“Unit 4, Day 4: Matthew 16–17,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)
“Unit 4, Day 4,” New Testament Study Guide
Jesus Christ rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who asked Him for a sign of His divinity. Peter bore testimony that Jesus is the Christ, and He was promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus Christ, Moses, and Elijah conferred priesthood keys upon Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. After coming down from the mount, Jesus cast out a devil from a boy. In Capernaum, Jesus provided money in a miraculous way to pay taxes.
What would you say to someone to help them understand why you believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church upon the earth?
As you study Matthew 16, look for truths that can help you understand and explain to others what distinguishes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Lord’s Church upon the earth (see D&C 1:30).
In Matthew 16:1–12 we read that the Savior rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees when they asked Him for a sign of His divinity. He then warned His disciples to not follow these wicked men.
The Savior then went with His disciples “into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi” (Matthew 16:13; in this verse the word coasts refers to the region or area). In the accompanying picture of Caesarea Philippi, what do you see behind the river and trees?
Read Matthew 16:13–19, looking for how the Savior used the symbol of a rock to describe the foundation of His Church. (Matthew 16:15–19 is a scripture mastery passage. You may want to mark this passage in a distinctive way so you will be able to locate it easily.)
Notice in verses 16–17 that it was through revelation from Heavenly Father that Peter knew Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus then referred to revelation as He described the foundation of His Church.
The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “Jesus in His teachings says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ [Matthew 16:18.] What rock? Revelation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 195).
He also testified: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded upon direct revelation, as the true Church of God has ever been, according to the Scriptures (Amos 3:7, and Acts 1:2)” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 195).
Consider the following information: “As the Savior taught Peter about revelation, He used a wordplay on Peter’s name, declaring to Simon, ‘Thou art Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). The Greek word petros means an isolated small rock or stone. The Greek word petra can also mean ‘a stone,’ but in addition it can refer to stony soil, bedrock, or a large mass of rock [see Matthew 16:18, footnote a]. From these words we learn that it was not upon Peter as a man that the Church would be built, but upon the bedrock of revelation” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 53).
You may want to write the following truth in your scriptures near Matthew 16:18: Jesus Christ’s Church is built upon revelation from God.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why is it important to you to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built, or founded, upon revelation from God?
How does this affect the way you follow counsel from modern prophets as they receive revelation for our day?
Review Matthew 16:19, looking for what the Savior promised to give Peter.
From the Savior’s words “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” we learn that Jesus Christ entrusts the keys of His kingdom to His chosen prophets and apostles. The keys of His kingdom are priesthood keys, and the kingdom the Savior referred to is the Church of Jesus Christ.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what priesthood keys are and why they are important: “‘Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth’ [Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 2.1.1]. Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function” (“The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 49).
The keys the Savior promised to Peter included the sealing power—the power to bind or loose on earth and in heaven. This power allows the ordinances performed under the authority of Church leaders on the earth to be valid in heaven. It is also used to bind families together for eternity. Matthew 16:19 helps us understand why Jesus Christ gives priesthood keys to His prophets and apostles: Priesthood keys are necessary to administer the Lord’s Church upon the earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church upon the earth that has received and presently holds priesthood authority and keys from the Lord.
In Matthew 16:21–28 we learn that Jesus spoke of His atoning sacrifice and taught His disciples that they must also be willing to sacrifice in order to follow Him. The Joseph Smith Translation gives a clearer understanding of what it means to take up one’s cross:
“And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.
“Break not my commandments for to save your lives; for whosoever will save his life in this world, shall lose it in the world to come” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 16:26–27 [in the Bible appendix]).
- Find a family member or friend to help you role-play the following scenario:
Imagine you are talking to a friend who is not a member of the Church. Your friend asks the questions below. Use the truths you have learned from Matthew 16:15–19 to answer your friend’s questions.
I heard that your church claims to be the only true church of Jesus Christ. Is that what you believe?
My church also believes in Jesus Christ, so why do you think that your church is the only true one?
After you have completed the role play, ask your family member or friend to write in your scripture study journal that you completed this assignment. If a family member or friend is not available, you may simply answer the questions above in your scripture study journal.
Think of how priesthood authority could be compared to a driver’s license and priesthood keys could be compared to keys needed to operate a vehicle.
Ponder the following questions: What does possessing a driver’s license authorize a person to do? Why is it important to have access to car keys in addition to having a driver’s license? How might having a driver’s license and keys to drive a car be compared to the authority and keys of the priesthood necessary to direct God’s work?
