Paul concludes 1 Corinthians by testifying of the reality of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and declaring himself and others as witnesses (see 1 Corinthians 15:3–9). Christ’s Resurrection opened death’s doors and assured that all mankind will be raised from the grave (see vv. 19–27). All will be judged and receive a reward according to their faithfulness (see vv. 33–42). Look in 1 Corinthians 15:53–58for the testimony and promise the Lord has extended to everyone (the sting of death can be removed through the hope of a glorious resurrection). Finally Paul urges the Saints to have faith and charity as their standard (see 1 Corinthians 16:13–14, 22–24).
Prayerfully study 1 Corinthians 15–16and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 297–98.
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for 1 Corinthians 15–16.
Write the word death on the board. Ask students:
What concerns you most about death?
Who is the person closest to you who has passed away?
In what ways was the death of this loved one painful for you?
How did you get over the pain or “sting” of the passing of this loved one?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–4and look for the message of hope. Explain that Paul was teaching Saints in Corinth, some of whom rejected belief in the Resurrection. He tried to correct their disbelief with his testimony.
Divide the class into four groups and assign each one of the following four passages of scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:5–11; 15:12–26; 15:35–42; and 15:42–50. Have each group read their passage looking for insights into the Resurrection. Have them share their findings, and write them on the board. Ask:
What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected?
What is “the last enemy” that the Resurrection defeats?
What kinds of bodies will the Resurrection provide?
Share and discuss the following statement by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith:
“In the resurrection there will be different kinds of bodies; they will not all be alike. The body a man receives will determine his place hereafter. There will be celestial bodies, terrestrial bodies, and telestial bodies, and these bodies will differ as distinctly as do bodies here. … Some will gain celestial bodies with allthe powers of exaltation and eternal increase . These bodies will shine like the sun as our Savior’s does, as described by John. Those who enter the terrestrial kingdom will have terrestrial bodies, and they will not shine like the sun, but they will be more glorious than the bodies of those who receive the telestial glory” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:286–87).
Explain that although everyone will be resurrected because of Jesus Christ, death may still have a sting. Have students find “the sting of death” in 1 Corinthians 15:55–56. Ask: How can sin sting? Read President Spencer W. Kimball’s warning:
“Paul says, ‘The sting of death is sin,’ meaning that if men die in their sins, they will suffer the prescribed penalty and gain a lesser glory in the realms ahead (1 Cor. 15:56)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 109; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 72; see also D&C 42:44–48).
Ask: What must we do to avoid the sting of death? Conclude by reading the following testimony by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“The pain of death is swallowed up in the peace of eternal life. … Whenever the cold hand of death strikes, there shines through the gloom and the darkness of that hour the triumphant figure of the Lord Jesus Christ, He, the Son of God, who by His matchless and eternal power overcame death. … He is our comfort, our only true comfort, when the dark shroud of earthly night closes about us as the spirit departs the human form” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 92; or Ensign, May 1996, 67).
Testify that Jesus opens the door to celestial glory for those who are worthy.
Insert your hand into a glove to demonstrate that the spirit gives life to the physical body. Remove your hand from the glove to demonstrate that the body is lifeless without the spirit. In the Resurrection the spirit will be reunited with the body, never to die or separate again.
Give students the following quiz:
Of the following people, who will not be resurrected?
Laman and Lemuel
Invite students to read 1 Corinthians 15:20–22to discover the correct answer. Ask: What does the phrase “firstfruits of them that slept” mean? (Jesus Christ was the first person to be resurrected.)
Why do you think the artist included a flower in this picture depicting death?
In what season of the year was Jesus resurrected? (Spring.)
How is this a significant symbol of the Resurrection?
Conclude by reading President Joseph F. Smith’s insight:
“Every creature that is born in the image of God will be resurrected from the dead … by the power of Jesus Christ. It matters not whether we have done well or ill, whether we have been intelligent or ignorant, or whether we have been bondsmen or slaves or freemen, all men will be raised from the dead” (“The Second Death,” in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses: Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. [1987–92], 4:224–25).
Discuss the power by which Jesus was able to bring about the Resurrection of the dead (see Ephesians 1:17, 19–20; 1 Peter 1:20–21). Invite students to share how their knowledge of the doctrine of the Resurrection influences their appreciation for the Savior.
What does this verse tell us about the Church of Jesus Christ at the time of Paul?
Why do we perform baptisms for the dead?
Have students read the following passages of scripture looking for the answer to the last question: John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6; Doctrine and Covenants 124:28–31. After discussing the scriptures, you may also wish to share the following explanations. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“Every man that has been baptized and belongs to the kingdom has a right to be baptized for those who have gone before; and as soon as the law of the Gospel is obeyed here by their friends who act as proxy for them, the Lord has administrators there to set them free” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 367).
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“Salvation for the dead was understood in the days of the primitive Christian Church, and to some extent baptisms for the dead continued to be performed until A.D. 379, when the Council of Carthage forbade any longer the administration of this ordinance and ‘holy communion’ for the dead” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:163).
Where are these sacred baptisms performed?
What must we do so we can be worthy to go to the temple?
How do we prepare ourselves?
What must those in the spirit world do to make vicarious baptism effectual for them?
If you have students who have been to the temple to be baptized for the dead, invite them to share how they felt about their experience.
Have students imagine that a friend has asked them whether all people go to heaven or hell. Invite students to write a response to this question and give reasons for their answers. Then ask for volunteers to read their responses.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:40–42(including the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 40) and ask students to name the three degrees of glory. Make three columns on the board with these headings: celestial, terrestrial, and telestial. Write the reference Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–70under celestial, 76:71–80 under terrestrial, and 76:81–90 under telestial. Have students read these verses looking for the characteristics of those who will go to each of the kingdoms of glory. Invite them to take turns going to the board to write their discoveries. Have them underline these characteristics in their scriptures if they wish.
Consider displaying three different lamps, each with lightbulbs of different wattage (such as 40, 60, or 100 watt). Darken the room, turn on each lamp separately, and ask students to notice the differences in brightness. Point out that Paul illustrated well the difference in brightness and joy of each kingdom. Testify that if we will faithfully make and keep our covenants, we will inherit the greatest happiness in the celestial kingdom.