 1956, Afternoon Meeting

Paul, the Apostle, was a product of Christ's gospel. The power of faith manifested itself in the complete conquest which it made of him. There is as much difference between Saul of Tarsus and Paul, the Apostle, as there is between night and day. He came at a juncture in the Christian movement when he was most needed. His call to service in the ministry was unexpected for he was already listed with the enemies of the cause he later represented. His entire life from the day of his conversion, reflected an unconquerable faith, a firm conviction and an unshakable testimony which has lived for centuries.

His second letter to Timothy, which may have been his last, reveals his anxiety and concern for those who had joined the faith. The letter was written from his dungeon in Rome, where he was a prisoner for the gospel's sake. He begs Timothy to come to him and to bring a cloak which he had left behind in one of his missionary journeys. He also asks for books and parchments to satisfy his yearning for knowledge and studies which he had pursued during his years of missionary work. I quote from his epistle. ". . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (2 Tim. 1:12.) What could be more reassuring?

How does the letter end? I read the closing words: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-9.)

Those words are not the strain of the vanquished. A few days later, no doubt, he was put to death by Nero, a man stained with every crime and steeped in every vice.

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Acts 5:1-2 Ananias, with Sapphira his wife…kept back part of the price

Neal A. Maxwell

“Consider three examples of how otherwise honorable people in the Church keep back a portion and thus prevent greater consecration (Acts 5:1-4).

“A sister gives commendable, visible civic service. Yet even with her good image in the community, she remains a comparative stranger to Jesus' holy temples and His holy scriptures, two vital dimensions of discipleship. But she could have Christ's image in her countenance (Alma 5:14).

“An honorable father, dutifully involved in the cares of his family, is less than kind and gentle with individual family members. He is a comparative stranger to Jesus' gentleness and kindness, which we are instructed to emulate, whereas a little more effort by this father would make a large difference.

“Consider the returned missionary, skills polished while serving an honorable mission, striving earnestly for success in his career. Busy, he ends up in a posture of some accommodation with the world. Thus he forgoes building up the kingdom first and instead builds up himself. A small course correction now would make a large, even destinational, difference for him later on.

“These deficiencies just illustrated are those of omission. Once the telestial sins are left behind and thenceforth avoided, the focus falls ever more upon the sins of omission. These omissions signify a lack of qualifying fully for the celestial kingdom (Exodus 20:8,Ex. 20:12). Only greater consecration can correct these omissions, which have consequences just as real as do the sins of commission. Many of us thus have sufficient faith to avoid the major sins of commission but not enough faith to sacrifice our distracting obsessions or to focus on our omissions.” (If Thou Endure It Well [salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 50.)

Neal A. Maxwell

“Illustrations involving economic consecration are relevant. When Ananias and Sapphira sold their possessions, they ‘kept back part of the price’ (see Acts 5:1-11). So many of us cling tenaciously to a particular ‘part,’ even treating our obsessions like possessions. Thus, whatever else we may have already given, the last portion is the hardest to yield. Granted, partial surrender is still commendable, but it resembles, more than faintly, the excuse, ‘I gave at the office’ (see James 1:7-8).” (“Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, 36)

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Acts 5:11 great fear came upon all the church

The question is raised, “why was the Lord so harsh in destroying Ananias and Sapphira?” “Why weren’t they shown any Christ-like mercy as was the adulterous woman (Jn. 8:3-11)?” “Was their sin really that bad?” The answer can be found in the Old Testament. We remember the man who was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath day. He was brought before Moses for punishment. The word of the Lord came to Moses, ‘The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp’ (Numb. 15:35). This punishment did not come from Moses but from the Lord. From our perspective, his punishment seems terribly harsh and unforgiving. But there must be a reason. His story is very similar to that of Ananias and helps us to understand why the Lord’s punishments are, at times, so strict.

While some members discount the Old Testament because of stories like this. There is much to learn from them. The Law of Moses was a new law for the children of Israel. After giving this law, the Lord was very harsh in punishing violators. This, in effect, showed all the children of Israel that he was serious about these new commandments. The law could not be ignored or disregarded without grave consequences, ‘the soul that doeth ought presumptuously…shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, his soul shall utterly be cut off’ (Numb. 15:30-31).

