Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33

by | Aug. 19, 2003

Sunday School

Sidney B. Sperry on the Corinthian Weaknesses and Vices:
1. Party cliques and factions (1 Cor. 1:10-4:21).
a. The Apostle entreats the Corinthians to avoid disputes and divisions and be in harmony in their minds and judgments. Their breaking up into cliques as followers of Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ is condemned, because all of them received the same baptism and Christ is not divided (1:10-16).
b. Paul is sent to preach the Gospel in simplicity, not with clever words or according to human conceptions, "because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1:17-25).
c. God has chosen to prevent mortal man from boasting before Him, by choosing the foolish things of the world in order to shame its wise men; and He has chosen the weak things of the world in order to shame what is strong. No man to be able to attribute his justification and salvation to his own wisdom, noble birth, or power, but to God's goodness and mercy only (1:26-31). For this reason Paul preached in Corinth in weakness, fear and trepidation; not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with the convincing power of the Spirit. Thus their trust would not rest on man's wisdom, but on God's power (2:1-5).
d. Yet the Gospel contains God's wisdom in a mystery, which worldly leaders have not learned. But to us God has revealed them by His Spirit. No man knows the things of God unless he has the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God (2:6-12). Mysteries of God are perceived only by spiritual men (2:13-16). The spiritually immature Corinthians are not able to receive advanced doctrine; their strife and factious spirit demonstrates that (3:1-4).
e. Corinthian dissension is to be condemned, because preachers of the Gospel are mere instruments in God's hands and have to render an account of their ministry. Men are the Temple of God's Spirit, and should not defile themselves (3:5-17).
f. Mere human wisdom is of little worth; therefore the Corinthians should not prefer one missionary over another, for God alone is the judge of His servants (3:18-4:5).
g. The Corinthians and the leaders of their factions are advised [with keen irony] to imitate the humility and unpretentiousness of the Apostle, who entreats them and advises that he has sent Timothy to them (who will remind them of Paul's conduct as a Christian teacher), and will himself visit them in a short time. He asks whether he should come with a rod or in a loving and tender spirit (4:6-21).
2. Moral laxity and evils of litigation before pagan tribunals (5:1 6:20).
a. The Corinthians are not to boast or be complacent because they have been tolerating, despite previous warning, an incestuous man; they are to remove him from among them, and are warned not to associate with immoral brethren (5:1- 13).
b. Disputes among Corinthian Saints are not to be judged in lawsuits before pagan courts. The Saints are to judge the world and should be able to adjudicate their own differences. Righteous living is indispensable (6:1- 11).
c. The freedom of Christianity is no excuse for licentiousness. Bodies of the Saints are members of Christ and are not members of a harlot. The body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is of God, and is the property of the divine tenant (6:12-20).
(Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], .)
Bruce R. McConkie on Unity within the Church:
Unity within the Church and among the saints is the goal of the gospel. There is no place in the Church of God for division, for disagreement on doctrine, for cults and cliques, for liberal views as contrasted with conservative concepts. Among the faithful saints there is only one mind and one judgment and these are the Lord's; those with the full enjoyment of the Spirit learn the Lord's views on all things and conform their minds and hearts to his, becoming one with him. "Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine," is his everlasting decree to his saints. (D. & C. 38:27.) See Commentary I, pp. 426- 427; 765-767.
1 Cor 1:11. Contentions] See 2 Tim. 2:14-26.
1 Cor 1:12. Perfect unity is a goal the Church is still seeking. There are today Word of Wisdom faddists who will not use white flour or refined sugar; there are so-called liberals who think the problems of religion can be solved by dialogues and discussions without reference to revelation; there are others who maintain the Church should follow the world's course of social progress; there are those who try and harmonize the evolutionary concepts of the day with the revealed account of the fall and atonement; and there are others who profess to believe that full salvation is reserved for those who practice plural marriage, and so on. In other words, there are some of one philosophy and some of another, some follow the advocates of this cultish view and some of that.
How apt it is that the Lord chose to paraphrase Paul's language concerning divisive groups in the Church, when he spoke of those who shall be thrust down to hell, and who after their sufferings shall come forth to receive a telestial inheritance. "These are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant." (D. & C. 76:99-101.)
1 Cor 1:13. Is Christ divided?] There is and can be only one true Church on earth. (D. & C. 1:30.) To imagine that two organizations teaching different systems of salvation can both be true is a philosophical absurdity that is almost unbelievable. God cannot have a body of flesh and bones and also be a spirit essence without a body. Two conflicting religions can both be false, but only one can be true. Truth is truth; all truth is in harmony with all truth. There are not and cannot be two ways to gain celestial glory. Christ is not divided. The mere existence of the conflicting sects of Christendom is conclusive proof of the great apostasy. The fact that any or all of them, as Paul expressed it, say, "I am of Christ," has almost no bearing whatever on the issue. Even the members of the Church itself who were making this claim, without also receiving the fulness of the law and accepting the whole gospel, were among those severely rebuked by the inspired writer.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: .)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Paul's Appeal for Unity:
"Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor. 1:13.) That searching question demands a look at Christ's goal for his Church. Setting apostles over it (Matt. 18:17-19) and naming a presiding prophet in their midst (Matt. 16:18-19), the Lord trained them carefully in leadership and at the end prayed for them and all the believers they would direct:
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come unto thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. . . . As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word—that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:11, 18, 20-21).
As chapter 1 of this book shows, a minority in the world believes in Jesus Christ, and the wrangling of Christians has certainly contributed to skepticism in the message and mission of the Master. Indeed, if the energy spent attacking other Christians had been seriously spent on uniting and teaching non- Christians, Christ's goal would have been much further along—"that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." For Paul, it is self-evident that a divided Church violates Christ's will.
Christ commissioned preaching to the nations and envisioned the unity of all converts under the apostles, but the apostles faced the practical era of putting these plans into operation. In Paul's case, there is not a letter without mention of the ideal of unity. One striking thing about his letters is how often problems of dissension arise and how firm he is in not allowing separations into different Christian groups. A dozen major verses elsewhere match his plea to the Corinthians "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" (1 Cor. 1:10). Christian leaders have immersed themselves in the Bible and know this. Their public regret at the loss of unity is as common as Paul's frequent insistence on God's requirement of unity. The problem is widely admitted, but the solution evades all.
Yet Paul did not raise major questions without giving clear answers. The solution to the problems of factions discussed in chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians is the Church's inspired central leadership discussed in chapter 12. Paul's answer is not harmonious with official Protestantism, which divided from Rome because it perceived in the Roman church central authority without inspiration. Latter- day Saints are now asking the world if God cannot bring together what history divided. Christ's prayer for unity included a special prayer for the inspired central leaders who would direct that unity. Without Paul the branches constantly fragmented. It was his work to resolve conflict—to direct, teach, and correct. He did not ask the Corinthians to debate differences in a church council or ecumenical conference. Unity would come by harmony with the apostles' doctrine and leadership.
However, many Christians read the Bible without seeing the original Church of Christ in it. They sometimes explain away baptism because it is a church ceremony, sometimes using Paul's words: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:17). In this explanation, one is saved by believing the preaching of Christ, but baptism is secondary and nonessential. But what happened at all the cities of Greece in Acts 16 and Acts 18? Upon belief, Lydia and the jailor were baptized at Philippi, and the Corinthians "believed, and were baptized." Early Christians did not profess Christ and treat baptism as optional; for them, baptism was the commanded method of showing belief. Paul seems to minimize baptism for one reason—the Corinthians were using his personal baptisms to promote their factions. In these circumstances he did not reduce the importance of baptism, but the importance of who baptized them: "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but . . ." (1 Cor. 1:14). He readily remembered Crispus and Gaius, then recalled Stephanas's household, and faded away with not remembering "whether I baptized any other" (1 Cor. 1:16). He obviously made the point that whom he baptized was insignificant, but it indeed mattered that the Corinthians were baptized. Later he reviewed how one achieved salvation through the true Church, and the first step was baptism: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free" (1 Cor. 12:13, NKJB). If there were no exceptions, baptism was not optional. And Paul, the enemy of useless religious requirements, would not have taught "all" a principle unessential to salvation.
As Paul explained his relationship with Apollos, he said they were co- workers on the same building, God's temple or Church. He added the image of farming: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Cor. 3:6). Thus "he who plants and he who waters are one" (1 Cor. 3:8, NKJB), a verbal construction identical to Jesus' language, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).
There is no more biblical reason for merging the Father and Son than for thinking that Paul and Apollos physically merged. In his prayer for unity, already quoted, Jesus equated the oneness of believers with the oneness of the Father and Son. And at the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches the glorious resurrection of individuals; so like the believers, the Father and the Son exist in glory now as individuals. Otherwise Paul could not sensibly close his plea for unity with the verbal separation of the Father and Son: "and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1 Cor. 3:23). If the members of the Godhead have achieved such intimate cooperation as individuals, the challenge of family and Church members to do the same also seems possible.
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 103 - 104.)
Virginia H. Pearce on Unity:
Paul clarifies that unity does not demand that we all act the same, giving up all individuality. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . Differences . . . and diversities . . . but it is the same God which worketh all in all." (1 Cor. 12:5-6.) Our unity is not sameness, rather a unity that comes from agreement concerning Christ and His living doctrines. We become unified with Christ and with one another because our purpose is the same. "He that planteth and he that watereth are one. . . . For we are labourers together with God." (1 Cor. 2:8-9.)
This unity in Christ and His doctrines dictates how we will behave toward one another. "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular." (1 Cor. 12:25, 27.)
(Paul's Mandate: Convert, But Also Bind Together Into 'culture of , LDS Church News, 1995, 10/28/95 .)
Bruce R. McConkie on Milk Coming Before Meat in the Church:
God's earthly kingdom is a school in which his saints learn the doctrines of salvation. Some members of the Church are being taught elementary courses; others are approaching graduation and can do independent research where the deep and hidden things are concerned. All must learn line upon line and precept upon precept. Alma said: "It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full." (Alma 12:9-10.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 323.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Paul's Writings on Revelation and Man's Wisdom:
Unity requires humility. Indeed, Jesus said that one entering the Kingdom must "humble himself as this little child" (Matt. 18:3-4). Paul sought to humble the Corinthians for their own good, as the arrogance of some led them to dictate to God instead of being taught by him. Pride is the opposite of humility—pride of status, pride of wealth, and pride of having all the answers. The apostle who used his talents and intellectuality for the Lord did not teach the glory of ignorance, but he showed that man's highest knowledge, without revelation, falls short of preparing him for eternity. "Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2) was the beginning of his message, which blended with "Christ and him resurrected," as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul reviewed the human scoffing at this revelation in order to warn the Corinthians against their own feelings of superiority to revealed doctrines. Men of great success tend to be too smug to accept the gospel, Paul observed; in modern terms, the highly educated, the powerful in business or government, and those born to privilege did not generally accept the gospel (1 Cor. 1:26). Paul gave a Thessalonian-like review of how he came to Corinth, a picture seen well either through the synagogue testimony beginning in Acts 18 or through Paul's memories beginning in 1 Corinthians 2. Paul did not preach with the skill of human persuasion, but by the power of God's Spirit, "that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5, NKJB).
This is no small point. At the beginning of a long letter of instruction, Paul went back over the Corinthians' belief in his message. Their Greek philosophy taught no resurrection; their native religion did not feature an atonement and the call to obey the first principles. The gospel came by revelation and had to be validated by the witness within. Faith and reason ultimately harmonize, but human reason knows little of the eternal dimension that the gospel brings. Paul used Isaiah's verbal picture of God's power and kingdom, which will transcend what eyes have seen and ears have heard (Isa. 64:4). People instinctively explore and inquire, reaching beyond their limited world through books, newspapers, television, radio, conversations with visitors, and travel. Eternity and its requirements can be learned only through these heavenly counterparts: scriptures, prophets, revelations of the spirit, angels, and visions. So Paul as a living prophet reminded the Corinthians that they must seek for the Holy Ghost to raise them above the ignorance of arrogance. Regarding the things of eternity, he wrote, "God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:10, NKJB). The whisperings of eternity are near the one with the Spirit. God's reality and God's will for that person are within reach. Those seeking a higher way will find constant refreshment and challenge in Paul's review of the power of the Holy Ghost in the second half of 1 Corinthians 2.
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 103 - 104.)
 Bruce R. McConkie on the Spirit Revealing All Things to Saints:
Personal revelation is the rock foundation upon which true religion rests. All faithful members of the true Church receive revelation. By the laying on of the hands of legal administrators they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; this gift, by definition and in its nature, is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead based on faithfulness. And as Joseph Smith said, "No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator." (Teachings, p. 328.) Church guided by revelation] See Acts 11:27-30.
Revelation is for everyone in the Church. "Thus saith the Lord"—to every member of his Church—"I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught. For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man." (D. & C. 76:5-10; 121:26-28.) Joseph Smith said: "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them." (Teachings, p. 149.)
"We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven," the Prophet said, except "by revelation." (Teachings, p. 292.) That is the sum and substance of the whole matter. Until men receive personal revelation they are without God in the world, they are not on the course leading to salvation, and they cannot go where God and Christ are. Revelation comes from the Holy Ghost. Men may study about religion, about God, and about his laws, but they cannot receive that knowledge of them whom to know is eternal life except by revelation from the Spirit of God. Those who receive revelation are on the path leading to salvation; those who do not receive revelation are not on that path and cannot be saved, unless they repent and get in tune with the Spirit.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 320.)
Daniel H. Ludlow on the Weak Things of the World:
The Lord usually does not call as his prophets men who are already of great renown and who are highly learned in the ways of the world. Rather, he usually selects the young and/or relatively unlearned who are humble and worthy, and then tutors them. Joseph who was sold into Egypt, Daniel, Samuel the prophet, and Joseph Smith are all examples of prophets who were called in their youth and yet became powerful and great men under the tutelage and influence of the Lord.
In the true church today, the missionaries sent forth to teach are often quite young and relatively inexperienced in the ways of the world. Yet if they go forth humbly and worthily, the Spirit of the Lord can make them mighty in preaching and power.
(Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the New Testament: The Four Gospels [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 325.)
Bruce R. McConkie on the Wisdom of the World:
Two kinds of wisdom are described in the scriptures: 1. True wisdom, that which is revealed by the Spirit and leads to righteousness and peace; 2. False wisdom, the wisdom of the world, which leads in carnal paths and away from the things of eternal worth.
The wisdom of the world results from the uninspired reflections, research, and discoveries of men. It is composed of partial and fragmentary truths mixed with error. Theorizing and hypothecating commonly accompany it. This type of wisdom includes the philosophies and learning of men which are destructive of faith. Astrology, organic evolution, the so-called higher criticism which denies the divinity of Christ, and any supposed knowledge which rules God out of the picture, falls in this category.
The wisdom of the world is transitory; it will vanish away. But the wisdom of God is eternal; it will endure forever. Scientific theories change with every new discovery, but the wisdom revealed from God is eternal truth. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 320-324.)
"Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" Paul asked. Then with great inspiration he explained how the things of the Spirit take precedence over the learning of men. (1 cor. 1:201 Cor. 1:18-31; 2; 3:18-23.) Jacob wrote similarly: "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God." (2 Ne. 9:28-29, 41-43.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 839.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Sexual Morality:
No one exceeds Paul in being candidly positive about sexual love in marriage (1 Cor. 7:1-6). But Paul unites with all true prophets in restricting sexual intercourse to marriage. Nothing so quickly brands today's man-made prophet as his permissiveness on sexual relations. Some politicians frequently place popularity over principle, disguising their compromises with noble words. So do some religious leaders who ignore, explain away, or dispense with the commandment of chastity as given through Moses and repeated by Christ and Paul and Joseph Smith in modern revelation. Another form of religious avoidance is teaching a standard of morality but looking the other way. The Early Church countered serious sexual transgression with action. Paul was shocked to hear of a case of incest and simply said that local leaders should meet and deliver the offender to Satan and his powers of "destruction of the flesh" (1 Cor. 5:5). The chapter later clarifies that as excommunication of "that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:13); and later in life Paul spoke of two whom he had "delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Tim. 1:20).
This last phrase is the point, for consequences are lessons. Which churches today have a court system for serious transgressions? Which churches by their actions teach cheap forgiveness and repeated sin? In a half-dozen major places, Paul lists the sins that will keep one out of God's kingdom if unrepented, whether before or after conversion. Included are the major sins of dishonesty and physically or verbally harming one's fellowmen. And such lists never fail to include sexual relations outside of marriage. If God will really exclude the unrepentant on that basis, how honest is a church with its members if it will not? The false prophet is one who teaches a false expectation. The integrity of the Early Church and the restored Church is shown in their discipline of immorality in wise but firm court decisions on membership. Anything less misrepresents the kingdom of God. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived" (1 Cor. 6:9, NKJB). Paul then gives two terms for unlawful sex between man and woman and two for homosexuality. The King James Version frankly translates these latter words "effeminate" and "abusers of themselves with mankind." The former does not refer to the tender qualities of woman that might well be shared by men, but means "soft" with the connotation of a male perverted to a female role with other men. And the second word is bluntly "men lying with men." The current propaganda of self-justification avoids Paul's words here and in Romans 1.
With the logic of Christ, Paul's sternest chapter on sexual sins is also the most hopeful about repentance. After discussing the above sins and others that bar one from the kingdom of God, Paul refers to the repentant, buried past: "And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11, NKJB). The purifying forgiveness of Christ and sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost came only after baptism and was retained only through a moral life. Yet the astounding power of the gospel provides the path up from the valley of darkness. The invitation of the gospel is not condemnation but change. If some Corinthians were guilty of serious sins, were they in the Lord's mind when he told Paul to labor there at length because he had "much people in this city" (Acts 18:10)? Paul's ministry at Corinth is a sober warning to avoid immorality and a serious motivation to repair the damage done by it. Paul's blunt words to the Saints expose the inconsistency of incontinency and set an eternal value on sexual purity: "Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you" (1 Cor. 6:19).
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 103 - 104.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Our Bodies as the Temple of God:
To be clean is to be saved; to be filthy is to be damned. "No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven." (Alma 11:37; Moses 6:57-61.) The whole plan and system of salvation is designed to enable men to take the worldly souls they now possess and to cleanse and perfect them through baptism of water and of the Spirit. Indeed, the very purpose of baptism is to empower men to "be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost," that they "may stand spotless" before the Lord at the last day. (3 Ne. 27:19-21.)
How apt, then, for Paul, speaking to the saints, to those who have already been cleansed by fire, to remind them that their bodies have thus become temples in which the Spirit of God resides. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord" (D. & C. 133:5), he is saying in effect, for your bodies are "the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you." (1 Cor. 6:19.)
Destruction awaits those who defile their bodies unless they repent. Shortly before the coming of Christ, the Nephites "began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face. . . The Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples—Therefore the Lord did cease to preserve them by his miraculous and matchless power, for they had fallen into a state of unbelief and awful wickedness." (Hela. 4:23—25.) Precisely this same thing happened to the Church in the Old World, following the death of the apostles, prophets, and other inspired men who had the spirit of revelation because the Spirit dwelt in thee
Truly, the Spirit will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle!
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 326.)
Jeffrey R. Holland on the Sacred Nature of Our Bodies:
We simply must understand the revealed, restored Latter-day Saint doctrine of the soul, and the high and inextricable part the body plays in that doctrine.
One of the "plain and precious" truths restored to this dispensation is that "the spirit and the body are the soul of man" (D&C 88:15; italics added), and that when the spirit and body are separated, men and women "cannot receive a fulness of joy" (D&C 93:34). Certainly that suggests something of the reason why obtaining a body is so fundamentally important to the plan of salvation in the first place, why sin of any kind is such a serious matter (namely, because its automatic consequence is death, the separation of the spirit from the body and the separation of the spirit and the body from God), and why the resurrection of the body is so central to the great abiding and eternal triumph of Christ's atonement. We do not have to be a herd of demonically possessed swine charging down the Gadarene slopes toward the sea to understand that a body is the great prize of mortal life, and that even a pig's will do for those frenzied spirits that rebelled and that to this day remain dispossessed, in their first, unembodied estate.
