Introduction to Corinthians
"'Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you . . . by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you have believed in vain' (1 Cor. 15:1-2, NKJB). In these words Paul virtually wrote his own introduction to the Corinthian letters. The Saints at Corinth had believed, prospered, and divided, with parties opposing Paul and many doctrines he had taught. Because Paul had to correct so much, he wrote more to Corinth than to any other branch on record. The two Corinthian letters contain more than a fourth of the content of all fourteen of Paul's letters. They include much interaction-answers to letters, references to the faithfulness and unfaithfulness of the Saints, even quotations from skeptics and critics in connection with Paul's replies. Hence, these letters candidly picture a troubled branch of the Church and Paul's logical and spiritual convictions in response...By thoroughly repreaching the gospel, Paul in 1 Corinthians gives special insight into what was commonly believed by the Church members to whom Paul's many special letters were written.
Sent from: Paul, at Ephesus, joined by Sosthenes.
Sent to: Members at Corinth, provincial capital of southern Greece.
Date: Not long after the Passover, about A.D. 57.
Purpose: To correct dissension in that branch, to correct many wrong beliefs and actions, and to prepare them for Paul's future visit.
Main themes: Appeal for unity; revelation and man's wisdom; Paul's apostleship; sexual standards; marriage questions; true and false worship; Church organization and spiritual gifts; pure love; the Resurrection.
"...When Corinth was alive, it flexed powerful muscles. Strabo said that it was 'always great and wealthy.' Rome made southern Greece into the province of Achaia and made Corinth its capital, as readers know from the Gallio incident in Acts. Trade passed to and from the southern section of Greece through a Corinthian funnel, and cargoes to and from Italy were regularly routed through Corinth in days when ships navigated near the shores rather than risked open sea. Thus, Paul was at a communications center while at Corinth...This trade center was also a center of wickedness, as 1 Corinthians clearly shows. In its early success, the Greeks coined a verb 'Corinthize,' meaning to enjoy worldly pleasures. The big cities of the Roman Empire were like today's big cities in offering the best and the worst, though there was no general Christianity then to temper society. The Romans had destroyed Corinth in the Greek wars, but it was refounded a century before Paul with a strong Roman influence-first-century inscriptions are heavily Latin. Ancient sources picture a city with the vitality and seductiveness of the Chicago pictured by Carl Sandburg's poem. Immorality problems are more visible in 1 Corinthians than in any other letter of Paul except that to Rome itself. Plutarch attacked predatory bankers, and those from Corinth led the list. Yet the existence of bad society does not make all society bad. The Lord stood before Paul in vision and commanded him to stay and gather his people out of this worldly center. Because Corinth has so many parallels to any major modern city, what Paul wrote to the Corinthians has great relevance to Saints today.
"...The character of the Corinthian branch can be appreciated only by reading the Corinthian letters. Some ridiculed Paul, promoted factions in their branch, aggressively dominated the meetings, and doubted major doctrine. Paul's patient but firm leadership is constant in his Corinthian letters. Here was a branch in need of strong local and general authorities...So there was deep dissension at Corinth, but it is important to see this lack of unity as really an authority problem...Paul does not merely teach Christian unity in 1 Corinthians; unity must come through following local officers supervised by apostolic authority.
"First Corinthians is a doctrinal gem, ranging through the ancient gospel with a scope unmatched by most of Paul's letters and equaled by only one or two. Were the Corinthians especially worthy of receiving such a letter? The opposite is the case, for the most faithful branches did not need reconversion. And 1 Corinthians is a letter detailing the basics that were disbelieved and giving testimony and evidence to bring the full truth again to the Corinthians. The letter is so specific because the Corinthians were so confused. One can hear Paul preaching in 1 Corinthians better than in any other place except Acts. He repreaches the Resurrection to doubters and repreaches sexual morality to those who had reverted to worldly ways. He takes modern readers into the meetings and homes of early Christians to correct their carelessness in eating meat of pagan sacrifice, not eating the Lord's Supper with reverence, and allowing zeal to run uncontrolled in open meetings. He answers doctrinal questions and shows that the ultimate answers to all these problems are true spirituality, respect for priesthood leaders, and Christlike love." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 91-97.)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Ancient Corinth was a city of debauchery, lewdness, and evil. Even by pagan standards the Corinthians were notoriously sensual and immoral. Their very religion itself centered around the worship of Aphrodite (Venus) and included the sacrificing of chastity by virgins. Drunkenness, lasciviousness, and sex sin were proverbial. And as is natural in such a society, the people of the Roman colony of Corinth were given to faction and strife, and to the solving of moral issues through philosophical contention.
