First Corinthians 7 has been the source of more confusion regarding the doctrine of marriage than any other chapter in the Bible. Hereby, celibacy has been touted as a state of higher spiritual attainment than marriage, and sexual relations-even between a man and wife-have been considered sinful. Neither conclusion is true, nor can either conclusion be fairly drawn if one understands the context of Paul's comments.
By way of explanation, let's first take note that Joseph Smith made more corrections to this chapter than to any other chapter written by Paul save one (Romans 7). Second, Paul specifically addresses questions put to him by the Corinthian saints in a previous letter (v. 1); so some of his advice is specific to them and cannot be universally applied to all saints of all times. Third, Paul expressly states that his advice is his own opinion and not the word of the Lord (v. 25). Paul is only speaking the word of the Lord in the following seven verses: 1-5, 10, and 11 (see v. 6, 12, and 25); the rest is given as advice from 'one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord' (v. 25).
The point is not to discount what Paul has said but to place it in its appropriate historical context. At the time, Paul was writing as a single apostle and missionary of the Lord. In effect, he is married to his work and his children are his converts (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). Therefore, when he says 'I would that all men were even as I' (meaning unmarried), he says that in the context of performing missionary work with its rigors of travel and perpetual persecution. Hence, no latter-day saint should place more emphasis on these comments by Paul than on Joseph Smith's heavenly teachings on the new and everlasting covenant of marriage or the First Presidency's proclamation on the family (1995).
"The Joseph Smith Translation makes many clarifications and corrections to the records about Paul, but two of the most useful deal with Paul's teachings about marriage (1 Cor. 7) and about how the gospel of Jesus Christ changed his life (Rom. 7:14-25). The popular myth that Paul was opposed to marriage is corrected by the Joseph Smith Translation so that his dictum that there is an advantage to remaining unmarried is limited to those on temporary mission assignments. This practice was advocated by Paul for efficiency in the temporary ministry, and is similar to the practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today in calling young men and women, unmarried, to serve missions, and refrain from marriage while in the mission field. Paul's teachings against marriage were not for all Church members, any more than the policy for young missionaries to remain unmarried today is a permanent rejection of marriage. The Joseph Smith Translation restores the proper context." (Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 341.)
1 Cor. 7:3-4 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife
"Paul said some things about sex that are not plain, that in fact seem to me quite strange. Fortunately, he said most of them, as he admitted, on his own. But he did say one thing that captures well the perfect equality and modest but affirmative attitude about sex that the gospel implies generally (and here I use the Phillips translation for better plainness): 'The husband should give his wife what is due to her as his wife, and the wife should be as fair to her husband. The wife has no longer full rights over her own person, but shares them with her husband. In the same way the husband shares his personal rights with his wife. Do not cheat each other of normal sexual intercourse, unless of course you both decide to abstain temporarily.' (1 Cor. 7:3-5.) Because of both the repressions and obsessions about sex in our culture, as well as our individual trials and tragedies as we form our sexual identities in such a culture, that ideal of Paul is not easy to attain. And the very effort to make certain both husband and wife are equally 'willing' can itself become obsessive rather than liberating; however, such an ideal is far superior to destructive actions of male dominance and aggression and female passivity and resentment rampant in our traditional culture." (Eugene England, As Women of Faith: Talks Selected from the BYU Women's Conferences [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 115.)
"...the point Paul makes is that our intimate life together ought to be kind, 'benevolent.' There is no room for coercion or neglect, for pressure or vengeful withholding. I suppose it must be granted that sex that is motivated solely by kindness would be missing a number of essential vitamins, but it is also true that sex lacking this quality does not meet the minimum standard of acceptability for Latter-day Saint marriages. So that ought to be our first step in shaping our intimate life together to the model of righteousness set forth by the spokesmen of the Lord: Nothing should be done except in kindness." (Carlfred Broderick, One Flesh, One Heart: Putting Celestial Love into Your Temple Marriage [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 4)
"Thus, physical intimacy is a blessing to married couples when it is an expression of their mutual benevolence and commitment to each other's well-being, an affirmation of their striving to be emotionally and spiritually one. The key in sexual matters is unselfishness. Self-centered pursuit of physical desire is destructive of the unity and love that characterize healthy marital relations. Such love or charity is long-suffering, kind, not envious, does 'not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not [one's] own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil' (1 Cor. 13:4-5), and is compatible with the Light of Christ, which directs all in the ways of righteousness." (Terrance D. Olson, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 1306.)
