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Covet to Prophesy

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Lesson 35:
“God Is Not the Author of Confusion, but of Peace”




In 1 Corinthians 14:39, Paul instructs the Corinthians Saints, “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.” This direction of Paul’s is interesting because he here is telling us to covet something. This is unusual because the more typical pattern in the scriptures is to counsel us not to covet something. For example, Exodus 20:17 reads, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Paul though, is telling us here that with spiritual gifts the opposite is true. Why? Well it seems that the things we are not to covet are mortal material possessions where someone else will suffer a loss if you follow through on coveting and take them and relationships where, again, one or both parties will suffer a loss if they are disrupted. Spiritual gifts are of a different character. Others do not suffer loss by your receiving a spiritual gift. They are indeed not for personal aggrandizement but for serving others. Indeed, Paul makes the point earlier in chapter 12 that we ought to bestow more honor on those whose gifts, callings and contributions are less visible: 1 Corinthians 12:23-24, “23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:” So what is meant by prophesy here? Does Paul want a church of fortune tellers or something else entirely? An episode in Revelation 19:10 gives us some hints about what is meant by this idea. Here the Revelator encounters an angel and is astounded to the point of worship, “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Knowledge from the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ is prophecy when shared and, indeed, this is something we should all covet earnestly to have and share.

As described by Paul, however, prophecy is also one of the essential teaching tools of the Church and Paul wants to see it democratized to a greater degree. In 1 Corinthians 14:29-31, he says, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” Paul (to apply the scriptures to ourselves for a moment), wants to see us participating meaningfully in Sunday School, wants us to take turns, and all contribute as the Spirit gives us utterance. This is one of the great virtues of Come Follow Me: because more people have prepared, by virtue of having actually read the scriptures associated with the lesson, more are prepared to have the Spirit work through them to allow them to contribute meaningfully to the discussion and all are edified of all. This democratization of prophecy is, indeed, a central point of the Latter-day Restoration. One of its purposes, as the Lord reminds us in Doctrine and Covenants 1:20, was that all “might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;” The Lord wants us to act and speak according as he inspires us. Doctrine and Covenants 68:3-4 gives this promise, “And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”

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