Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 43

by | Nov. 12, 2003

Sunday School

Monte S. Nyman on the writings of Peter and the content of 1 Peter:

The writings of Peter are often neglected in a study of the New Testament. This is not by intent but by circumstance. Because these writings are located near the end of the New Testament and because Paul's letters are so intriguing and challenging, many just never get to Peter's. Some people also have not realized the significance of Peter's writings and thus have not given them proper priority. To neglect Peter's writings in a study of the New Testament epistles is similar to eating a roast beef dinner without a serving of roast beef. There are lots of potatoes, vegetables, rolls, butter, and salad, but the meat is missing. An analysis of Peter and his writings illustrates why this is true.

Peter's writings concern the three main missions of the church, as outlined by the First Presidency:

To proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people;

To perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation;

To redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth.

Peter deals with these purposes in a succinct and specific manner.

Peter was the most important figure in the meridian of time after the death of the Savior. He was the president of the Church of Jesus Christ and held the "keys of the kingdom" in that dispensation. (Matt. 16:18-19; 17:1-9; 18:17- 18; D&C 7:7; 27:12; and Preface to D&C 13.) The words of the president of the church are to be received as if from the Lord's own mouth. (D&C 21:5.)

Further justification for giving Peter's writings a prominent place is found in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: "Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles." Sublime means elevated in thought, noble, majestic, inspiring. This fits not only the language of Peter but also the doctrine he teaches. The Prophet Joseph said many other things about Peter's writings that will be quoted later.

Another reason for giving Peter's writings a high priority is that many other presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have singled out Peter's writings. President Joseph F. Smith was pondering over the scriptures when his mind reverted to the writings of the apostle Peter. To those who believe that revelation consists of "sudden strokes of ideas" coming into one's mind, it is not difficult to believe that President Smith's attention to Peter's testimony was inspired by the Lord. When he opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, he was greatly impressed with 1 Peter 3:18-21 and 4:6, more so than he had ever been before. As he pondered these things, one of the great revelations of this dispensation concerning the work for those in the spirit world and one of the major missions of the latter-day church was revealed. (D&C 138:1-11.)

Other presidents have also been inspired by Peter's writings. President David O. McKay said: "I have a great admiration in my heart for Simon Peter, president of the Twelve Apostles," a response that came as he also reflected upon Peter's writings. These reflections will be treated below in the context of Peter's writings. President Spencer W. Kimball, speaking to the Brigham Young University student body in 1971, gave one of his many classic addresses entitled "Peter, My Brother." This talk, given in response to a negative statement on a church marquee, is a must for those who want to appreciate the man Peter and his writings.

Peter's first epistle was written to members of the church scattered throughout parts of Asia. In his salutation, he calls them strangers because he had never met them; yet he acknowledges that they are the elect according to the foreknowledge of God. In other words, the elect are those who have been chosen or foreordained to receive salvation through their faith. The theme of this epistle is that through the sanctification of the spirit and faith in the grace of the atonement of Jesus Christ, members can endure their trials and temptations and attain salvation (1:2-9). This is another way of bringing about the perfection of the saints. In the rest of the epistle, Peter gives counsel and reminds the people of doctrines and blessings that can enable them to attain this most precious gift of salvation. The beauty and the power of these admonitions remind us that we, as members of Christ's church today, can also attain our salvation if we heed the same counsel. It becomes more realistic to us if we equate this epistle with the opening addresses of our modern-day prophets, seers, and revelators at general conference.

After he reminds the saints that all of the prophets have taught, testified, and prophesied of salvation through the coming of Christ (1:10-12), Peter's first admonition is that they be holy in all their conversations as was Christ (1:13-16). He warns against reverting to their former habits, which they had practiced in ignorance, and emphasizes this by quoting from Leviticus 11:44.

Peter's second admonition is that the saints are to love one another fervently and with pure hearts (1:22). He bases this counsel upon the love the Father shows to his children "without respect of persons" (1:17), the love of Christ who was chosen or foreordained to redeem them. This love, which they have experienced in accepting the truth taught to them, has led to their rebirth. The love between a convert and a missionary can be understood only by those who experience it, just as God's love and Christ's love for us is only truly appreciated when experienced.

Before giving his third admonition, Peter lays a foundation upon which to build his other admonitions (2:4-9). He compares the listeners to stones out of which "a spiritual house, an holy priesthood" is built to offer sacrifices unto God through Jesus Christ (2:4-5). The chief cornerstone of this house is Jesus Christ, as the scriptures had foretold (2:6; Ps. 118:22). As a part of this spiritual house, the cornerstone will prevent them from being confounded, while, to the disobedient, that same cornerstone will become a stumbling block and an offense (2:7-8). Peter reminds them that they are a chosen generation, the foreordained house of Israel to whom this blessing was promised. (See Deut. 32:7-8.) Further, the priesthood, or authority to offer sacrifices in this house, is a royal priesthood, the priesthood of the king, or what the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants call the priesthood of the Son of God. (Alma 13:7-9; D&C 107:1-4.). . . . With this foundation laid, Peter delivers his third admonition: to abstain from the lusts of the flesh, which war against the soul, and thus be good examples among the Gentiles (2:11- 12).

Peter's fourth admonition is for the saints to submit to the ordinances of man or, as the following verses disclose, to the laws of the land—the will of God, that which will silence the ignorance of foolish men (2:13-16).

The next series of admonitions were addressed to specific groups. The fifth admonition is to those who were servants. Since, under the laws of the land, servitude was legal, Peter's advice was for them to submit themselves to their masters and endure whatever suffering this may bring. To comfort them, he refers to the suffering Christ endured, as was prophesied by Isaiah. (2:18-25; Isa. 53:4-11).

The sixth admonition is to wives, encouraging them to be good examples in a spiritual sense rather than through worldly or physical enticements (JST, 3:1-4). This example will win to the Lord others who might tend to go astray. Peter cites Sarah's obedience to righteous Abraham as an example for the women (3:5-6).

In the seventh admonition, Peter turns his attention to husbands, reminding them that they are to honor their wives, for they are heirs together of the grace of life (3:7). This is undoubtedly a reference to the eternal nature of the marriage covenant in the Lord.

Peter's eighth and final admonition to the members is an affirmation of the Savior's golden rule: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." (Matt. 7:12.) In Peter's words, "be ye all of one mind" and look to the blessings of God that will follow the righteous even if it requires that they suffer for their righteousness. He admonishes the saints to shun evil and do good, for the Lord is with the righteous. Their good conduct will lead to missionary work (JST, 3:8-17).

The first epistle of Peter is full of timely admonitions that will bring us salvation if we will exercise our faith and follow them. This theme of the epistle is just as significant to us today as it was to the members in Asia in Peter's day.

(Monte S. Nyman, "The Sublime Epistles of Peter," in Robert L. Millet, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 225-227.)

Elder Marion G. Romney on making one's calling and election sure:

The theme I have in mind to discuss is "Making One's Calling and Election Sure." To do this one must receive a divine witness that he will inherit eternal life. The supreme objective of men who understand God, their relationship to him, and his designs for them is to gain eternal life. This is as it should be, for eternal life ". . . is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7.) To bring men to eternal life is God's "work and glory." To this end he conceives, brings into being, directs and uses all his creations. (Moses 1:38-39.)...

The fullness of eternal life is not attainable in mortality, but the peace which is its harbinger and which comes as a result of making one's calling and election sure is attainable in this life. The Lord has promised that ". . . he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (Ibid., 59:23.)

I think the peace here referred to is implicit in the Prophet's statement, "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer's morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men." (DHC, 6, 555.)

