The Word — New Year’s reflections

Published 4:32 pm Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year!  

The experiences of the great apostle Peter in the New Testament can help us as we reflect on the passing year and contemplate goals for the new. 

Among ancient church members, there was considerable contention over to what extent the gospel should be shared beyond the children of Israel, and whether converts needed to adhere to the law of Moses. 

As he pondered and prayed on this issue, Peter received guidance from the Lord in a dream. In it he saw various animals and was commanded to eat them. When he responded thathe had never eaten any “unclean” animals, the Lord taught him: “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15).

From Peter’s experience we can learn several important lessons. 

First, the gospel truly is for all of God’s children. All people can benefit from hearing and following the word of God. As the ancient prophet Nephi taught in the Book of Mormon: “He inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female…and all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

Peter learned the same day that the Lord had prepared Cornelius, a Gentile, to seek the gospel. Likewise, when we determine to share the gospel with others, God will open doors and hearts and guide us to those who will be receptive. 

Second, there is no place for discrimination within the gospel. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently taught: “We cannot permit any racism, tribal prejudice, or other divisions to exist in the latter-day Church of Christ…We should be diligent in rooting prejudice and discrimination out of the Church, out of our homes, and, most of all, out of our hearts. As our Church population grows ever more diverse, our welcome must grow ever more spontaneous and warm. We need one another.” 

Third, the Lord tailors learning experiences for us to prepare us for the work He wants us to do. The vision Peter saw prepared him for his meeting with Cornelius. The Lord also prepares us for tomorrow’s needs by experiences that we have today. Even trials that make us scratch our heads, or which stretch us almost beyond our capacity, teach and help us become the people that our Heavenly Father knows we can become. 

Finally, we must be willing to change. Peter was passionate about his beliefs, but once he had been taught by the Lord, he followed divine direction and didn’t look back.  He exemplified the Savior’s teaching: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). 

As we begin this new year, may we share the gospel freely and be willing to change as a loving Heavenly Father teaches and guides us.

Dr. Brent Roberts is the Branch President in the Sandy River Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also Dean of Greenwood Library at Longwood University. He can be reached at brentsroberts@hotmail.com.