This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.
August 21-27, 2023
1 Corinthians 1-7
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
1 Corinthians 1:10–17; 3:1–11
The members of Christ’s Church strive to be united.
We don’t know all the details about the lack of unity among the Corinthian Saints, but we do know about lack of unity in our own relationships. Think of a relationship in your life that could benefit from more unity; then look for what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 1:10–17; 3:1–11 about lack of unity among the Corinthian Saints. What insights can you gain about how to develop greater unity with others?
Although 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 was not a part of the commentary in the above paragraph, it does say,
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
According to the context, “temple” is referring to the body of Christ and not the individual Christian as Paul was referencing in 1 Corinthians 6. Paul was certainly against personality battles (between him, Apollos and Peter) and desired unity of the church.
1 Corinthians 1:17–31; 2
To accomplish God’s work, I need the wisdom of God.
While it’s good—even encouraged—to seek wisdom wherever we can find it (see 2 Nephi 9:29; Doctrine and Covenants 88:118), Paul gave some strongly worded warnings about flawed human wisdom, which he called “the wisdom of this world.” As you read 1 Corinthians 1:17–25, ponder what this phrase might mean. What do you think Paul meant by the “wisdom of God”? Why do we need God’s wisdom to accomplish God’s work?
I notice no mention is made of verse 18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. “
It is the cross that Paul emphasizes in his writing and not the Garden of Gethsemane normally emphasized by LDS leaders. As he described in 1 Corinthians 1:
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[
Although the cross is just a symbol and not something worshiped by Christians, this is not understood by LDS leaders. They normally like to point out the importance of what took place at the Garden of Gethsemane (sweating blood) while treating what took place at the cross as somehow an afterthought. Considerthe assessment of 15th President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of a Living Christ.”“The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, April 2005, 3
Here is an article on the topic of why Christians glory in the cross.
In your efforts to fulfill your responsibilities in accomplishing God’s work, have you ever experienced the “fear, and … much trembling” that Paul felt when he taught the Corinthian Saints? (1 Corinthians 2:3). What do you find in 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 that gives you courage? Consider how you can show that you trust the “power of God” more than “the wisdom of men.”
Verse 2 says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” But to the Latter-day Saint leaders, crucifixion is a grisly topic that they normally avoid, including in this lesson. After all, when is the last time that an LDS leader exulted in the crucifixion of Jesus?
Protocol when talking about the atonement is place prominence on the Garden of Gethsemane, a place never once referenced by the apostle Paul! As I’ve said many ties before, the atonement came at the expiation (death) of the sacrificial victim, not its/His persperation. As 1 Peter 3:18a says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all…” Not, “Christ also sweated for sins once for all…”
For more on this topic, click here.
Going back to the question raised in the lesson, how can I show that I trust the “power of God” more than “the wisdom of men”? The wisdom of men is not just referring to the ways of this world. It can also be a religious system like Mormonism. As mentioned above, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who don’t grasp the concept of the atonement, and this includes Latter-day Saints. If I understand that the Bible is truly God’s Word, then I can trust what the authors are teaching in the pages of this timeless book. This is the power of God! I rely on it more than I will trust the wisdom of fallible human beings.
1 Corinthians 2:9–16
I need the Holy Ghost in order to understand the things of God.
If you wanted to learn more about something like automotive mechanics or medieval architecture, how would you do it? According to 1 Corinthians 2:9–16, how is learning “the things of God” different from learning the “things of a man”? Why must we have the Holy Ghost in order to understand the things of God? After reading these verses, what do you feel you should do to understand spiritual things more fully? How could Paul’s words help someone who is struggling with his or her testimony?
Without the Holy Spirit, it is not possible to be a Christian! He is the third Person of the Trinity and must be present in the true believer to understand the things of God. It’s that simple. When it comes to Mormonism versus biblical Christianity, however, there are many differences in doctrines, including our view of the Holy Spirit. We do not have the same doctrine of the Spirit and thus we cannot trust what LDS leaders have taught on Him.
1 Corinthians 6:13–20
My body is sacred.
Most people in Corinth felt that sexual immorality was acceptable and that their bodies were made primarily for pleasure. In other words, Corinth was not that different from the world today. What did Paul teach in 1 Corinthians 6:13–20 that could help you explain to others why you want to live a chaste life?
