2 Cor. 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you
"Keenly conscious of the ultimate authority of his apostleship, [Paul] waited for their repentance before coming [to Corinth on a second visit]: 'I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth' (2 Cor. 1:23). For this reason, Paul made plans to come and then changed them-he would have come on a second visit but for very serious reasons abandoned that plan (2 Cor. 1:15-17). And at the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul says, 'This is the third time I am coming to you' (2 Cor. 13:1). Yet this might only be the third time he planned to come, with overtones of shame that his second visit aborted because of their lack of repentance." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 132 - 133.)
2 Cor. 13:1 In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established
Under the Mosaic law, an individual who was brought before the court for judgment could not be found guilty without more than one witness-'at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established' (Deut. 19:15; 17:6). So will it be with us when we are brought before God's court for judgment. He will have his witnesses (2 Ne. 33:14-15; Moro. 10:27,34), either for us or against us, as the case may be. But we cannot be convicted by only one witness, for it takes "two or three witnesses [to] make the matter legally binding. It is the Lord's way of leaving the unbeliever without excuse." (Robert J. Matthews, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29, ed. by Kent P. Jackson, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 155.)
How will the Lord leave us without excuse? He will supply at least two witnesses of every important item pertaining to our salvation. Therefore, this principle has many applications. For one, the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth would not be established by only one gospel writer, but rather by four.
Secondly, the reality of the Godhead is established by the individual testimonies of its Members. Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted, "In the Godhead, the function of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of the Father and the Son (see 2 Ne. 31:18). The Father has borne witness of the Son (see Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5; John 5:31-39), and the Son has borne witness of the Father (see John 17)." ("The Witness: Martin Harris," Ensign, May 1999, 35) Therefore, when Jesus taught the Jews, his voice was not the only witness. Joseph Fielding Smith noted:
"When the Savior was called in question by the Pharisees as an impostor because he claimed to be the Son of God, the Lord referred to this law and applied it. It is as follows:
I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.' (John 8:13-18)" (Man, His Origin and Destiny [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 320.)
Third, by the law of witnesses, the Bible would not have to stand alone as the only source of revealed religion. The Book of Mormon and the writings of the 10 tribes will also witness to the truth, 'Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also' (2 Ne. 29:8, 12-14)
Fourth, the law of witnesses means that individual doctrines would be contained in more than one scripture. For example, the doctrine that the resurrected body is a 'spiritual body' and not a spirit body is recorded in three different books, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants (1 Cor. 15:44, Alma 11:45, and DC 88:27). This pattern is continued for every important doctrinal principle. As Daniel H. Ludlow noted:
"Let me repeat a key sentence from...Brigham Young: 'I found therein [in the Bible] every doctrine and the proof of every doctrine the Latter-day Saints believe in, as far as I know.'
"I love the Book of Mormon, and I love to teach the doctrines of the gospel from the Book of Mormon. But after reading this statement from Brigham Young, I decided to put the statement to a test. I reread the Book of Mormon, noting and recording every basic, essential doctrine of the gospel that was mentioned in that glorious scripture. Then I reread the Bible, and placed appropriate references from the Bible next to the doctrines I had listed from the Book of Mormon. There was at least one biblical reference for each doctrine from the Book of Mormon, without exception. I challenge you to try that same exercise." (Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 203.)
Fifth, the law of witnesses requires that individuals other than Joseph Smith would testify to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Hence, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris would testify to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to their dying breath. Elder LeGrand Richards said:
"Each of these three witnesses passed from this life to meet his reward with a confirmation of the truth of his testimony upon his lips. Why should the world doubt? The testimony of three such men would convict any man in the courts, and the testimony of these witnesses will stand against those who have heard it and who have refused to accept the truth." (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], 54.)
Sixth, the law of witnesses requires that many witnesses be provided in every dispensation. There is a repetition of witnesses and a repetition of their message. Bruce R. McConkie noted:
"Whenever the Lord has established a dispensation by revealing his gospel and by conferring priesthood and keys upon men, he has acted in accordance with the law of witnesses which he himself ordained...Never does a prophet stand alone in establishing a new dispensation of revealed truth, or in carrying the burden of such a message and warning to the world. In every dispensation, from Adam's to the present, two or more witnesses have joined their testimonies, thus leaving their hearers without excuse in the day of judgment should the testimony be rejected." (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 436)
Henry B. Eyring
"In our own time, we have been warned with counsel of where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated. For instance, more than once in these general conferences, you have heard our prophet say that he would quote a preceding prophet and would therefore be a second witness and sometimes even a third. Each of us who has listened has heard President Kimball give counsel on the importance of a mother in the home and then heard President Benson quote him, and we have heard President Hinckley quote them both. The Apostle Paul wrote that 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established' (2 Cor. 13:1). One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention and fill our hearts with gratitude to live in such a blessed time." ("Finding Safety in Counsel," Ensign, May 1997, 25)
2 Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith
Carlos E. Asay
"'Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith' (2 Cor. 13:5). Many of us receive an annual physical checkup and see our dentists twice a year. Some of us try to watch our diet, get the proper amount of rest, and exercise daily. All of this is done so that we might lengthen our days in mortality and enjoy a fulness of life.
"I wonder, however, if we are paying sufficient attention to the spiritual aspects of our lives. Are we conducting frequent 'spiritual checkups' to assess our standing before God and to determine whether we are on the path leading to eternal life? Alma asked: 'Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?' (Alma 5:27). These and other questions might be used to obtain readings of our spiritual temperature and pulse rate." ("Stay on the True Course," Ensign, May 1996, 59)
Bruce R. McConkie
"I propose some simple tests that all of us may take to determine if we are true to the faith. They consist of a few basic questions, all of which must be answered correctly in order to gain the full blessings of the gospel in this life and inherit eternal life in the realms ahead. Our well-beloved brother Paul, an Apostle of old, counsels us in these words: 'Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.' (2 Cor. 13:5.) And we may well ask ourselves: Do we believe all of the doctrines of salvation? Are we keeping the commandments? Are we valiant in the cause of truth and righteousness? Will we be saved in the kingdom of God?
"From among many questions that all of us must one day answer, let me test you on these:
Test one: Do I worship the only true and living God?...
Test two: Do I believe in the fall of Adam? ...
Test three: Do I believe in the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ? ...
Test four: Do I accept the true plan of salvation? ...
Test five: Do I believe the gospel as it has been restored in this final dispensation of grace? ...
Test six: Am I a faithful member of the true Church? ...
Test seven: Do I honor Joseph Smith as the great prophet of the Restoration? ...
Test eight: Am I enduring to the end, growing in grace, and gaining the attributes of godliness?...
Test nine: Do I put first in my life the things of God's kingdom? Is it with me and mine the kingdom of God or nothing? ...
Test ten: Am I so living that I will be saved in the kingdom of God?
"This is our goal and aim and purpose in life. Everything we do should please the Lord and further our strivings for salvation. And, the Lord be praised, there comes a time in the lives of faithful Saints when, having kept the faith and been true and faithful at all hazards, the Lord says to them: Thou shalt be exalted. These, then, are a few of the many tests of true discipleship." ("The Caravan Moves On," Ensign, Nov. 1984, 82, 85)
2 Cor. 13:5 Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Bruce R. McConkie
"God dwells in the hearts of the righteous! Not literally, but by the power of his Spirit! What beautiful imagery this is! How well it teaches the perfect unity that should prevail among all the saints and between God and his people! 'Jesus Christ is in you,' Paul says of the saints. (2 Cor. 13:5.) How can this be? His answer is simple: 'We have the mind of Christ.' (1 Cor. 2:16.)
""God dwells in the hearts of those who are as he is. 'If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses,' the Prophet said. (Teachings, p. 216.) To 'possess the principles which God possesses' is to dwell in God! That is, if we possess love, charity, faith, and every godly attribute as he possesses them, then he dwells in us because we have received those attributes which come from him, and we dwell in him because we have become as he is." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 401.)
"When [newcomers] come here they look for perfection. They say this is Zion. And so it is; but if we go to the Scriptures we shall find that the Zion of God is composed of the pure in heart. Brethren and sisters, have you Zion within you? If Jesus Christ is not in you, the apostle says, 'then are ye reprobates.' [2 Cor. 13:5.] Be careful that no man takes advantage of you, leads you astray, and causes you to leave the Church and Kingdom of God, apostatize, and go down to hell. If you have Jesus and the Kingdom of God within you, then the Zion of God is here." (Journal of Discourses, June 18, 1867, 12:60.)
2 Cor. 13:7 ye should do that which is honest
David O. McKay
"I often think that it is easy to be honest; and to be honest means that we are in harmony with divine law, that we are in keeping with the noblest work of God." (Conference Report, October 1908, p. 108.)
"There is one great principle by which, I think, we all of us ought to be actuated in our worship, above everything else that we are associated with in life, and that is honesty of purpose. . . .
"It is proper that men should be honest with themselves, that they should be honest with each other in all their words, dealings, intercourse, intercommunication, business arrangements, and everything else. They ought to be governed by truthfulness, honesty, and integrity, and that man is very foolish indeed who would not be true to himself, true to his convictions and feelings in regard to religious matters. We may deceive one another, as in some circumstances, counterfeit coin passes for that which is considered true and valuable among men. But God searches the hearts and tries the reins of the children of men. He knows our acts and the motives which prompt us to perform them. He is acquainted with all the doings and operations of the human family, and all the secret thoughts and acts of the children of men are open and naked before him, and for them he will bring them to judgment." (The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, selected, arranged, and edited, with an introduction by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941], 231.)
2 Cor. 13:11 be of one mind
Russell M. Ballard
"'Be of one mind,' the Apostle Paul urged early Christian leaders in Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:11). And to the Saints at Philippi he wrote, 'Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ . . . that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel' (Philippians 1:27). Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord counseled his latter-day followers to 'be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine' (D&C 38:27). In every council of the Church, but especially in stakes and wards, this divine counsel is profoundly important. If we are one in purpose, spirit, principle, and faith, then it doesn't really matter if we are always of the same opinion. Opinions change and can be easily altered by time, experience, and circumstance. But principles, purposes, spirituality, and faith are enduring values that can bind us as one despite disagreement or dispute." (Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 63 - 64.)