Acts 17

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Acts 17:7 these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus

Jewish nationalism ran very high in ancient days. The Jews were infuriated to be subjected to Roman authority, and wished to be free of its Gentile influences. This applied equally well to Jews who had been scattered into Greek lands. They still looked to Jerusalem as their spiritual and national center.

Therefore, when we see these Jews upset because of Paul's teaching of Jesus, we see that their argument belays their deceitfulness, pride, and bitterness. Contrary to their beliefs, they act as if they are the greatest protectors of Rome-as if they are the most loyal of Roman subjects. Furthermore, their accusation is designed to produce the greatest possible punishment for Paul's sympathizers, and it follows a Satan-inspired pattern. The same kind of envious accusations were laid at Pilate's feet in the case of Jesus, who was accused of 'perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King' (Lu 23:2). In both cases, 'they were moved with envy' (v. 5), not with any concern for the Roman Empire. However, in the case of the Thessalonian Jews, the allegation is even more ridiculous-for how could Jesus be a threat to Caesar's throne when He had already been crucified?

Acts 17:11 they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily

There is scarcely a missionary who won't testify to the fact that the mindset of the investigator is as important as anything else. Some listen with skepticism, others with a chip on their shoulder, others trust in the evidence of the physical senses rather than the Spirit. But spiritual open-mindedness is a key to the conversion process and a sign of truth seekers everywhere. Elder Hugh B. Brown said:

"It is my impression also that people of all lands and cultures have an increasing hunger for truth and an open-minded attitude toward new truths. Thinking men everywhere are seeking for light. There is, in fact, a worldwide quest for truth.

"Leaders in both religious and scientific fields are asking for a revival of learning and a broad-minded attitude toward truth-wherever it may be found. Let me remind you, however, that broad-mindedness too often is nothing but a flattening out of high-mindedness!" (Conference Report, April 1970, 77.)

Ironically, it is often the high-minded scientists who simultaneously claim to be open-minded and yet reject all things spiritual. Brother Hugh Nibley exposed their intellectual hypocrisy in the following quote. He also demonstrates the relationship between open-mindedness and the search for truth. Hence, the scripture says that the natural consequence of their 'readiness of mind' was to 'search the scriptures daily.'

Hugh Nibley

"The whole question turns out to be not whether one is going to be open-minded or not... A first-rate and very broad-minded scientist, J. B. S. Haldane, defines prejudice as 'an opinion held without examining the evidence.' Prejudice does not consist in having made up one's mind-in defending an opinion with fervor and determination-as too many liberals seem to think; it consists in forming an opinion before all the evidence has been considered. This means that freedom from prejudice whether in the field of science or any other field requires a tremendous lot of work-one cannot be unprejudiced without constant and laborious study of evidence; the open mind must be a searching mind. The person who claims allegiance to science in his thinking or who is an advocate of the open mind has let himself in for endless toil and trouble.

"But what has happened? Those who have called themselves liberals in religion have accepted science with open arms precisely because they believe that excuses them from any toil at all. For them to have an open mind means to accept without question, and without any personal examination of evidence, whatever the prevailing opinions of the experts may prescribe. This is what Haldane calls prejudice. Evolution was hailed as the new gospel not because it raised new questions or spurred some men to new searches, but because for the man in the street and the lazy student, as well as for the people who wrote books for them, it meant the end of all searching and the end of all doubt. Here was the answer to everything, and no open-minded nonsense about it." (The World and the Prophets, 3rd ed. [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987], 128 - 129.)

Elder Alma Sonne

"Faith is a gift of God to be developed by prayerful and open-minded investigation. It sets up hope and courage and explores the realms of the unseen. A loss of faith is a tragic setback in the journey towards perfection.

"Skepticism, on the other hand, has no vitality. It offers no program. It contradicts every claim to a life after death. It robs man of his belief in moral and spiritual values, and destroys his fondest hopes and noblest aspirations. Unbelief is negative and rejects the revelations of God however manifested." (Conference Report, October 1956, 128.)