The same principle applied to Ananias. The Lord had just introduced the law of consecration. Barnabas had come to the apostles and given all his possessions (Acts 4:36-37). This was how the new and greater law was supposed to work. Ananias greatest sin was that he violated the law of consecration. He was like the Sabbath-breaker. His sin could not be tolerated because other members could follow his wicked footsteps and undermine the principle of consecration—and so he was made an example. His punishment was not to be after death, it was to be immediate, and the result was that ‘great fear came upon all the church.’ This is precisely what the Lord had in mind.

We must remember that the Lord has a “pay now or pay later” policy toward unrepentant sin. Rarely in the scriptures does he exact the “pay now” portion of the plan, but when he does the consequences can be tragic. If the Lord is this strict when he exacts his immediate punishment, what does that tell us about what we can expect from his “pay later” policy? The scriptures tell us that we can expect to suffer ‘even as I; Which suffering caused my self, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit’ (DC 19:17-18). Of this type of pain, Alma records, ‘I was racked with eternal torment…I was tormented with the pains of hell…the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body’ (Alma 36:12-15).

“This story is harsh and dramatic. Its lesson is frightening. And it is unusual, for seldom does God strike one dead for hypocrisy. It is, however, accurate and descriptive, symbolic, if you will, of the spiritual death and alienation from things of righteousness that surely shall be for all who follow such a course.”(Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship [salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 33.)

John H. Vandenberg

“Barnabas' example indicates a wholesome state of mind. Without reservation he sold his land and gave the full amount, in honesty, he simply and truthfully did what was in his mind and heart.

“But the state of mind of Ananias and his wife Sapphira was the thinking: ‘yes, we believe, we want to belong but we will only go part way. Peter will not know the difference, so we will hold back some for ourselves.’ They simply rationalized that it is all right to be dishonest as long as no one knows. Honesty cannot be compromised; it requires the full and free consent of the mind. People who pursue the course of Ananias and Sapphira, while they may not die as suddenly, will just as surely receive the same reward, unless they repent.” (Conference Report, April 1967, First Day—Morning Meeting 17.)

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Acts 5:34 A Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people

“The grandson of the famous rabbi Hillel and famous in his own right, Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin and a distinguished scholar of the Jewish law during the time when the early church was first getting underway. Paul states that he was ‘brought up at the feet’ of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), an idiomatic expression meaning that he was tutored by the famous master of the law. Gamaliel had a reputation for being tolerant and kindhearted, emphasizing the humanistic considerations of the law, relaxing the demands of Sabbath observance so they were not so rigorous, and encouraging more humane treatment of the woman in divorce laws.” (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 245)

Neal A. Maxwell

“Not only are there intriguing truths only partially disclosed in holy scriptures, in terms of their implications, but there are also some individuals about whom we would especially desire to know more and about whom one day we shall. Gamaliel the Pharisee was such an individual; he was a much-respected doctor of the law (Acts 5:34). Paul had been one of his pupils (Acts 22:3). Gamaliel used his influence on one occasion in the Sanhedrin to give appropriate counsel which benefited the work of the Lord.

“…Did Gamaliel have any spiritual promptings which caused him to call for fair play for the Apostles? Did he later affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ? We do not now know. But the wisdom of Gamaliel was surely significant: ‘Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.’

“Significantly, Gamaliel named two other leaders. Theudas had had about four hundred followers and was slain. Theudas's followers were scattered and ‘brought to nought.’ There was apparently a ‘Judas of Galilee’ who drew many people away after him. He also perished and his followers were dispersed. Jesus' followers were scattered ‘like sheep’ after he was slain (Mark 14:27). But instead of being ‘brought to nought’ Jesus' work grew, just as Gamaliel had indicated it would do ‘if it be of God.’

