Chapter 39: 1 Corinthians 12–14

New Testament Student Manual, 2014


Introduction and Timeline for 1 Corinthians 12–14

In 1 Corinthians 12–14 Paul taught that there are diverse spiritual gifts that can be granted to faithful members of the Church. These gifts enable Christ’s followers to serve and edify others, thereby creating greater unity in the Church. Paul emphasized the gift of charity, which he characterized as being pure, unselfish love and concern for the well-being of others. He taught that charity should govern the exercise of all other spiritual gifts in the Church. He cautioned that the gift of speaking in tongues, if used improperly, will fail to edify the Church and will distract members from seeking superior spiritual gifts. Paul’s counsel in these chapters continued to address the problems that members of the Church in Corinth were having with doctrinal questions and a lack of unity.

lesson 38 timeline

Commentary for 1 Corinthians 12–14

1 Corinthians 12:1–3. “No Man Can Say That Jesus Is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost

Paul noted that before the Saints in Corinth had converted to the gospel, they were “carried away unto these dumb [voiceless] idols, even as ye were led” (1 Corinthians 12:2). In contrast to powerless and voiceless idols, the Saints could rely on the powerful influence of the Holy Ghost as a source of testimony (see 1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the word say in 1 Corinthians 12:3 should be understood as “know,” thus clarifying that “no man can know that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (in History of the Church, 4:603). Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of obtaining a testimony through the Holy Ghost:

“A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost, whose primary ministry is to testify of truth, particularly as it relates to the Father and the Son. …

“Simply stated, testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost—changes lives. It changes how you think and what you do. It changes what you say. It affects every priority you set and every choice you make” (“Pure Testimony,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 40). For more insight on spiritual discernment, see the commentary for 1 Corinthians 2:6–16.

1 Corinthians 12:3–10. Gifts of the Spirit Defined

The gifts listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 are referred to as “spiritual gifts” or “gifts of the Spirit.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “Spiritual gifts come from God. They are the gifts of God; they originate with him and are special blessings that he bestows upon those who love him and keep his commandments” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 270).

The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) confirmed that Latter-day Saints “believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth” (Articles of Faith 1:7). Other books of scripture, including Moroni 10 and Doctrine and Covenants 46, supplement our understanding of spiritual gifts. For example, the Doctrine and Covenants teaches that Heavenly Father gives spiritual gifts to His children through the Holy Ghost for their benefit (see D&C 46:8–10, 26).

Paul explained that the gifts of the Spirit enable disciples to effectively administer and serve in God’s kingdom and meet the needs of others (see 1 Corinthians 12:5–7). By using the terms “the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” and “the same God” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6), Paul recognized that spiritual gifts are manifestations of the united work of all three members of the Godhead. The following chart lists the spiritual gifts specifically listed by Paul.

Spiritual Gift (see 1 Corinthians 12:3–10)

Description

Testimony of Jesus Christ (verse 3)

A witness given through the Holy Ghost “that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Fear Not to Do Good,” Ensign, May 1983, 80).

Differences of administrations (verse 5)

Leadership or “administrative ability,” which is “used in administering and regulating the church” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 271, 278). The ability to discern correctly how the Lord governs His Church through councils, quorums, auxiliaries, and so on.

Diversities of operations (verse 6)

The ability to distinguish between things that are of the devil and those that are of God.

Word of wisdom (verse 8)

Includes sound judgment and the proper application of gospel doctrines and principles, particularly in decision making (see James 1:5; D&C 136:32–33). Paul’s use of word shows that the gift of wisdom includes the ability to teach a message of wisdom by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Word of knowledge (verse 8)

“An endowment of knowledge, not random knowledge, not knowledge in general or as an abstract principle, but gospel knowledge, a knowledge of God and his laws” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:370; see also D&C 42:61). Again, Paul’s choice of word emphasizes that this gift includes the ability to teach knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost (see also D&C 25:7; 28:1; 99:1–2).

Faith (verse 9)

Experienced by degrees and increased through righteous living. Not everyone has the same degree of faith. This gift is a prerequisite for both healing and working miracles (see Matthew 17:14–20; see also 1 Nephi 7:12).

