1 Cor. 5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you
"Without further revelation the Church would have been ignorant how to proceed in relation to such a case. Some might have supposed that the individual committing this great crime could, if he made confession, be forgiven, and be retained in the Church. But the apostle, knowing the great magnitude of the crime, decided by the spirit of inspiration quite otherwise." (Orson Pratt's Works [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 159.)
1 Cor. 5:5 deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh
"When one is guilty of serious transgression and loses the right to the Spirit and the protective blessings of the priesthood, he is essentially 'delivered unto the buffetings of Satan' (D&C 132:26), such that 'Lucifer is free to torment, persecute, and afflict such a person without let or hindrance. When the bars are down, the cuffs and curses of Satan, both in this world and in the world to come, bring indescribable anguish typified by burning fire and brimstone.' (Mormon Doctrine, 108) 1 Cor. 5:1-5 (Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 520.)
1 Cor. 5:5 deliver such an one unto Satan...that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord
One of the issues facing those who decide matters of church discipline is what to do with the unrepentant sinner or the individual who has committed a particularly heinous transgression. Should they be excommunicated or just disfellowshipped? Certainly, many factors must be considered, but occasionally, there is a misguided tendency to recommend disfellowshipment out of a sense of sympathy for the individual. In this regard, John Taylor warned, "there are some...who have departed from correct principles, but out of respect to the fathers in the one instance and the sons in the other, we allow evil...to go unchecked. Well, you Presidents and you Bishops and you Priests and Teachers may do that if you please, but their blood will be upon your heads, not upon mine. And we call upon you to honor your calling and Priesthood and purge from your midst corruption of every kind." (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 22: 2.)
Along these same lines, President Harold B. Lee noted: "When we let members lead a double and destructive life, instead of doing them a favor as we suppose, we damage them, sometimes, irreparably. We must let the light of gospel standards shine fully, and not try to deflect the penetrating rays of its standards. The gospel is to save man, not to condemn them, but to save, it is sometimes necessary to confront and to discipline as the Lord has directed us." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 118.)
In these particular situations, it is folly to think the individual is better off being disfellowshipped or placed on probation. Indeed, Paul understood that a church member who would sleep with his stepmother is better off being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan. Excommunication is actually better for his personal salvation. The atonement cannot atone for the sins of the unrepentant. It is then that 'justice excerciseth all his demands' (Alma 42:24) and the individual is required to pay the terrible price for his own sins. The Lord has declared, 'if they would not repent they must suffer even as I' (DC 19:17). This suffering starts as 'the destruction of the flesh' in mortality and continues as the pains of hell in spirit prison, but it ends at the last day when the wicked are resurrected.
Salvation, in varying degrees, is possible even for those who are excommunicated and suffer the pains of hell. Such individuals may be saved in the telestial kingdom of God (DC 76:39, 104-106, see also DC 132:26). Along these lines, king David fell from his exaltation (DC 132:39), but he could still hope for some degree of salvation. Hence Joseph Smith said, "A murderer...cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell." (Teachings, 339) Hence, Paul was instructing the Corinthian saints that the first step in this transgressor's salvation was his excommunication. Thereby, even if he did not repent in mortality, he could also hope that his soul should not be left in hell but should be brought forth in the Resurrection of the unjust, after he had paid for his sins.
1 Cor. 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump
Gerald N. Lund
"Leaven, or yeast, is a symbol of corruption because of its tendency to spoil. Christ warned the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, defining it as their false teachings and their hypocrisy. (See Matt. 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1.) Following the actual Passover, the Israelites were commanded to observe the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, not only abstaining from any leaven for seven days, but also purging it out of their houses. (See Ex. 12:18-19.) Knowing that leaven is a type or symbol of corruption helps us see the beauty of this requirement. After deliverance from death and bondage by the blood of the Lamb, we are to purge all wickedness, pride, and hypocrisy from our lives." (Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 64.)
Bruce R. McConkie
"'Purge out therefore the old leaven'-forsake the world and cast away the evil inclinations of your souls-'that ye may be a new lump'-that ye may be born again, be a new creature of the Holy Ghost, live in a newness of life-'as ye are unleavened'-that is, live in righteousness because ye are no longer leavened with the unrighteousness of the world." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 164.)
1 Cor. 5:7 Christ our passover is sacrificed for us
We should not be surprised that the Passover was a symbol of Christ's sacrifice, for 'all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him' (2 Ne. 11:4).
Consider the many symbolic elements of the Passover:
1) The paschal lamb was without blemish (Ex. 12:5,21).
