Here are some ideas for learning and teaching a few of the great principles in 1 and 2 Peter. And while you’re here, I recommend you check out my free online course, “Seeking Jesus.”
Videos for 1 and 2 Peter
“Expectations, Happiness and Trials” (a 4-minute devotional excerpted from “Seeking Jesus,” highly recommended!)
Ideas for Learning and Teaching About 1 and 2 Peter
***Don’t be Surprised by Fiery Trials***
*The below is a summary of “Expectations, Happiness and Trials” (a 4-minute video devotional). I recommend the video because of the fun visuals that appear (not included in the below text). If you’d like to remix any of these visuals in your own presentation, you can download the PowerPoint I used in that video here.
Think of a time when you participated in an activity and things went better than anticipated. How did you feel? Now think of a time when you participated in an activity and things went worse than you thought they would. How did you feel? Your answers to these questions should reveal what researchers have established: expectations matter. In fact, as the authors of a study involving 18,420 participants wrote, “Momentary happiness is a state that reflects not how well things are going but instead whether things are going better than expected.” In an interview about the study, the lead researcher noted, “Lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.”
Although in some aspects of life it is helpful to have high expectations, many of us would be happier if we lowered some of our expectations. One area in which some of us develop inappropriate expectations relates to what God will do for us. The following is an unrealistic expectation that can destroy our peace: “If I keep the commandments, things will always work out in the short term the way I want them to work out.”
While the media often portrays happy endings, real life provides many counterexamples. This reality can be particularly jarring for those of us who have grown up believing that “inasmuch as [I] shall keep [God’s] commandments [I] shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:20). A woman wrote me a note that said in part, “If the righteous are blessed and find success, how come I have failed in every aspect of my life no matter how hard I’ve tried and how good I have been?” How does she reconcile her life experiences with the scriptural promises? There is no easy answer to this question, but at least part of the answer lies in addressing the reality that things will not always work out in mortality the way we want.
The Apostle Peter understood this mismatched expectation and wrote to the early-day Saints: “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12–13, NRSV).
Many people in scripture show us that things do not always work out for the righteous. Thus, we can replace the false expectation, “If I keep the commandments, things will always work out in the short term the way I want them to” with an eternal expectation: “If I keep my covenants and endure to the end, everything will work out—whether in this life or the next.” We can say something to the effect of, “I’m choosing to stay on the covenant path because I love God—regardless of my current life circumstances.” I believe that people like Leah, Lehi, Abinadi, Mormon–good people who faced significant trials–as well as many others, focused their eyes on the future and found hope in their eternal expectations of the reality of Jesus Christ.
For reasons known only to God, some very good people face extreme trials that are never fully resolved in mortality. Many will suffer immense heartbreak, but these trials do not mean we are abandoned.
As Sister Sheri L. Dew taught, Christ’s “Atonement makes available all of the power, peace, light, and strength that we need to deal with life’s challenges—those ranging from our own mistakes and sins to trials over which we have no control but we still feel pain.” This pain is a part of life, and it’s okay to be sad.
Nephi’s wife shed tears during her bitter trials (see 1 Nephi 18:19), and we may as well. When we have unmet expectations, we can ask ourselves, “What outcome am I expecting that I am not receiving? How could I alter this expectation to focus on the eternal expectation of a future day when God will wipe away all my tears?”
Our eternal expectation is that the Savior will sweep away our sorrows when he comes again. Elder Dale G. Renlund taught: “Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, ultimately, in the eternal scheme of things, there will be no unfairness. . . . Our present circumstances may not change, but through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for.”
***Cast All Your Anxiety on Christ***
Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). What does this look like in real life? Consider the case of Lehi:
Much of Lehi’s past remains shrouded in mystery, but we know he was a prophet who saw the Lord. Lehi was also wealthy; he had obtained both temporal and spiritual success. But like all parents, he could not control the choices of his children. Although many parents struggle with children who make poor decisions, few know the strain of disobedient children as well as Lehi. He had children who “did murmur in many things against their father” (1 Nephi 2:11), smote their brothers with a stick, and on multiple occasions sought to kill Nephi and even Lehi.
As Lehi was about to pass away, he said to Laman and Lemuel, “My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared . . . that ye be cut off and destroyed forever” (2 Nephi 1:17). Their disobedience had been the “anxiety of [Lehi’s] soul” (2 Nephi 1:16).
His dying wish was that his sons would “arise from the dust . . . and be men” (2 Nephi 1:21). Instead, Laman and Lemuel hardened their hearts against Nephi and were full of hatred toward him (see 2 Nephi 5:14). Lehi’s supreme trial of having children who made poor choices was never resolved. For decades, he worked with Laman and Lemuel, patiently encouraging them to choose a better path. But in the end, they didn’t, and there was no happy ending in mortality.
But at the same time Lehi spoke of his poor health, “the anxiety of [his] soul,” and his “heart [being] weighed down with sorrow,” he also described how he was “encircled about eternally in the arms of [God’s] love” (2 Nephi 1:14–17). Lehi was able to hold both realities simultaneously and find joy in eternal expectations even though he had serious temporal troubles.
Isaiah testified, “The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). Echoing this promise, the Apostle John taught that in the Millennium, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The Savior was “lifted up upon the cross, [so that he] might draw all men unto [him]” (3 Nephi 27:14). Because of his extreme anguish, we can receive happy exalted endings. As we shift our focus from mortal to eternal expectations, we can look forward with an eye of faith to future joys, knowing that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Truly, we can “Cast all [our] anxiety on him, because he cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7).
***Satan is like a Lion***
1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith.” We might see the phrase, “Satan is like a lion,” and think, “That’s nice.” But think about how ferocious lions are. If I were teaching these verses to teens or older, I might show learners a short video excerpt of lions hunting their prey (many are available on YouTube, you could show the first minute of this one (although it might be too graphic). If I understand that Satan is like a lion who wants to devour me, how can that change the way I “resist him, steadfast in [my] faith”?
If you want to do a deep dive into Peter, I recommend this book, freely available online: The Ministry of Peter, the Chief Apostle, edited by Frank F. Judd Jr., Eric D. Huntsman, and Shon D. Hopkin.
Two chapters from this book that are particularly relevant to 1 and 2 Peter are “Wondering at His Words: Peter’s Influence on the Knowledge of Salvation for the Dead,” by Scott C. Esplin and Make Your Calling and Election Sure,” by Robert L. Millet.
One other chapter from that book that I think is particularly helpful for understanding Peter’s background is, “Simon Peter in Capernaum: An Archaeological Survey of the First-Century Village,” by Matthew J. Grey. This article helps us better understand the human side of Peter and what his life would have been like prior to meeting Jesus Christ.