"In this climate of evil, Paul had raised up a congregation of saints who forsook the world that was Corinth and sought for a better life in the Cause of Christ. But these new and in some cases only semi-converted saints soon reeked with troubles in their own select group. Factions arose in the Church; some sought to solve spiritual problems by reason and philosophical dispute; the gifts of the Spirit and the partaking of the Lord's Supper were twisted and debased; some rejected Paul as an apostle, others denied the resurrection; and immoral and wanton conduct was found among those who had once turned from Satan to Christ." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 309.)
1 Cor. 1:1-2 Paul...and Sosthenes...Unto the church of God which is at Corinth
In about 50 AD, after delivering his famous Mars' hill address, Paul left Athens for Corinth (Acts 18:1). As was his habit, he began preaching in the Jewish synagogue. Paul's rejection by the Corinthian Jews frustrated him and he declared 'from henceforth I will go to the Gentiles' (Acts 18:6). But many of the Corinthians believed. The Lord told Paul he had 'much people in this city,' (Acts 18:10), and so Paul worked for 18 months among them, apparently with much success. One of Paul's converts was Sosthenes. A chief ruler of the synagogue, Sosthenes was beaten for his beliefs and possibly migrated to Ephesus, for he was with Paul seven years later when he wrote this epistle to the Corinthians.
1 Cor. 1:2-5 in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge
"When we become one with Jesus Christ, spiritually we form a partnership with a joint account, and his assets and our liabilities flow into each other. Since he has more assets than we have liabilities (he has an infinite ocean of assets), the new account has a positive balance as soon as it is formed, and the partnership is justified, even though its junior partners (you and me) could not make it on their own. This is what the Apostle Paul refers to as being 'in Christ' (1 Cor. 1:2) and what Moroni calls being 'perfect in Christ' (Moro. 10:32).
"Taken together, Christ and I make up a new creature. The old creature, the imperfect me, ceases to exist, and a glorious new creature, a perfect partnership, takes its place." (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 25.)
1 Cor. 1:9 called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ
Jeffrey R. Holland
"What does it mean to belong, to be a member of Christ's church and be 'called unto the fellowship of . . . Jesus Christ our Lord'? (1 Corinthians 1:9.) Obviously much of the joy and most of the meaning is yet to be fully realized. Surely it will be after death and beyond the veil that, more mature and enlightened, we will see-because we will be shown-the eternal implications of our earthly covenants." (However Long and Hard the Road [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 41.)
1 Cor. 1:10 I beseech you, brethren...that ye all speak the same thing
George Q. Cannon
"A friend ... wished to know whether we ... considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the authorities of the Church was apostasy. ... We replied that we had not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the authorities constituted apostasy; ... but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him, and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern His Church" (Deseret News, 3 Nov. 1869, p. 457).
1 Cor. 1:10 I beseech you, brethren...that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind
"If we were one, we should then prove to heaven, to God our Father, to Jesus Christ our Elder Brother, to the angels, to the good upon the earth, and to all mankind that we are the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are not one, we are not in the true sense of the word the disciples of the Lord Jesus." (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 281.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"I pray that we may be true to our covenants, true to each other; that we will cast out of our hearts all that is evil; that we will not speak evil one of another, or be given to backbiting or contention or strife, for the spirit of wickedness destroys faith and tends to divide and separate instead of uniting and strengthening the people. We must stand united as on-our purposes are the same, our aims are the same.
"We are laboring in the direction of eternal life and progression. There is no variance among the teachers in Israel concerning the principles of the gospel. We are united concerning these things. There is no division among the authorities, and there need be no division among the people, but unity, peace, brotherly love, kindness and fellowship one to another. These are the blessings that we are entitled to, if we will live in accordance with the gospel, and the Lord will pour out other and greater blessings, even all that we are able to contain." (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 1: 245.)
