Matthew 16 records that the Savior promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 16:18–19). Six days later the Lord took Peter, James, and John onto a mountain, where He was transfigured before them in the presence of Moses and Elias, who was Elijah (see Matthew 17:1–13). Latter-day prophets have taught that Peter, James, and John received the promised priesthood keys on this occasion. Then, as recorded in Matthew 18, the Savior taught His disciples doctrines and principles that would help them use these keys when they would lead the Church after His departure.
As recorded in Matthew 16, Peter bore his testimony that Jesus is the Christ, and the Savior explained that Peter had received that knowledge by revelation.
Ask: What are some ways in which people seek to obtain a witness of spiritual truths?
Explain to students that as they study Matthew 16:1–18, they will have the opportunity to contrast the way some Pharisees and Sadducees sought for a witness of the Savior with the way Peter received a witness that Jesus was the Christ. Have a student read Matthew 16:1.
What types of miracles had the Savior previously performed that the Pharisees and Sadducees may have either seen or heard about? (If students need help here, you might have them briefly skim Matthew 8–9.)
Why do you think Matthew used the word tempting to describe the request of the Pharisees and Sadducees? (You might need to explain that tempting in this verse means “testing.” The Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to place the burden on Jesus to prove Himself to them; they did not take responsibility to gain a testimony for themselves.)
Read Matthew 16:2–4, and ask students to look for answers to the following questions:
As recorded in verses 2–3, what did the Savior chasten the Pharisees and Sadducees about? (They failed to discern the “signs of the times”—the fulfillment of prophecies—that would have helped them recognize that Jesus was the Christ.)
Why is seeking after signs an inadequate way to gain a lasting testimony of Jesus Christ? (During the discussion, help students understand these truths: A testimony of Jesus Christ comes through revelation. Those who look only for physical signs of the truthfulness of the gospel often overlook spiritual witnesses presented to them.)
If someone were looking solely for physical evidences of the truthfulness of the gospel today, what types of spiritual witnesses might they overlook?
If students do not know what is meant by “the sign of the prophet Jonas” in Matthew 16:4, have them cross-reference this verse with Matthew 12:39–40 and Jonah 1:17 (see also the student manual commentary for Matthew 16:4).
Briefly summarize Matthew 16:5–12 by telling students that in these verses the Savior warned His disciples of the “leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” which was their false teachings, philosophies, and ideas. These false teachings and beliefs led them to reject the Savior and the truths He taught. (For further ideas to help in teaching this subject, see the information on Matthew 16:6–12 in the supplemental teaching ideas for this lesson.) Have a student read Matthew 16:13–15. Encourage students to pay special attention to the two questions Jesus asked His disciples.
Of the two questions the Savior asked His disciples, which one do you feel is the more important question? (Students will likely say the second question.)
Why do you think the Savior wanted His disciples to think more about who they said He was than who others said He was?
Share the following definition of a testimony from President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost, whose primary ministry is to testify of truth, particularly as it relates to the Father and the Son” (“Pure Testimony,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 40).
Then have students silently read Matthew 16:16–18, looking for how Peter received his testimony of Jesus Christ. To help students better understand that a testimony comes through revelation, ask the following question:
How was the source of Peter’s testimony of Jesus Christ different from how the Pharisees and Sadducees learned about Jesus? (As the students share their responses, help them understand this truth: A testimony of Jesus Christ comes through revelation. You may want to write this principle on the board.)
Remind students that it is significant that Peter declared Jesus to be “the Christ.” “The English word Christ is from a Greek word meaning ‘anointed’ and is the equivalent of Messiah, which is from a Hebrew and Aramaic term meaning ‘anointed’” (Bible Dictionary, “Anointed One”; see also Guide to the Scriptures, “Anointed One,” scriptures.lds.org). Though Peter had previously witnessed the Savior performing miracles (see Matthew 8–9), it was through revelation that Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
Explain that some people in our day read Matthew 16:18 and mistakenly believe that Jesus Christ designated Peter as the rock upon which the Church would be built. Have students read the student manual commentary for Matthew 16:18, “Revelation Is the Rock upon Which the Church Is Built.”
Why must the Lord’s Church be founded on revelation?
Invite a few students to briefly share an experience when the Holy Ghost bore witness to them of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Ask them to share how that testimony has been a strength to them. You might also ask students to explain how the personal testimonies of members of the Church are an important part of the rock upon which the Church is built.
Ask several students to share how they might respond if someone said to them, “I’ve got something I want to give you.” After a few responses, explain that as recorded in Matthew 16, the Savior promised to give Peter something.
Read Matthew 16:19 with students, and ask:
What did Jesus promise to give Peter? (Priesthood keys of the kingdom of heaven.)
What did Jesus say Peter would be able to do with these keys of the kingdom of heaven? (Bind and loose things on earth that would then be bound and loosed in heaven.)
Ask students to read the student manual commentary for Matthew 16:19 in order to understand more about these keys.
What did Peter do with the keys Jesus Christ later gave to him? (He presided over the Church on earth. As guided by the Holy Ghost, he gave direction to other Church leaders.)
Why is it necessary for priesthood keys to be held by modern-day Church leaders?
