In Acts 10:1–11:18 we see how Christ’s True Church is dynamic, responding to continuous revelation with changes in policy, while staying true to doctrine and eternal truth.
Peter was in Jaffa, a city on the Mediterranean Coast of Israel near Tel Aviv. A gentile, Cornelius, saw an angel in vision who told him to send for the Apostle Peter. Peter learned in a vision that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles (people who were not Jews). Peter’s vision was symbolic, in that a sort of tarp descended, full of unclean animals. When bidden to kill and partake, Peter refused, since he was dedicated to keeping the Mosaic dietary laws. The Lord said to Peter not to consider unclean that which the Lord declared clean.
Peter went to Caesarea to teach Cornelius and his family and friends. The Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and others, and they were baptized. Some members of the Church criticized Peter for teaching Gentiles, but when he told the other apostles of his vision, they accepted it as revelation for the Church. For Peter, the awakening that a new era was being ushered in came fairly gradually. When he told the other apostles of his vision and ensuing experience, the apostles had to reconsider their former biases. Realizing that the Lord had sent the Holy Ghost upon these Gentiles, meant they had the Lord’s approval. Each of the apostles had to pray for his own confirmation from God that a change in policy should occur, and then they had to come to a consensus in order to change the direction of the Church.
As Gentiles began to affiliate with the Church, a division arose in the membership and even among the leaders. (See Acts 15:1–35.) Remember that early Christianity was viewed as a sect of Judaism. Although animal sacrifice had been ended for the followers of Jesus, they still kept the other laws of Moses. New converts were expected to do this also. It is understandable that new members of the Church who were Gentiles saw no good reason to be circumcised, which was also the sign of the Abrahamic covenant as well as part of Mosaic fellowship.
As the apostles conferred with each other, fasted, prayed, and sought revelation, they concurred that Gentiles should not have to live by strict Jewish law in order to be Christians. They decided to require only that Gentiles keep part of the dietary laws — not to eat blood, strangled animals, or animals sacrificed to idols.
See in these two instances, changes in policy in order to lead the Church of Jesus Christ forward in its progress. These changes were inspired by revelation, and the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ used the promptings of the Holy Ghost to lead them in making their decisions.
Policy changes by Christ’s prophets and apostles in these last days follow the same pattern. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the full restoration of Christ’s ancient Church, the only true and living church on the face of the earth, having power and authority from God in its priesthood and ordinances. Some say that starting and ending the practice of plural marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ was a doctrinal change, but it was not. The doctrine, as stated in the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, is that plural marriage must be ordained by God in order to be practiced righteously, and that unless He directly commands or condones it through revelation to His prophets, men are to have only one wife. God has said through His scriptures that the reason He might command plural marriage is to “raise up seed unto Himself.”
Thus, he commanded Joseph Smith to begin the practice, and after 50 years of increasing the righteous membership of His Church, He commanded prophet Wilford Woodruff to end it. This was a policy change, not a doctrinal change. Another policy change enacted by direct revelation is the very recent change of Mormon missionary qualification ages, from 19 to 18 for young men, and 21 to 19 for young women. This policy change will most likely increase the missionary force of the Church of Jesus Christ from over 50,000 missionaries to over 80,000. The Lord is hastening His work.
In Acts 12, we read about the martyrdom of James and the imprisonment of Peter by Herod. Note that Herod imprisoned Peter, because he saw that the martyrdom of James “pleased the Jews.” Whenever the phrase “the Jews” is mentioned, one should replace it with “the wicked Jewish leaders.” The Bible makes it clear that the Jews were led by wicked shepherds. However, among the cities of the Gentiles, for example on the island of Cyprus, the Jews constantly rose up against the early Christians to cause trouble. Cyprus expelled its Jews very early on, as it became a Christian island. The later history of the Jews is full of blood and tears, and any good Christian should be grateful to the Jews for the many gifts they have given mankind. Anti-Semitism should never be acceptable to Christians.
The early Saints prayed mightily for Peter, and he was released from prison by an angel. Herod was smitten by an angel and died a horrible death. It almost seemed as if he rotted to death.
In Acts 13–14 we read about the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. Note Acts 13:51: “But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.” Shaking the dust off one’s feet against those who revile the faith and God’s true servants is a real priesthood ordinance, and it brings the condemnation of God upon those revilers. There are examples of this in the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of modern revelations to prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you, leave your blessing upon that house. And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you not, ye shall depart speedily from that house, and shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them.
And you shall be filled with joy and gladness; and know this, that in the day of judgment you shall be judges of that house, and condemn them; And it shall be more tolerable for the heathen in the day of judgment, than for that house; therefore, gird up your loins and be faithful, and ye shall overcome all things, and be lifted up at the last day. Even so. Amen (Doctrine and Covenants 75:19-22; see also D&C 24:15).
We can see this same injunction from God in biblical times in Luke 9:5 and Matthew 10:14, as well as Mark 6:11. This act performed by those called of God has real power to condemn those who fight against the kingdom of God.