perfectly joined
Week 35 is scheduled for study August 21-27, 2023. In order for us to become “perfectly joined together” we must learn why the Lord wants us to experience what it means to save souls.

Day 1

Record your impressions while you read 1 Corinthians 1-7. These impressions may include promptings to study an idea further, to share with others something you learn, or to make changes in your life.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:1-11 – The members of Christ’s Church strive to be united.

Here is 1 Corinthians 1:10-12.

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

In modern language we would say that cliques had formed within the body of Saints in Corinth. Each group felt that because a certain individual had baptized them that their baptism made them, in some way, better than the other Saints. This is probably the reason Jesus, himself, didn’t personally baptize anyone. Can you imagine the divisions that would have caused?

As it is in the modern Church, we have those who are haughty and proud (even if it is secretly) because they feel their priesthood ordination line of authority is, in some way, better than someone else’s line of authority. It doesn’t matter if it’s because of the names of those who are included in the line of authority or if it is the number of generations being fewer for one person than for another, and they therefore feel like their priesthood authority is “closer” to God, making them more special. All that matters is that Satan will use anything he can to divide us one from another.

I suggest you reread Matthew 20. This is the parable where the Lord of the vineyard goes out and hires people to work at an agreed upon price. Later in the day the Lord goes out again to hire more people, then again, and again. When it finally comes time to pay everyone, he gives each of them the same day’s wage whether they were there all day or for only a couple of hours. Those who had been out in the sun all day complained that they deserved more money than those who had only labored a couple of hours. The Lord’s point to them was that they had agreed to a price and he was paying that price, so what he did with someone else was really none of their business.

The parable is all about the blessings of the kingdom of God. There are those of us who keep the commandments all our lives and are promised a set of eternal blessings. Those who come along at the age of 80, for example, receive the same eternal blessings. What we are forgetting here is that we lack the perspective of the bigger picture. Those who have gone all their lives without the gospel have also gone without all of its blessings and privileges. Mortality is short, and whether we are born into the Church or come into it much later in life, in the scope of eternity that difference is only a matter of a few seconds at best.

The Lord wants us to be as generous with others as we want and hope He will be with us. This requires of us a level of tolerance for each other’s differences and personalities that we might not otherwise be willing to give. It is human nature to believe that we are “of course” right about how we feel about something. Surely we would never believe something that wasn’t strictly correct. But we all do believe things that aren’t strictly true about others, and we all tend to pass unkind and hasty judgments on others. That is human nature.

The challenge of being a Saint in the Latter-day Saint Church is to learn to look at things with a broader view, more patient temperament, and with a more forgiving soul. This is what it means to learn to be Christlike and charitable. This is what it means to learn to think in the same way, to behave in the same way, so that we are a more Zionlike people. To be a Zionlike people doesn’t mean we don’t have an original bone in our body. It means that we are all quick to forgive, quick to think the best of others, slow to be offended, and easy to be entreated by the Spirit so He can lead us to a consensus of opinions.

Cliques are easy, but painful. To be Christlike is difficult, but filled with joy.

Day 2

Record your impressions while you read 1 Corinthians 1-7. These impressions may include promptings to study an idea further, to share with others something you learn, or to make changes in your life.

1 Corinthians 1:17-31; 2 – To accomplish God’s work, I need the wisdom of God.

To be a Saint requires that we straddle two worlds. All that we see, hear, touch, and smell falls into the purview of human wisdom. Think scientific method. The problem is that human knowledge of the laws of the universe are so rudimentary and childish as to appear foolish and trite to God, for He has used the laws of the universe to create the entire universe. He operates on a level completely unknown and unimagined to mankind. But alas, what we can personally experience is all we know.

The commandments of God, to the human world, don’t make sense. Take the law of the tithe, for example. The Lord says ‘Pay me one tenth of all you make each year, and I will open a storehouse of blessings (the windows of heaven) that are not available to you otherwise.’ These blessings run the gamut from spiritual knowledge, physical blessings, financial help, wisdom, etc. None of these blessings can be logically connected to the paying of our tithing, yet they happen when we do pay it. So mankind scoffs at the commandment as nonsensical, while the faithful believe that God will honor His promises. And those who pay their tithing have a banquet of blessings in their lives, the source for which is unseen and unknown, but their faith tells them those blessings come from paying their tithing, because they didn’t exist in their life before they started to pay it.