2) The lamb was not to have any bone broken (Ex. 12:46, Jn. 19:31-36).
3) The lamb was slaughtered in the evening (Ex. 12:6), the same time as the death of Christ.
4) The lamb was to be eaten (Ex. 12:8); the sacrament represents the same concept (Jn. 6:53-54).
5) Neither the paschal feast nor the sacrament is appropriate for the "stranger" (Ex 12:43; 1 Cor. 11:29)
6) The lamb's blood symbolized the token of the covenant (Ex. 12:13)
7) The ordinance was given for a perpetual memorial (Ex. 13:9; Luke 22:19).
8) The Egyptian firstborn die for sin (Ex:12:29-30); God's Firstborn dies for sin.
9) The blood of the lamb spares Israel for the destroying angel (Ex. 12:13); the blood of the Lamb saves us from sin and death (DC 19:16-19)
10) Great plagues and signs were shown in Egypt before the Passover (Ex. 7-12); great miracles and signs were shown before Christ's crucifixion
11) The many signs of God's power are rejected among the Egyptians (Ex. 7:4) and among the Jews (Matt 11:20-21)
12) There were three days of darkness in Egypt (Ex. 10:22); there were three days of darkness in the Americas and three hours of darkness in Jerusalem after the Crucifixion (3 Ne. 8:20-23; Luke 23:44)
13) Moses would deliver the house of Israel from physical bondage; Christ would hereby deliver the house of Israel from spiritual bondage.
1 Cor. 5:8 let us keep the feast...with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth
As the Crucifixion ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood, we cannot assume that the early saints continued to observe the Passover according to the Jewish tradition. But they may well have continued to celebrate Passover with a renewed understanding, offering the emblems of the sacrament rather than the body of the paschal lamb. It should be noted that the Passover was instituted prior to the Law of Moses and was not intrinsic to the lesser law (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4: 30.). Therefore, it would have been appropriate for the early Jewish converts to continue to observe this feast even though the Law of Moses had been fulfilled. This may be why Paul was so emphatic to make it to Jerusalem, 'I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem' (Acts 18:21). We may safely assume he was referring to the feast of the Passover. The symbolism of the Passover, before or after the crucifixion, is beautiful and those of Jewish heritage would have continued to observe the celebration, if not with the blood of a paschal lamb, then 'with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.'
James E. Talmage
"...the Passover became to the people a type of the sacrifice on Calvary. Paul says, 'Christ our passover is sacrificed for us' (1 Cor. 5:7). As being typical of the future atoning death of Christ the Passover lost part of its significance by the crucifixion, and was superseded by the sacrament. There is perhaps no closer relation between the two than this. Surely the sacrament was not designed to fully supplant the Passover, for the latter was established as a perpetually recurring feast: 'And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever' (Exo. 12:14)." (Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 440.)
1 Cor. 5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle
Obviously, Paul had already written to the Corinthian saints in a prior epistle. What we know as 1 Corinthians is not really the first epistle that the Corinthians received. Hence, we should not assume that we have all the epistles and writings of Paul. Indeed, we may safely presume that several epistles and many great truths have been lost.
"Throughout his ministry the Apostle Paul wrote many epistles to the churches where he had served and to his friends. It is likely that he wrote scores of letters in his lifetime. Fortunately, 14 of these epistles have survived the ravages of time. These precious documents are unique in scripture. Nowhere else in the Bible do we have so many personal writings of an Apostle. These letters give us a window into the life and soul of this special witness of the Savior. Through his letters the Apostle Paul becomes one of the most accessible of all scriptural figures. These letters also bring the world of the early Church to life and document the challenges of the early members in learning and practicing the gospel." (David Rolph Seely and Jo Ann H. Seely, "Paul: Untiring Witness of Christ," Ensign, Aug. 1999, 25)
1 Cor. 5:11 I have written unto you not to keep company [with a] fornicator, or covetous or an idolater
Spencer W. Kimball
"Oh, if our young people could learn this basic lesson to always keep good company, to never be found with those who tend to lower our standards! Let every youth select associates who will keep him on tiptoes, trying to reach the heights attained. Let him never choose associates who encourage him to relax in carelessness.
"We must repeat what we have said many times: Fornication with all its big and little brothers and sisters was evil and wholly condemned by the Lord in Adam's day, in Moses' day, in Paul's day, and in our own day. The Church has no tolerance for any kind of perversions." (January 5, 1965, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965, 8.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"As President Harold B. Lee said, in order to help someone else 'we must stand on higher ground' than he is standing on. We must be careful not to abandon that ground-for the sake of the sinner as well as for our own welfare. There is a difference between assisting the wounded Samaritan who needed help and companying with those who are evil.