Spencer W. Kimball
"It is not love if it manipulates; it is selfishness; it is irresponsibility. If sex relations merely become a release or a technique and the partner becomes exchangeable, then sex returns to the compulsive animal level." (Spencer W. Kimball, Love Versus Lust, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Publications, 1975, p. 15.)
"Love is far more than physical attraction. It is deep, inclusive, and comprehensive. Physical attraction is only one of the many elements; there must be faith and confidence and understanding and partnership. There must be common ideals and standards. There must be great devotion and companionship. Love is cleanliness and progress and sacrifice and selflessness. This kind of love never tires or wanes, but lives through sickness and sorrow, poverty and privation, accomplishment and disappointment, time and eternity." ("Thoughts on Marriage Compatibility," Ensign, Sept. 1981, 46)
1 Cor. 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other
"Paul...counsels, 'Defraud ye not one the other.' That is, do not cheat each other by withholding sexually. In the Inspired Version, Joseph Smith used the alternative phrase 'depart ye not one from the other.' In either phrasing the meaning is clear from the remainder of the verse: 'except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.' (1 Cor. 7:5.)
"In the Church I have worked with many couples where a disenchanted wife or a passive-aggressive husband has withheld sex as part of a power struggle with their spouse. Many are the excuses, but the most common is, 'I just don't feel like making love when we have all of these other unresolved problems.' If I understand Paul's point, this part of marriage should never be permitted to become a weapon between a man and his wife. Part of the covenant of marriage is to become one flesh. We promise to do so. Since we take the view that absolutely no extramarital sex of any kind is to be tolerated, it is reasonable that the marital contract provide legitimate, regular opportunities for righteous sexual expression. To withhold that resource is, Paul says, to let 'Satan tempt you . . . for your incontinency.' To put it differently, it is a sin to send a husband or wife out into this seductive world unprotected from the temptations there by a satisfying, loving, sexual bond at home. Having attended many Church courts, I am persuaded that often the guilt for the sin of infidelity must be shared by the withholding spouse of the offender." (Carlfred Broderick, One Flesh, One Heart: Putting Celestial Love into Your Temple Marriage [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 5.)
1 Cor. 7:5 except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer
"In a large group of several hundred Latter-day Saints, one young wife asked about the appropriateness of sexual relationships on fast Sunday, stating that when we fast we are supposed to concentrate on spiritual things rather than physical gratification. She quoted 1 Cor 7:2-5 as the basis for her question. President Joseph F. Smith suggested that 'the law [of the fast] to the Latter-day Saints, as understood by the authorities of the Church, is that food and drink are not to be partaken of for twenty-four hours, 'from even to even,' and that the Saints are to refrain from all bodily gratification and indulgences.' (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 305-6; italics added.) Some have interpreted President Smith's remarks to include sexual relationships." (Brent A. Barlow, Worth Waiting For: Sexual Abstinence Before Marriage [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 132.)
1 Cor. 7:8 It is good for them if they abide even as I
"It is possible that Paul, who had once been married, was a widower at the time of his writing of First Corinthians. His heart was thoroughly set on missionary work, and thus he might have chosen not to remarry. Hence his counsel to those in similar circumstances was 'I would that all men were even as I myself.'
"Aside from the fact that marriage is an eternal command of God, which Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, would know as well as anyone, there are some other compelling reasons why the answer to the question 'Was Paul married?' should be 'yes'...
"Faithful Jews regarded marriage as a religious obligation and a condition of extraordinary importance...Paul, a strict Pharisee (Acts 26;5) was 'taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God' (Acts 22;3), as faithful Jews were enjoined to be. Thus 'there would seem to be no good reason...why Paul a trained and ardent Pharisee, should fail to honor an obligation esteemed so sacred in the eyes of his people.' (Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters, p. 9) When a list of 613 precepts contained in the law of Moses was first drawn up, marriage was listed as number one. If Paul 'lived unmarried as a Jerusalem Pharisee, his case was entirely exceptional.' (Farrar, The Life and Work of ST. Paul, p. 46.)
"Most scholars acknowledge that Paul was either a member of the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin, or a close associate thereof (Acts 8:3; 9:1,2; 22:5; 26:10). If he were indeed a member of the Sanhedrin, Paul would have been expected to be in compliance with the special requirements for membership in the body, one of which was marriage. If he were not a member, Paul would still, as an official representative of the ruling group, be expected to be in harmony with all accepted Jewish customs. Only such a condition would prevent his being charged with advocating obedience to laws with which he himself was not in strict compliance.
"What, then, of those who contend that Paul was unmarried and taught others to be likewise?...Elder Spencer W. Kimball has commented on this passage as follows: 'Taking such statements in conjunction with others [Paul] made it is clear that he is not talking about celibacy, but is urging the normal and controlled sex living in marriage and total continence outside marriage. (There is no real evidence that Paul was never married, as some students claim, and there are in fact indications to the contrary.)' (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 64.)" (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 288-289)
Spencer W. Kimball
"Paul preached continence and self-mastery. He practiced it, being years in the mission field. Was that not his meaning when he said: 'For I would that all men were even as I myself....It is good for them if they abide even as I.' (1 Cor. 7:7-8.)" ("Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future," Ensign, June 1971, 17)
1 Cor. 7:9 it is better to marry than to burn
"It was Saint Paul who promulgated the notion that celibacy is preferable to marriage, though conceding that if one cannot contain himself 'it is better to marry than to burn' (1 Cor. 7:7-9). The notion that sex is sinful became particularly strong during the Middle Ages and it was then that celibate religious orders had their greatest development. With the Reformation, these interpretations became less harsh. Nevertheless, the code that was transplanted to America carried with it many restrictions: sex was regarded suspiciously as a prime source of evil, at best to be tolerated and only then within marriage and chiefly for purposes of reproduction." (The New Morality: Research Bases for Decision in Today's World Fn by Harold T. Christensen Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 8 (1967-1968), Number 1 - Autumn 1967 24.)
1 Cor. 7:14 the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife
Paul recognizes the struggles of part-member families among the Corinthians. Since there were significant cultural and religious differences between the believers and the unbelievers, his advice must have been a source of comfort and peace for those that wondered if they should leave their spouse for the gospel's sake (v. 12-13). Rather than condescending to the unbeliever, Paul recognizes the sanctifying power of having a believer in the home. Hence, the husband is sanctified by the wife's example. He is sanctified by the wife who brings the Spirit into the home. He is sanctified by the wife who raises up his children in light and truth. He is sanctified by the home teaching and missionary visits made possible by his wife's membership. He is sanctified by the possibility that years of diligence will soften the husband's heart towards baptism. One sister described her experience as follows:
"After reading this scripture I fasted and prayed continually that my husband's heart would be softened. I learned that our time is not the Lord's time, and I needed to live my life to be worthy of the time when my husband would accept and return to the fold. Although I had faith, I really never thought it would happen in this life. On our 49th anniversary of marriage we were able to go to the temple once again and have been going ever since. The joy we both feel is unspeakable." (Jeanne Beam, Living by the Scriptures, LDS Church News, 1998, 02/28/98)
We sometimes think of missionary work in narrow terms. Is not one of the most powerful missionary forces in the world called motherhood? If a missionary is one who teaches an investigator and encourages his conversion, then is not a mother a missionary? Can we not imagine the Lord speaking to all mothers and wives as follows, 'if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this [family], and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!' (DC 18:15)? Whether her children or her husband, the faithful sister's powers of sanctification are not fully recognized or appreciated.
