Why was a story as embarrassing as Peter’s betrayal included in the scriptures? Consider D & C 1:24–28.
(adapted from Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels)
If I’m thinking about posting a picture on Facebook, I’ll look it over carefully to be sure that the background doesn’t reveal my messy house–or anything else that I don’t want to share with the world. I’ll admit it: I’m guilty of curating my life so that I only present the pieces that I want others to see.
It’s a natural instinct, I think (at least, that’s what I tell myself), which is why it is so surprising how frequently the scriptures contain material far more embarrassing than a messy house. Material like Peter denying Jesus just hours after he swore that he would give his life before doing so. But there it is, preserved for the ages, alongside Joseph Smith’s errors and Lehi’s moment of weak faith and many, many others. So a few implications of this:
1. Do not assume that just because something is in the scriptures, it is meant for you to emulate it. It might rather be what I call a Berenstain bear moment: “This is what you should not do–let this be a lesson to you!” This is even true if the person in question is a “good guy (or gal).”
2. The whole point of these instances is that we are supposed to learn from them (see D & C 1:24-28, which rather clearly sets this out). So do so! I think a great discussion question to ask a class might be: What’s motivating Peter here? In what types of situations would we be tempted to act on the same motives? What are more honorable ways to deal with those motives? etc.
3. I think the D & C passage also makes clear–if the ample examples in the scriptures didn’t already–that God wants unvarnished, warts-and-all style history: no hagiography, no white-washing, no eliding uncomfortable material. (So, ah, maybe it’s time for me to hit ‘share’ without micro-analyzing my photos first.)
4. Another ‘side effect’ of acknowledging the imperfections of great men and women is two-fold: we see a greater hope for ourselves (“If God could use Peter for a great work even after this, there’s surely a place here for me despite my past!”) and a renewed focus on Jesus Christ as the one perfect person, a role emphasized when we stop trying to selectively edit other people so they appear perfect.