I also think it is implicit in this statement of the late Apostle Alonzo A. Hinckley which he wrote in a letter to the First Presidency after he had been advised by his physician that his illness would be fatal: "I assure you I am not deeply disturbed over the final results. I am reconciled and I reach my hands to take what my Father has for me, be it life or death. . . .

"As to the future, I have no misgivings. It is inviting and glorious, and I sense rather clearly what it means to be saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ and to be exerted by his power and be with him ever more." (The Deseret News Church Section, March 27, 1949, p. 24.)

Now I come directly to my theme:

I take my text from Second Peter, and as he did, I direct my remarks ". . . to them that have obtained like precious faith with us. . . ." (2 Peter 1:1.)

Peter, having put the Saints in remembrance of gospel fundamentals, admonished them to ". . . give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" (Ibid., 1:10.)

By making their calling and election sure, the Saints were to gain entrance ". . . into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." To this fact Peter bore powerful witness. He reviewed his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration with James and John, where, he says, they heard the voice of ". . . God the Father . . ." declare of Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Then by way of instruction that such an experience did not of itself make one's calling and election sure, he added, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, . . ." (Ibid., 1:11, 17, 19.)

Speaking on Sunday, the 14th of May, 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith took this statement of Peter for his text. From the Prophet's sermon I quote:

"Notwithstanding the apostle exhorts them to add to their faith, virtue knowledge, temperance, etc., yet he exhorts them to make their calling and election sure. And though they had heard an audible voice from heaven bearing testimony that Jesus was the Son of God, yet he says we have a more sure word of prophecy. . . . Now wherein could they have a more sure word of prophecy than to hear the voice of God saying, This is my beloved Son, etc." Answering his own question, the Prophet continued "Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquaks bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation."

Then speaking directly to his listeners, the Prophet continued:

". . . I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, . . ." (DHC, 5, 388-389.)

A week later, May 21, 1843, the Prophet preached another sermon on the same text, from which I quote:

"We have no claim in our eternal compact, in relation to eternal things, unless our actions and contracts and all things tend to this end. But after all this, you have got to make your calling and election sure. If this injunction would lie largely on those to whom it was spoken," he said, "how much more those of the present generation!" And then in conclusion, "It is one thing to be on the mount and hear the excellent voice, etc., etc., and another to hear the voice declare to you, You have a part and lot in that kingdom." (Ibid., 5, 403.)

These two sermons were given by the Prophet just thirteen months before his martyrdom. Four years earlier, however, he had thus instructed the Twelve: "After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John in the 14th chapter, . . ." (Ibid., 3, 380.)

In the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants is recorded a revelation in which the Lord, addressing some of the early Saints in Ohio, said: ". . . I now send upon you another Comforter even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.

"This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;" (D&C 88:3-4.)

I should think that every faithful Latter-day Saint ". . . would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God." (DHC, 5, 388.)

As I read the sacred records, I find recorded experiences of men in all dispensations who have had this sure anchor to their souls, this peace in their hearts.

Lehi's grandson Enos so hungered after righteousness that he cried unto the Lord until ". . . there came a voice unto [him from heaven] saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed." Years later he revealed the nature of this promised blessing when he wrote:

". . . I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father." (Enos 1:27.)

To Alma the Lord said: "Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; . . ." (Mosiah 26:20.)

To his twelve Nephite disciples the Master said: "What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?

"And they all spake, save it were three, saying: We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man, that our ministry, wherein thou hast called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom.

"And he said unto them: Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after that Ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest." (3 Nephi 28:1-3.)

As Moroni labored in solitude abridging the Jaredite record, he received from the Lord this comforting assurance: ". . . thou hast been faithful, wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father." (Ether 12:37.)

Paul in his second epistle to Timothy wrote: ". . . 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: . . ." (2 Tim. 4:6-8.)