“Just as there were men like Theudas and Judas of Galilee who made it more difficult in a way for some to recognize who Jesus of Nazareth really was, so there were others in the time of Joseph Smith whose religious movements, by and large, came to naught.”(Sermons Not Spoken [salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], 75-76.)

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Acts 6:4 we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word

Howard W. Hunter

“With the rapid growth of the Church and the heavy demands on the Twelve to provide leadership and administration and teach all nations, it becomes clear why the Lord has directed the building up of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The recent decision [1978] to do so by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve reminds us of an interesting historical parallel of an episode recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. The foreign or Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem were complaining that their widows were being neglected and not taken care of like the widows of the native Jews.

“…In the brief statement of that episode, we learn these facts: First, that the Twelve determined they were not to ‘serve tables’ or, in other words, occupy their time in the details of administration; second, they appointed seven men, ‘full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,’ to look after the day-to-day needs; third, the Twelve then devoted their energies to the ‘ministry of the word’; fourth, the word of God increased, and the gospel was carried to greater numbers.

“In December 1978, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve made a similar determination that it was no longer advisable for the Twelve to occupy their time in the details of administration of the many Church departments. They delegated seven men, designated as the presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to give supervision to these details so that the Twelve could devote their full energies to the overall direction of the work, and, as directed by the Doctrine and Covenants, ‘To build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations.’

"I fully believe that in the near future we will see some of the greatest advancements in spreading the gospel to all nations that have ever taken place in this dispensation or any previous dispensation. I am sure that we will be able to look back in retrospect—as a result.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 227.)

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Acts 6:6 when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them

Where does the Church’s practice of setting apart come from?

“The priesthood ordinance of setting apart is the formal process of giving authority to members called to labor in specific responsibilities. It involves a specific priesthood procedure, including the laying on of hands. It has been a practice of the Lord’s servants since Old Testament times, even though in some scriptural references it is not clear whether the wording refers to being ordained, set apart, or both. In fact, it may be that earlier dispensations made very little distinction between these two practices.

“…In other Old Testament passages, the word separate seems to refer to the procedure of designating someone for the Lord’s work. For example, 1 Chronicles 23:13, we read that ‘Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.’

“In the New Testament we find clearer instances of individuals being set apart. In the ancient Church when seven men were chosen to assist the Apostles, they were ‘set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.’ (Acts 6:6.) Also, when Barnabas and Saul were selected for the Lord’s work, the Church leaders fasted and prayed, and ‘the Holy Ghost said [to them], Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ (Acts 13:2.) The Church leaders then ‘laid their hands on them,’ after which they sent Saul and Barnabas out to do the work. (Acts 13:3.)” (Rex Allred, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Mar. 1983, 67)

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Acts 7:20-30 What does Stephen know about Moses that is not recorded in Exodus?

In recounting Jewish history, Stephen gives us bits of information about Moses which are not contained in the Exodus account. Like Josephus, the ancient historian, Stephen was privy to more complete records. His record tells us about: a) Moses’ natural good looks (v. 20), b) his education among the Egyptians (v. 22), c) his mighty deeds and words while amongst the Egyptians (v. 22), d) his age of 40 at the time he left Egypt (v. 23), e) his understanding of his mission to deliver Israel long before his epiphany on Sinai (v. 25), and f) his age of 80 when the Lord appeared to him on Sinai (v. 30). Josephus is a good source for some of this complimentary information.

Good Looks

“Thermuthis was [Pharaoh’s] daughter. She was now diverting herself by the banks of the river; and seeing a cradle borne along by the current, she sent some that could swim, and bid them bring the cradle to her. When those that were sent on this errand came to her with the cradle, and she saw the little child, she was greatly in love with it, on account of its largeness and beauty; for God had taken such great care in the formation of Moses, that he caused him to be thought worthy of bringing up, and providing for…”

“…God did also give him that tallness, when he was but three years old, as was wonderful. And as for his beauty…it happened frequently, that those that met him as he was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child; that they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look on him; for the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts, that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, 9:5-6)


“Now Moses's understanding became superior to his age, nay, far beyond that standard; and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness of apprehension than was usual at his age…

“He was, therefore, educated with great care. So the Hebrews depended on him, and were of good hopes that great things would be done by him; but the Egyptians were suspicious of what would follow such his education.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, 9:6-7)

Mighty in Deeds

Moses was a mighty man long before he went to Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites. The following story is most illustrative. While Moses was relatively young, an Ethiopian army invaded Egypt. They proceeded northward on a rampage all the way to Memphis (see Map 2). Pharaoh’s priests suggested placing Moses in charge of an army to repel the invasion. (They had hoped that he would be killed in the venture.)

