Paul opened 2 Corinthians by answering the concerns of false leaders who had assumed authority among the Saints in Corinth. As you read 2 Corinthians 1–3notice that by answering his critics, Paul was able to teach the Corinthians that the gospel was superior to the teachings of his enemies.
Prayerfully study 2 Corinthians 1–3and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Members of the Church should love and forgive one another (see 2 Corinthians 2:1–11).
True spirituality comes from living the gospel and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, not from merely filling our assigned tasks (see 2 Corinthians 3:1–18).
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 300–302.
Suggestions for Teaching
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for 2 Corinthians 1–3.
2 Corinthians 1:1–11, 21–22; 2:1–11. God comforts us in tribulation, which helps us comfort others.
Discuss with students events in their lives that have caused grief, suffering, or discomfort. Ask:
What did others do to comfort you?
How does the Holy Ghost comfort people in times of distress? (see John 14:16–18, 26–27).
Read 2 Corinthians 1:1–4looking for who sends the Holy Ghost and why. Ask: What does Heavenly Father want us to do when we receive comfort from the Spirit?
Tell students the following true incident related by Spencer J. Condie, who was later called to the Seventy. A young mother died in childbirth, leaving behind a husband and four children. Many who attended the funeral service felt a bitterness that God would allow such a devastating blow to come to this young family. At the end of the service the husband calmly got up and went to the pulpit:
“‘I sense your grief and concern,’ he said quietly, ‘but there is something I should tell you to comfort you. The first hour after my wife’s death I didn’t know how I could possibly stand it—how I could possibly go on without her. But then a sweet, peaceful spirit filled my soul, and since then I have had the assurance that everything will be all right. Don’t worry about us, we’re going to be just fine.’
“This same comforting spirit distilled upon the congregation. Everyone went home comforted” (“Thy Constant Companion,” Ensign, Oct. 1980, 33).
Who comforted whom in this story?
How is this similar to what the Savior did for each of us?
Why do you think God comforts us during our trials rather than simply removing them?
Read 2 Corinthians 1:7looking for the promise given to those who suffer.
What does consolation mean? (Comfort, soothing, relief from grief.)
How does verse 7 relate to verses 3–4?
In what ways can we console others?
Read verses 8–11 looking for how the Corinthian Saints were able to bring comfort to Paul. Ask: How can prayer be a powerful tool in bringing comfort to ourselves and those around us?
Explain to students that a certain man in Corinth was excommunicated for fornication (see 1 Corinthians 5:1–6) and severely rebuked by the members there. Paul wrote that the man had suffered enough. Read 2 Corinthians 2:6–8with students and ask:
What did Paul counsel the Saints to do?
Why was it so important that they forgive and love this man?
If they refused to comfort and forgive him, Paul said he could be “swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (v. 7). What do you think this means?
Have students read 2 Corinthians 2:9–11and discover the danger in not forgiving. Ask:
Who gets the advantage over us if we are unforgiving?
In what way would Satan have an advantage?
Suggest students cross-reference 2 Corinthians 2:7–11with Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–10. Read Doctrine and Covenants 64:9and ask: Why is it a greater sin to refuse to forgive others? Share the following statement:
“When we take the position of withholding forgiveness from our fellow men, we are attempting to block his progress towards salvation. This position is satanical and our motive is not Christlike. We are endeavoring to impede the progress of a living soul and deny him the forgiving blessings of the atonement. This philosophy is saturated with impure motives that are designed to destroy the soul” (Leaun G. Otten and C. Max Caldwell, Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2 vols. , 1:314).
How could not forgiving a murderer be a greater sin than murder?
How could not forgiving an adulterer or an abuser of children be a greater sin than adultery or child abuse?
In magnitude, sins such as these are much greater, but if we do not forgive we poison our own soul. Tell students that Satan uses an unforgiving spirit as a device to cause division between people.
Conclude with Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s description of compassion:
“True compassion for one’s fellow men is a mark of a true saint. It consists in sorrow for their sufferings, in having pity and sympathy for them, and in exhibiting mercy, tenderness and kindness towards them” (Mormon Doctrine , 152).
2 Corinthians 3:6, 17–18. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
Tell students that in February, 1847, Brigham Young had a dream in which he visited with the Prophet Joseph Smith. Brigham Young told Joseph Smith that he wanted to be with him, but the Prophet told him that he would have to wait awhile. Brigham Young asked if he had any message for the brethren. Read for students the following, which is taken from Brigham Young’s journal. Don’t read the words in italics but ask students to guess what is missing. (You may wish to write the sentence on the board with a blank line in place of the italicized words.)
“Joseph stepped toward me, and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly said, ‘Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord.’”
Ask students to suggest what the Prophet said to Brigham Young. Have them read 2 Corinthians 3:6for help. Once they get the right answer, ask: Why is keeping the Spirit so important? Discuss their answers, and then continue reading from Brigham Young’s account of what Joseph Smith told him in his dream:
“… Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1846–1847, ed. Elden J. Watson , 529–30; italics added).
Look again at 2 Corinthians 3:6. Ask:
What does the phrase “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” mean?
What are some examples? (Attending church or seminary because your parents force you to, fasting without any prayer or purpose.)
Have them read 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, looking for the two blessings that come from living the spirit of the law. Discuss the greater personal freedom that comes with living according to the Spirit.
Conclude by sharing President Ezra Taft Benson’s comment:
“The Spirit is the most important matter in this glorious work” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 198).