"The best place for us to start blessing the world is in our own family, ward, and neighborhood. The greatest challenges given to any ward involve nonmembers, part-member families, less active members, troubled youth, and others with special needs. These are found in every ward and branch of the Church. The scriptures provide excellent models of effective ways to bless all the families of the earth with the blessings of the gospel, salvation, and eternal life. If we search them, these truths will unfold." (S. Michael Wilcox, A Witness of Jesus Christ: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament, ed. by Richard D. Draper, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 279.)
Franklin D. Richards
"...the average stake has several hundred prospective elders. In checking with a number of stakes, I find that about 60 percent are married to nonmember wives. We also have many member women who have married nonmember husbands. In most stakes, there are several hundred part-member families and they have many children who are nonmembers. As these nonmembers are taught, many of their inactive husbands and wives can be taught with their nonmember spouses, uniting the families and helping them go to the temple." ("Being a Successful Member Missionary: A Conversation with Elder Franklin D. Richards of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy," Ensign, Oct. 1977, 43)
1 Cor. 7:14 else were your children unclean
As Joseph Smith was working on the translation of the Bible, he was already familiar with Mormon's doctrine on the subject of infant baptism, 'I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children...little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world' (Moroni 8:9,12). He knew that the Corinthian children could not be considered unclean and received section 74 of the Doctrine and Covenants in connection with this verse:
"The specific problem in 1 Cor. 7 concerned the tension between a husband and wife over the rearing of children. Often the husband was a Jew, who believed in the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17:1-14), while the wife was a Christian. For the Jew, any male child of eight days was required to be circumcised as an indication of the fact that he was a son of Abraham and a member of God's covenant community. God had told Abraham that 'the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant' (Gen. 17:14). What could be more serious for a believing Jew than to have his son grow up uncircumcised? On the other hand, the Christian wife believed that the necessity for such things was done away in Christ (Acts 15:1-29; Acts 21:21).
"Whereas there was a feeling among many Jews that little children were unholy without circumcision, this revelation reconfirms the principle that through Christ, little children are whole and sinless (see Moro. 8:8; Gen. 17:3-7, JST Gen. 17:11-12; JST, Matt. 18:11; Matt. 19:13).
"To avoid such problems, Paul gave personal counsel that a believer in Christ ought not to marry a Jew 'except the law of Moses should be done away among them, that their children might remain without circumcision; and that the tradition might be done away, which saith that little children are unholy; . . . but little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ' (D&C 74:5-7). The counsel is not unlike what modern Saints would receive regarding the problem of marrying outside the Covenant." (Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 269.)
Orson F. Whitney
"Paul's affirmation that 'children are holy,' and the Savior's declaration, 'Of such is the kingdom of God,' are a sufficient answer to the assumption that children under the age of accountability have need to be baptized. Those who introduced the practice of baptizing infants for original sin, over-looked or were blind to the fact that Christ atoned for original guilt, and that men are accountable for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression." (Saturday Night Thoughts [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1921], 248 - 249.)
1 Cor. 7:16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?
"When Jane married Tony, a nonmember, she was sure that he would not long resist the beauty and grace of the church that contained the full gospel of Jesus Christ. She loved the gospel, she loved him-surely the two would naturally come together. But, as the years tumbled forward, and even after six children, Tony was no closer to becoming a member of the Church.
"All this time, Jane suffered the dilemma that many active LDS members married to less-active or nonmember spouses share. She had two loves that she couldn't bring together...
"Jane determined not to have to force a choice between the Church and her husband, making the Church her husband's enemy. If anything, the gospel was an ally, teaching her how to love, and understand, and forgive.