"In similar counsel given to the saints in Thessalonica, Paul said, 'If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.' (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15. Italics added.) In refusing to keep company with evil people, we do it not because they are our enemies, but because they are our friends. If we became just like them and did the things they do, we could not admonish them or help them 'as a brother.'" (Things As They Really Are [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 86.)
1 Cor. 5:12 for what have I to do to judge them...that are without?
"Paul observed that he was not in the business of judging the actions of those 'without,' meaning those outside the Church, but that saints were obliged to evaluate adherence to gospel standards of those 'within,' meaning those inside the Church." (Eldin Ricks, "A Short Glossary of Obsolete Words in the King James New Testament," New Era, Apr. 1977, 11)
1 Cor. 5:13 put away from among yourselves that wicked person
Dallin H. Oaks
"While saving souls is the primary purpose of church discipline, there are two secondary purposes, both supportive of the primary purpose and each important in its own right: protecting the flock and preserving the good name and influence of the Church.
"The shepherd must act to protect the flock of God. He must act to protect the innocent from the predator. As Alma taught: 'For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him. And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.' (Alma 5:59-60.)
"The threat to the innocent may be loss of life, bodily injury, or loss of property, such as by fraudulent practices. The innocent can also be threatened by the doctrinal deviances we call apostasy...The shepherd has a responsibility to protect the flock against all of these threats...
"The other secondary purpose of church discipline is to preserve the influence of the Church for good-its capacity to perform its mission to teach and influence people for righteousness. Church discipline does this by safeguarding the purity, integrity, and good name of the Church...
"In an 1885 sermon, President George Q. Cannon condemned sexual immorality and then stressed the importance of leaders' confronting and correcting this and other transgressions by the rank-and-file members of the Church: 'Now, such a condition of things if permitted to continue in our midst, unchecked, would be productive of the most terrible consequences. The Spirit of God would undoubtedly be so grieved that it would forsake not only those who are guilty of these acts, but it would withdraw itself from those who would suffer them to be done in our midst unchecked and unrebuked.' This teaching is rooted in the pervasive scriptural direction that the transgressor who fails to repent and forsake shall be cast out.
"During the reign of King Mosiah, when dissenters and disbelievers deceived many and caused them to sin, 'it became expedient that those who committed sin, that were in the church, should be admonished by the church.' (Mosiah 26:6.) And the Lord instructed the prophet Alma, 'Whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people.' (Mosiah 26:32; see also vs. 36.)
"Similarly, the apostle Paul, on receiving reports that there were fornicators in the congregation of the Corinthians, reminded them 'that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.' 'Purge out therefore the old leaven,' he directed them, 'that ye may be a new lump.' (1 Cor. 5:6-7.) Repeating in more specific terms, the apostle instructed that the Corinthians not 'keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator. . . . Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.' (1 Cor. 5:11, 13; see also 2 Thes. 3:6, 14; Titus 3:10.)
"We have the same direction in this dispensation: 'Him that repenteth not of his sins, and confesseth them not, ye shall bring before the church, and do with him as the scripture saith unto you, either by commandment or by revelation. And this ye shall do that God may be glorified-not because ye forgive not, having not compassion, but that ye may be justified in the eyes of the law, that ye may not offend him who is your lawgiver.' (D&C 64:12-13; see also 20:80.) In short, 'He that sinneth and repenteth not shall be cast out.' (D&C 42:28; see also 42:75; 41:5.) Otherwise, we undermine the commandments (laws) and offend the lawgiver." (The Lord's Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 227-230.)
Joseph F. Smith
"It has occurred to me somewhat in this way: that the body of the Church is likened to the body of a man, and you know men do sometimes get their systems a little deranged-that is to say, sometimes they are flea-bitten. Fleas bite them and mosquitoes bite them and cause little swellings to rise on their face and hands. Sometimes they have boils upon them, and carbuncles, sebaceous tumors and other excrescences, that only need the application of the lance to get out the humor from them or to excise them from the body, or cut them off and let them go, so that the body may be cleansed from their poisonous effect. It is so with the Church. From time to time there are characters who become a law unto themselves and they follow the bent of their own 'sweet will' until they get themselves into a condition mentally and spiritually that they become a menace to the body ecclesiastic. In other words, they become like a boil, tumor, or carbuncle on the body, you have to call in the surgeon to apply the knife to cut them out that the body may be cleansed from them; and this has been the case from the beginning." (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 113.)