As general, Moses faced a daunting task. The Ethiopian army had used the usual routes of travel for their attack. Along the Nile, travel was easy and safe and they expected an attack along these same routes. In the deserts, no one dared to pass because of thousands of poisonous snakes. To attempt an attack by land was suicide. But Moses planned a daring surprise attack through snake country. His plan was to carry with him several baskets of snake-eating birds, known as “ibes.” The birds cleared a path in the desert which allowed Moses to make a sneak attack on the Ethiopians.

“As soon, therefore, as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground. When he had therefore proceeded thus on his journey, he came upon the Ethiopians before they expected him; and, joining battle with them, he beat them, and deprived them of the hopes they had of success against the Egyptians, and went on in overthrowing their cities, and indeed made a great slaughter of these Ethiopians.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, 10:2)

Mission to Deliver Israel

“As the New Testament clearly demonstrates, both Paul and Stephen knew things about Moses beyond what is in our current book of Exodus. They must have had a better Exodus account, had other sources, or had both. Consider this excerpt from Stephen's address to the Sanhedrin, as recorded in the book of Acts:(quotes Acts 7:17-25)

“We can see from this passage that Moses did know of his own identity and of his mission, and that he was also learned and active in things Egyptian.

“Paul, as recorded in the book of Hebrews, says more about Moses. Note that Moses, according to Paul, made a conscious and deliberate choice to serve the Lord:

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. (Heb. 11:23-27, italics added.)

“Clearly, Stephen and Paul had more information about Moses than we have in our present Old Testament. From them we learn, among other things, that Moses, years before being called at the burning bush, knew of his own identity and of his mission.” (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! [salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 58 - 59.)

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Acts 8:1 Background on Saul

James E. Talmage

“Among the disputants who, when defeated in discussion, conspired against Stephen and brought about his death, were Jews from Cilicia. Associated with them was a young man named Saul, a native of the Cilician city of Tarsus. This man was an able scholar, a forceful controversialist, an ardent defender of what he regarded as the right, and a vigorous assailant of what to him was wrong. Though born in Tarsus he had been brought to Jerusalem in early youth and had there grown up a strict Pharisee and an aggressive supporter of Judaism. He was a student of the law under the tutelage of Gamaliel, one of the most eminent masters of the time; and had the confidence of the high priest. His father, or perhaps an earlier progenitor, had acquired the rank of Roman citizenship, and Saul was a born heir to that distinction. Saul was a violent opponent of the apostles and the Church, and had made himself a party to the death of Stephen by openly consenting thereunto and by holding in personal custody the garments of the false witnesses while they stoned the martyr.” (Jesus the Christ, 661)

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Acts 8:14-15 they sent unto them Peter and John…that they might receive the Holy Ghost

Latter-day saints have no difficulty explaining this passage. To us, it makes perfect sense for the Brethren in Jerusalem to send Peter and John to administer the Melchizedek priesthood ordinance of bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. But what does Christianity have to say about this passage? Why would Peter and John need to come if Philip’s baptism alone was enough? As Joseph Smith said, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 314.)

LeGrand Richards

“As I finished my first mission over in Amsterdam, over seventy-five years ago, I was invited into the home of one of the Saints to talk to her neighbor. When my companion and I arrived, the neighbor was there but she had her minister with her. We had a little difference of opinion on priesthood, and right there he challenged me to a debate in his church the next Saturday night.