"She felt that, aside from one's own personal relationship with God, a good marriage relationship was the most sacred concern of a husband and wife. She decided that converting Tony to the Church ought not be her primary goal, nor should the marriage be sacrificed to that end. 'After ten years of disappointment,' she says, 'I decided to stop putting pressure on Tony to join the Church. Before we were married, my parents were upset about our engagement. They tried hard to discourage us, but, from the moment we married, they ceased their opposition and gave us 100 percent of their love and support. I should have followed their good example years earlier.
"'So one day I said to Tony, `You are more important to me than anything else, regardless of whether you join the Church.` Since then, we have been happier, and I have felt more peaceful'...
"Hilaria, a young Church member in Denver, married a man that everyone thought was unworthy of her. He was a hard drinker and reckless with money. Almost immediately, the marriage ran into difficulties. But Hilaria possessed the magic of being happy.
"As the years progressed, instead of becoming bitter and defensive, Hilaria became even more patient. Her children were reared tenderly, and she taught them to be loving and kind with each other, with her, and with their father. Five of the eight went on missions and all were married in the temple. Miraculously, the year before her husband's unexpected death, he accepted the gospel and was baptized.
"What caused such a marvelous change?
"Hilaria's sister says, 'Hilaria never allowed her children or anyone else to talk negatively about their father. Sometimes he would come home at two or three in the morning, and my sister would wake all the kids and say, `Your daddy is home! Come, kiss him, love him!`
"When the children grew older and questioned their father's actions, she would say, 'Honey, don't judge your dad. He doesn't have the gospel yet. All we can do is love him and forgive him. He is a good man, and he is head of this family.'
"But was she happy?
"'To her family, to us, to everyone,' says Hilaria's sister, 'she radiated happiness. But I'm sure she suffered. I also know how badly she wanted her husband to join the Church.'
"Hilaria talks about staying with a man many women would abandon:
'I never considered turning away from my love for and loyalty to my husband. He was a very good man, even though he did foolish things. He loved people. He helped others in need. We sometimes had a person, even whole families, live with us because my husband knew that they were out of work and needed someplace to go.
'We had great, genuine love in our family. I know that he loved me and the children and that he was proud of us. The good example of our children brought him into the Church. It was the happiest day of my life when he was baptized.'...
'For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?' (1 Cor. 7:14, 16.)
"'Look inside for special guidance,' advises one LDS wife who has struggled through times of bitterness in her marriage to a less-active spouse. 'If one is committed to God and to the Lord, and if that relationship is secure, then peace of mind will prevail. Too many active Church members feel terrible guilt when their marriages are less than ideal, even though they feel they have faithfully done all they can.'
"Dr. Carlfred Broderick affirms that 'the Lord has promised again and again that if we do our part, nothing ... has the power to deprive us of the blessings of the kingdom. ... My faith is that God not only will provide for us, but that he will provide for us in ways that bring us unalloyed joy. ... Whatever our final assignment, it will be not only just and merciful, but it will be beyond imagination, for 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.' (1 Cor. 2:9.)' (One Flesh, One Heart: Putting Celestial Love into Your Temple Marriage, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986, p. 57.)" (Renon Klossner Hulet, "Partners in Everything but the Church," Ensign, July 1988, 49-50)
JST 1 Cor. 7:29 I speak unto you who are called unto the ministry
"Perhaps more than any other of his writings, Paul's teachings on marriage (found in 1 Cor. 7:11 ) have been misunderstood. Reading this chapter gives the impression that Paul supported the celibate life; that marriage is inferior to the unmarried state. ...The crux of what Paul was really responding to is contained in verses 26-33. In the KJV, we are told because of some present distress it is good for a man to remain single and that before too long those who have wives will be as though they had none. The person who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord but the man who is married cares for the things of the world and how he can please his wife (see 1 Cor. 7:26-33). Now compare those thoughts with the feelings conveyed in the JST:
But he who is married, careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife; therefore there is a difference, for he is hindered.' (JST 1 Corinthians 7:26, 29, 32-33.)
