Elective Adultery And Election Ambition:

Though I am not political, some moments in the political world spill over into things I do care about. One of them is unfolding at the moment. The disclosure of Newt Gingrich’s marital infidelity, and on-going extramarital misconduct resulting in his second divorce and third marriage, is one of those rare moments when the United States has an opportunity to make a significant moral error. It is true we have had past presidents who have engaged in sexual misconduct while in office. Some were discovered only after they left office. President Clinton, of course, was known to have done so while still serving. But the United States has never elected a man whose extramarital affairs were publicly known before the election. Such conduct has always been disqualifying. This is because the United States has always cared about morality as much as about policy.

Apparently many political commentators cannot see the difference between offering an adulterous man whose sins are publicly known before the election as a candidate to the nation’s highest office, in contrast to later discovering we’ve inadvertently elected an adulterous man. [Grover Cleveland was a bachelor and young when he may have fathered a child, not a married adulterer. He paid child support and was never conclusively shown to be the father.] When given the choice beforehand, adultery should always be disqualifying. Yet such “conservative” commentators as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have championed Newt Gingrich after the disclosure; even Sarah Palin has defended Mr. Gingrich after it became an issue. Gov. Rick Perry has also endorsed Mr. Gingrich after this moral failing has become public.

Mr. Gingrich is ego-maniacal. He was dishonest and thrown out of Congress for his ethical lapses. His infidelity to his wife is mirrored in his infidelity to high office while serving in Congress. If he betrayed his wife before, and betrayed his public office before, he is unworthy to be trusted again. His very public penitence I view more as public theatre than humble submission to God. He proclaims his God-given forgiveness as a shield against criticism, rather than a matter of private devotion. Such conduct always raises a question about sincerity. He is ambitious, self-centered, now using religion to justify himself, and unworthy of renewed public trust. When someone has been involved in such a troublesome history I would expect they would voluntarily disqualify themselves by never running. I understand and sympathize with failed marriages and moral lapses. They happen. But contrition and ambition are incompatible. Some personal failings are so great they disqualify. At least from the right to hold an office of public trust which was designed to be viewed as much as a “pulpit” of righteousness as a seat of power.

He was careful yesterday to deny wanting an “open marriage” because the definition of the word used in the question does not quite fit his immoral conduct. He was not prepared to welcome his wife joining him in extramarital sexual relations, as “open marriage” implies. He wanted to do that alone. He wanted his wife to “share” him with his paramour. (This loophole allowing the denial was fed to him by Rush Limbaugh.) Therefore he could probably pass a lie-detector test about his denial of wanting an “open marriage.” Yet he wants his adulterous companion to be the nation’s First Lady, and himself to occupy the high position originally designed for George Washington– the most trusted man of his generation. A man whose morality was beyond question. A man who led by example, freeing his slaves in his will as the example he hoped would end slavery without requiring the nation to be torn apart. Newt Gingrich will bring dishonor to any office he holds because of his inability to look beyond self-interest and personal glorification.

When a person is known to be an adulterer, they are by definition also a liar. Liars and adulterers are by any scriptural definition wicked. When a nation on this land chooses to uphold a wicked man to head their government, they are ripe for destruction. (See Mosiah 29: 27Alma 10: 19, Helaman 5: 2.)

You uphold such a man at the peril of national destruction. His campaign has also exposed the underlying confused morality of some popular political commentators.

Adultery

That’s a title that ought to get readers.

I’ve been thinking about adultery since the 4th, when my wife, the bishop’s wife and I were talking about the abysmal job we do of teaching anything on the subject. The bishop’s wife is a nurse, and she does rape-kit exams at local hospitals. Her view of the condition of young Latter-day Saints’ understanding alarms her. Both perpetrators and victims are often Latter-day Saints.  The casual way in which young women put themselves at risk reflects poor teaching, warning and counsel.  She tries to educate, but there’s a lot of soft-selling going on instead of candid teaching and warning.

I wrote a paper for the stake presidency when I was on the high council. As a result, there was a series of 5th Sunday adult meetings conducted by a member of the stake presidency in our stake. The paper later became the basis of one chapter in Eighteen Verses.