“When we arrived, the church was full; all of his people were there, and all of our people. How our people found it out, I don’t know; I didn’t tell them!

“The minister stood up and said, ‘Now, inasmuch as Mr. Richards is a guest in our church, we will accord him the privilege of opening this debate, and we will each talk for twenty minutes. Is that agreeable with you, Mr. Richards?’

I said, ‘Very much.’…Then I stood up…and I chose for my text the sixth chapter of Hebrews where Paul said:

‘Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.’ (Heb. 6:1–2.)

“I hurried over faith and repentance—I thought they believed in them. I spoke on baptism by immersion for the remission of sin until everybody was giving me accord.

“Then it came to the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. And they didn’t believe that. I never found a church that did believe it outside of our Church—they think the Holy Ghost comes just like the breezes that blow over the head. I quoted them the passage saying that when the Apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God through the preaching of Philip, they sent Peter and John. And when they came, they prayed for them, they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon the sorcerer saw that the Holy Ghost was conveyed by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying: ‘Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.’ (Acts 8:19–20.)

“And then I gave them a few more references on the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and sat down.

“The minister stood up and talked for twenty minutes, and he never once mentioned a word I had said. He started on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the ‘Mormon Bible,’ and stated that Joseph Smith had admitted he had made many mistakes; and then in a most courteous manner, he said: ‘Now if Mr. Richards will enlighten us on these matters, I am sure this audience will be most appreciative.’

“I was on my feet just like that…I said, ‘In the days of the Savior, his enemies tried to trick him with cunning and craftiness. I don’t suppose there’s anybody here tonight that would like to see us resort to those old tactics.’ I said, ‘If I understand a debate, it is the presentation of argument and the answering of those presentations. Has this man answered any of my arguments?’

“Everybody said, ‘No.’

“I said, ‘All right, my friend, you may have your twenty minutes over again.’ He couldn’t do it, and I knew he couldn’t.

“Finally his wife stood up in the audience, and she said, ‘What Mr. Richards is asking you is fair. You ought to answer him.’

“But he couldn’t do it, and I said to my companion, ‘Stand up and give me my coat and hat.’ I said, ‘One more chance. I am willing to remain here until ten o’clock tomorrow morning, when we have to be in our own church, provided this debate can go forward on the basis that you set it up. If not, I am going to leave and ask my companion to leave and ask our members to leave, and we will leave it with you to settle with your people for what has transpired here tonight.”

“I met him on the street a number of times after that, but he would duck his head so he didn’t need to speak to me!” (“What the Gospel Teaches,” Ensign, May 1982, 31)

Orson F. Whitney

“The laying on of hands is the divinely-authorized method of administering spirit baptism…The laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost was an ordinance in the Christian church for centuries. The ordinance remained with the church much longer than did the Holy Ghost. Cyprian mentions it in the third century; Augustine in the fourth. Gradually, however, it began to be neglected, until finally some of the sects repudiated it, while others, retaining the ‘form of godliness,’ denied ‘the power thereof.’” (Gospel Themes [salt Lake City: n.p., 1914], 63.)

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Acts 8:31 How can I, except some man should guide me?

Thomas S. Monson

“Each of us knows those who do not have sight. We also know many others who walk in darkness at noonday. Those in this latter group may never carry the usual white cane and carefully make their way to the sound of its familiar tap, tap, tap. They may not have a faithful seeing-eye dog by their side nor carry a sign about their neck which reads, ‘I am blind.’ But blind they surely are. Some have been blinded by anger, others by indifference, by revenge, by hate, by prejudice, by ignorance, by neglect of precious opportunities.

“Of such the Lord said, ‘. . . their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.’ (Matthew 13:15.)

“Well might such lament, ‘It is springtime, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored, and yet I am blind.’ Some like the friend of Philip of old call out, ‘How can I [find my way] except some man should guide me?’ (Acts 8:31.) Others are too shy, too fearful to ask for needed help that their precious vision might be restored.