Make sure that students understand this doctrine: Priesthood keys are necessary to administer the kingdom of God. You may want to write this doctrine on the board.
Write the following names on the board: God the Father, Jesus Christ, Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elias (Elijah). Give students time to study Matthew 17:1–9 and the information in the student manual commentaries for Matthew 17:3–5 (including the chart) and for Matthew 17:3–9. Students can study individually or in pairs. Ask them to look for what each of the individuals listed on the board did on the Mount of Transfiguration. After sufficient time, lead a class discussion on what each individual did on the Mount of Transfiguration. Make sure students understand that the Savior, Moses, and Elijah each gave priesthood keys to Peter, James, and John.
Explain to students that in 1836, Jesus Christ, Moses, Elijah, and Elias appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and conferred on Joseph and Oliver the same priesthood keys given earlier to Peter, James, and John (see D&C 110). Share the following quotation by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
“I testify that the priesthood was restored with all its keys to Joseph Smith. And I bear solemn witness that those keys have been passed to the present day to the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who is the president of the priesthood in all the earth” (“A Priesthood Quorum,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 45).
Why is it necessary for the President of the Church to hold the same priesthood keys today that were given to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration? (Possible answers: As with Peter, the Church President must have the authority to govern and direct all of God’s work in the Church. The Church President holds all the priesthood keys necessary to ensure that priesthood ordinances performed in the Church are binding on earth and in heaven. The Church organization today is a restoration of the Lord’s original Church, so the same priesthood keys are necessary.)
Consider inviting a few students to share how the restoration of keys of the priesthood has blessed their lives. Share your testimony of the calling of the current President of the Church, and testify that he has these same keys today. Under his direction and as he delegates those keys, all the ordinances of salvation are administered on the earth.
Share the following story told by President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018):
“I am acquainted with a family which came to America from Germany. The English language was difficult for them. They had but little by way of means, but each was blessed with the will to work and with a love of God.
“Their third child was born, lived but two months, and then died. Father was a cabinetmaker and fashioned a beautiful casket for the body of his precious child. The day of the funeral was gloomy, thus reflecting the sadness they felt in their loss. As the family walked to the chapel, with Father carrying the tiny casket, a small number of friends had gathered. However, the chapel door was locked. The busy bishop had forgotten the funeral. Attempts to reach him were futile. Not knowing what to do, the father placed the casket under his arm and, with his family beside him, carried it home, walking in a drenching rain” (“Hidden Wedges,” Ensign, May 2002, 19).
Pause and ask: What thoughts and feelings do you think the family might have had when their bishop failed to show up for the funeral?
Share the conclusion of President Monson’s story:
“If the family were of a lesser character, they could have blamed the bishop and harbored ill feelings. When the bishop discovered the tragedy, he visited the family and apologized. With the hurt still evident in his expression, but with tears in his eyes, the father accepted the apology, and the two embraced in a spirit of understanding. No hidden wedge was left to cause further feelings of anger. Love and acceptance prevailed” (“Hidden Wedges,” 19).
Why was it important for this family to be willing to forgive in this difficult situation?
Why is it sometimes difficult to forgive others?
Explain that after Peter, James, and John received the keys of the kingdom, the Savior instructed His Apostles about how to use the keys, including how to deal with transgressors in the Church (see Matthew 18:15–19). This instruction prompted Peter to ask a question about forgiving others.
Have a student read Matthew 18:21–22.
As the students share their ideas, make sure they understand this doctrine: The Lord has commanded us to forgive those who offend us.
Have students silently read Matthew 18:23–30. As they read, have half of the class look for similarities between the two servants. Have the other half of the class look for differences between the two servants. After sufficient time, ask students to share with the class what they discovered. Either during or after students give their responses, consider asking follow-up questions such as:
What is the difference between ten thousand talents and a hundred pence? (The student manual commentary for Matthew 18:23–35 will help in explaining this difference.)
Why do you think the wording of the requests of both servants, found in verses 26 and 29, is significant? (Note that the requests are identical. Both men asked for patience and mercy.)
What is your reaction to the unwillingness of the first servant to forgive the man who owed him money? Why do you feel that way?
To help students understand the deeper meaning of this parable, it might be important at this point to define whom the individuals in the parable represent. Write the following on the board:
Ask: Whom do these individuals in the parable represent?
Complete the board illustration as students respond. It should look something like the following:
How does the debt of ten thousand talents symbolize our debt to the Lord? (It includes everything He has given us, as well as the amount of offense we have caused Him.)
How does the debt of a hundred pence symbolize the debt others owe to us? (It represents the amount of offense they have caused us.)
Invite students to silently study Matthew 18:31–35. After sufficient time, ask:
What principle does this parable teach us about the Lord’s willingness to forgive us and our responsibility to forgive others? (As the students share their responses, emphasize this principle: If we are to receive forgiveness from the Lord, we must be willing to forgive others. Consider writing this principle on the board.)
To conclude the lesson, you might ask students if they would be willing to share an experience with forgiving someone or being forgiven by someone else. If appropriate share an experience of your own. Testify that in order to receive forgiveness from the Lord, we are required to forgive others.