Acts 17:16 he saw the city wholly given to idolatry

Heber J. Grant

"There is no man, there is no people, without a God. That God may be a visible idol, carved of wood, or stone, to which sacrifice is offered in the forest, in the temple, or in the market-place; or it may be an invisible idol, fashioned in a man's own image and worshiped ardently at his own personal shrine. Somewhere in the universe there is that in which each individual has firm faith, and on which he places steady reliance. The fool who says in his heart, 'There is no God' really means there is no God but himself. His supreme egotism, his colossal vanity, have placed him at the center of the universe which is thereafter to be measured and dealt with in terms of his personal satisfactions. So it has come to pass that after nearly two thousand years much of the world resembles the Athens of St. Paul's time, in that it is wholly given to idolatry; but in the modern case there are as many idols as idol worshipers, and every such idol worshiper finds his idol in the looking-glass. The time has come once again to repeat and to expound in thunderous tones the noble sermon of St. Paul on Mars Hill, and to declare to these modern idolaters 'Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.'" (Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, April 1922, 11.)

Acts 17:17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews

Dallin H. Oaks

"The Acts of the Apostles record that Paul 'disputed' in the synagogue. (See Acts 17:17; 19:8.) In light of his own teachings on contention, those accounts surely describe reasoned discussions, not angry confrontations.

"In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he gave them the same advice: 'If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.' (1 Cor. 11:16.) In his second letter, he expressed the fear that when he came to them he would find 'debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.' (2 Cor. 12:20.)

"Similarly, Paul advised Titus to 'avoid foolish questions, . . . and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.' (Titus 3:9.) He instructed Timothy, 'Foolish and unlearned questions avoid,' because 'they do gender strifes.' He continues: 'And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.' (2 Tim. 2:24-25.)" (The Lord's Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 146.)

Acts 17:18 What are Epicureans and Stoicks?

"Epicureanism was named for Epicurus, who lived just before and after 300 B.C. According to his philosophy, the world came into existence by chance and was without either purpose or design. The highest good to which man could attain was that which brought him the greatest pleasure or the greatest absence of sorrow and pain. Contrary to popular notions then and now, Epicureanism did not advocate wholesale licentiousness as an objective in life, but rather those enjoyments which gave to man the longest and fullest personal satisfactions.

"Stoicism, on the other hand, recognized a supreme governing power in the universe. According to this philosophy, all things have been ordered and set in motion by a Divine Mind, and the wise man, the true Stoic, is he who accepts conditions as he finds them rather than changes them to be as he wished them to be. Such acceptance requires great courage and self-control, for man is locked into a never-ending battle with nature. The body is not a vessel to be punished or catered to; it is to be ignored." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 265)

Acts 17:21 the Athenians...spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing

Quentin L. Cook

We live in a world where the latest story, the buzz, the hype, the "new thing" is much sought after and then publicized throughout the world.  Movies, television, and other media often celebrate heroic gestures, dysfunctionality, conflict, and sexuality rather than the quiet, everyday acts of sacrifice, service, and love that are so much a part of the Savior's message and example.  The wild rush to find the new often tramples on what is true. ("Looking Beyond the Mark,"  Ensign (March 2003), 41)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Why are a few members, who somewhat resemble the ancient Athenians, so eager to hear some new doubt or criticism? (See Acts 17:21.) Just as some weak members slip across a state line to gamble, a few go out of their way to have their doubts titillated. Instead of nourishing their faith, they are gambling 'offshore' with their fragile faith. To the question 'Will ye also go away?' these few would reply, 'Oh, no, we merely want a weekend pass to go to a casino for critics or a clubhouse for cloakholders.' Such easily diverted members are not disciples but fair-weather followers." (Ensign, November 1988, pp. 32-33.)

Neal A. Maxwell

"We can dissolve the stress of wearily listening to 'so many kinds of voices in the world' (1 Corinthians 14:10). A true disciple need tune in on only one channel: 'My sheep hear my voice' (John 10:27). Like ancient Athenians, some today spend their energies and 'their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing' (Acts 17:21). A true disciple will not listen to the voices that deny the divinity of Jesus or of His latter-day work, that deny the apostolic foundations of the Restoration, or that suggest compromising with the world.