In this passage, Paul writes,
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
If the Christian’s body (individually) is considered to be “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” how can the believers unite their bodies with prostitutes? That’s the issue Paul is dealing with in chapters 6 and 7 as he confronts sexual immorality, a major issue for believers in decadent Corinth in those days. As Paul put it, two people do become one flesh. Therefore, Paul commands the believers to not sin against their own bodies because of the costly price paid by Jesus.
1 Corinthians 7:29–33
Did Paul teach that it is better to be unmarried than married?
Several verses in 1 Corinthians 7 seem to suggest that while marriage is acceptable, remaining single and abstaining completely from sexual relations is preferred.
It is interesting that the writers bring up 1 Corinthians 7 because this passage clearly teaches that marriage is not a requirement to progress to a celestial glory. (Otherwise, how could Paul say that those who are single should not be looking for a mate?) Yet the following LDS presidents have clearly taught that a person cannot enter the celestial kingdom without getting married:
10th President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“Another thing that we must not forget in this great plan of redemption and exaltation, is that a man must have a wife, and a woman a husband, to receive the fulness of exaltation. They must be sealed for time and for all eternity in a temple; then their union will last forever, and they cannot be separated because God has joined them together, as he taught the Pharisees.”Doctrines of Salvation 2:43-44. Italics in original.
14th President Howard W. Hunter:
“Man is not complete without woman. Neither can fill the measure of their creation without the other. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. Only through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can they realize the fulness of eternal blessings. As a matter of priesthood responsibility, a man, under normal circumstances, should not unduly postpone marriage. Brethren, the Lord has spoken plainly on this matter. It is your sacred and solemn responsibility to follow his counsel and the words of his prophets.”“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign (Conference Edition), Nov. 1994, 49.
17th President Russell M. Nelson:
“Celestial marriage is a pivotal part of preparation for eternal life. It requires one to be married to the right person, in the right place, by the right authority, and to obey that sacred covenant faithfully. Then one may be assured of exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.”“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2008, 94.
Church manuals agree with their assessment:
“Only through temple marriage can men and women receive every eternal blessing (see D&C 131:1–4; 132:15–18).”Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual Religion 234, 2001, 54.
And still another manual states:
“To be exalted in the highest degree and continue eternally in family relationships, we must enter into ‘the new and everlasting covenant of marriage’ and be true to that covenant. In other words, temple marriage is a requirement for obtaining the highest degree of celestial glory.”True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 93.
Of course, many more authoritative quotations could be provided. The point is that marriage is vital for the Latter-day Saint who hopes to qualify for the very best this religion has to offer. Just how is a Latter-day Saint supposed to understand what Paul means in his writings? After all, he says in verse 8, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. . . .”
In verse 27b, he says, “Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife.” And in verses 37-38 he teaches, “But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.”
How can this be? If Paul accepted LDS teaching, it doesn’t seem plausible for him to encourage single people to remain unmarried. Has any LDS leader in history ever suggested that it is possible to not get married and still qualify for the celestial kingdom? If so, I have not seen one quote to show this is true.
However, Joseph Smith Translation, 1 Corinthians 7:29–33 (in the Bible appendix) helps us understand that Paul was referring to those called to be full-time missionaries, observing that they were able to serve God better if they remained single during their missions. The Lord has taught through His servants, including Paul, that marriage is part of His eternal plan and necessary for exaltation (see 1 Corinthians 11:11; Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4).
To pull out of this tailspin, the lesson’s writers make an appeal to the Joseph Smith Translation. This tactic is sometimes tried when the plain reading of the text doesn’t correspond to LDS teaching. Let’s consider some of the words from 1 Corinthians 7:29-33 in the JST:
“But I speak unto you who are called unto the ministry. For this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is but short, that ye shall be sent forth unto the ministry. Even they who have wives, shall be as though they had none; for ye are called and chosen to do the Lord’s work . . .But I would, brethren, that ye magnify your calling….”
What did Paul actually say in verses 29-33?
“But this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none. And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
These verses are dramatically changed in the JST. Then Smith picks up at verse 32 and, for the most part, copies the crux of the words from the KJV.