When the Lord promised to give Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19), or the authority to direct God’s work on the earth, Peter and the other Apostles had already been given priesthood authority, but they had not yet been given priesthood keys to direct the kingdom—the Church of Jesus Christ. As you study Matthew 17, look for how Peter, James, and John received the keys of the kingdom.
Read Matthew 17:1–2, looking for where Jesus took Peter, James, and John to receive priesthood keys.
What happened to the Savior on the mount?
Transfiguration refers to “the condition of persons who are temporarily changed in appearance and nature—that is, lifted to a higher spiritual level—so that they can endure the presence and glory of heavenly beings” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Transfiguration,” scriptures.lds.org; see also Bible Dictionary, “Transfiguration, Mount of”). Peter, James, and John were also transfigured at this time (see D&C 67:11–12).
As you read Matthew 17:3, add to the following chart the names of two other individuals who were present on the Mount of Transfiguration. Note that Elias here refers to Elijah, the Old Testament prophet (see Matthew 17:3, footnote b). “There are several uses of this word [Elias] in the scriptures. (1) It is the New Testament (Greek) form of Elijah (Hebrew), as in Luke 4:25–26, James 5:17, and Matt. 17:1–4. Elias in these instances can only be the ancient prophet Elijah whose ministry is recorded in 1 and 2 Kings” (Bible Dictionary, “Elias”; see Guide to the Scriptures, “Elias,”scriptures.lds.org).
Individuals who were present on the Mount of Transfiguration
Peter, James, and John
Read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and mark the reason why Moses and Elijah were present on the mount: “The Savior, Moses, and Elias [Elijah], gave the keys [of the priesthood] to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him” (Teachings: Joseph Smith , 105).
The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible states that John the Baptist—whom Herod had killed—also appeared on the mount (see Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:3 [in Mark 9:4, footnote a]). The Bible Dictionary states that the “wording of JST, Mark 9:3 does not imply that the Elias at the Transfiguration was John the Baptist, but that in addition to Elijah the prophet, John the Baptist was present” (Bible Dictionary, “Elias”). Add John the Baptist to the chart above.
Read Matthew 17:4–9, looking for who else was present on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Add God the Father to the chart.
The experience of Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration was an important event in the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “Until men attain a higher status of spiritual understanding than they now enjoy, they can learn only in part what took place upon the Mount of Transfiguration” and that what we know is “from the New Testament accounts and from the added light revealed through Joseph Smith” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:399).
You may remember that a gospel dispensation is a period of time in which Heavenly Father dispenses priesthood authority, ordinances, and knowledge of His plan of salvation to people on the earth through His authorized servants (see Bible Dictionary, “Dispensations,” or Guide to the Scriptures, “Dispensation,” scriptures.lds.org). Each person identified in the chart who was present on the Mount of Transfiguration also appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in our dispensation.
Draw a line from the names of the individuals listed in the chart to the corresponding picture portraying a time when they appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. After you have finished, check your answers by using the following information:
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith during his First Vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17).
John the Baptist conferred the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 13).
Peter, James, and John conferred the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 27:12).
Elijah conferred the keys of the sealing power on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. Moses conferred the keys for the gathering of Israel on them the same day (see D&C 110).
From the events that occurred on the Mount of Transfiguration and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s experiences at the beginning of the Restoration, we learn that in each dispensation, God confers priesthood keys upon His chosen servants so they can direct His work upon the earth.
The current prophets and apostles hold the same priesthood keys the Prophet Joseph Smith received. These keys have been passed down from Joseph Smith through Brigham Young and subsequent prophets.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why do you feel it is important to know that the same pattern of conferring priesthood keys that occurred during the time of Jesus Christ was repeated in our day with the Prophet Joseph Smith?
How would you explain to a friend that heavenly messengers (angels) giving priesthood keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith follows a pattern established by God?
- In your scripture study journal, write a goal regarding what you will do to better follow and sustain those who hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven in our day.
At the conclusion of the sacred experience on the Mount of Transfiguration the Savior commanded them, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matthew 17:9).
Consider how this instruction is similar to the following counsel by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).
Why should we be careful about sharing sacred experiences and do so only when prompted by the Spirit?
In Matthew 17:10–27 we learn that Jesus Christ cast a devil out of a boy and miraculously provided tribute money for Himself and Peter.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Matthew 16–17 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: