Reading the epistles of Paul sometimes makes me wish the New Testament ended with the Gospel of John—although I wouldn’t mind having the Gospel of Thomas included in the canon.
Paul has never been my favorite NT writer even though he composed some beautiful verses such as his 1 Corinthians 13 essay on charity (“love” in newer translations). His extended analogy in 1 Cor.12 equating the various spiritual gifts to the parts of the body and their different, yet equally important functions is brilliant. Much of his advice is common sense and compassionate—such as his acknowledging that eating meat sacrificed to idols (as was most meat sold in the Roman Empire) can’t hurt a Christian. Yet, Paul says he will forego eating sacrificed meat himself in order not to cause converts from idolatry to lapse back into sin.
Christians often have difficulty separating Paul’s wisdom from the cultural baggage of his era. He esteems celibacy over marriage, admonishes slaves to be satisfied with their situation, restricts women from speaking in church, and insists on the need for women to cover their hair when praying, to refrain from cutting their hair, and to submit to their husbands
Mormons have an advantage over many Christians in reading the Bible. The 8th Article of Faith, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly,” gives us wiggle room to deal with advice that makes no sense in our day and age. Unfortunately, we lack the same wiggle room for dealing with our own “modern” scriptures, written more than a century and a half ago.
Except for the Ten Commandments and the words, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” written on Belshazzar’s wall (Dan 5:25), no scriptures claim to have been written by the hand of God. All others have been filtered through human mind and memory and recorded with the limitations of human understanding and language.
Adopting someone else’s version of truth that doesn’t jibe with one’s innate conscience causes good people to do bad things in the name of religion. Anything, including scriptures and teachings of religious leaders, should pass the test of common sense and good conscience before being acted upon by believers.