Friday, September 9, 2011

Peter's Life is Spared

Today I read Acts 12 where the Apostles start being killed. Herod has James, the brother of John the beloved, a member of the First Presidency put to death by the sword. It does not tell us why he had James put to death, only that it happened. However, when he sees how much the Jews liked it, he has Peter arrested with the intent to put him to death too. Now, some might wonder why Herod cared whether the Jews were happy with him or not, but we've got to remember that Herod was a Roman and was almost universally hated and despised because he was in charge and not a Jew. Since he was in charge, any unrest or discontent that happened under his watch was his fault. So anything he could do to make the Jews happy would make his job that much easier, not to mention make him look good in the process.

The Lord however had other plans for Peter. During the night he helps Peter escape by sending an angel to let him out of prison. Now at the time Peter doesn't know if he is awake or asleep, he wonders if it is really happening or if he is seeing a vision. It is not until they reach the safety of the streets outside the prison that he is convinced that what he saw was indeed an angel and not a vision. It must have been a hard life to be an Apostle back then. To be universally hated and to be constantly facing persecution like they did. It must have been very challenging. We are very lucky to live in a day and age where difference of opinions are tolerated and that most people do not hate the Latter-day Saints.

It reminds me a lot of the church in the early days when Joseph Smith was alive. It is hard to believe that such things happened, regardless of how the Saints were acting at the time. It really was a different time when one could not even count on the law to protect them in certain circumstances. Now, the Lord allowed most of it to happen because of the way the Saints were acting and how they were not living the law of consecration as they had been commanded to and were not sufficiently humble. But just like the Jews who put Jesus to death, it doesn't matter that it had to happen, they will still be accountable for their actions, so too will the men and women who persecuted the Saints in modern times be held accountable for what they did, regardless of what the Saints did to provoke it. I promise that the age old, "He started it" excuse that children love to give adults will not hold any water at all when we stand before God. I have always believed that nothing gives us the right to treat someone other than the way Jesus would treat them.

Fortunately for Peter and the rest of the Apostles in those days they had known this was going to happen to them. Jesus warned them that the world will hate them for His sake. But knowing something is going to happen is very different when the time actually comes down to it. Jesus proved that Himself with what He did in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had been preparing for it for thousands of years, but when it came down to it, He was scared and desired for another way if it was all possible. Thankfully for us, He went through with it. It's kind of interesting to me to contrast the Apostles after Jesus' resurrection from before it. They understand it all now and are willing to do things they never would have thought of before. Now when they are punished for His sake they are happy that they are counted worthy to suffer in His name. This is only because they know what He did for them now, they understand.

I am reminded of President Spencer W. Kimball. He made a statement at some point to some missionaries that was included in the notebook that my mission president gave to each new missionary. President Kimball stated that he wished the missionaries could see the vision he had seen. He wished that he had the strength of our young bodies and if he did he would run as fast as he could shouting the Gospel message to all those in hearing. When he couldn't run anymore, he would walk. Then he would crawl and finally he would lay there continuing to shout until his voice gave out. He understood the importance of the Gospel, like Peter and the other Apostles did after Jesus spent those 4o days with them.

It has often been said that our level of conversion to the Gospel can be measured by our desire to share it with those around us. All too often we let fear of what people will think of us if we open our mouths. But interest and desire to know more about the church has never been higher in all the history of the world. The scriptures really are true that state the people are kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it. Pray and work with God to find those who are searching for the truth, He will help you find those you can help. Until tomorrow.

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