"So it is that we can end much stress in life, if we will. Genuine discipleship is a way of shedding the sources of stress discussed above." (Men and Women of Christ [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991], 26.)

Acts 17:22 I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious

Quentin L. Cook
I am particularly concerned with foolishness and being obsessed with “every new thing.” In the Church we encourage and celebrate truth and knowledge of every kind. But when culture, knowledge, and social mores are separated from God’s plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society.  In our day, despite unprecedented gains in many areas, especially science and communication, essential basic values have eroded and overall happiness and well-being have diminished.
When the Apostle Paul was invited to speak on Mars Hill in Athens, he found some of the same intellectual pretension and absence of true wisdom that exist today. In Acts we read this account: “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” Paul’s emphasis was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. When the crowd realized the religious nature of his message, some mocked him; others essentially dismissed him, saying, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” Paul left Athens without any success. Dean Frederic Farrar wrote of this visit: “At Athens he founded no church, to Athens he wrote no epistle, and in Athens, often as he passed its neighbourhood, he never set foot again.” (Ensign, Nov. 2014, 48)
Marion G. Romney

"To us it seems almost incredible that in Paul's day men could have believed that graven images of gold or silver or stone fashioned by men's device were gods. And yet, the evidence indicates that many today are as far afield in their concepts and belief in God as were the Athenian philosophers and populace in that day so long ago when Paul chided them on Mars' hill about worshiping a god whom they admittedly did not know; for instance (and now I cite these examples not by way of contention but to illustrate how the concepts of men of the world differ from the true concepts of the living and true God), in a modern book an eminent scientist, whose purpose is altogether commendable, wrote the book to prove that there is a God and in that book appears this statement:

"'Any effort to visualize God reveals a surprising childishness. We can no more conceive Him than we can conceive an electron.' (Lecomte de Nouy, Human Destiny, p. 188.)

"And then to account for the birth and development of moral man, the author says that he was forced, and I quote, to admit 'that the only possible logical interpretation of the facts coincided with that which recognized the existence of God; . . . We therefore,' I continue to quote, 'used the consecrated name (God), but avoided as much as possible any anthropomorphic idea.' (Ibid., pp. 201-202.)

"Another writer says this: 'Man makes God in his own image. . . . When man believes that God is personal,' he says, 'he believes rightly. [But] to say that God is `a person' is no doubt an error.' (Maude Royden, The Garvin Lectures, 1949, p. 45.)

"These statements indicate that their authors and those who hold their views neither know nor believe in the living and true God preached by Paul and Joseph Smith. Is it not a great tragedy for men today to be walking in such darkness when they might be walking in the light if they would but look and see?" (Conference Report, October 1964, 51.)

Acts 17:22-23 THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship

Marion G. Romney

"This sermon of Paul's was preached some nineteen hundred years ago, but it has its application to us. Truly, the intervening years have brought great changes in some things, notably in the fields of science and industry; but with respect to the subject of Paul's sermon, the world today is in about the same status as it was then, for God to many is still an 'unknown God,' and therefore, ignorantly worshipped. Perhaps he is not thought of as being 'like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device'; yet superstition and idolatry, in some forms, are still the order of the day. Some deny the very existence of God; others define him as 'cosmic energy,' as though he might be a current of electricity. He has been spoken of as 'the first great cause,' and as the 'universal consciousness.' God would not be described in such vague terms if men had the knowledge of him possessed by Paul.