“Those who have felt the touch of the Master's hand somehow cannot explain the change which comes into their lives. There is a desire to live better, to serve faithfully, to walk humbly, and to live more like the Savior. Having received their spiritual eyesight and glimpsed the promises of eternity, they echo the words of the blind man to whom Jesus restored sight: ‘. . . one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.’ (John 9:25.)” (Pathways to Perfection [salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], 188 - 190)

Elder Levi Edgar Young

“Every man to be educated on any rung of the ladder must have a teacher, not necessarily in the schoolroom, but he must be taught by a good book, a good friend, a leader. Let us not be accused as were the Stoics of ancient times that ‘The nourishment of religion was drawn from the shallow springs of their own intelligence.’ That is our trouble today.” (Conference Report, October 1951, Second Day—Morning Meeting 65.)

Jeffrey R. Holland

President David O. McKay once said, ‘No greater responsibility can rest upon any man [or woman] than to be a teacher of God’s children.’ We are, in fact, all somewhat like the man of Ethiopia to whom Philip was sent. Like him, we may know enough to reach out for religion. We may invest ourselves in the scriptures. We may even give up our earthly treasures, but without sufficient instruction we may miss the meaning of all this and the requirements that still lie before us. So we cry with this man of great authority, ‘How can [we understand,] except some [teacher] should guide [us]?’

“The Apostle Paul taught: ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. [but] how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?…Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (Rom 10:13-17)

“Now, at a time when our prophet is calling for more faith through hearing the word of God, we must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition.

President Spencer W. Kimball once pled: ‘Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. … I fear,’ he said, ‘that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or a meeting, and … then return home having been largely [uninspired]. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time … of stress, temptation, or crisis [in their life]. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit,’ he said, ‘and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous work,’ President Kimball concluded, ‘to get members to come to Church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.’ On this subject President Hinckley himself has said, ‘Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church.’ May I repeat that. ‘Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church. Eternal life,’ President Hinckley continued, ‘will come only as men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives. They cannot be coerced into righteousness or into heaven. They must be led, and that means teaching.’” (“A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, 25)

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Acts 9 The conversion of Saul

Howard W. Hunter

“These are the facts from the record of one of the most important encounters in history. There are those who are skeptics and cannot reconcile the events which might be classified as supernatural. Appearances of Deity and voices and visions are often looked upon with suspicion. Some are inclined to explain away the marvelous experience of Paul by saying it was merely the imaginative culmination of an inner conflict of a man who had taken a strong position in defense of the law, who had resolved to stamp out the threat to Judaism, but who had a deep feeling that he was doing wrong. It doesn't seem likely that the whole course of a man's life upon which he was so urgently set would be changed so suddenly and drastically by an inner conflict. Men who are as determined as Paul are not quickly changed although there may have been a spark which had smoldered for a long time before bursting into flame that day on Damascus Road.

“Some have said it was the long journey from Jerusalem to Damascus which gave him time to think and contemplate during the days of travel upon the recent events of the persecution. Paul had been present at the stoning of Stephen and had seen him die. He heard him ask in his last words that those who had dragged him from the Sanhedrin and stoned him in defiance of the law might be forgiven for their acts. This must have made a lasting impression on the mind of Paul. He had personally gone from house to house and brought men and women before the tribunals which condemned them to prison or imposed the sentence of death. Because of him, many had left their homes and fled. Now he had traveled to Damascus with further threats to inflict persecution upon those who followed Christ. Could it be that these things commenced to weigh heavily upon his conscience?

”…There are many men in the world who could be like Paul, men who could be changed in the twinkling of an eye if willing to change the object of their lives as did Paul. There are some who see but do not believe. One needs to be only a bystander to see, but to believe, one must accept wholeheartedly and commit himself to his belief. This requires faith and repentance of old ways. Paul had been raised in the belief his family had held for generations. He had been trained in that faith, and it is fair to say that he understood it, but it was not until that day on Damascus Road when Jesus spoke to him that the object of his life was changed. There are persons in every church who see, but some do not believe. Because they have been raised in the beliefs of their fathers, their minds are closed, and they are satisfied to continue. We wonder why it took Paul so long to see the light and why he so vigorously opposed the teachings of the Savior. The answer is apparent. He was born into a certain belief and followed it until it became a habit. He had a preconceived idea of the law which closed his mind to the truth until that event on Damascus Road.