"Notice that the present distress is identified as having to do with missionary work. This throws an entirely different light on the remarks of Paul. He said that it is preferable for a missionary to be single. The missionary can concentrate more on his work and better magnify his calling. This counsel would only apply for the short time he served his mission. Those who had wives and were called on missions were for that period of time as though they had no wives. First Corinthians 7 is not an accurate representation of Paul's complete concept of marriage. It is believed by most scholars that Paul was married. Statements elsewhere in Paul's letters indicate his perspective of marriage: 'Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord' (1 Cor. 11:11). 'Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled' (Heb. 13:4)." (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1985], 221-223.)
1 Cor. 7:31 the fashion of this world passeth away
Neal A. Maxwell
"The fashions of the world do clearly devalue submissiveness to God and do exclude the spiritual. Yet surely 'the fashion of this world passeth away' (1 Cor. 7:31). The ways of the world tend to reinforce some people's conclusion that 'this is all there is, so make the most of it.' Soon, however, the consequences of hedonism will give rise to old-fashioned fear in the hearts of many people. The cocksureness will give away to distress." (Not My Will, But Thine [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998], 101.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Paul is right, the fashions of this world will pass away (see 1 Corinthians 7:31). Some men save neckties, awaiting the time when they will be in fashion again. However, when the life-style and fashions of this world disappear, it will be irrevocable.
"Daring to be different from the fashions of this world is to become fashionable for that realm in which true beauty and spiritual symmetry are ever honored." (That Ye May Believe [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1992], 48.)
1 Cor. 7:34 the unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy
"In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we stress the importance of marriage as an eternal state, as the condition in which all truly righteous sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven will one day live. We are so accustomed to hearing this that we fail to realize that single people not only have equal opportunities for spiritual progress but also in some ways may actually find it easier to pursue certain spiritual goals than married people do. In 1 Cor. 7:32-33, Paul writes: 'He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.'
"That is a somewhat surprising scripture, and as Latter-day Saints we do not automatically assume that a married person is a second-class spiritual citizen because he 'careth for the things that are of the world.' But most married women who have child-care responsibilities will tell you that they sometimes think back with longing to their single days when they simply had more autonomy, more jurisdiction over their own time, so that fasting, scripture study, and personal prayer were not so hard to schedule. Paul's statement should not give single people an excuse to flaunt a supposed spiritual superiority, but it is an interesting point to contemplate. With singles' greater autonomy and self-determination, is it possible that some spiritual opportunities available to single people are in fact more difficult for married people to find?
"President Spencer W. Kimball often stressed that married people have no monopoly on the opportunity and responsibility for spiritual growth. At one point he said, in speaking to the women of the Church in September 1979, 'Sometimes to be tested and proved requires that we be temporarily deprived-but righteous women and men will one day receive all that our Father has. It is not only worth waiting for-it is worth living for! Meanwhile, one does not need to be married or a mother in order to keep the first and second great commandments-to love God and our fellow-men-on which, Jesus said, hang all the law and all the prophets.' (My Beloved Sisters, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979, p. 41.)" (Karen Lynn Davidson, Thriving on Our Differences [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 44.)
1 Cor. 7:35 This I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you
Ironically, Paul's teachings did 'cast a snare' on early Christianity which misunderstood the importance of marriage and family. For centuries, to be devout required a vow of celibacy. Though Paul's intentions were otherwise, Satan inspired this entangling snare to choke the truth, fulfilling another of Paul's prophecies that there would come those 'forbbidding to marry' (1 Tim. 4:3).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"It was Pope Hildebrand who forced celibacy upon the clergy, thus fulfilling Paul's prophecy ...When the edict of celibacy went forth, a mob arose under direction of the priests and waged a campaign against the married clergy, and they and their families were sorely abused. Thus there came into the Catholic Church a condition which, not many years ago, a large group of Catholic priests protested against and asked relief from what they called an 'impossible condition.' Thus the edict of Gregory VII of celibacy became the universal custom." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 3: 181.)