"There are some people in the world today, however, as there were in Paul's day, who know that God is their father and that he is not far from them. If they were to speak on the subject, they would tell you that of all their possessions, this knowledge is the most precious. From it, they obtain power to resist temptation, courage in times of danger, companionship in hours of loneliness, and comfort in sorrow. This knowledge of God gives them faith and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. It is an anchor to their souls which gives purpose to life, though all men and things around them be in confusion and chaos." ("God Is Not Far from Us," Ensign, Aug. 1976, 2)

Elder John G. Allred

"Many people believe that 'Mormonism' doesn't bring anything of importance to the inhabitants of the earth, but those of us who have become acquainted with its teachings, are convinced more and more that we stand in the same relationship to the world that the Apostle Paul occupied when he went on to Mars Hill and saw the inscription 'To the unknown God' and said to the people on that occasion: 'You are altogether too superstitious, for whom you ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.' The elders and missionaries of this Church are in the world to tell the people of this generation that they are altogether too superstitious and that they have an unknown God whom they are ignorantly worshiping, and him we are declaring unto this generation, for be it remembered that the angel whom John saw fly through the midst of heaven was carrying the Everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea and the fountains of water." (Conference Report, October 1925, 80 - 81.)

Acts 17:25 as though he needed any thing

Paul reminds us that the Lord doesn't need anything from us. He doesn't need us to worship him 'with men's hands'. He doesn't need us to make temples. He doesn't need us to keep the commandments. He doesn't need us to go to church. We are the ones who need Him. We need His mercy. We need His commandments. We need the power of His Atonement. We are the ones who need to realize our true relationship to God, 'O how you ought to thank your heavenly King! I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess...I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.' (Mosiah 2:19-21).

Acts 17:26 God hath made of one blood all nations of men

Gordon B. Hinckley

"I think often of Longfellow's couplet: 'There is so much of bad in the best of us, and so much of good in the worst of us, that it ill becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us.'

"My heart has resonated with Paul's declaration to the men of Athens: 'And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth' (Acts 17:26).

"Each of us [from various religious denominations] believes in the fatherhood of God, although we may differ in our interpretations of Him. Each of us is part of a great family, the human family, sons and daughters of God, and therefore brothers and sisters. We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility.

"To those who are members of the church of which I am a member, I call attention to these words of Joseph Smith spoken in July of 1843: 'If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a 'Mormon,' I am bold enough to declare before heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination . . .' (History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 498.) This, I hope, can be my standard. . . .

"Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Greek Orthodox, Muslims, and people of various racial backgrounds and ethnic origins: Thank you for the respect you exemplify and cultivate, for the tolerance you nourish, for the spirit of forbearance and civility which you demonstrate. We must continue, even more vigorously, to work unitedly for the common good, teaching our children to do likewise, so that the world, at least in some small measure, may be healed of its wounds and spared the scars of further conflict. (National Conference of Christians and Jews Banquet, February 21, 1995.)

"I plead with our people everywhere to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies. We must not be partisans of any doctrine of ethnic superiority. We live in a world of diversity. We can and must be respectful toward those with whose teachings we may not agree. We must be willing to defend the rights of others who may become the victims of bigotry. ("This Is the Work of the Master," Ensign, May 1995, p. 71.)" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 665 - 666.)

Acts 17:26 hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation

"Moses counseled his people: 'Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.' (Deut. 32:7Deut. 32:7-9.) In speaking to the Athenians, the Apostle Paul declared: 'God that made the world and all things therein . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation' (Acts 17:24, 26).

"President Harold B. Lee explained:

"'Those born to the lineage of Jacob, who was later to be called Israel, and his posterity, who were known as the children of Israel, were born into the most illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings.

"'All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn't it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth [life] was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here? (In Conference Report, October 1973, pp. 7-8.)

"The declaration of lineage by patriarchs is therefore as much a statement as to who and what we were, as it is to who we are now and what we may become. If there is no relationship between the first estate and the second, why, as President Lee might ask, should we believe there is any relationship between what we do here and what we will receive hereafter?

"Who are we, then? President Lee answered: 'You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world's history, as the Apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.' (In Conference Report, October 1973, p. 7.) And yet coming to earth through a peculiar lineage would involve much more than boasting of a blessing; it would entail bearing a burden. 'Once we know who we are,' Elder Russell M. Nelson said, 'and the royal lineage of which we are a part, our actions and our direction in life will be more appropriate to our inheritance' ("Thanks for the Covenant," p. 59)." (Robert Millett, Joseph Fielding McConkie, Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chapter 19)

Neal A. Maxwell

"First Questioner: All of this about the premortal past suggests a rationing or allocation of roles and high talent to various stages of human history, does it not?

"The Disciple: Yes, it does. Paul was alluding to the fact that in the days of old 'the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel' (Deuteronomy 32:7-8), when in Athens he made much the same declaration about how the Lord had 'determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation' (Acts 17:26).

"When we say God has a plan, he truly has a plan-not simply a grand scale, but for each of us as individuals, allocating some special talent to this dispensation and some to another. I regard God as the perfect personnel manager, even though he must work with and through all of us who are so imperfect.

"I assume, gladly, that in the allocation to America of remarkable leaders like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln, the Lord was just as careful. After all, if you've got only one Abraham Lincoln, you'd better put him in that point in history when he's most needed-much as some of us might like to have him now." (Deposition of a Disciple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 45-46.)

Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being

Sterling W. Sill

"There is a physician in New York City who writes an interesting prescription to cure people of their most serious problems of tension, fear, inferiority, guilt, resentment, and anger. He prescribes that they attend church at least once each Sunday...In our relations with God, we sometimes become involved in a cyclone of disturbance of fretting children and our own troubles, and we miss getting that calm creative silence into the center of our own lives that gives us spirituality and power.

"The greatest of all experiences available to human beings is close contact with God. This may be achieved through our righteousness, our obedience, and this peaceful reverence of creative silence.

"We remember the words of the great apostle Paul when he said of God, 'For in him we live, and move, and have our being.' (Acts 17:28.) Instead of living in him in peace, quiet, and worship, we frequently give ourselves over to confusion, disorders, tensions, fears, feelings of inferiority, and guilt. And during this period of worship, and particularly this period of silence, we should allow our bodies to assume a relaxed position so that the tensions, disorder, and ungodliness may go out of us. We are in the world but we should not be of the world, and certainly we should not let worldliness, disorder, and confusion get into us at this sacred time." (That Ye Might Have Life [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 237-41.)

Acts 17:28 as certain also of your own poets have said

"In his famous address on Mars Hill, Paul quoted from the 'Phaenomena,' a work by Aratus, a Cilician poet: 'As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his [i.e., God's] offspring.' (Acts 17:28) Almost these identical words occur in the 'Hymn to Zeus' written by Cleanthes. Both men were Stoics. In citing such poets, Paul was probably not attempting to impress his audience with his intellect and training; no doubt he was trying to place himself on a common footing with his listeners in order to gain their confidence and thus win a listening ear for his message." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 265)

Acts 17:29 we are the offspring of God

Milton R. Hunter

"Human life is sacred to the Latter-day Saints-as sacred and precious as anything that exists-because of its divine nature. God has revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith and to the other holy prophets that we are his children, the divine offspring of heavenly beings. Men and women in general are the greatest of God's creative work, being made in his own image, and endowed through inheritance from our heavenly parents with godly characteristics just as mortal children are endowed with the characteristics of their earthly parents. In other words, we are gods in embryo, for, as Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, has said:

' . . [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, . . . For in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . For we are also his offspring.' (Acts 17:26-28.)

"All the prophets of the Church from Joseph Smith's day to the present time have confirmed the teachings of Paul. The following statement was made by President Joseph F. Smith:

'Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality.

'This beautiful doctrine of the divinity of man does not detract in the least from the glory and great exaltation of God the Eternal Father. It merely dignifies and exalts man and makes human life more sacred and purposeful. It fills the universe with meaning, with design, and attaches to life a goal; and an understanding of this doctrine should fill man's heart with love, charity, and good will toward all of the human family.

'If one accepts that he is a son of God, in contrast to the concept that he is the offspring of an animal, he becomes impressed with the unlimited potential possibilities which are his. His eyes are turned heavenward instead of toward the ground. His hope is to become glorified-exalted-even like unto his heavenly parents.'" (Conference Report, October 1945, Afternoon Meeting 107 - 108.)