“…It is startling to many in the world to learn that there is a prophet of God on the earth at the present time who speaks to us the will of the Lord, and of this fact I bear witness. There are hundreds of thousands who also so testify, yet today as in Paul's day there are others who see but do not believe because of old traditions, closed minds, and preconceived ideas. For this reason I invited you to walk with me down Damascus Road. If you are willing to do so with a prayer in your heart for the truth, the Lord will shed his light upon you as he did Paul, and the truth will be made manifest to you.” (Conference Report, October 1964, 108-110.)

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Acts 9:5 it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks

We must remember that the King James Version of the Bible was written in 17th century English. Hence, the meaning of certain phrases requires some explanation. ‘To kick against the pricks’ is an expression meaning to persecute the Church (see DC 121:38). That it was ‘hard for [saul]’ doesn’t mean that he lacked the tendency or the natural ability, but that his efforts were hard on him in ways he did not yet understand. In essence, Saul’s efforts were destroying himself more than they were destroying the Church.

Spencer W. Kimball

“I often wondered just what this meant. I found one authority who offered this:

‘. . . Those who kick at the goad, that stifle and smother the convictions of conscience, that rebel against God's truths laws, that quarrel with His providences, that persecute and oppose His ministers, because they reprove them . . . and fly in the face of their reprovers, they kick against the pricks, and will have a great deal to answer for.’ (Commentaries by Henry M. Scott.)

“A goad is defined as a spear or a sharp pointed stick used to sting or prig. The burro who kicks the sharp instrument with which he is being prodded is kicking at the pricks. His retaliation does little damage to the sharp stick or to him who wields it but brings distress to the foot that kicks it.

“I well remember in my youth a neighbor who moved about some days on crutches. He was evasive when asked the cause of his misfortune, but an ear witness told me, as he chuckled: ‘John stubbed his toe on a chair in the night and in his quick, fierce anger, he kicked the chair and broke his toe.’ The rocking chair rocked on and on, and perhaps smiled at the stupidity of man.” (Conference Report, April 1955, p. 94.)

Spencer W. Kimball

“In this figure of speech is captured the essence of rebellion against God; we can only hurt ourselves. If one is pricked by a goad and angered by the pain, he may foolishly strike out at the source of irritation, only to suffer even more.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 305.)

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Acts 9:36-43 The raising of Tabitha from the dead

Relatively few years had passed away since Peter had been privileged to witness the Savior raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43). Early on, Peter was untrained and at times impulsive, but now he was a completely different man. His raising of Tabitha is the greatest of his recorded miracles and emphasizes the complete personal transformation which was now complete. Peter had become as his Master—wielding power over life and death. Like his Master, Peter ‘put them all forth’ (v. 40) so there would be no distractions to his exercise of faith. The result was that ‘many believed in the Lord’ (v. 42).

David O. McKay

“At the first manifestation of life, we are told that ‘she opened her eyes.’ What her surprise upon seeing the Chief Apostle by her side instead of her nearer friends—what exchange of greetings were made—what expressions of gratitude, we cannot tell; but ‘he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.’

“As a result of this miracle, which became known throughout all Joppa, ‘many believed in the Lord.’” (Ancient Apostles, p. 101.)

David O. McKay

“Next to motherhood and teaching, woman attains her highest glory in the realm of compassionate service. One of the most impressive instances in the Bible is the history told by one or of one to whom I apply the title, ‘A Relief Society [sister] of the Ancient Church’ whose life was full of ‘good works and almsdeeds which she did.’” (Steppingstones to an Abundant Life, p. 366.)

Bruce R. McConkie

“How many faithful and but little known women there have been in the congregations of the saints in all ages…including Dorcas, oftimes called the Relief Society Sister of the New Testament, because her life, through good deeds, bore witness that ‘charity never faileth.’ (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2: 95.)

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