1 Corinthians 14 – Gifts of the Spirit, Silence in the Churches

Paul emphasizes the importance of the gifts of the Spirit in building Zion in 1 Corinthians 14. “Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12). Paul explains that the greatest of all the spiritual gifts is charity, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  The gifts of the spirit are for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and to establish a Zion people.

Paul emphasizes order in the kingdom when he states, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). It is at this point of the text that readers can sometimes get confused, for Paul then speaks of women keeping silence in the churches.

1 Corinthians 14:34 “Women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” – obviously something has been changed in this text as we currently read in our King James Version. When we compare this verse to 1 Corinthians 11:5, where women pray and prophesy, or Matthew 28:1-8, where Mary is instructed to tell the apostles that Jesus was resurrected, we can see that women spoke, prophesied and gave advice to leaders in the early Christian Church. At issue is not participation but governance. Paul is reminding his readers that the sisters are to be subject to the priesthood leadership, as this leadership is subject to God. In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, the Prophet Joseph Smith changes the word “speak” to “rule”.

It is interesting to note that when spoken of symbolically, the woman in scripture is a symbol for the church. “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars…and the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman…and the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:1-17). “And the dragon prevailed not against Michael… nor the woman which was the church of God” (Joseph Smith Translation – Revelation 12:7). In this context it is good to understand that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are all the woman – all of us are in subjection to the governance of the priesthood. Paul is essentially stating that the Church is an orderly organization, that there are priesthood keys that operate to govern the affairs of the Church. Just as we, the woman, the Church, are in subjection to the priesthood keys, so the priesthood is subject to the governing power of God. (see also Teachings of the Prophet Josesph Smith, p. 212; Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 387)

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I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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2 Responses to 1 Corinthians 14 – Gifts of the Spirit, Silence in the Churches

  1. Maggie says:

    Just got done reading this chapter and thought… I’m missing something. Thanks for the helpful explanation and insight! I especially love your last paragraph and the symbolism that as members of the Church we are all the women as described in this chapter. We all are subject to the governance of the Priesthood, of our head, Jesus Christ.
    It’s not that men are able to command whatever their own will desires. Their leadership is directly linked to their position as a priesthood holder. And this power is inseparably connected to the principles of righteousness and the Lord’s will.

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