M. Russell Ballard

"Before the world was created, we all lived as the spirit children of our Heavenly Father. Through a natural process of inheritance we received in embryo the traits and attributes of our Heavenly Father. We are His spirit children. Some of what our Eternal Father is, we have inherited. What he has become we may become." (Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 70.)

Acts 17:30 the times of this ignorance God winked at

Paul had earlier stated that God 'in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways' (Acts 14:16). This interesting concept is reiterated on Mars' hill. We ask, "in judging the idolatry of the Gentile nations, is the Lord going to look the other way? Is He going to cut them some slack because they were ignorant of God's laws?" The answer seems to be yes.

Joseph Smith taught, "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." (Teachings, p. 301) Yet, God is merciful to those who never received the law. This mercy is available through Christ's atonement, as taught in the Law of Moses, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord... [the priest] shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering...the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them (Lev 4:2,20).

The Book of Mormon teaches this principle in several different locations. King Benjamin's sermon includes the following, his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned (Mosiah 3:11). Mormon teaches that both children and those without the law will be saved, For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law, for the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law (Moroni 8:22).

The scriptures go so far as to say that those without the law will come forth in the first resurrection, And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them (DC 45:54). They will come forth in the first resurrection after those who are 'the first fruits' (or those who come forth in the morning of the first resurrection). See DC 88:98-9 and DC 76:71-73. The prophet taught that we cannot be saved in ignorance, but the heathen will not remain in ignorance. Some day they will know to what source they may look for a remission of sins, and they will acknowledge the great mercy of the Lord when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.

Carlos E. Asay

"If the time of winking at ignorance had passed in Paul's day, after the death and resurrection of Christ, it has surely passed in our day. For God has revealed himself in our day and dispelled the numerous and misguiding myths about his nature and purpose that had accumulated through centuries of spiritual darkness. Those who lived during the dark ages may have deserved the wink from Deity; however, we who live in the fullness of times and bask in the light of a restitution of all things have no excuse. Our worship should be conducted 'in spirit and in truth' (Alma 34:38). (Family Pecan Trees: Planting a Legacy of Faith at Home [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 191.)

Acts 17:32 when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked

"It is hard for the worldly-minded and those untutored in the things of the Spirit to believe that dead persons will be revived and come back to life. They think such a thing is 'unreasonable' and fantastical. When Paul spoke to the philosophers on Mars' hill near the city of Athens, he had a very intellectual audience who worshipped 'the Unknown God.' These people often came together and 'spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing' (Acts 17:21). Paul proceeded to preach Jesus and the resurrection and told them: '[God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised [Jesus] from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.' (Acts 17:31-32.)

"Several years later during a hearing before King Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus, Paul encountered the same kind of worldly opposition to the resurrection. Paul praised Agrippa because, as Paul stated, 'I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.' In the course of his subsequent oration, Paul said to the king: 'Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?' (Acts 26:3, Acts 26:8 8.)

"Paul proceeded to tell of his conversion and of his being visited by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (several years after the Crucifixion), and he testified that Jesus was raised from the dead. At this point, as Paul testified of the resurrection, Festus interrupted him and 'said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad' (Acts 26:24).

"As the above passages illustrate, the doctrine of the resurrection, concerning which the prophets have taught and testified, is simply not congruent with the learning and the philosophies of the world. The resurrection is something to which the world cannot relate empirically; it has to be understood by faith and by the Holy Ghost. Consequently it is not readily accepted or believed in the world." (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 197 - 199.)

Howard W. Hunter

"When men heard that young Joseph Smith was claiming God had manifested Himself to the boy, they mocked him and turned away from him, just as in the Christian era wise and able men in Athens turned away from a singular man ministering in their midst. Yet the fact remains that Paul, in that earlier experience, was the only man in that great city of learning who knew that a person may pass through the portals of death and live. He was the only man in Athens who could clearly delineate the difference between the formality of idolatry and the heartfelt worship of the only true and living God." ("The Sixth Day of April, 1830," Ensign, May 1991, 63)