JST 1 Cor. 7:38 he that giveth himself not in marriage doeth better
"The JST restores the needful insight that Paul was addressing himself to members of the Church who had been called as missionaries, those for whom the postponement of marriage would be most appropriate. Of this contribution from the JST, Robert J. Matthews has written: 'Paul's counsel is similar to that given in the Church today, as established in the mission field and as obeyed by the young elders and sisters. Many have had the experience of listening to a mission president counsel the elders and sisters to remain at arm's length while on the mission assignment and then preach marriage to the people of the mission. (As Paul does in 1 Cor. 11:11; Heb. 13:4.) If all we knew was the instruction given to the missionaries, we would have an incomplete sampling of the teachings of the Church, and consequently an incorrect notion. In like manner, 1 Corinthians 7 is not a true picture of Paul's whole concept of marriage, but is directed to a temporary situation in the lives of those called into the ministry. There is no contradiction, simply a change in situation.' ("A Plainer Translation," p. 358.)" (Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and the New Testament," Ensign, Dec. 1986, 34)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Many who practice celibacy do so out of an excessive religious devotion and with the idea in mind that they are serving their Maker. In reality they are forsaking some of the most important purposes of their creation for a man-made, uninspired system. Indeed, Paul says of this practice of celibacy that it consists in 'giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.' (1 Tim. 4:1-3.)
"In this connection it is interesting to note that it is to Paul that advocates of celibacy turn in a fruitless search to find scripture justifying their unnatural mode of living. Paul himself was married. Of this there is no question. He had the sure promise of eternal life; his calling and election had been made sure (Teachings p. 151) - which, according to God's eternal laws, could not have been unless he had first entered into the order of celestial marriage. (D&C 131:1, D&C 132:1.)
"However, Paul wrote some things to the Corinthian saints which have been interpreted by some to mean that he was unmarried and that he thought it preferable if others did not marry. It may well be that his expressions on marriage, as found in the King James Version of the Bible (1 Cor. 7), have come to us in changed and perverted form, as compared to what he originally wrote. Some changes and clarifications have been made in the Inspired Version. But even as the record stands, it does not support celibacy; and when it is read in harmony with the rest of the scriptures (which always should be done in interpreting passages), it is found to teach quite the reverse.
"It is apparent that the Corinthians had written Paul and had said to him, 'It is good for a man not to touch a woman.' Paul replied, in the Lord's name, writing by way of commandment, 'Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.' Then he announced that the Lord had ceased to speak and that he would give some personal opinions, in an attempt to solve some difficult cases. He does not record what the cases were; obviously they had been in the letter the Corinthians wrote him; and to get a fair perspective of his answer, we would need to know the exact questions involved. However, from latter-day revelation we do know that the questions pertained to circumcision, the law of Moses, marrying out of the Church, and the false tradition that little children are conceived in sin and hence are unholy. (D&C 74:1.)
"Paul then gives it as his opinion (plainly saying that it is a personal view and not the voice of the Lord) that certain persons should not marry. It may be that he was referring to some particular persons for whom it would have been unwise to contract marriages. Knowing what he did about the doctrine of celestial marriage and exaltation, it is unthinkable that he would have counseled against marriage, except in some peculiar circumstance. There might be cases today in which individuals should not marry, but it is not the general rule, and the principle of not marrying is not the doctrine of the Church now any more than it was in his day. (Inspired Version, 1 Cor. 7.) If we knew the situation about which Paul wrote, and had a full transcript of his actual words, there would be no ambiguity as to his meaning and doctrine.
"Indeed, it is to some of Paul's other writings that we turn for direct confirmation of the everlasting principle of eternal marriage, as for instance his epigrammatic statement, 'Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.' (1 Cor. 11:11.)" (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 119-120.)