1 Cor. 1:12 every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas
Paul was very concerned about these Corinthian factions. Some of the Corinthian saints had been converted by Paul, some by Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew and an eloquent speaker who had much success among the Jews in Corinth (Acts 18:24-28), and some by Cephas or Peter, who had apparently traveled there with his wife (1 Cor 9:5). Elder Neal A. Maxwell noted: "Paul actually grieved because some members of the Church of Jesus Christ in the meridian of time wrongly thought of themselves as being Paul's or Peter's or some other's converts. (See 1 Cor. 1:12-13.) True Christians, then and now, are converts to Christ and should not be known by the name of even his most devoted follower." ("Our Acceptance of Christ," Ensign, June 1984, 70)
What is most interesting is that the Lord mentions these factions in the D&C in connection with those who will inherit a telestial glory (DC 76:99). The implications of this are rather frightening. Remember, Paul had referred to these Corinthians as 'saints' (v. 2) and as those 'called unto the fellowship of his Son' (v. 9). They were members of the church, who without repentance, could expect to receive no more than a telestial glory. They had received baptism, the key to entrance into the celestial kingdom, but that ordinance would not be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise because of their contention and strife. This is a frightening reminder to church members of all dispensations that 'unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation' (DC 82:3). Hereby, we see that we must repent of our contentious ways and follow the brethren will full purpose of heart if we expect to attain to a celestial glory.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Perfect unity is a goal the Church is still seeking. There are today Word of Wisdom faddists who will not use white flour or refined sugar; there are so-called liberals who think the problems of religion can be solved by dialogues and discussions without reference to revelation; there are others who maintain the Church should follow the world's course of social progress; there are those who try and harmonize the evolutionary concepts of the day with the revealed account of the fall and atonement; and there are others who profess to believe that full salvation is reserved for those who practice plural marriage, and so on. In other words, there are some of one philosophy and some of another, some follow the advocates of this cultish view and some of that.
"How apt it is that the Lord chose to paraphrase Paul's language concerning divisive groups in the Church, when he spoke of those who shall be thrust down to hell, and who after their sufferings shall come forth to receive a telestial inheritance. 'These are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas. These are they who say they are some of one and some of another-some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch; But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.' (D. & C. 76:99-101.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 313.)
1 Cor. 1:13 Is Christ divided?
"The present condition of the Christian world does not present that union, that love, that we expect from the perpetuation of the doctrines that Christ taught, and it is this fact, understood by many, that increases their doubts and strengthens their objections to what is called 'Christianity.' The New Testament teachings lead us to expect a state of unity in the Christian Church. The admonitions of the Apostles were to the effect that the Saints in early days should be united together, that they should understand alike, that they should speak the same things, that they should be of the same mind and of the same judgment. Such are the words of the Apostle, to be found in 1 Cor. 1: 10.
"Now, my friends does such a state of things exist around us in connection with the Christian churches that we might expect from the nature of a perfect religion, introduced by Christ? Does there exist, at the present time, a state of things so perfect as to agree with the expectations raised from the teachings of St. Paul in this scripture that I have quoted? I think not. I am safe, I believe, in stating-and I think our friends are prepared to agree with me-that there does not exist amongst the Christian denominations that unity and that oneness of faith, peace, kindness and love which, by reading the New Testament, we might expect to appear amongst them as the true fruits of Christianity." (Latter-day Tracts [Pamphlets], "Mr. Durant of Salt Lake City: 'That Mormon'" p. 105.)
Mark E. Petersen
"'Be one; ... if ye are not one ye are not mine' (D&C 38:27).
"This oneness, this unity of action and purpose, was vital to the work. There was no room for conflict among his disciples, no place for dissension, for as Paul demanded of the contending Corinthians, 'Is Christ divided?' (1 Cor. 1:13).
"When Jesus established his church nearly 2,000 years ago, it was in the hope that all mankind would come in a unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God unto a state of perfection, that we might become Christlike in reality (see Eph. 4:13).
"But Christianity as we know it is not united. Among those who profess to believe in him there are wide differences, much conflict, contention, and even enmity at times, a thing which is utterly foreign to the humble prayer for unity which Jesus offered just before his crucifixion.
"Well might we ask with the Apostle Paul, 'Is Christ divided?' It was he who pleaded with the Corinthians as they drifted apart, 'I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment' (1 Cor. 1:10).
"Paul named four subdivisions or separate denominations already existing in Corinth, a thing which he firmly condemned (see 1 Cor. 1:12-15). His former converts in that city actually began to alter the doctrines of Christ, even denying his resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:12)." ("Signs of the True Church," Ensign, May 1979, 21)
Mark E. Petersen
"Would not the Apostle Paul marvel at the many divisions in modern Christianity in the face of his declaration that Christ is not divided but that Christians should all speak the same thing and that there should be no divisions among them? Did he not say that Christians should be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment and not divide into separate groups? (See 1 Cor. 1.)
"Are not the divisions in Christianity and the turmoil within Christian nations evidence of their departure from Christ?" ("O America, America," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 12)
1 Cor. 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel
"Some have used this scripture passage to support the notion that Paul saw no real significance to the act of baptism and did not consider it to be essential in God's sight. To argue thus is to ignore the many other passages in which Paul speaks of the ordinance not only in an approving way but in a manner to suggest its absolute necessity for all who would enjoy a valid relationship with Christ. (see Romans 6:3,4; Ephesians 4,5; Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12)" (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 282)
1 Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God
"From what is said on this subject in the new testament, we can see that such was the contempt in which the gospel was held in that age of the world, that a man of talents or understanding to profess to believe it & receive it, was to expose himself to the certain contempt of the wise ones, so called-to expose himself to their bitterest feelings and severest contempt; even to so great an extent did those feelings prevail, until they that killed them thought they were doing God service; John 16:16. doubtless thinking that they were knaves and rascals, and not fit to live. Such were the feelings which existed in the minds of the people, in the days of Paul, Peter, John, and James, in relation to the gospel which they preached, and such are the feelings which prevail now, both concerning the gospel and those who receive it.
"Since the coming forth of the everlasting gospel, contained in the book of Mormon, the very same feelings prevail among the would be wise ones. It is called a 'simple and a foolish mess!' too simple to be believed or received by any person of sense: And every man of that description in the estimation of the world, must be a knave, say they; for surely they know better: for any person of a spark of sense, must know that it is an imposition.-But notwithstanding all this tumult of words and great exertions, the persons who embrace it in sincerity and truth, learn, as the saints of former years, that it has power to save; and that the foolishness of God is wiser than man, and the weakness of God stronger than men: God saves them that believe." (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834-September 1835), Vol. 1 January, 1835 No. 4 55.)
1 Cor. 1:20 hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
"The ultimate ignorance is unawareness of ignorance. Thus Paul sarcastically comments on 'the wisdom of this world' ("1 Cor. 1:201 Cor. 1:20), summing up a society too egotistical to see its own shallowness. He uses similar language a dozen times as he opens 1 Corinthians, a powerful exposure of status-seeking, materiality, immorality, and a host of other false values. He expected Church members to rise to a higher standard of living-true spiritual living. He perceived men as playing games instead of facing realities, as though little children had wandered into a schoolyard for the first time and had lost themselves in enjoying the play equipment, quite unaware of the higher purpose for building the school. Virtually every letter of Paul alludes to the higher purpose in making the earth, the plan 'which God ordained before the world unto our glory' (1 Cor. 2:7)." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 1.)
1 Cor. 1:21 in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God
Bruce R. McConkie
"As Paul said of those in his day, that 'in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God' (1 Cor. 1:21), so say we of all those in our day who seek God by study and research alone. He is not to be discovered by an archaeologist's pick, a translator's interpretation of an ancient text, nor a theologian's imagination about how he was named and known by them of old. God is and can be known only by revelation; the wisdom of the wise does not make him manifest, and all the conjecture and debate as to how this or that ancient name-title should be translated is as naught compared to one plain inspired utterance." (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 100.)
Dallin H. Oaks
"Those who rely exclusively on study and reason reject or remain doubtful of all absolutes that cannot be established through the five senses, including good and evil and the existence and omniscience of God. They also reject all other methods of acquiring knowledge, including revelation. They tend to be self-sufficient, self-important, and enamored of their own opinions. Reason is their god and intellectualism is their creed. They dwell in that 'large and spacious building' seen in a prophet's vision of the 'wisdom' and 'pride of the world.'" (The Lord's Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 53.)
1 Cor. 1:22 the Jews require a sign
Neal A. Maxwell
"...when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him (Luke 23:8).
