This is another in the Gay Gospel Doctrine Class series of posts that takes a lesson from the LDS Church’s (Adult) Gospel Doctrine class and presents it from a gay perspective. Today’s lesson is based on Lesson #34 in the Gospel Doctrine Manual (“Keep the Ordinances, As I Delivered Them”) and was prepared by yours truly.
Today’s lesson covers five chapters (11-15) in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, including some of the most profound teachings in all of scripture about the gifts of the Spirit and the purpose and meaning of love (both of which are given relatively short shrift in the Gospel Doctrine manual lesson, which focuses on priesthood ordinances).
To Each One: God Loves Diversity
In Chapter 12, Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit. Interestingly, the Amplified Bible translation refers to these gifts as “special endowments of supernatural energy” or “extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit.” In verse 7, Paul points out the purpose of such endowments: “But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit” [emphasis added].
Several thoughts come to mind as I read these verses. First, these endowments are not necessarily sought, nor can they be earned, but rather are embedded within each of us as partakers of the divine nature. Furthermore “each one” is so endowed, i.e., we all have within us gifts of the Spirit, a spark of the Divine.
And in the divine order of things, each of us has a different gift, something which we uniquely bring to the table: “All these [gifts, achievements, abilities] are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same [Holy] Spirit, Who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses” [Verse 11, Amplified Bible, emphasis added].
The subtext of this verse, for me, is that God loves diversity, not uniformity, and He has woven diversity throughout His creation, including with regard to that manifestation of Himself that resides within each of us.
In the balance of Chapter 12, Paul waxes eloquent, comparing all of us to parts of a body, each of which are necessary for the full functioning of the whole and without which the body cannot operate as a healthy organism. As with the beautiful mosaics of antiquity, each of us adds our unique “chip” that creates the beautiful panorama of the whole; without our chip, there is a gap which becomes immediately noticeable. Furthermore, it is precisely the uniqueness of each individual chip that creates the beauty of the whole.
Is there not a lesson in this for those of us who are gay? Is there not a lesson as well for those around us who value uniformity over diversity, who even demand uniformity at the expense of diversity and authenticity? I’ll leave it to the class to comment if they wish …
God’s Love in Us
We now come to 1 Corinthians 13 – surely one of the most beautiful passages in all of scripture. We are accustomed to the King James Translation of this chapter which is beautifully read (with minor word changes) in this video:
But I think a fuller sense of the majesty and meaning of these verses is conveyed in the Amplified Bible translation, which I’m presenting here in its entirety:
1IF I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God's love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God's love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).
3 Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God's love in me), I gain nothing.
4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
8 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy ([d]the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth].
9 For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect).
10 But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded).
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.
12 For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as [e]in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].
13 And so faith, hope, love abide [faith--conviction and belief respecting man's relation to God and divine things; hope--joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love--true affection for God and man, growing out of God's love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Again, there are numerous points that could be made about these verses, but I will only make a couple. First, this translation emphasizes that what Paul is talking about, is God’s love in us. In other words, Paul is describing what God’s love is like and how that love is manifested in and through us. I think the traditional King James translation, particularly within our tradition, misses that point (even though Moroni tells us that “charity” is the pure love of Christ). (What do I mean by “particularly within our tradition”? Well, I think there is more than a touch of paternalistic condescension associated with the Mormon concept of “charity,” which is almost always linked to the concept of service to others [fair enough], but which is all too often tied to a sense of duty and self-justification (and, in the case of the institutional church, publicity), rather than channeling God’s love to His children.)
Secondly, I would just point out that the love that Paul describes here (the spirit of which I think can be felt in the YouTube video above) is totally contrary to the type of “love” that underlies the phrase “love the sinner but hate the sin” which falls from the lips of so many Christians, including many Mormons. Such persons profess love, yet does this “love” pass Paul’s test?
Love endures long and is patient and kind;
Love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy,
Love is not boastful or vainglorious,
Love does not display itself haughtily.
Love is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride);
Love is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly.
Love does not insist on its own rights or its own way,
for it is not self-seeking;
Love is not touchy or fretful or resentful;
Love takes no account of the evil done to it
[it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness;
Love rejoices when right and truth prevail.
I choose to believe that if most sincere Christians (including members of the LDS Church) who believe that homosexuality is “wrong” and a “perversion” that must be resisted and condemned as “sinful” were to meditate thoughtfully – with a “sincere heart and real intent” - on the message of 1 Corinthians 13, they would be touched with at least some degree of enlightenment that would convey to them the disconnect between what they have been taught about homosexuality and the message and spirit of this passage of scripture, which I think are conveyed in the following videos:
I could write more, particularly with respect to recent gay bashings in and around Salt Lake City. But I will forebear and simply hope that an increasing number of Christians and Mormons will be able to move beyond what they have been taught about homosexuality and hear the voice of Love, for, as John wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).