There is much doctrine and good advice in Paul’s first epistle to the Saints in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 1 – 6 he teaches us to seek the blessings that come from being unified in the Lord Jesus Christ, following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and being morally clean.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and 3:1-11, Paul counsels the Saints to avoid contention and be of one mind. The only way to do this is to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If everyone is counseling with and following the admonitions of God, whether received through revelation or from the prophets, everyone will see eye to eye. A group of people who is able to do this is called “Zion,” meaning “the pure in heart.”
In Corinth some of the people were claiming to be of Paul, some of the devoted converted Jew, Apollos, some of Cephas (Peter). We are not to worship or idolize the servants of Christ, but rather Christ Himself. Paul chastised them, saying, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1:13). This is why young Mormon missionaries are transferred often within their assigned missions — so that investigators of the gospel don’t pin their testimonies on the charisma of or their love for those young men and women.
Paul talks about how God makes foolish the wisdom of the world. Paul and the other apostles did what Christ did—they performed miracles that no earthly wisdom could explain. Our testimonies come through direct revelation, though our reason may have already led us toward God. Said Paul, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1:22). The Jews wanted proof, or they would not believe; the Greeks wanted reason and argument to prove the gospel. Neither lead to true conversion.
In Corinth the Saints had begun to stray in three different ways: 1) They were involved in contention and disunity; 2) They were trying to rely on the wisdom of the world; 3) They were indulging in immorality. When we are contentious or immoral, the Holy Ghost deserts us. If we try to rely on earthly learning for our testimony of Christ, that testimony will fail us.
In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul says the Corinthians are actually babes in the gospel. The teachings he gives them are very, very basic, as milk is to a baby. The meat of the gospel, the deeper doctrine, Paul withholds, because the Saints in Corinth are not ready for more.
Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declare the truth that we will be held accountable for our works and judged by them, our beliefs, and our desires. It is not enough only to believe. In 1 Corinthians 3:13, 14 Paul says, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”
It is so important for those of us who desire to follow Christ to have the Holy Spirit dwell within us. Without it, we cannot progress, and we cannot receive personal revelation. In order for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we must be pure. In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples; and a temple is a house of God.
1 Corinthians 3:22 is one that cannot be fully understood without further revealed scripture and modern revelation as our guide. “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours….” In heaven there are three kingdoms, and within them many mansions, or levels. Paul speaks of them in Chapter 15 of this same book—the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial. Those who are rewarded with exaltation into the Celestial Kingdom enter the actual presence of God and Christ, while those in the two lower kingdoms enjoy only their influence.
Those who receive exaltation receive a fullness of joy and a fullness of the Father and Christ; they can know all things, whether past or present, and they have power like unto the Savior’s. Note in verse 23—“And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” Everything they have, they offer to us. We can be one with them.
In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul describes the sacrifices made by the apostles, as they travel and preach. They hunger, they thirst, they are naked, are buffeted, and have no place to call home. They work ceaselessly and are reviled; they suffer persecution; as they are defamed, they entreat people to come unto Christ.
In Chapter 5 Paul says that reports of fornication have been raised regarding the Saints in Corinth. And not only fornication, but incest. Those who have done these things have not been held accountable, but are still accepted in the congregation. In 5:5 Paul says to deliver such to the buffetings of Satan, which means to banish those who do such things and who refuse to repent. Outside the congregation, and without the protection of the Holy Ghost, they are exposed to the buffetings of the world until they desire to repent and rejoin the Saints. Joseph Smith, the first prophet of these modern times, said that such people tend to become bitter enemies to the Church and the gospel, more so than if they had never been members.
In 5:7 Paul identifies Christ as the Passover, the unblemished lamb offered as a final and infinite sacrifice for the children of God. Here, leaven is compared to sin, and the unleavened bread as that soul purged of sin. As a little leaven makes a whole loaf of bread rise, so does keeping the wicked in a congregation taint the entire congregation. “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (v. 13).
At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 6 Paul talks about the damage done in courts of law. A litigious people is a vindictive, selfish, and unforgiving people. Paul says that good judgment is had when the Holy Ghost is present. Many things can be settled within the congregation. Again, Paul speaks of the importance of works — righteousness, which is more than mere belief — “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 9).
Many gay rights activists say Christ never referred to nor condemned homosexual behavior, but He guided His apostles through direct revelation, and here, in verse 9, Paul decries “abusers of themselves with mankind.”
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a modern apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, said the following:
One of the most pervasive deceptions in recent years is the notion that immorality is normal and acceptable and has no negative consequences. In truth, immorality is the underlying cause of much suffering and many other problems that are prevalent today, including rampant disease, abortion, broken families, families without fathers, and mothers who themselves are children” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 100 – 101).
Elder Boyd K. Packer, also an apostle, said:
Satan knows that this power of creation is not just an incident to the plan, but the key to it. He knows that if he can entice you to use this power prematurely, to use it too soon, or to misuse it in any way, you may well lose your opportunities for eternal progression (Ensign, July 1972, 112).