"Sign-seeking shaped responses to Christ and His message not only during His mortal ministry but long after His crucifixion and atonement: For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22).
"...the people of the world cannot presume to command God to provide them with signs. A person can neither be a disciple and command the Master nor can he require 'perpetual renewal of absolute proof.' Some behave, however, as if they would set forth the conditions under which they will believe-complete with specifications; they then invite God to 'bid' on their specifications!" (Sermons Not Spoken [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], 58.)
1 Cor. 1:23 we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness
Neal A. Maxwell
"A major stumbling block of the Jews in Jesus' day, for instance, was their expectation about what the Messiah would do when He came, such as emancipating them politically. But Jesus of Nazareth was not such an emancipator; thus to the Jews His death was a confirming stumbling block! This irony had been prophesied (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; John 1:5). The Greeks, on the other hand, regarded the whole idea of a crucified Messiah as foolishness (see 1 Corinthians 1:23). The day will come, however, when there will be a 'taking away of their stumbling blocks' (1 Nephi 14:1)." (If Thou Endure It Well [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 32.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Paul's experience in Athens showed the mind-set of Greek philosophy (see Acts 17). His intellectually curious audience asked about 'this new doctrine, ... for thou bringest ... strange things to our ears' (Acts 17:19-20). Then when Paul spoke of the living God and the Resurrection, he was 'mocked' (Acts 17:32) for seeming to set 'forth ... strange gods' (Acts 17:18; see also Acts 17:29).
"Some defined matter as intrinsically evil, an idea representing both Greek and Oriental thought (see E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety, New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1965, p. 14). Hence, if the body constitutes a 'dark jail' from which we should seek to escape, why desire a resurrection? (see ibid., p. 30, note 1). This view contrasts so sharply with modern revelation, which declares that only when the resurrected body and the individual spirit are inseparably connected can there be a 'fulness of joy' (D&C 93:33)...Furthermore, some questioned worshipping a God who suffers. One modern scholar observed that 'the human sufferings of Jesus ... were felt as an embarrassment in the face of pagan criticism' (Dodds, p. 119). Thus many Greeks considered Christ and what He stood for as 'foolishness' (1 Cor. 1:23)." ("From the Beginning," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 19)
1 Cor. 1:25 the foolishness of God is wiser than men
Marion G. Romney
"Lehi, in counseling his son Jacob, makes a very challenging statement: 'All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.' (2 Ne. 2:24.) If I interpret this statement correctly, it means that one's wisdom is proportionate to his knowledge. This being so, how insignificant is the wisdom of man, which is based upon his limited mortal experience, when compared with the wisdom of God, which is based upon his knowledge of all things." ("Seek Not to Counsel the Lord," Ensign, Aug. 1985, 4)
1 Cor. 1:26 ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh...are called
"Unlike some other religions, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not grant special status to theologians, philosophers, or other academics. All are welcome to enjoy the bounteous blessings of the gospel, regardless of educational background or social status (see 2 Ne. 26:24-28). Those called by the Savior to serve in His kingdom represent this broad cross-section of humanity. Jesus Christ, raised by Mary and by Joseph the carpenter, first called as His disciples fishermen and others engaged in common professions. Paul noted this fact in his letter to the Corinthians: 'For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but 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' (1 Cor. 1:26-27).
"Academic credentials are not requisite for service in the Lord's kingdom. Indeed there are explicit warnings within the scriptures to both the rich and the learned to avoid pride. Yet we can see within such scriptures an intriguing pattern: the warnings to the learned are often given by prophets and Apostles who have themselves sought learning. Paul, for example, was a student of Gamaliel and an associate of the Sanhedrin. He gained fluency in several languages, and, as demonstrated by his masterful address on Mars Hill, was conversant with Greek philosophy." (Paul Alan Cox, On Becoming a Disciple Scholar, ed. by Henry B. Eyring, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995], 25.)
Spencer W. Kimball
"I would not say that those leaders whom the Lord chooses are necessarily the most brilliant, nor the most highly trained, but they are chosen, and when chosen of the Lord they are his recognized authority, and the people who stay close to them have safety" (Conference Report, Apr. 1951, p. 104).