Healing (verse 9)

Manifest through priesthood ordinances. To pray with faith sufficient for healing is also a spiritual gift (see James 5:13–14; D&C 42:48).

Working of miracles (verse 10)

Signs of God’s grace, which affirm that divine power is at work. They are a reminder that God assists those who follow the example of the Savior and minister to others (see Mormon 9:7–11, 18–20).

Prophecy (verse 10)

“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Personal revelation is the source of testimony, and testimony enables a person to prophesy or testify of God’s work, including His future works. The gift of prophecy does not necessarily mean predicting specific future events. All members of the Church are to seek for this gift (see Numbers 11:29; 1 Corinthians 14:1, 3, 31, 39). The gift of prophecy should not be confused with the prophetic office of a prophet, seer, and revelator.

Discerning of spirits (verse 10)

Discernment of good and evil (see Moroni 7:12–18; D&C 101:95) and of false spirits from divine spirits (see D&C 46:23). The gift of discernment can make known “the thoughts and intents of the heart” of another person (Hebrews 4:12; D&C 33:1). The gift of discernment “arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, … to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them” (Stephen L Richards, in Conference Report, Apr. 1950, 162).

Tongues (verse 10)

“Particularly instituted for the preaching of the Gospel to other nations and languages” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 382–83; see also Acts 2:4–12; D&C 90:11). Since speaking in tongues is one of the most visible and sought after of the spiritual gifts, Paul warned against its misuse (see 1 Corinthians 14:4, 9, 27–28, 40).

Interpretation of tongues (verse 10)

Should be accompanied by an inspired interpretation so that listeners are edified (see 1 Corinthians 14:9, 11, 13, 19, 27–28).

1 Corinthians 12:4. “There Are Diversities of Gifts”

Many spiritual gifts are specifically listed in the scriptures (see 1 Corinthians 12:7–10; Moroni 10:8–17; D&C 46:12–29). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Spiritual gifts are endless in number and infinite in variety. Those listed in the revealed word are simply illustrations of the boundless outpouring of divine grace that a gracious God gives those who love and serve him” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 371).

1 Corinthians 12:7, 11. Spiritual Gifts Are Given to All Who Have the Gift of the Holy Ghost

All followers of Jesus Christ who are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and seek to keep the commandments receive one or more spiritual gifts (see D&C 46:11). Elder Orson Pratt (1811–81) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Whenever the Holy Ghost takes up its residence in a person, it not only cleanses, sanctifies, and purifies him in proportion as he yields himself to its influence, but also imparts to him some gift, intended for the benefit of himself and others. No one who has been born of the Spirit, and who remains sufficiently faithful, is left destitute of a spiritual gift” (Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. N. B. Lundwall [1946], 539). Spiritual gifts are given to both men and women, and according to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “in the body of the Church, all of the spiritual gifts are present” (“Life’s Lessons Learned,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 47).

1 Corinthians 12:12–30. “Ye Are the Body of Christ”

Paul used the analogy of the human body to show how each individual Church member is essential to the entire body of the Church. Paul noted that the human body operates as one whole but is made up of many parts or members, each of which is important. Paul pointed out that the body would not work properly if the whole body were only the eye or the ear.

people in pews singing

Paul told Church members, “Ye are the body of Christ,” as a reminder that they were to be united as one.

When people are baptized, they become members of the body of Christ, meaning Christ’s Church. Because each member is given unique offices, duties, and spiritual gifts, each can play an important role in the Church, just as every member of the body is important. When members perform responsibilities and minister to the needs of others with their gifts and talents, the Church as a whole is blessed.

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught that all members of the Church can make valuable contributions in their ward or branch: “Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence. All of us in the pursuit of our duty touch the lives of others. To each of us in our respective responsibilities the Lord has said: ‘Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees’ (D&C 81:5)” (“This Is the Work of the Master,” Ensign, May 1995, 71).

audio iconPresident Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency similarly taught: “You may feel that there are others who are more capable or more experienced who could fulfill your callings and assignments better than you can, but the Lord gave you your responsibilities for a reason. There may be people and hearts only you can reach and touch. Perhaps no one else could do it in quite the same way” (“Lift Where You Stand,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 56).

1 Corinthians 12:28. The Importance of Teachers

In Paul’s list of Church officers, he mentioned teachers immediately after apostles and prophets, which underscores the importance of effective teachers in the Church. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged all of us to improve our teaching skills:

“In this Church it is virtually impossible to find anyone who is not a guide of one kind or another to his or her fellow members of the flock. Little wonder that Paul would say in his writings, ‘God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers.’ [1 Corinthians 12:28.] …

“… We must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition” (“A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, 25).

1 Corinthians 12:26. “Whether One Member Suffer, All the Members Suffer with It”

Paul taught the Saints in Corinth that “there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25– 26). Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric taught about the unity that is expressed as Church members care for one another:

audio icon“We can each be more compassionate and caring because we have each had our own personal trials and experiences to draw from. We can endure together.

“I rejoice in belonging to such a loving and caring organization. No one knows better how to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I choose to call it ‘enduring together.’ What happens to one happens to all. We endure together” (“Enduring Together,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 11).

1 Corinthians 12:31. Seek Earnestly the Best Gifts

Paul recommended that Church members “covet [seek] earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). An important first step to obtaining additional spiritual gifts is to identify the gifts we already have, as Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“A prerequisite for seeking after the gifts may require that we find out which gifts we have been given. The scriptures further record:

“‘And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.

“‘For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God’ (D&C 46:10–11).

young woman receiving blessing

Patriarchal blessings can help us recognize the spiritual gifts we have received.

“To find the gifts we have been given, we must pray and fast. Often patriarchal blessings tell us the gifts we have received and declare the promise of gifts we can receive if we seek after them. I urge you each to discover your gifts and to seek after those that will bring direction to your life’s work and that will further the work of heaven.

“During our time here on earth, we have been charged to develop the natural gifts and capabilities Heavenly Father has blessed us with. Then it will be our opportunity to use these gifts to become teachers and leaders of God’s children wherever they may be found on earth” (“Gifts of the Spirit,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 16).

1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:1–13. Charity

In his discussion of spiritual gifts, Paul emphasized the importance of charity and taught how it can influence the use of all spiritual gifts. The scriptures often speak of charity and of the need for the followers of Jesus Christ to obtain it (see 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Peter 4:8; Ether 12:33–34; Moroni 7:45–48).

The word charity is a translation of the Greek noun agapē, which can also mean simply “love.” Agapē is used in other New Testament passages to describe the deep and abiding love between the Father and the Son, the divine love that God has for man, and the love we are to have for our fellowman (see John 13:34–35; 15:10; 17:26; Romans 8:35, 39).

1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:1–8. Charity—“A More Excellent Way”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained why Paul called the gift of charity “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) and why love should be at the center of every disciple’s life:

audio icon“Paul’s message to [the Corinthian Saints] was simple and direct: Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won’t profit you at all [see 1 Corinthians 13:1–2].

“‘Charity is the pure love of Christ’ [Moroni 7:47]. The Savior exemplified that love and taught it even as He was tormented by those who despised and hated Him. …

“In 1840 the Prophet Joseph sent an epistle to the Twelve wherein he taught that ‘love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race’ [Teachings: Joseph Smith, 426]. …”

“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship” (“The Great Commandment,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 28–29). For more information on the importance of developing love for others, see the commentary for John 13:34–35.

1 Corinthians 13:4–5, 12. “Charity Suffereth Long, and Is Kind”

Paul pointed out that “charity suffereth long, and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). When we have charity, we patiently endure offense or hardship. We also act in patience and kindness to everyone, even those who offend us. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught: “We do not know the hearts of those who offend us. Nor do we know all the sources of our own anger and hurt. The Apostle Paul was telling us how to love in a world of imperfect people, including ourselves, when he said, ‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil’ (1 Cor. 13:4–5). And then he gave solemn warning against reacting to the fault of others and forgetting our own when he wrote, ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known’ (1 Cor. 13:12)” (“That We May Be One,” Ensign, May 1998, 68).

1 Corinthians 13:8. “Charity Never Faileth”

Like the Apostle Paul, the prophet Mormon also taught that charity would never fail, and he gave a simple definition of this gift: “Charity is the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:46–47). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of true charity as Christ’s pure love, which will never fail:

“The greater definition of ‘the pure love of Christ,’ however, is not what we as Christians try but largely fail to demonstrate toward others but rather what Christ totally succeeded in demonstrating toward us. True charity has been known only once. It is shown perfectly and purely in Christ’s unfailing, ultimate, and atoning love for us. It is Christ’s love for us that ‘suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not.’ It is his love for us that is not ‘puffed up … , not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.’ It is Christ’s love for us that ‘beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’ It is as demonstrated in Christ that ‘charity never faileth.’ It is that charity—his pure love for us—without which we would be nothing, hopeless, of all men and women most miserable. Truly, those found possessed of the blessings of his love at the last day—the Atonement, the Resurrection, eternal life, eternal promise—surely it shall be well with them. …

“Life has its share of fears and failures. Sometimes things fall short. Sometimes people fail us, or economies or businesses or governments fail us. But one thing in time or eternity does not fail us—the pure love of Christ” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 336–37; see also Romans 8:35–39).

Christ and blind man

Healing of the Blind Man, by Harry Anderson. True charity is shown in the Savior’s unfailing love for us.

1 Corinthians 13:8–13. Charity Compared to Other Gifts and Virtues

One way of understanding Paul’s statement that “charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8) is that charity never ends; thus, it stands in contrast to even the wonderful gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge, which Paul said would end (see 1 Corinthians 13:8–10).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie further explored this idea: “Shall the gifts of the Spirit cease? Is there to be a day when the saints shall no longer possess the gifts of prophecy and tongues? Or the gift of knowledge? Yes, in the sense that these shall be swallowed up in something greater, and shall no longer be needed in the perfect day. When the saints know all tongues, none will be able to speak in an unknown tongue. When the saints become as God and know all things—past, present, and future—there will be no need or occasion to prophesy of the future” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:380).

President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) explained why charity is described as being “the greatest” of the virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13): “Charity encompasses all other godly virtues. It distinguishes both the beginning and the end of the plan of salvation. When all else fails, charity—Christ’s love—will not fail. It is the greatest of all divine attributes” (“A More Excellent Way,” Ensign, May 1992, 61).

1 Corinthians 13:9–13. “Through a Glass, Darkly”

Celtic mirror

A Roman Celtic mirror. Polished metal mirrors were used in the ancient world.

Paul observed that the knowledge available in this life is incomplete as compared with the perfect knowledge we will enjoy in eternity (see 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Nephi 9:13–14). He compared our current, imperfect knowledge to viewing a person’s image in the imperfect reflection of a metal mirror. He then compared perfect eternal knowledge to the clarity of seeing that same person “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

1 Corinthians 13:13. Faith, Hope, and Charity

Paul referred to faith, hope, and charity as three principles that “abideth,” meaning they endure or last forever. Elder M. Russell Ballard explained the relationship among these principles:

“The Apostle Paul taught that three divine principles form a foundation upon which we can build the structure of our lives. They are faith, hope, and charity. (See 1 Cor. 13:13.) Together they give us a base of support like the legs of a three-legged stool. Each principle is significant within itself, but each also plays an important supporting role. Each is incomplete without the others. Hope helps faith develop. Likewise, true faith gives birth to hope. When we begin to lose hope, we are faltering also in our measure of faith. The principles of faith and hope working together must be accompanied by charity, which is the greatest of all. According to Mormon, ‘charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever.’ (Moro. 7:47.) It is the perfect manifestation of our faith and hope.

“Working together, these three eternal principles will help give us the broad eternal perspective we need to face life’s toughest challenges, including the prophesied ordeals of the last days. Real faith fosters hope for the future; it allows us to look beyond ourselves and our present cares. Fortified by hope, we are moved to demonstrate the pure love of Christ through daily acts of obedience and Christian service” (“The Joy of Hope Fulfilled,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 33).

1 Corinthians 14:1–6. The Gift of Prophecy

Although some people might assume that the gift of prophecy is reserved only for Church leaders, many scriptures teach that the gift is available to all faithful followers of Christ, including both men and women (see Numbers 11:24–29; 1 Nephi 10:17–19). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the difference between the gift of prophecy and the prophetic office:

“The nouns prophecy and prophet and their variations, such as the adjective prophetic and the verb prophesy, are used in several different senses.

“When we hear the word prophet in our day, we are accustomed to thinking of the prophet. These words signify him who holds the prophetic office and is sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator. The priesthood offices and powers exercised by the President of the Church are unique. …

“The spiritual gift of prophecy is quite different. As we read in the Book of Revelation, ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ (Rev. 19:10.) The Prophet Joseph Smith relied on this scripture in teaching that ‘every other man who has the testimony of Jesus’ is a prophet [in History of the Church, 3:28]. Similarly, the Apostle Paul states that ‘he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.’ (1 Cor. 14:3.) Thus, in the sense used in speaking of spiritual gifts, a prophet is one who testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches God’s word, and exhorts God’s people. In its scriptural sense, to prophesy means much more than to predict the future.

“… In our day, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith declared that ‘all members of the Church should seek for the gift of prophecy, for their own guidance, which is the spirit by which the word of the Lord is understood and his purpose made known.’ (Church History and Modern Revelation, 3 vols., Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Co., 1953, 1:201.)

“It is important for us to understand the distinction between a prophet, who has the spiritual gift of prophecy, and the prophet, who has the prophetic office” (“Spiritual Gifts,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 71).

1 Corinthians 14:2–22. The Gift of Tongues

The Apostles and others spoke with “other tongues” on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4–8). On this occasion, the gift of tongues was manifest through God’s servants teaching the gospel in languages that were known to their listeners but unknown to the speakers (see the commentary for Acts 2:5–11). Another manifestation of the gift of tongues occurs when a person is moved by the Spirit to speak in a language that is unknown to either the speaker or the hearers (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:383). This second manifestation of the gift of tongues seems to have been highly sought after by some members of the Church in Corinth as supposed evidence of a person’s spirituality. Paul corrected this misunderstanding as he explained that this form of the gift of tongues provided unbelievers with evidence of God’s power but did not teach or edify the Saints (see 1 Corinthians 14:19, 22, 26).

sister missionaries

Sister missionaries in Japan. Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “The gift of tongues is used by missionaries to teach the gospel to the nations of the world.”

In the early years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some individuals were influenced by false spirits and engaged in unusual behaviors during worship, including attempting to speak in unknown tongues and claiming it was done by divine power. For a time, some members were deceived into believing that this was a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith received inspired direction to help correct this misunderstanding (see D&C 50; 52). Elder Robert D. Hales reviewed some important cautions regarding the purpose and use of the gift of tongues:

“We are told by prophets in this dispensation that revelation for the direction of the Church will not be given through the gift of tongues. The reason for this is that it is very easy for Lucifer to falsely duplicate the gift of tongues and confuse the members of the Church.

“Satan has the power to trick us as it pertains to some of the gifts of the Spirit. One in which he is the most deceptive is the gift of tongues. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (1801–77) explained the need to be cautious when considering the gift of tongues.

“‘You may speak in tongues for your own comfort, but I lay this down for a rule, that if anything is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine’ (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 384).

“‘Speak not in the gift of tongues without understanding it, or without interpretation. The devil can speak in tongues’ (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 384).

“‘The gift of tongues is not … empowered to dictate … the Church. All gifts and endowments given of the Lord to members of his Church are not given to control the Church; but they are under the control and guidance of the Priesthood, and are judged of by it’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 343).

“The gift of tongues is used by missionaries to teach the gospel to the nations of the world” (“Gifts of the Spirit,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 14–15).

ram’s horn trumpet

A shofar, or ram’s horn trumpet. The loud, clear signal of such trumpets was used in ancient Israel to call people to gather for battle or for important religious occasions. Paul drew upon this image as he counseled the Corinthian Saints about the ineffectiveness of speaking in unknown tongues and the importance of clear teaching in the Church (see 1 Corinthians 14:8–9).

1 Corinthians 14:3–26. “Let All Things Be Done unto Edifying”

Paul said, “Let all things be done unto edifying” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Paul repeatedly used forms of the word edify in 1 Corinthians 14 (see verses 3–5, 12, 17, 26) to describe the purpose of spiritual gifts. The word edifying is a translation of the Greek oikodomēn, which literally means the process of building a house. Paul said that the members of the Church were God’s “building” (oikodomē; see 1 Corinthians 3:9). Therefore, one reason we should seek for spiritual gifts is to build up or strengthen the Church of God (see also D&C 46:11–12).

1 Corinthians 14:34–35. Should Women Keep Silent in Church?

It is difficult to know the intent of Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 without knowing the actual question or circumstances that prompted it. From Paul’s teachings earlier in this same epistle, it is clear that he did not forbid women from speaking in church meetings (see 1 Corinthians 11:5). Paul also reminded both men and women to be silent during meetings when others were speaking (see 1 Corinthians 14:28, 30).

Perhaps we can best understand this passage when we see that the Joseph Smith Translation for 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 replaces the word speak with rule in both verses (see 1 Corinthians 14:34, footnote b; 14:35, footnote a). This word change suggests the possibility that Paul was trying to correct a situation in which some Corinthian women were either being disorderly during worship services or seeking to take the lead from priesthood leaders. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, women are called upon to teach, testify, exhort, and serve, but they should not usurp the authority given to priesthood leaders (see D&C 25:5–7; History of the Church, 4:579). The same can also be said of all male Church members who are not called to preside.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following regarding men’s and women’s roles in the Church:

“Let me repeat something I stated in the April 2013 general conference:

“‘In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. … In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife.’ (“This Is My Work and Glory,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 19.)

“Why are men ordained to priesthood offices and not women? President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that it was the Lord, not man, ‘who designated that men in His Church should hold the priesthood’ and that it was also the Lord who endowed women with ‘capabilities to round out this great and marvelous organization, which is the Church and kingdom of God’ (“Women of the Church,” Ensign, November 1996, 70). When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has.

“When thinking about those things we do not fully understand, I am reminded of these words by my deceased friend and Apostle, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who said, ‘What we already know about God teaches us to trust him for what we do not know fully’ (Deposition of a Disciple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], 56).

“And Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated in this last April general conference, ‘In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know’ (“Lord, I Believe,” Ensign, May 2013, 94).

“Brothers and sisters, this matter, like many others, comes down to our faith. Do we believe that this is the Lord’s Church? Do we believe that He has organized it according to His purposes and wisdom? Do we believe that His wisdom far exceeds ours? Do we believe that He has organized His Church in a manner that would be the greatest possible blessing to all of His children, both His sons and His daughters?

“… Women are integral to the governance and work of the Church through service as leaders in Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary; through their service as teachers, full-time missionaries, and temple ordinance workers; and in the home, where the most important teaching in the Church occurs” (“Let Us Think Straight” [Brigham Young University campus education week devotional, Aug. 20, 2013], 4–5; speeches.byu.edu).

    Points to Ponder

  • Study the analogy found in 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, where Paul compared the human body to the Church of Jesus Christ. As a member of the Church, what can you do to contribute to your ward or branch?

  • Read 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 and consider what you can do to more fully develop the gift of charity in your personal life. How would your relationships with family, Church members, or others be improved by an increased measure of charity?

    Suggested Assignments

  • Continue your study of spiritual gifts by reading Moroni 10:8–24 and Doctrine and Covenants 46:8–33. Then write answers to the following questions: What do these passages suggest a person can do to receive spiritual gifts? What are some of the gifts that God has given to you?

  • Search your patriarchal blessing for indications of the spiritual gifts that Heavenly Father has given to you. Outline a brief plan for how you could strive to strengthen the gifts you have and develop other spiritual gifts you desire.