‘Come, Follow Me’ for Aug. 21-27: What have Church leaders and scholars said about 1 Corinthians 1-7?

This week’s study guide includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on unity, marriage and the sacredness of bodies

This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide covers 1 Corinthians 1-7, which includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on unity, marriage and the sacredness of bodies.

Church News recently dug through archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn what leaders and scholars have said about these chapters.


“Corinth in the first century was the thriving economic and political capital of the Roman province of Achaea. In addition to Roman citizens, it attracted Greeks, Syrians and Jews. Greek philosophies of the Platonic, Stoic and Cynic schools seem to have influenced some educated Corinthians — including some Christians — on spiritual, physical and social matters.

“Paul’s preaching attracted at least a few wealthy and influential Corinthians as well as many converts with less education or cultural involvement. These differences are part of what led to division and strife within the Church in Corinth.”

— Eric D. Huntsman, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the 2023 Liahona article, “Christians in Corinth”

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Corinthians 1

“The Apostle Paul kept in touch with the ancient Saints through letters, or epistles, that he sent to different branches communicating his love, direction and teachings. Because I am unable to personally meet with all of you, I will verbally give to you my own epistle to express my love, gratitude, and teachings.

“To the Saints in Corinth, Paul wrote, ‘Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:1).

“I also have been called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and as a special witness of the Lord, I testify, as Paul did in his letters, that Jesus Christ gave Himself for us and that the Father raised Him from the dead (see Galatians 1:1, 4). I further testify that Jesus Christ restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith in these last days and that the fulness of the gospel and the blessings associated with eternal covenants are available to all who will believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.”

— President M. Russell Ballard in the September 2019 Ensign article, “An Epistle from an Apostle”

“Since the beginning of time, our Heavenly Father has reached out to those who are average and used them for His purposes. The Apostle Paul wrote to you today, just as he did to the ancient Corinthians:

“‘God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

“‘And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

“‘That no flesh should glory in his presence’ (1 Corinthians 1:27–29). …

“Heavenly Father does not need you to be mighty, intelligent or well-spoken. He needs you to incline your heart to Him and seek to honor Him by serving Him and reaching out in compassion to those around you.”

— Bishop Dean M. Davies in the June 2019 Ensign article, “Divinely Directed Discipleship”

“Like Church leaders today, the Apostle Paul worried about divisions in the ancient Church of Christ. He urged members with strong opinions to avoid offending fellow Saints about practices that did not, in the end, really matter, explaining that while ‘knowledge puffeth up, … charity edifieth’ (1 Corinthians 8:1). He called for ‘no divisions among you’ and to focus on ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ rather than on the ways members differ from each other (1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:2).

“Today, modern apostles and prophets urge us to find unity in diversity, encouraging us to make room for each member of the Church of Christ as an important part of our purpose to come to a ‘unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God … unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13).”

— Betsy VanDenBerghe in the September 2017 Ensign article, “We Can Do Better: Welcoming Others into the Fold”

The Kirby family gathers for a gospel study at home using the “Come, Follow Me” manual.
The Kirby family gathers for a gospel study at home using the “Come, Follow Me” manual. This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide covers 1 Corinthians 1-7, which includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on unity, marriage and the sacredness of bodies. | Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

Corinthians 2

“Almost 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul said that the things of God can be known and understood only through the Holy Ghost (see 1 Corinthians 2:11–14). His words are still incredibly true today.

“As you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at baptism, you must strive to live worthy of its constant influence through what you do, what you say and with whom you share your time. In doing so, spiritual light will come with more sureness to your soul.”

— Elder Neil L. Andersen in the August 2023 For the Strength of Youth article, “The Spiritual Quest of All Your Life”

“While there are some ‘evidences’ for gospel truths (for example, see Psalm 19:1; Helaman 8:24), scientific methods will not yield spiritual knowledge. … The Apostle Paul explained this. In a letter to the Corinthian Saints, he said, ‘The things of God knoweth no man, but [by] the Spirit of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:11; see also John 14:17).

“In contrast, we know the things of man by the ways of man, but ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). …

“One of the greatest things about our Heavenly Father’s plan for His children is that each of us can know the truth of that plan for ourselves. That revealed knowledge does not come from books, from scientific proof or from intellectual pondering. … We can receive that knowledge directly from our Heavenly Father through the witness of the Holy Ghost.

“When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of the different kinds of knowledge they have acquired by different methods.”

— Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks, April 2008 general conference, “Testimony”

Corinthians 3

“As we look out over the world, it seems that morality has been cast aside. The violation of old standards has become common. Studies, one after another, show that there has been an abandonment of time-tested principles. Self-discipline has been forgotten, and promiscuous indulgence has become widespread.

“But, my dear friends, we cannot accept that which has become common in the world. Yours, as members of this Church, is a higher standard and more demanding. It declares as a voice from Sinai that thou shalt not indulge. You must keep control of your desires.