Almost all of God’s dealings work the way tithing does. The Spirit tells us to do something, and joy and blessings flow from unseen sources seemingly completely unconnected with what the Spirit told us to do earlier. God knows how they are connected, but it usually isn’t something we can see and connect for ourselves. All that comes from God requires us to learn trust in Him. Only when we have chosen to believe His promises, and exercise faith through our actions, do the blessings begin to flow.

The prophets have told us that mankind wants to legislate humanity into a better world. As many times as that has been tried it has never worked, for mankind doesn’t understand their own nature. God does. He gives us commandments that are actual laws of happiness. Living these laws create prosperity and happiness, for it is built into the very nature of the laws by which God lives and wants us to live. We can only come to experience godly joy when we learn to live in godly ways. That requires that we learn to live in societies that are governed by the ways of men, but our personal lives are governed by the celestial laws of happiness that we can neither see nor comprehend. We only know from experience that they work. So mankind calls us foolish, and we call ourselves happy.

Day 3

Record your impressions while you read 1 Corinthians 1-7. These impressions may include promptings to study an idea further, to share with others something you learn, or to make changes in your life.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16 – I need the Holy Ghost in order to understand the things of God.

Refer back to yesterday’s lesson. We addressed the difference in knowledge between mankind and God. God’s ways are unfathomable to humanity, because He is using laws we don’t yet understand, and can’t using our logical reasoning or the scientific method. The only way we can begin to comprehend the mind and will of God is to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at baptism then seek to be obedient to Him in all things as He testifies of God and Christ and teaches us to think in spiritual ways.

To think in spiritual ways is to prioritize another’s wellbeing and welfare above any financial or social gain that might exist. The two systems of thought are like two systems of currency. What one system of currency will get you in a specific economy the other will not do anything for you. In the spiritual world, human thinking cannot comprehend the desires of God, for they are completely foreign to the human character. The Spirit helps us understand God’s character. He teaches us a little here and a little there how to act and think more like God, and when the blessings of being Christlike begin to flow through our lives, we “logically” connect our behavior and attitudes to the blessings we are receiving. The mortal mind can’t do that, for there is a complete lack of comprehension of the spiritual currency.

Remember in this week’s scriptures Paul talks about how he and others planted and watered the seeds of missionary work, but it is the Spirit who causes those seeds to grow and flourish? This is what happens when we read or are taught the word of God. We try to understand with our mortal mind, accept at face value the teachings and accept the promises then test them by living those teachings. When the spiritual teaching, that seed within us begins to create change in our soul, it is something we can comprehend. We can tell that we feel differently today than we did a few days earlier. We know we are happier, so we can identify that what we were taught has worth. Alma in the Book of Mormon also taught this doctrine very clearly.

Only the Spirit of God can cause us to comprehend His ways. We must demonstrate obedience to earn this privilege, and that obedience requires covenants be made. But when we do our part, the Spirit is free to teach us as quickly as we are preparing ourselves to receive His knowledge. The entire world of spiritual existence is now open to us. And God said that He at no time has ever given just a physical commandment, for ALL commandments to Him are spiritual. That is a lot for us to learn!

Day 4

Record your impressions while you read 1 Corinthians 1-7. These impressions may include promptings to study an idea further, to share with others something you learn, or to make changes in your life.

1 Corinthians 6:13-20 – My body is sacred.

Throughout the scriptures God has often first taught us a principle through the flesh before He has tried to teach that same principle to us in spiritual terms. One quick example is the law of Moses, which was a taskmaster to teach the people and prepare them for the higher law that Christ brought. The first was a physical representation of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son. The second law was based on the sacrifice the Only Begotten Son had already made. Now, instead of requiring animals to be put on an altar, their own blood shed for our sins, we must put our hearts on the altar of repentance, relying on the grace that comes from Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of blood for our redemption. Instead of an animal in place of our obedience, God now requires our heart and our willingness to personally give of ourselves in order to be forgiven of sin.