Out of wedlock children who are raised by single mothers has become one of the great tragedies of our day. Children raised by a single mother, without fathers present comprise about 70 percent of juvenile murderers, drug abusers, suicides and runaways. While I was on the high council, adultery was the top reason for temple marriages breaking up in our stake.

Parents have the primary responsibility for teaching youth about this subject. It is important enough that you should be candid with your children. They deserve to be taught, to be warned, to understand the cultural atmosphere of casual sex is ultimately destructive of life itself.  It imprisons.

If you love your children, teach them. And set a good example before them. The church is not responsible for teaching your children, you are. They aren’t going to be doing the job only you can perform.

Well, on another topic, I finally enjoyed being able to do legally what used to require sneaking up to Evanston, Wyoming, and smuggling back contraband to Utah to accomplish… Aerial fireworks are now legal in Utah. I suspect that has kept several million dollars in Utah for the 4th, and will keep even more here for the 24th. (That’s Pioneer Day, a State holiday in Utah.) We may not get drunk in Utah, but we do blow the hell out of things as a workable substitute.  –Well, perhaps I ought to qualify that: Some few of us, who celebrate around our neighbors, and invite our street, where our bishop lives to our 4th of July party, don’t get drunk in Utah. As for those out of sight, I can’t account for them.

3 Nephi 12: 31-32



“It hath been written, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery.”


First and foremost, this is a verse dealing with male conduct. The verse is masculine in orientation and word usage, and deals with a male’s prerogative under the law that existed then. So applying this new, higher law, beyond that is not warranted, as will be more clearly seen in the discussion below.


The ease with which a divorce could be granted made the serious nature of the act unappreciated. Today it is still unappreciated. Divorce rates among Latter-day Saints have risen to practically mirror the population at large. We follow all the surrounding social trends, but are a little slower in getting there. We are not “peculiar” any longer. We are just slower.


Christ was re-enshrining the significance of marriage. It should not be easy to end a marriage. But, then again, perhaps the kind of marriage Christ is speaking of is one of a higher order and rarely exists here.


Although there are reasons for every marriage to be treated as sacred and worth preserving, it was always intended for there to be a higher purpose in marriage. It was intended to be an eternal union, inside of which sacred acts mirroring heaven itself take place. Bringing into this world new life by the loving union of two partners is a mirror of heaven. Such things are, or ought to be, most sacred.


But a higher kind of union, where love is the prevailing rule, is not often established here. More often than not, the marriages of this world are corrupted, just as society itself is corrupted.


I hardly dare offer a different view of these verses, because people think they know what they’re reading in them. I’m not sure we have ever seen what Christ is actually speaking about. Though caution would suggest otherwise, I’m going to go ahead with offering a different view.


First, this is always interpreted to be discussing things which are coarse or material, but it comes immediately following a discussion about the inner or spiritual self. This suggests our normal reading of this language may be incorrect. When the focus of Christ’s new and higher law is the inner man, then to read this as applying to outward behavior (fornication/adultery) may miss the point.


Second, notice the contrast between the only justified reason for terminating the marriage (fornication) and the subsequent results (adultery). Two different words are used, suggesting two different meanings are present.


I’ve consulted with John Hall about the New Testament language in the Matthew account of this sermon, where “porneia” is the typical rendering.  There the meaning of the first word which we render “fornication” could be a variety of things including: prostitution, sexual permissiveness or merely a sexual act. But, if the word was “poneria” then it could, by broad measure,  mean bad acts (with no sexual connotation at all).


There is a possibility that the correct way to read this could be rendered in this way: “Whoever puts away his wife for any reason other than the lack of marital intimacy…” That would mean the only justified reason to end the marriage is that the marriage has ended within the heart. There is no longer any love in the relation. It has died. It is no longer worthy of preservation, and therefore, the death of the heart justifies the death of the relation.


However, the focus is on the woman’s heart. That is, if the woman still retains marital intimacy for the husband, he cannot be justified in putting her away.  He is obligated to retain as his wife the woman who loves him. If he puts away such a wife, then he causes her to commit adultery.


This, then, raises the issue of the meaning of adultery. We tend to view it as a physical act involving sexual union with another. But adultery also holds the connotation of unfaithfulness, as in Israel becoming unfaithful and playing the part of an adulteress, worshiping other gods. (See, e.g., Jeremiah 3: 8.) When forced away by the man she loves, a woman is then “adulterated” by the act of the man. He is accountable for the treachery involved in dissolving the marriage which the woman wanted, and forcing her into the relation with either no one, or with another man. Either one is “adulterating” the marriage which she had with him. He is accountable for that uncharitable, unkind, and unjustified treatment of the woman.


On the other hand, when she has lost affection for him, and the union has become hollow and without love, then the marriage is dead and continuation of the relation is a farce. It is not a marriage. In fact, it is a pretense and an abomination unworthy of preservation. It will not endure. It is not eternal and not possible to preserve beyond the grave.


No union that has not been sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will endure beyond the grave. (See D&C 132: 718, among other places.) The reason for sealing such a marriage by the promise of the Spirit is because it replicates the kind of holy union found in heaven. It is like unto the unions between gods and goddesses. It is worthy of preservation because it is eternal. It is enduring. It is worth preserving into all eternity. It is sealed because the gods recognize on the earth a mirror of what is found in heaven itself. Therefore heaven ratifies and approves the relationship. They do not create such relations in heaven, but instead recognize them here, and approve them for eternal duration. Without such a relationship, the parties are worthy of continuation as angels, but not as spouses, as Christ would put it elsewhere. (Matt. 22: 30; see also D&C 132: 17.)


It is true enough that the restored Gospel allows everyone the opportunity to come to the Temple and receive ordinances which hold the promise of an eternal union. But those are relationships where the parties are on probation. They are given as an opportunity to work out your salvation before God. They are given so that if you are true and faithful, the time may come when you are called up and chosen by the Holy Spirit of Promise to be kings and queens, priests and priestesses, whereas now you are only given opportunity to prove yourself worthy to become such.


There are many unhappy Latter-day Saint marriages which exist in name only.  The notorious high record use of anti-depressants by women in Utah is driven in large part by unhappy marriages they believe ought to be preserved because of a misunderstanding of these verses. Yet the underlying reality that the union causes suffering rather than rejoicing cannot be escaped. So they alter their natural reaction to the unhappy union by altering the brain with chemicals. Such a marriage cannot endure into eternity. Though the woman may sacrifice herself to preserve her heart’s desire to be a faithful, married mother, her unworthy marriage is not what will endure. It cannot be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, though she may be otherwise qualified.


Now, to be clear, I do not advocate divorce, particularly where minor children are involved. But I do advocate a higher view of the marital union where the prevailing reason for the union is love. This should be the whole preparation for marriage. Before contracting the union, the parties should look for that spouse with whom they can find heaven on earth. Unhappy marriages might all be saved if the parties would repent. The higher ideal is not impossible for any union to seek and find. That is the right of every party here, if they will but seek after it. If however, after every effort has been made to both find, and cultivate such a union, it proves to be an impossibility, then the parties ought to use the precious time allotted to them in mortality to find a union which will be worthy of continuation. Not at the expense of their children, who are entitled to have both parents raise them. The Holy Spirit of Promise was intended to be shed upon many marriages, rather than a comparative few.  Happiness was the design of our creation. When we avoid it by our misconduct and foolishness, we do not please heaven. Nor does gritting our teeth, putting up with miserable relationships, and enduring an unholy union please heaven or merit some eternal reward.


These words of Christ are speaking of a higher way to conduct our lives. To read into them exclusively outward behavior, when the whole import of the sermon addresses the inner-man, is out of context. I think we hardly understand the Lord’s meaning. But, then again, perhaps it is best if we do not understand His full meaning until we are ready to see for ourselves what great things the Lord has in store for those who love Him. (D&C 76: 114-117.) Perhaps it is best that man is not capable of making them known.


Now, as to the woman, there is another standard. He does not articulate it here, but can be found throughout scripture. A woman’s love of and fidelity to her husband is more often than not a product of her nature. It takes quite a fool to turn a wife’s natural affection for him into distrust and bitterness. But there are churlish men, as we know from scripture. Sometimes they marry an Abigail. (See 1 Sam. 25: 3.)