This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.
July 31-August 6, 2023
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Acts 22:1–21; 26:1–29
Disciples of Jesus Christ share their testimonies boldly.
When Paul delivered the powerful testimonies recorded in Acts 22 and 26, he was being held prisoner by Roman soldiers. The people he spoke to had the power to condemn him to death. Yet he chose to boldly bear witness of Jesus Christ and “the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) he had received. What inspires you about his words? Consider the opportunities you have to share your testimony. For example, do your friends know how you feel about Jesus Christ? Or when was the last time you told your family how you gained your testimony of the gospel?
When young Joseph Smith was ridiculed for telling about his First Vision, he was inspired by the way Paul testified of his vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:24–25). How would you summarize what Joseph Smith learned from Paul? What do you learn from these two witnesses of Jesus Christ?
If we consider the vision Saul (later Paul) had from Jesus as recorded in the Book of Acts and compare it to the supposed vision of God the Father/Jesus to Joseph Smith, there is no comparison (The same goes with Joseph’s visions and the resurrection of Jesus. To see an excellent book on this topic, see Rob Bowman’s Jesus’ Resrrection and the Visions of Joseph.) Even though those who were with Paul could not understand the voice of Jesus, there were witnesses. From that point on, this event played a prominent role in the life of Paul. He spoke about this event early and often. Joseph Smith, meanwhile, had no witnesses.
Though he claimed that he was persecuted in the next few years for telling his story about the “First Vision,” none of Smith’s detractors ever mentioned this vision. It was not until many years later–a decade and a half–when the story became public. The official version did not come about until later in the 1830s, with at least nine different accounts. See:
For additional information on the First Vision, see:
- Crash Course Mormonism: First Vision
- 10 Reasons to Reject the First Vision of Joseph Smith
- Following the Prophet’s “First Vision” Example
- 8 Questions Every Latter-day Saint Needs to Answer about the First Vision
- The Importance of Joseph Smith’s First Vision
- Joseph Smith’s 1832 Handwritten History and the First Vision
- Citations on First Vision
- The First Vision: Key to Truth? A Review of Seventy Richard J. Maynes’ June 2017 Ensign article
- Additional perspectives and insights” on Joseph Smith’s First Vision?
Acts 23:10–11; 27:13–25, 40–44
The Lord stands by those who strive to serve Him.
As Paul’s ministry clearly shows, difficulties in our lives are not a sign that God disapproves of us or the work we are doing. In fact, sometimes it is during the difficulties that we feel His support most strongly. It might be interesting to review what you’ve read recently about Paul’s ministry and list some of the things he endured (see, for example, Acts 14:19–20; 16:19–27; 21:31–34; 23:10–11; 27:13–25, 40–44). How did the Lord stand by him? How has He stood by you?
The Bible teaches that Christians are allowed to go through hard times in order to glorify His name. In John 9, Jesus was asked if a blind man had sinned or if it was the parents’ fault. Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
James 1:2-3 says that trials are meant for our good, as it reads, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Meanwhile, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 8:28 adds, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The goal when going through tough times is to make sure God is involved in our times of struggle and find the way in which He can receive all the glory!
Acts 24:24–27; 26:1–3, 24–29; 27
There is safety and peace in heeding the words of God’s servants.
Throughout his ministry, Paul bore powerful testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Many people accepted his witness, but not everyone did. As you read Acts 24:24–27 and Acts 26:1–3, 24–29, look for words and phrases that show how the following Roman rulers in Judea reacted to Paul’s teachings:
While sailing to Rome to be tried by Caesar, Paul prophesied that “hurt and much damage” would come to the ship and its passengers (Acts 27:10). Read chapter 27 to find out how Paul’s shipmates reacted to his warnings. Do you find any lessons for yourself in their experience?
Have you ever reacted like any of these people when you heard the teachings of Church leaders? What are some possible consequences of reacting in these ways? What do you learn from these accounts about heeding the counsel of the Lord through His servants?
As is typcial in this series, a “shout out” is given to the current LDS Church leaders. I believe it’s a cheap way to bring credibility to the leaders of this religious organization.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Before his conversion, Paul had a long history of offenses toward God. But because he was willing to repent, he was able to say, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (see also Doctrine and Covenants 135:4–5). How can we rid our conscience of offenses toward God and others?
As brought out in an earlier review from July 10-16 (Acts 6-9), Paul participated in the murder of Stephen. Since murder in Mormonism is an unforgivable sin, will Paul ever have a chance for the celestial kingdom? If so, how? If not, then who could ever qualify for the best Mormonism has to offer?
In these verses, what did the Lord call Paul to do? What opportunities do we have to do similar things?
The passage reads:
16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Returning to the idea that murderers cannot get forgiveness of sins, it would seem strange that Paul was called to preach on the “forgiveness of sins” when his previous sin of murder would have meant that he could never be forgiven. If you are a Latter-day Saint, how can you explain this in a reasonable manner?
Does anyone in your family like snakes? You may want to ask that person or another family member to tell the stories found in Acts 28:1–9. Your children might enjoy drawing a picture of these stories or acting them out. What lessons can we learn from these accounts? One might be that the Lord fulfills His promises to His servants. For example, you could compare the promises made in Mark 16:18 with their fulfillments in Paul’s experiences.
Most scholars believe the longer Mark ending to this gosepl (after Mark 16:9) is not original with the author and was only added later. Modern translations make this very clear. This is a passage that snake-handling Pentecostal groups in the Appalatians utilize to justify their handling of poisonuous snakes in their church services.
You could also find in a recent general conference address a promise made by one of the Lord’s servants—perhaps one that is meaningful to your family—and display it in your home. How can we show our faith that this promise will be fulfilled?
Here is another shout out to the LDS leaders. I reject the idea that these men are apostles in the same way as Paul and other church leaders were in the New Testament church.
Like the Church in Paul’s day (called a “sect” in verse 22), the Church today is often “spoken against.” When people spoke against the Savior and His Church, how did Paul respond? What can we learn from Paul’s experience?
Notice how Paul directly dealt with the issue and did not hide away in an ivory tower. As the passage says, “He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.”
Since the writers of this series like to equate their “living” leaders with the leaders in New Testament times, wouldn’t it be refreshing if Russell M. Nelson and other church leaders responded “from morning till evening” to arguments against the church as Paul did in this passage? Instead, the leaders normally let unpaid apologists and BYU professors respond to some of the arguments against Mormonism. Why shouldn’t the LDS leaders take more responsibility and do more of the heavy lifting?
For a church that supposedly restored all of God’s authority, it is frustrating to me that the leaders are touted as having a direct connection to God yet remain so dissimilar to Paul and the other NT apostles. This church is founded on the “First Vision,” as church founder Joseph Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus appeared to him to explain how all the churches were wrong. This claim to fame is fleeting when it is considered how there were at least nine different accounts of this vision and how different it is from the vision Saul had with Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus.