Destroyed in the flesh

In Gospel Doctrine we hit on the first part of 1 Corinthians this week. In chapter 5 Paul is fairly irritated that Church hasn’t done anything about the guy who is shacking up with his stepmom. This was clearly verboten in the Torah, but it is also apparently one of those things we are going to keep. A good call, I think. Paul’s instructions are pretty clear: kick this guy out.

In vs. 5 (KJV) he states that the Corinthians are: “to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” My wife and I went through the various translations, commentaries, etc., and it was pretty clear that no one really knows what this phrase means. The commentary in the NET Bible is pretty representative.

A non-Mormon historian friend recently told me that growing up with a different translation of the bible has really made it difficult to notice where Joseph Smith was riffing on the KJV. You know what, I grew up with it and I still am surprised how often I miss it, even when it is obvious. Now, I do not propose that JS’s uses of KJV language should necessarily be used to interpret the KJV text. But I do think that this particular phrase is really interesting. Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the revelation on marriage sealing. [sidenote: I wish we had canonized the 1842 revelation instead of the 1843 revelation. So much better. I don’t think Section 132 was ever considered to be a public revelation—look to WVS’s book on this. Nevertheless, we have it in our cannon.] And right there in vs. 26 we have:

26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.

As much as or more than I have struggled with some of the vss. in this section, I think Joseph Fielding Smith struggled this vs. It is clear that he, along with Elders McConkie (and Bednar) have worked hard for a new reading that doesn’t acknowledge the sacerdotal perseverance of the temple. Back in the day, all temple sealings persevered (also, they still do).

We ended out having a family home evening on this verse yesterday. We talked about how regardless of what our kids did they would be our children. We could not change that if we wanted to, nor ever would we be able to. [Sidenote, the sealing cancellations are all the same] We also talked about how this situation can be awesome or not. Getting destroyed in the flesh is not fun, I gather. We hope that everyone in the sealed relationship of our home makes it as easy as possible.

So back to Paul. I wonder if JS read Corinthians and thought about child to parent relationships as Paul advocated removing this guy who was carrying on with a member of his household. Not much greater that could tear a family apart than that. Maybe perseverance isn’t what we thought it was all cracked up to being.


  1. “(also, they still do)”

    You’re missing some footnotes on that one.

  2. hinduFriend says:

    Why is the guy responsible rather than the step-mom? Kick her out . . .

  3. Interesting, thanks J.

  4. Could you explain your side note? What’s the difference between the two revelations?

  5. J. Stapley says:

    Alex, it is a separate revelation: Joseph Smith, Revelation, July 27, 1842, MS 4583, Box 1, fd. 104. Available here.

  6. Aaron Brown says:

    “Nevertheless, we have it in our cannon.”

    Freudian slip.

  7. The fact that there is no way for families to be separated, no matter what, is not always a comfort, especially in circumstances of rape, incest, molestation, etc. There are legal remedies, including adoption (as a child or adult) which allow all legal ties to be broken between a family where children BIC can be bound to a nonabusing adult, but this doctrine doesn’t allow for that adoption to be recognized by the church, or in church records.

    As far as I can tell, the relationship talked about in these verses was consensual, and while not something that I think should be encouraged, I am more concerned with how this impacts the daily lives of children, BIC through no fault of their own, who are destroyed in many ways, because we condemn them to familial ties that are recognized as broken in every legal way, but that are still considered binding by the church bureaucracy.

  8. The typical temple ordinances do not include being sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.

    I thought that was standard knowledge; even though we call them “sealings,” they are only conditional.

  9. Clark Goble says:

    What’s interesting is Joseph definitely read other translations and likely had some form of greek and hebrew texts in Nauvoo. That he continued to riff off the KJV even at the later date is always interesting to me.

  10. It just delights me that J used a D&C 132 verse as a family home evening base.

  11. Verse 26 is a very interesting choice! FHE.