The Apostle Paul instructed both married and single Church members in Corinth about marriage and missionary work. Responding to a question about eating meat offered to idols, he taught the Saints to consider the effect of their personal practices on others and be willing to forgo some actions if those actions might cause another to stumble spiritually.
Draw the following diagram in your scripture study journal. You will add to it as you study 1 Corinthians 7.
Like us, Church members in Corinth lived in a society with confusing and conflicting ideas about marriage and physical or sexual intimacy. With this and other gospel doctrines and principles, it is important to be able to distinguish between true and false beliefs.
In 1 Corinthians 5–6 you read about some of the false beliefs about sexual relations that were prevalent in Corinth. One of these false beliefs was the following: It is acceptable to participate in physical intimacy with anyone. Write this statement under “False belief:” on the right side of the diagram in your scripture study journal. Consider why this belief is false.
Church members in Corinth had written to the Apostle Paul asking for guidance concerning the Lord’s standard of sexual purity. Read 1 Corinthians 7:1, looking for what the Corinthian Saints asked Paul about.
The phrase “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” in verse 1 indicates that the Corinthian Saints had questions about when and if physical intimacy was appropriate. In addition, some may have even questioned whether married people should participate in physical intimacy. Write the following under “False belief:” on the left side of the diagram in your scripture study journal: It is never acceptable to participate in physical intimacy, not even in marriage.
Both of the false beliefs written in your scripture study journal represent extreme views that vary from God’s standard for physical intimacy.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:2–3, looking for what Paul taught the Corinthians about physical intimacy. The word fornication in verse 2 refers to sexual relations outside of marriage, and the phrase “due benevolence” in verse 3 refers to the love and intimacy expressed between husband and wife.
In For the Strength of Youth we learn that “physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage” ([booklet, 2011], 35).
Write the following under “Truth:” in your scripture study journal: Physical intimacy between husband and wife is ordained of God.
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth has never been rescinded. It is essential to the plan of redemption and is the source of human happiness. Through the righteous exercise of this power, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy, even godhood. The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it is the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness.
“The desire to mate in humankind is constant and very strong. Our happiness in mortal life, our joy and exaltation are dependent upon how we respond to these persistent, compelling physical desires” (“The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 26).
Why is procreation—the ability to create mortal life—so important in Heavenly Father’s plan for the salvation of His children?
As recorded in 1 Corinthians 7:1–24, Paul taught that except for special, temporary circumstances, spouses should not withhold marital affection from each other; that widowed and divorced members of the Church were permitted to remarry if they chose; and that Church members should “abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24) whatever their circumstances. Paul also discouraged divorce.
There were Church members in Corinth whose spouses were not Christians. Consider some of the difficulties spouses of different faiths might experience.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:12–17, looking for truths Paul taught that could help part-member families today.
The following is one truth we could learn from this passage: Faithful followers of Jesus Christ have a sanctifying effect on their families.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What examples have you seen in which a member of the Church has had a positive effect on family members who were not members of the Church or not active in the Church?
In 1 Corinthians 7:25–40 Paul discussed the advantages and disadvantages of being single or married while “called unto the ministry” (Joseph Smith Translation, 1 Corinthians 7:29 [in the Bible appendix]), or called on missions. He taught that unmarried or single missionaries would have fewer distractions while serving than someone who was married and had temporal concerns related to providing for a family. However, he did not forbid them to marry or to be married while serving a mission. Some examples of married couples involved in full-time Church service today are senior missionary couples, mission presidents, temple presidents, and General Authorities of the Church.
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the following experience:
“I have found that if you live the way you should live, people notice and are impressed with your beliefs and you have an influence on the lives of others.
“I spent my career in the department store business. Because I was part of a management team, it was important for me to interact socially with local business organizations. The meetings with most of these organizations always started with a cocktail hour [during which alcoholic drinks are traditionally served]. It was a time to mix and get acquainted with the men who belonged to the organization. I have always felt uncomfortable in these social hours. At first I started asking for a lemon-lime soda. I soon discovered that lemon-lime soda looks like many of the other drinks. I could not build the impression I was a nondrinker with a clear soda in my hands” (“The Tradition of a Balanced, Righteous Life,” Ensign, Aug. 2011, 48–49).
What could have happened if Elder Perry had continued to drink nonalcoholic beverages that looked like alcoholic beverages during those social gatherings?
What are some situations in which your example could negatively influence others even though you may not be doing anything wrong?
Church members in Corinth wondered if it was acceptable for them to eat food that had been offered to idols, or pagan gods. In response, the Apostle Paul acknowledged that Church members might think this was acceptable because they knew that the pagan gods did not really exist (see 1 Corinthians 8:4–6).
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1, looking for what Paul taught the Corinthian Saints.
Notice in verse 1 what can result from knowledge and what results from charity. Paul was suggesting that charity (“the pure love of Christ” [Moroni 7:47], having unselfish love for others) was more important than demonstrating knowledge of specific food laws.
Read 1 Corinthians 8:7–11, looking for what Paul taught about eating food that might have been offered to idols. The word weak in these verses refer to Church members who were weak in their faith. The word meat in the Bible usually means “food.” The word liberty in verse 9 refers to the lack of a specific commandment forbidding the eating of certain foods.
Notice in 1 Corinthians 8:9 that Paul gave a compelling reason for why the Saints might choose not to eat meat offered to idols. What example did Paul give in 1 Corinthians 8:10–11 about one way eating meat offered to idols might be a stumbling block?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:12–13, looking for how Paul concluded his caution about doing things that could possibly lead others to stumble. The phrase “make my brother to offend” in verse 13 could also be translated “cause my brother to stumble [or] falter” (1 Corinthians 8:13, footnote a).
One principle we can learn from Paul’s teachings is the following: We can show charity for others by avoiding actions that could lead them to stumble spiritually. (You may recall from your study of Romans 14 that Paul taught a similar principle to the Saints in Rome.)
Read the rest of Elder Perry’s account about his choices during cocktail hour. Notice how he applied this principle.
“I decided I had to have a drink that would clearly mark me as a nondrinker. I went to the bartender and requested a glass of milk. The bartender had never had such a request. He went into the kitchen and found a glass of milk for me. Now I had a drink that looked very different from the alcoholic beverages the others were drinking. Suddenly I was the center of attention. There were a lot of jokes made of my drink. My milk was a conversation piece. …
“Milk became my drink of choice at the cocktail hours. It soon became common knowledge I was a Mormon. The respect I received really surprised me, as did an interesting event that started to occur. Others soon joined me in a pure milk cocktail!
“Dare to be different. Live up to the standards we are taught in the gospel” (“The Tradition of a Balanced, Righteous Life,” 49).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What are some examples of how you might be able to show charity for others by avoiding actions that could lead them to stumble spiritually?
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied 1 Corinthians 7–8 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: