In every life there are turning points. The lesson refers to them as switch points. These are moments or beliefs that are either accepted or rejected that change the course of our life, whether for good or for bad. This lesson talks about four such doctrines that were turning points for the Saints in Corinth, and can also be for us. They misunderstood the doctrines and were going astray, but correct understanding can bring us back on course to our Father in Heaven.
Reading Assignment: 1 Corinthians 11 – 16
Additional Reading: 3 Nephi 18:1–14; Moroni 7:44–48; 10:8–18; Doctrine and Covenants 46:1–26; 76:50–119; 88:27–32, 95–102.
Husbands and Wives
We don’t have the cultural tradition that forbids women from speaking in public, so we will dismiss the comments about women keeping silent as not relevant to us. Their silence was not a commandment from God back in Paul’s day, but a social custom.
What is important to us is the relationship Paul discusses in these verses between husbands and wives and between Christ and His Father. I would also add, and between Christ and the Church, which He treats like a bride. 1 Corinthians 11:3 has to do with the temple covenants, so I will leave that alone. (I recommend you leave it alone as well if you are teaching the class. No good will come of trying to address it.) The important verses in the first part of chapter 11 are verses 11 and 12.
11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
Taking both verses at once, the most important point here is that it doesn’t matter if the woman was taken out of Adam’s side or that the man is born of the woman. The important idea here is that they were created by God and are answerable, as a couple, to Him. If we want to see how we should be treating each other as spouses we should be looking at the Savior’s relationship with His Father and how Christ treats the Church.
In the following verses we read some of the bits of the Savior’s relationship with His Father. In John 5:29 we learn that the Father shares everything with His Son. In John 8:29 we learn that Jesus does all things to please the Father. In John 17:21 – 22 Jesus prays to the Father that we may be as unified with them as He is with the Father. We could also get into verses about how Christ treats the Church like a bride and gave His body in sacrifice for the Church, but those verses aren’t discussed in the lesson.
The point of all these verses is that both the husband and the wife should be sacrificing for the welfare and happiness of their spouse. It is not the responsibility of one or the other to do all the sacrificing. We cannot get into the celestial kingdom without each other, so we need to learn to value our spouse as much as we value our self. That means respect, reverence, service, kindness, patience, dignity, and every other virtue we can think of. Christ treats us with no less than that, so we need to learn to treat our companion just as well.
Purpose of the Sacrament
Sometimes when I read about what the early Saints did and how they behaved, whether in the original church or in this dispensation, I have to remind myself that their errant behavior was born out of a place of spiritual darkness. They were all new to the kingdom. They had no past experience or examples as to how they were supposed to act. In the case of the Corinthians here, they were apparently having what almost amounts to eating contests in church to see who could put on the greatest show for piety in the sacrament.
Paul had to remind them that eating and drinking to excess was not good. The purpose of the sacrament is to renew a sacred covenant, the same one we made at baptism. Here are his words in 1 Corinthians 11:27 – 28:
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
Covenants with God are not to be entered into lightly. Each week before we renew our covenant through the sacrament we should go through a process of self examination. Has my behavior been what I promised the Lord it would be this week? Have I done what I said I would do? Have I made the changes I said I would? Am I worthy this week to look the Lord in the face and renew this covenant again?
Here is a quote from the manual:
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “With so very much at stake, [the sacrament] should be taken more seriously than it sometimes is. It should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions. As such it should not be rushed. It is not something to ‘get over’ so that the real purpose of a sacrament meeting can be pursued. This is the
real purpose of the meeting” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 89; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68).
Importance of all spiritual gifts
The Lord has always rewarded His faithful with spiritual gifts. Giving them the gift of tongues as their first demonstration of a spiritual gift serves some good purposes: it is highly recognizable as something different they haven’t seen before, it is a visible display of the presence of the Holy Ghost, which they might still have a difficult time recognizing, and it affirmed their faith in their new religion. They Lord may have actually had other reasons for doing it, but these reasons occurred to me as a possibility.
The difficulty comes in trying to wean the new Saints off the grand display of the gift of tongues to the more subtle, and more powerful gifts, like charity. Paul makes the point that all gifts, no matter what they are, come from God and are administered through the Holy Ghost. Some gifts are held by certain offices, and some by only a few people, but that doesn’t discount anyone else’s gift. All the gifts are needed and important in order for the whole Church, the body of Christ, to be complete.
We need those who are gifted in kindness, listening, good works, prophecy, healing, faith, etc. The Lord takes each person in their weakness and gives them at least one gift. Most, if not all have more than one. And we are told that we are to covet certain gifts, which means we can seek after and develop additional gifts, and that is a good thing in the Lord’s eyes.
It is important to remember that gifts come in all shapes and sizes. All gifts are meant to edify or uplift and enlighten. Any ability the Lord gives us that helps us do good can be considered a gift of the Spirit. There are far too many available to mention them all in the scriptures. A good exercise suggested in the lesson is to turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 7 and look at the verses that describe charity. See if you can write a paragraph on each of the parts of charity listed in these verses. It may stretch you a bit. Every gift has qualities like that. Choose another gift and see if you can think of what qualities of character make it valuable.
Resurrection and degrees of glory
The Corinthians were quickly turning away from the gospel of Christ and heading down a scary path. Paul did his best to take their switch points or turning points and get them headed back in the right direction, but you can see from how far off they had gone in just a year or so how the apostasy was able to take the church as a whole in a completely different direction over the course of the next 2000 years.
The Saints in Corinth were having problems with believing in the resurrection. We may think that is ridiculous, since the Lord they claimed as their own was known as the “risen” Lord, but a popular belief in their day was that there was no resurrection. That belief was held by a sect of the Jews known as the Sadducees. I was taught that the way you could tell the difference between a Sadducee and a Pharisee was the first one did not believe in a resurrection, so he was “Sad, you see?” (Get it?)
Paul gives us our only Bible reference to baptism for the dead in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. He asks them plainly why they are performing baptisms for those who have died if those dead are going to stay dead. What’s the point? So we know the early Saints were performing vicarious baptisms for the dead.
Paul also went on to tie the fall of Adam and Eve to the reason we need the atonement of Christ. The Fall and the Atonement are the two halves to the coin of Salvation. You can’t have one without the other. You might want to read another article I wrote about why we need the atonement of Christ. That would make some good reference reading.
We all have potential turning points in our lives. One well placed attitude, doctrine, event, anything that can change our outlook on life, and we can be off and running in a new direction. To stay the course in the gospel, to endure to the end, we need to stay ON the course the Lord has set for us. When we encounter things we don’t understand or things that make us squirm, for whatever reason, beware. How we approach and handle these things can either confirm our path or start us down a different path. The way back to heaven is narrow, not broad. The Lord is tolerant with us, but in the end we have to come around to His way of seeing things, and that takes vigilance and persistence on our part to learn of His ways and accept His doctrine.