In this dispensation many have received like assurances. In the spring of 1839, while the Prophet Joseph and his associates were languishing in Liberty Jail, Heber C. Kimball labored against great odds caring for the Saints and striving to free the brethren. On the 6th of April he wrote:

"My family having been gone about two months, during which time I heard nothing from them; our brethren being in prison; death and destruction following us everywhere we went; I felt very sorrowful and lonely. The following words came to my mind, and the Spirit said unto me, 'write,' which I did by taking a piece of paper and writing on my knee as follows: . . ."

This is what he wrote as dictated by the Lord:

"Verily I say unto my servant Heber, thou art my son, in whom I am well pleased; for thou art careful to hearken to my words, and not transgress my law, nor rebel against my servant Joseph Smith, for thou hast a respect to the words of mine anointed, even from the least to the greatest of them; therefore thy name is written in heaven, no more to be blotted out for ever. . . ." (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1888 ed., p. 253. Italics added.)

To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord said: ". . . I am the Lord thy God and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father with Abraham your father." (D&C 132:49. Italics added.)

Now in conclusion, I give you my own witness. I know that God our Father lives, that we are as Paul said his offspring. I know that we dwelt in his presence in pre-earth life and that we shall continue to live beyond the grave. I know that we may return into his presence, if we meet his terms. I know that while we are here in mortality there is a means of communication between him and us. I know it is possible for men to so live that they may hear his voice and know his words and that to receive "the Holy Spirit of promise" while here in mortality is possible. And so, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, ". . . I . . . exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until [by the more sure word of prophecy] you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, . . ." (DHC, 5, 389.)

(Elder Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, October 1965, 22.)

Spencer W. Kimball on one particular "damnable heresy":

Let me begin with a story. Across the desk sat a handsome, young nineteen- year-old and a beautiful, shy, but charming eighteen-year-old. They appeared embarrassed, apprehensive, near-terrified. He was defensive and bordering on belligerency and rebellion. There had been sexual violations throughout the summer and intermittently since school began, and as late as last week. I was not so much surprised. I have had these kinds of visits many times; but what did disturb me was that they seemed little, if any, remorseful. They admitted they had gone contrary to some social standards, but quoted magazines and papers and speakers approving pre-marital sex and emphasizing that sex was a fulfillment of human existence.

Finally, the boy said, "Yes, we yielded to each other, but we do not think it wrong because we love each other." I thought I had misunderstood him. Since the world began, there have been countless immoralities, but to hear them justified by Latter-day Saint youth shocked me. He repeated, "No, it is not wrong because we love each other." Here was one of those misused four-letter words.

They had repeated this abominable heresy so often that they had convinced themselves, and a wall of resistance had been built, and behind this wall they stubbornly stood almost defiantly. If there had been blushes of shame at first, such had been neutralized with their logic. Deeply entrenched were they in this rationalization. Had they not read in some university papers of the new freedom where pre-marital sex was sanctioned, at least not forbidden? Did they not see the looseness in every show, on every stage, on TV screens and magazines? Had they not discussed this in the locker room and in private conversation? Had it not been fairly well established, then, in their world, that sex before marriage was not so wrong? Did there not need to be a trial period? How else could they know if they would be sexually compatible for marriage ? Had they not, like numerous others, come to regard sex as the basis for living ?

In their rationalization they have had much cooperation, for, as Peter said:

"... there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious

ways. . ." (2 Pet. 2:1-2.)

And here they are, false teachers everywhere, using speech and pornographic literature, magazines, radio, TV, street talk-spreading damnable heresies which break down moral standards, and this to gratify the lusts of the flesh.

Lucifer in his diabolical scheming deceives the unwary and uses every tool at his command. Seldom does one go to a convention, a club meeting, a party or social gathering without hearing vulgarity, obscenity and suggestive stories.

Peter again cautioned us:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8.)

And the Savior said that the very elect would be deceived by Lucifer if it were possible. He will use his logic to confuse, and his rationalizations to destroy. He will shade meanings, open doors an inch at a time, and lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black.

(Spencer W. Kimball, January 5, 1965, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965, 4.)

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