May I quote a 1913 sermon by Elder James E. Talmage on this doctrinal point:
"We have been taught . . . to look upon these bodies of ours as gifts from God. We Latter-day Saints do not regard the body as something to be condemned, something to be abhorred. . . . We regard [the body] as a sign of our royal birthright. . . . We recognize the fact that those who kept not their first estate . . . were denied that inestimable blessing.. . . We believe that these bodies . . . may be made, in very truth, the temple of the Holy Ghost. . . .
"It is peculiar to the theology of the Latter-day Saints that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul. Read your dictionaries, the lexicons, and encyclopedias, and you will find that nowhere, outside of the Church of Jesus Christ, is the solemn and eternal truth taught that the soul of man is the body and the spirit combined." (Conference Report, October 1913, p. 117.)
So partly in answer to why such seriousness, we answer that one who toys with the God-given—and satanically coveted—body of another toys with the very soul of that individual, toys with the central purpose and product of life, "the very key" to life, as Elder Boyd K. Packer once called it. In trivializing the soul of another (please include the word body there) we trivialize the atonement which saved that soul and guaranteed its continued existence. And when one toys with the Son of Righteousness, the Day Star himself, one toys with white heat and a flame hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned. You cannot with impunity "crucify . . . the Son of God afresh." (Hebrews 6:6.) Exploitation of the body (please include the word soul there) is, in the last analysis, an exploitation of him who is the Light and the Life of the world. Perhaps here, Paul's warning to the Corinthians takes on newer, higher meaning:
"Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. . . . Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. . . . Flee fornication. . . . He that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 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? . . . For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:191 Corinthians 6:13- 20. Italics added.)
Our soul is what is at stake here—our spirit and our body. Paul understood that doctrine of the soul every bit as well as James E. Talmage did, because it is gospel truth. The purchase price for our fullness of joy—body and spirit eternally united—is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of the world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, "Well, it's my life" or worse yet, "It's my body." It is not. "Ye are not your own," Paul said. "Ye are bought with a price." So in answer to the question, "Why does God care so much about sexual transgression?" it is partly because of the precious gift offered by and through his Only Begotten Son to redeem the souls—bodies and spirits—we too often share and abuse in such cheap and tawdry ways. Christ restored the very seeds of eternal lives (see D&C 132:19, 24), and we desecrate them at our peril. The first key reason for personal purity? Our very souls are involved and at stake.
(Jeffrey R. Holland and Patricia T. Holland, On Earth As It Is in Heaven [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 186.)
Robert L. Millet on Immorality among the Saints:
In chapters 5 and 6, Paul deals with the report of immorality among the saints in Corinth. He first turns to the specific charge of one who married his father's wife (stepmother). While in and of itself this constituted, according to the Mosaic law (Lev. 18:8; 20:11) and Roman law, the serious transgression of incest, Paul is first concerned with the fact that the members of the church have accepted such a transgressor. He notes that they are "puffed up" with pride in their sympathetic acceptance of this relationship when they should have "rather mourned" and cast such a transgressor out of their midst. (5:1-5.) Brotherhood and fellowship, so important to the unity of the saints, does not, however, extend to the casual acceptance of serious sin. He tells the Corinthian saints, "your glorying is not good." (5:6.)
Reversing the imagery of the well-known saying of Jesus (Matt. 13:33) comparing the kingdom of God, although small, to leaven that could influence the whole world for good, Paul compares the leaven to the one guilty of serious transgression who can also have a great influence on the whole: "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened." (5:6-7.) In cases of serious sin, judgment is necessary and some may need to be cast out in order not to compromise the whole church.
At the same time that some saints are overly tolerant of those who deserve ecclesiastical discipline, others are taking their brothers to court to be judged by the unbelievers. (6:1-8.) Paul tells them that most of these disputes are over issues so trivial that they should be overlooked, and in the more serious cases they should be solved within the jurisdiction of the church. Finally he exhorts the Corinthians to refrain from any sexual immorality (6:9- 20), because such sin defiles the body, which is the "temple of the Holy Ghost" (6:19).
(Robert L. Millet, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 66.)
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