Continuing my New Testament series, let’s talk about 1 Corinthians, another authentic letter of Paul from the mid-50s. Corinth is located right on the isthmus of Corinth (see image at top of post). It was a port city, a crossroads of peoples and cultures, and (like any port city) kind of a wild place. I recall one NT commentator saying Corinth was the California of the Roman world.

In Marcus Borg’s timeline for the chronological order of NT books, 1 Corinthians is the third NT text that we have, after 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. It’s also the second-longest of Paul’s letters, Romans being the longest. Like Galatians, this is an “occasional letter,” meaning it is responding to particular questions or issues that give rise to the letter. Mormons will be familiar with 15:29 (baptism for the dead) and the discussion of the resurrection in the rest of the chapter (sun, moon, and stars).

But everyone knows Chapter 13, talking about what Paul called “a more excellent way”: charity or love. Even people who don’t know the Bible know the words “charity suffereth long and is kind.” Even Mormon, on a different continent, with no conceivable access to Paul’s letters, knew Paul’s chapter on charity. He penned an entire chapter of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 7) riffing on Paul’s discussion of faith, hope, and charity. Which raises the interesting question:

How Did Mormon Quote Paul?

I’ll bet a lot of Mormon readers just schmooze their way through Moroni 7 without even asking themselves that question. It’s a question that needs to be asked, just like the issue of how passages from Second Isaiah and Malachi and pretty much the entire Sermon on the Mount find their way into the Book of Mormon. The obvious answer, the simplest answer, and a perfectly acceptable explanation for non-LDS and for some LDS, is that Joseph Smith simply quoted (with some modification) those passages while translating or composing or dictating the Book of Mormon text. It only becomes a puzzle for those who (1) accept or insist on an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon, coupled with a divine translation theory that actually translated an ancient text into English (about 2 out of 3 active Mormons), and (2) recognize the modified KJV Bible quotations as an issue that needs to be addressed (about 1 in 20 active Mormons).

First, let’s quote KJV 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind;
charity envieth not;
charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth …

Vaunteth? Hopeth? Endureth? Did anyone actually ever talk this way?

Anyway, here’s Moroni 7:45-46, almost an exact parallel, albeit with a few of the KJV phrases omitted:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind,
and envieth not,
and is not puffed up,
seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,
and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth,
beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren,
if ye have not charity, ye are nothing,
for charity never faileth.

This is not an acknowledged quotation, in the sense that the text of Moroni 7 mentions Paul or 1 Corinthians as the source of the quotation. The LDS edition of the Bible cites 1 Corinthians 13 as a reference in the footnotes, of course. In Thomas Wayment’s The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints rendition of 1 Corinthians, he gives the following laconic footnote for 1 Cor. 13:2-7: “Quoted in Moroni 7:44-46.” That, with no further explanation or discussion, is what you say to a general Mormon audience, I guess.

And just a quick aside about Moroni 7: it has some beautiful and inspiring passages.

  • The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil … (v. 16).
  • Search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ (v. 19).
  • Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ … (v. 48).

Remember that Paul’s discussion of charity or love in Chapter 13 is part of his discussion of spiritual gifts in Chapters 12-14. Paul presents his discussion of these gifts (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpreting such speech) as gifts of the Spirit, with no reference to priesthood. Priesthood is a concept which plays little or no role in Paul’s theology. Christianity as presented by Paul seems to work just fine without any priesthood. Quite a contrast to LDS doctrine, where Priesthood is the source of everything.

Other Highlights

Here are just a few quick references to other topics covered in 1 Corinthians (quotations from NRSV):

  • It’s clear from this discussion of divisions in the congregation at 1:10-17 that baptism was the means of entrance into formal membership in the congregation by this time.
  • Paul quite clearly thinks that “wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God,” listing “fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers” in that category (6:9-10). So much for cheap grace.
  • Chapter 7: Paul’s surprisingly reasonable and pragmatic advice on sex and marriage. Read the NRSV version. Think how much solace this statement would bring to the Mormon half of what LDS call a “part-member family” if it were emphasized in LDS discussions: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (7:14).
  • Chapter 8: Paul’s surprisingly reasonable and pragmatic advice on food and meat offered to idols, a very pressing issue for early Christians. I think if you played bishop roulette and ended up with Paul as your bishop, that would be a win.
  • At 11:2 and 11:9: Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman. This section seems to be echoed in the similar LDS temple ordering of hierarchy. The whole discussion in 11:2-16 seems like a reflection of Jewish and Roman cultural norms for men and women, like who can have long hair and whether a woman’s head needs to be covered. It’s odd that Paul could manage to jettison a lot of Jewish life regulations (parts of “the Law”) as almost irrelevant yet get really caught up in these distinctions he pressed in 11:2-16.
  • Chapter 14: about speaking in tongues (glossolalia). This was really big in the early LDS Church. Brigham Young was a big fan. But it slowly faded away from LDS practice over the course of the 19th century.
  • 15:3-11 is Paul’s short summary of the life of Jesus, along with a few rather interesting claimed resurrection appearances. As short as this discussion is, it’s the longest discussion Paul gives in his letters of the life of Jesus. The gospels and their long narrative about the life of Jesus came later. The life of Jesus, as far as we can tell from Paul’s letters, was not a reference point for doctrine or practice at this stage of the Early Church.

That’s what I’ve got today, folks. 1 Corinthians is a long letter, but it’s fairly straightforward in terms of its discussion. Just wait for Romans, a long and very challenging letter.

What do you make of Mormon quoting Paul?

What’s your most favorite or least favorite discussion by Paul noted above or elsewhere in 1 Corinthians?



Marcus J. Borg, The Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written, HarperOne, 2012.

Thomas A. Wayment, The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints, revised edition, Greg Kofford Books, 2022.

Marcus J. Borg’s List of NT Books in Chronological Order (with links to earlier posts)

1 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 John
2 John
3 John
2 Thessalonians
1 Peter
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
2 Peter