Neal A. Maxwell
"Paul said we should not expect the social register to enter the Church en masse (see 1 Cor. 1:26). Besides, a 'Who's Who' is not needed in a church which teaches us all our real identity and which features a democracy of dress in the holy temples." ("The Net Gathers of Every Kind," Ensign, Nov. 1980, 14)
Bruce R. McConkie
"The key to an understanding of holy writ lies not in the wisdom of men; not in cloistered halls; not in academic degrees; not in a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew-though special intellectual insights may result from all of these-but the things of God are known and understood only by the power of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2). Thus saith the Lord: 'I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised' to do my work (D&C 35:13).
"...Of course we should learn all we can in every field...But above all this-more important than all of it combined; more important than all the wisdom ever gained by the power of the intellect by all the wise men of all the ages-above it all is the need for the guidance of the Spirit in our study and in our teaching. The way the Book of Mormon came forth-by the power of God who used an unlearned man-sets the tone for all of us in all our work in the kingdom. The Lord can do his work through us if we will let him." (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 299.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The Lord called Joseph Smith and others from among the weak things of the world, because he and his associates were contrite and humble. The great and mighty ones in the nations the Lord could not use because of their pride and self-righteousness. The Prophet discoursing on this question once said: 'There are a great many wise men and women, too, in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, So far God may reveal and I will believe.' (TPJS, p. 309.)
"The Lord's ways are not man's ways, and he cannot choose those who in their own judgment are too wise to be taught. Therefore he chooses those who are willing to be taught and he makes them mighty even to the breaking down of the great and mighty. In his mercy and justice he gives all men the means of escape from the dominion of Satan and the bondage of sin. Therefore he sent the Gospel and his Priesthood before the great and dreadful day should come. 'Surely,' said Amos, 'the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.' This restoration came that faith might increase, that the everlasting covenant, which had been broken might be established. When we think of our missionary system, we can see how the weak have gone forth among the strong ones and have prevailed. The mighty and strong ones have been broken down by the humble elders of the Church." (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 2: 26 - 27.)
1 Cor. 1:27 God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise
One of the best examples of the Lord choosing from among the "foolish" to confound the wise can be seen in the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Accordingly, when Moroni first appeared to young Joseph, he quoted many scriptures, including this one (see JS-H. 1:41 and Kent P. Jackson, "Moroni's Message to Joseph Smith," Ensign, Aug. 1990, 14). Since his mission, the wisdom of the world has been slowly crumbling before the grand and glorious truths revealed by this humble prophet. Eventually, when the marvelous work and a wonder is complete, those who thought they were wise will be filled with wonder and marvel at what the Lord has done.
Neal A. Maxwell
"...we will sometimes appear to be weak and foolish in terms of the criteria the world uses to measure wisdom and strength...The Lord has declared, time and time again, His intentions to use such individuals in spite of how the world feels about them:
'But 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.' (1 Corinthians 1:27.)
'The weak things of the world shall come forth and breakdown the mighty and strong ones.' (D&C 1:19.)
'To prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth, and for the Lord's errand in the day when the weak shall confound the wise, and the little one become a strong nation... And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thrash the nations by the power of his Spirit.' (D&C 133:58-59.)
'That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and therefore kings and rulers.' (D&C 1:23.)
'Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my spirit.' (D&C 35:13.)
"Lest we resist even inwardly being so described, let us remember how noble are some who are included: 'Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith,... I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.' (D&C 124:1.)" (Notwithstanding My Weakness [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 12.)
Spencer W. Kimball
"In these long weeks since July 8 [1943, the date Spencer W. Kimball was called to be an apostle] I can tell you that I have been overwhelmed and have felt that I was unable to carry on this great work; that I was unworthy; that I was incapable because of my weaknesses and my limitations. I have felt many times that I was up against a blank wall. And in that interim I have been out in the desert and in high mountains alone, apart, and have poured out my soul to God. I have taken courage from one or two scriptures that constantly came to my mind and of which people continued to remind me. One was from Paul, and as I felt so foolish, small, and weak, I remembered that he said: 'Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But 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. That no flesh should glory in his presence.' (1 Corinthians 1:25-27, 29.)
"When my feeling of incompetence wholly overwhelmed me, I remember the words of Nephi when he said: 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.' (1 Nephi 3:7.) I want to tell you that I lean heavily on these promises, that the Lord will strengthen and give me growth and fit and qualify me for this great work." (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], xvii.)