The Corinthians of ancient times must have been dealing with some of the same issues that we face today as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Paul wrote to them in his first epistle chapter twelve about two seemingly unrelated topics: Spiritual Gifts and the administration of the church. He begins his letter to them by enumerating the different kinds of spiritual gifts.
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
1 Corinthians 12:8-11
Then he makes probably the best analogy in scripture. He compares the church to a body.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14
And THIS is what I was alluding to before. Reading between the lines you can infer that is Paul was inspired to give this lesson to the saints in Corinth because they needed greater understanding of how to act with their fellow saints. They needed, (much like I feel we need in modern times) a greater understanding of how they fit into the God’s plan and how their fellow followers of Christ fit in as well.
Paul’s list in this chapter is far from a definitive list of spiritual gifts. Better ones can be found in Moroni 10, and D & C 46; not to mention an amazing conference talk given by Marvin J. Ashton in the 1987 October General Conference titled, “There are Many Gifts“. All of these inspired messages point out that we ALL are given gifts. We all have an important work to do. Every one of us has an important role in the “body of Christ.” But it’s important to remember that it’s what makes us different that makes us valuable. Again quoting 1 Corinthians:
For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
Or as Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf put it:
Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.
It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.
The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.
I can’t help but feel that we spend too much of our time as saints finding fault with others. We perceive their differences from our own as weakness or lack of testimony. We pridefully think that our interpretation of the doctrine is the “right” one and fail to allow each member room to “work out their own salvation”. We assume that the straight and narrow path Christ asked us to walk is the same for all of us while forgetting that it’s possible to have many paths converge at the same destination.
Some of the most powerful lessons I have learned in recent years have come through befriending a ward member with which on the outside I seemed to have nothing in common. From her I have learned a truer meaning of friendship, service, and the importance of family. Most of all I have learned that she is a valuable member of our ward and we are stronger when their family comes to church.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to see their differences as strengths. He wanted them to be unified in their commitment to follow Christ. He asked them to work together and share their God given strengths to edify each other. He suggested that they suffer and celebrate together equally and love unconditionally. Why? Because each of us is needed! Each of us has something to add. Our testimonies are the threads of a great tapestry. We need to be woven together. For when we do so, we learn to love as our Savior.
So, here’s my challenge: step outside your comfort zone. Get to know the ward member who is from a different generation, political affiliation, income bracket, or culture. Invite them into your home. Look for the threads that tie you together. Forget what you disagree about and reach out a hand of friendship. I am sure the results will surprise you.
1. Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.
2. What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
3. When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.
4. For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.