Lesson 108: 1 Corinthians 11

“Lesson 108: 1 Corinthians 11,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 108,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 108

1 Corinthians 11


Paul addressed disputes among the Corinthian Saints regarding religious customs. He emphasized that men and women have eternal and divine roles and are essential to one another in the Lord’s plan. He also taught Church members about proper preparation for partaking of the sacrament.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Corinthians 11:1–16

Paul addresses disputes about customs in his day

Courtship and marriage

Display a picture of a married couple (such as Young Couple Going to the Temple, Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 120; see also Read aloud the following statements that reflect how some individuals might feel about marriage:

  1. “Being successful in my career is everything to me. I don’t want to divide my attention between my career goals and my marriage.”

  2. “I don’t want to commit to a long-term relationship. I worry about making a decision that I will later regret.”

  3. “Marriage would tie me down. I wouldn’t be able to do whatever I wanted.”

  4. “I know that marriage is the most important decision I will ever make, and I look forward to it.”

Invite students to ponder how they feel about marriage. Ask them to look for a truth as they study 1 Corinthians 11:1–16 that can help them and others understand the importance of marriage.

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 11:3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught about a husband’s responsibilities. You might explain that in this verse the word translated as “man” can also be translated as “husband” and the word translated as “woman” can also be translated as “wife.”

  • What is the role of a husband? (You may need to explain that the phrase “the head of the woman is the man” means that the husband has the sacred responsibility of presiding in the home. To preside means to righteously lead and guide others in spiritual and temporal matters.)

  • Who is to preside over and guide the husband as he presides in his family?

Summarize 1 Corinthians 11:4–16 by explaining that Paul addressed questions about customs for men and women when they prayed and prophesied during their worship services.

Help students understand that readers of the New Testament sometimes misunderstand Paul’s teachings to mean that the man’s role is more important than the woman’s role or that the man is superior to or of more worth than the woman. Read aloud the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Ballard, M. Russell

“Men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the Church, but equal does not mean they are the same. The responsibilities and divine gifts of men and women differ in their nature but not in their importance or influence. Our Church doctrine places women equal to and yet different from men. God does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other” (“Men and Women in the Work of the Lord,” New Era, Apr. 2014, 4).

Ask a student to read 1 Corinthians 11:11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught about the relationship between a husband and a wife.

  • What did Paul teach about the relationship between a husband and a wife?

Point out the phrase “in the Lord.” Explain that this phrase refers to the Lord’s plan to help us become like Him and obtain eternal life.

  • What doctrine does this verse teach about man and woman in the Lord’s plan? (Using students’ words, write the following truth on the board: In the Lord’s plan, men and women cannot obtain eternal life without each other. [See D&C 131:1–4.])

To help students understand the truth identified above, hold up a pair of scissors and begin cutting a piece of paper. Ask students to imagine that the two halves of the scissors have been separated.

  • How successful would a person be if he or she tried to cut a piece of paper with only half of the pair of scissors? How are the scissors like a husband and wife working together?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Bednar, David A.

“By divine design, men and women are intended to progress together toward perfection and a fulness of glory. Because of their distinctive temperaments and capacities, males and females each bring to a marriage relationship unique perspectives and experiences. The man and the woman contribute differently but equally to a oneness and a unity that can be achieved in no other way. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other” (“Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006, 83–84).

  • How do the different characteristics and responsibilities of men and women complement each other in a family?

Remind students of the different attitudes about marriage depicted in the statements you read at the beginning of the lesson. Invite a few students to share their thoughts and testimonies concerning the importance of marriage in the Lord’s plan. You may want to share your testimony as well.

1 Corinthians 11:17–34

Paul teaches the Corinthian Saints not to treat the sacrament lightly

Write the following phrases on the board: a truly spiritual experience, a renewal for the soul, the highlight of my Sabbath day.

Ask students to ponder their most recent experience partaking of the sacrament and to consider whether they would use any of the phrases on the board to describe their experience. Ask students to look for truths as they study 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 that can help them make partaking of the sacrament a more spiritual and meaningful experience.

Explain that in Paul’s time, members of the Church maintained a practice reminiscent of the Last Supper. They would eat a meal together and then partake of the sacrament. Summarize 1 Corinthians 11:17–22 by explaining that Paul noted a report he had received that when the Corinthian Saints gathered together to partake of the sacrament, there were dissentions, or contention, among them. Paul condemned the Saints for turning these gatherings into common meals rather than preserving the sacredness of the sacrament ordinance.

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul encouraged Church members to remember about the sacrament. You may want to explain that the word shew in verse 26 means to proclaim, announce, or testify of (see 1 Corinthians 11:26, footnote b).

Display the picture The Last Supper (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 54; see also

In Remembrance of Me (Also: "The Last Supper")
  • What did Paul say the Savior taught His disciples to remember as they partook of the sacrament?

  • How might remembering the Savior’s body and blood during the sacrament have helped those Church members who were struggling with dissention?

Invite a student to read 1 Corinthians 11:27–30 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the warning Paul gave the Corinthian Saints about the sacrament.

  • According to verses 27 and 29, what did Paul warn the Corinthian Saints about?

  • What truth can we learn from these verses about what happens when we partake of the sacrament unworthily? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Those who partake of the sacrament unworthily bring condemnation and damnation to themselves.)

Explain that we “do not need to be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament, but [we] should have a spirit of humility and repentance in [our] heart” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 148). If we partake of the sacrament while living in serious sin or with an unrepentant heart, having no desire to remember and follow the Savior, we are partaking of the sacrament unworthily. Encourage students to pray to their Heavenly Father and talk to their bishops (see 3 Nephi 18:26–29) if they have questions about their worthiness to partake of the sacrament.

  • Why do you think partaking of the sacrament unworthily would bring damnation to our souls?

  • According to 1 Corinthians 11:28, what counsel did Paul give Church members? (Using students’ words, write the following truth on the board: We should examine our lives as we partake of the sacrament.)

Point out that the purpose of examining our lives is not only to consider whether we are worthy to partake of the sacrament but also to consider how well we are striving to keep our covenants with the Lord and how we might seek to repent and improve.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Howard W. Hunter:

Hunter, Howard W.

“I asked myself this question: ‘Do I place God above all other things and keep all of His commandments?’ Then came reflection and resolution. To make a covenant with the Lord to always keep His commandments is a serious obligation, and to renew that covenant by partaking of the sacrament is equally serious. The solemn moments of thought while the sacrament is being served have great significance. They are moments of self-examination, introspection, self-discernment—a time to reflect and to resolve” (“Thoughts on the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1977, 25).

To help students to consider how they might apply the truth they identified in 1 Corinthians 11:28, invite them to think of questions they could consider as they prepare to partake of the sacrament. For example, they might ask, “How can I be a better disciple of Jesus Christ?” Ask students to share other questions they could ask themselves. You might also suggest some questions of your own. Invite students to list in their class notebooks or scripture study journals questions they can ask themselves during the sacrament as they examine their worthiness.

Testify that as students examine their worthiness prior to and during partaking of the sacrament, the Lord can help them know how they might better fulfill their covenants and qualify to receive the blessings He desires to give them. These blessings include being cleansed from their sins and receiving a greater measure of the power of the Holy Ghost in their lives. Invite students to set a goal regarding how they will better prepare for their next opportunity to partake of the sacrament.

Summarize 1 Corinthians 11:33–34 by explaining that Paul gave additional direction to the Corinthian Saints regarding the meal they had in conjunction with the administration of the sacrament.

Conclude the lesson by testifying of the truths identified in 1 Corinthians 11.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Corinthians 11:11. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord”

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pointed out that men and women have equal but distinct roles:

“In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. … In the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife” (“This Is My Work and Glory,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 19).

The Family: a proclamation to the world

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” outlines the God-given responsibilities of husbands and wives:

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129).

President Howard W. Hunter taught an important lesson regarding the shared responsibility of men and women in governing the family:

“A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50–51.)

1 Corinthians 11:27–29. What does it mean to partake of the sacrament unworthily?

President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “when we are not living the commandments, when we are in transgression, when we have angers and hatreds and bitterness, we should consider seriously if we should take the sacrament” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 225).

Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy explained that our attitude is a key component of our worthiness to partake of the sacrament:

“If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy. If, however, we have no desire to improve, if we have no intention of following the guidance of the Spirit, we must ask: Are we worthy to partake, or are we making a mockery of the very purpose of the sacrament, which is to act as a catalyst for personal repentance and improvement? If we remember the Savior and all he has done and will do for us, we will improve our actions and thus come closer to him, which keeps us on the road to eternal life.

“If, however, we refuse to repent and improve, if we do not remember him and keep his commandments, then we have stopped our growth, and that is damnation to our souls” (“The Beauty and Importance of the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1989, 38).

1 Corinthians 11:27–32. The sacrament should never be treated lightly

The sacrament is a sacred ordinance that should never be treated lightly. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that “the ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church” (“Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 17).

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared that the sacrament “is the highlight of our Sabbath-day observance” (“Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 26).

Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that regularly partaking of the sacrament can bring us spiritual safety:

“We want every Latter-day Saint to come to the sacrament table because it is the place for self-investigation, for self-introspection, where we may learn to rectify our course and make right our own lives, bringing ourselves into harmony with the teachings of the Church and with our brethren and sisters. It is the place where we become our own judges. …

“… The one thing that would make for the safety of every man and woman would be to appear at the sacrament table every Sabbath day. We would not get very far away in one week—not so far away that, by the process of self-investigation, we could not rectify the wrongs we may have done. … The road to the sacrament table is the path of safety for Latter-day Saints” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard [1949], 150–51).