In the Old Testament we are taught that when a man and a woman come together in a covenant relationship they become one, united for life. They are no longer two separate people under the law, but one entity. In the temple we learn that godhood requires both a man and a woman who have participated in the covenant of eternal marriage. A god is not just one person, but a person and his or her spouse. A god is a companionship, and that is the only way to become a god.

Just so, when we covenant with God to accept Christ and his commandments at baptism, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit and the person being baptized are now in a covenant relationship much like marriage. They have become united in one. We may reject the Spirit in our life, but until we have completely sinned away His companionship, He is always there being faithful to His own part of the covenant of unity. This is why Paul refers to our body as the temple of the Spirit. He lives and visits us in the mortal body to teach us of spiritual things. This is very similar to how Jesus treats the temples that are built. They are God’s home on earth where He can come and teach His people. Temples are the spiritual representation of our union with God, for we are not His people if we don’t build and enter into His house.

All these relationships are sacred and holy in the sight of God. To treat our bodies as anything less than sacred is a desecration and violation of the covenants we have made.

Day 5

Record your impressions while you read 1 Corinthians 1-7. These impressions may include promptings to study an idea further, to share with others something you learn, or to make changes in your life.

1 Corinthians 7:29-33 – Did Paul teach that it is better to be unmarried than married?

Here is the JST version of these verses. (JST, 1 Corinthians 7:29–33, 38 Joseph Smith Translation)

29 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.

30 And it shall be with them who weep, as though they wept not; and them who rejoice, as though they rejoiced not, and them who buy, as though they possessed not;

31 And them who use this world, as not using it; for the fashion of this world passeth away.

32 But I would, brethren, that ye magnify your calling. I would have you without carefulness. For he who is unmarried, careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; therefore he prevaileth.

33 But he who is married, careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife; therefore there is a difference, for he is hindered.

38 So then he that giveth himself in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth himself not in marriage doeth better.

This change of perspective in the JST makes all the difference in understanding these verses. Now that we know Paul is referring to those called to be missionaries, these verses make a lot more sense. I am especially impressed with his wisdom when he tells them that their missionary work is short in duration, so not to worry about not being married, for the time of their service will quickly pass away and they will get back to living their lives, free to marry. It is only during their missionary service that being married can be a hinderance to the work.

FHE/Personal Study

1 Corinthians 3:4-9 – Planting seeds

In lesson three I briefly mentioned today’s concept of planting seeds. Let’s take a closer look (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

The reigning principle in these verses is that conversion is a spiritual experience that comes from God, and from God alone. Missionaries are messengers, servants. They take the message of the gospel to share with others. Once that message is shared, the hearer is left with the opportunity to accept or reject that message by choosing to believe what they have heard or reject it. No conversion is accomplished by the messenger, ever. God does that.

Our Father in Heaven is a patient soul. Sometimes we must hear His message in one form or another a number of times, and in different places before it strikes a chord in our heart and we choose to listen to what we have heard. Rejecting what we heard the first three times doesn’t make either the messengers or the messages delivered unworthy or invalid. It only means that we weren’t yet ready to hear and accept the message of salvation until our life was in readiness for the word of God to have the desired effect.

I love the imagery of the word of God being a planting of a seed. Paul may have planted or introduced the seed of the gospel to someone, and Apollos may have watered that seed (think nurtured the potential convert by being their friend, answering questions, helping them understand difficult questions, etc.), but only God can turn a seed in the ground into a growing plant that produces fruit to be harvested. Neither the planter, nor the waterer create the change within the seed that we see as it sprouts, grows, and finally bears a hundred or sixty fold.

It is the spiritual change in a person’s heart that we cannot do ourselves. God alone can change a person’s heart. It is the Spirit who teaches and changes the soul and instills in them the desire to become more than they currently are. As missionaries we are but the bringers and tenders to what God eventually turns into a spiritual harvest. We have nothing to fear in missionary work, except to worry about whether we are sincere and honest in our love for others. All the converting part of this process is out of our hands. What a privilege it is to be a part of such a process that can bring monumental changes to the lives of those we meet.

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NT35-2023 – Be Perfectly Joined Together