“Paul’s words to the Corinthian Saints are as applicable to us today as they were to those to whom he wrote. Said he:

“‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are’” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

— Gordon B. Hinckley, “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley”

Corinthians 6

“The educated classes in Corinth drew from multiple philosophical traditions to conclude that they had special wisdom or knowledge. They believed that their special knowledge brought about a new spiritual existence in this life. This idea led them to deny the significance of the body and rationalize that they were above law and free to act as they wished. Some Christians applied these ideas to their conversion to Christianity, prompting willful rebellion and moral misbehavior.

“Paul countered their mistaken assertion that ‘all things are lawful’ (1 Corinthians 6:12) and argued that Christians should practice discipline and purity: ‘Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit’ (see 1 Corinthians 6:12–20).”

— Eric D. Huntsman, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 2023 Liahona article, “Christians in Corinth”

“A consecrated life respects the incomparable gift of one’s physical body, a divine creation in the very image of God. A central purpose of the mortal experience is that each spirit should receive such a body and learn to exercise moral agency in a tabernacle of flesh. A physical body is also essential for exaltation, which comes only in the perfect combination of the physical and the spiritual, as we see in our beloved, resurrected Lord. ...

“Those who believe that our bodies are nothing more than the result of evolutionary chance will feel no accountability to God or anyone else for what they do with or to their body. We who have a witness of the broader reality of premortal, mortal and postmortal eternity, however, must acknowledge that we have a duty to God with respect to this crowning achievement of His physical creation. In Paul’s words:

“‘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 Corinthians 6:19–20).”

— Elder D. Todd Christofferson, October 2010 general conference, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life”

A woman sits on a bed while studying the “Come, Follow Me” manual.
This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide covers 1 Corinthians 1-7, which includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on unity, marriage and the sacredness of bodies. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Corinthians 7

“Many Latter-day Saints have felt that Paul’s teachings about marriage are not consistent with the doctrines of the gospel revealed to Joseph Smith. However, both the Inspired Version of the Bible and the historical background of Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians offer some help.

“Although the epistle known as First Corinthians is the earliest writing we have from Paul to the church at Corinth, it is evident from the epistle itself that he had written an earlier epistle dealing, at least in part, with morality, marriage relationships and transgressions. Said Paul, in reminding the Corinthians of his earlier, now lost, letter, ‘I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators’ (1 Corinthians 5:9).

“It is also evident that the Corinthian church’s reply, also lost, asked about marriage. What is now called ‘First’ Corinthians was written in reply to their letter. If we had access to the two letters written before the present ‘First’ Corinthian letter, we would no doubt understand better Paul’s teachings about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.

“Here the Inspired Version by Joseph Smith may be the best guide available. Prophet and seer that he was, Joseph Smith placed in the Inspired Version of 1 Corinthians 7 some background and ‘bridge’ material necessary for a reader to understand Paul’s instructions, without having access to the two lost epistles. …

“From the King James Version one would think that Paul instructed the Saints: ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman.’ But the Inspired Version shows us that Paul is simply quoting what they had said. In verse 2, the comment, ‘Nevertheless, I say,’ makes the transition between what they had said and what Paul is about to say. The word nevertheless takes on a different flavor in the Inspired Version. From the King James Version it could be inferred that Paul had made the statement about a man not touching a woman, and then said, ‘Nevertheless, we will just have to have marriage anyway so as to avoid sin.’ But in the Inspired Version nevertheless means, ‘You said this; but, I say this.’”

— Robert J. Matthews, former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “The Plain and Precious Parts: How Modern Scripture Helps Us Understand the New Testament”

“Paul’s teachings, as recorded in letters that were sent to churches and saints in various stages of spiritual progression, reflect the character and experience of a man who understands family relationships and can speak with authority on the subject.

“In the first place, Paul himself was likely to have been married because of his Judaic background [and] the emphasis that the Jews put on marriage as part of their law and tradition. … 

“Further evidence that Paul was married is found in the likelihood that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. One of the qualifications for becoming a member of that body was that a man must be married and the father of children, which was thought to make him more merciful in dispensing justice in the courts. ... In view of these evidences, most non-Mormon scholars do not argue that Paul had never been married, but that he was either divorced or was a widower by the time he wrote to the Corinthian church. …

“One reason Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning these matters is found in 1 Corinthians 7:29, where he states, ‘this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that… they that have wives be as though they had none.’ He further states (1 Corinthians 7:32) that the unmarried saints (and those who are as though unmarried) care for the things of the Lord, but too often a married person puts other things before the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:33). Paul is simply reminding those who have been called to God’s work to put that calling first, even before earthly matters. ...

“Contrary to generally accepted interpretations, Paul is not condemning marriage in this chapter but is evidently replying to a problem regarding missionaries who desire to become married. His advice is that while they are on their missions (and he declared that the time for missionary work is short) they should be concerned with the work of the Lord and not with family or personal matters. …

“The evidence of Paul’s writings leads to the conclusion that he not only tolerated marriage among the saints, but encouraged and exhorted them to marry and bear children. ... Paul understood and taught that in the presence of the Lord, the man will not be without the woman, neither the woman without the man.”

— C. Wilfred Griggs, former professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the February 1976 Ensign article, “How can Paul’s views be reconciled with the revealed truths of eternal marriage?”

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