The point is that Smith’s interpolation cannot be substantiated either by the passage’s context or by the thousands of early manuscript copies–in fact, not one manuscript to my knowledge can validate Smith’s additions to this passage. Paul not only writes to the men but to the women as well (who were generally not leaders or missionaries). In verse 28, he refers to the female virgin while in verse 29a, he mentions both “brothers and sisters.”
It seems that Paul’s audience involves all Christian believers, both male and female, and is not specifically directed to just missionaries as referenced in the lesson. What he writes is meant for everyone, including:
- verse 26: It’s good for a man to remain as he is (married or single)
- verse 27a: If engaged to be married, the person should not seek to get out of that commitment
- verse 27b: If you are single, don’t search for a wife
- verse 28: If you marry, it’s not a sin. But know that marriage is rough in so many ways and it also will take up your resources.
But one last thing that makes absolute sense is that, somehow, the plea to be single is meant for missionaries. I’ll repeat what the lesson says:
However, Joseph Smith Translation, 1 Corinthians 7:29–33 (in the Bible appendix) helps us understand that Paul was referring to those called to be full-time missionaries, observing that they were able to serve God better if they remained single during their missions.
A Latter-day Saint reading this is probably thinking about 18- or 19-year-old missionaries. Of course, these young men and women are single. Once they get off their missions, then it must be assumed that they could get married. Right?
Here is another case of the church committing eisegesis, or the error of reading one’s own preconceived notions (and interpretation) into a biblical test. After all, the modern-day scenario of volunteers serving for two years or less is not compatible with the situation from Paul’s day. We see nowhere in the Book of Acts that missionaries were limited to two-year missions. It seemed that, for Paul, Barnabus, and Silas, their calling was a career and not a short-term commitment. And these men were not the only ones serving as missionaries. Are we supposed to believe that these biblical examples were exempt from the very clear LDS doctrine that marriage is a requirement for celestial glory? That makes no sense. The idea that Paul was only talking about full-time missionaries has no evidence to support such a concept.
In addition, older couples serve the LDS Church as missionaries today. How did this work on New Testament times? Did people have careers in those days and then, at retirement (a concept never described in the Bible), they thought about serving the church for a year or two? We see no indication that this is true. How is this passage supposed to apply to them?
To me, the reference to the JST in this lesson shows the desperation of the writers. They may have done better just ignoring 1 Corinthians 7 just as they ignored whole chapters out of the Book of Romans. The explanation they give to get around the idea that being single is an option is nothing less than ludicrous.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
1 Corinthians 6:19–20.
Comparing our bodies to temples, as Paul did, can be an effective way to teach about the sacredness of our bodies. Perhaps you could show pictures of temples, such as those that accompany this outline. Why are temples sacred? How are our bodies like temples? What can we do to treat our bodies like temples? (See also the August 2020 special edition of the Ensign or Liahona about sexuality.)
Here is what verse 19 says in the KJV: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Just as the temple building itself is considered sacred, so too is the body. The Holy Spirit resides there.
The writers of this lesson are overjoyed to reference the word “temple” in chapter 6 and then put photos of four temples at the bottom of the lesson. This sentence is given below:
Paul compared our bodies to the sacredness of the temple. Clockwise from upper left: Curitiba Brazil Temple, Mexico City Mexico Temple, Tokyo Japan Temple, Accra Ghana Temple.
As the writers do so often with references to apostles and other church leaders, here is another shout out to a unique LDS idea. Was Paul really making a reference to temple worship in his writing? Certainly not! He was merely paralleling the physical body to the sacred temple building to encourage believers to respect their bodies by not practicing sexual immorality.
It is telling how the LDS Church deals with 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul said that those who are single ought to consider remain this way as long as they don’t burn with lust. According to Mormonism, marriage is a requirement necessary to receive the very best future state that this religion has to offer.
An attempt to minimize the plain reading of the text is done by brining in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This tactic, however, does not work well. To support the idea that marraige is necessary for exaltation, the BIble (especially 1 Corinthains 7) is a passage that contradicts this unique LDS doctrine. It is this type of sloppy interpretation that too often characterizes this series and should be caution flags for anyone who is studying Come, Follow Me.