Comments on “Marriage”

In response to the Recorder’s Clearinghouse article on Marriage, these are some of my thoughts:

First, a conference can be called by anyone at any time and include any group that gathers. There has not yet been a “general conference” where everyone has been invited, but that will probably happen at some point. In the meantime, there have been conferences and there will probably be more.

The article deals with two subjects: Marriage and sealing. They are two different topics.

On marriage, the transcript of the civil marriage ceremony in the 1835 D&C was not written by Joseph Smith. It was authored by Oliver Cowdery based on what he had witnessed Joseph doing when marriages were performed. It is as close an historical account of the ceremony Joseph performed during that era as we have. Between 1835 and the time Joseph died, it was the ceremony performed throughout the church. It is as appropriate as any other civil ceremony, and has the advantage of being nominally connected with Joseph Smith.

The article is not a commandment, but a suggestion. People are free to accept or ignore it. No one claims the right to issue a commandment on this subject for others to follow. It is the humble attempt of a group of people who are directly confronting this in their families to address the issue. Then that group of people provided their explanation for the possible benefit of others.

Some clarifications have been suggested by others who were in attendance, and Keith Henderson will post additions and updates based on those suggestions in the next day or two. One clarification will be to make a sharper distinction between marriage and sealing.

On sealing, I personally doubt the language used in LDS Temples has been preserved intact from Joseph until today. But it is as close as we have for the present, and has been handed down from earnest people through four generations. It makes sense to use the language and ask God to accept and preserve the marriages sealed using this ceremony.

Words chosen carefully should be read carefully. For example, the statement that “we know of no man on earth today claiming at this time the right to seal by virtue of the rites and ordinances he has received from on High” means just that and nothing more. That is a claim made by the LDS Church. There is no reason to concern ourselves about what will happen in due course in the future. Until there is a command to proceed with an errand assigned by God, nothing can be done with His approval. There is a lot of work left to do before the House of God returns.

Marriage

Last Saturday a group gathered to participate in a conference to discuss the upcoming marriages taking place between their children. Several were in attendance. I was there, along with Keith Henderson and other men and women whose children are preparing for marriage. Keith Henderson wrote up a description of the outcome, and a few of us helped edit and synthesize it into an article you can now find on the Recorder’s Clearinghouse website. The article is titled Marriage and could be of interest to anyone whose family includes someone contemplating getting married.

More on Yesterday’s Post (§132)

It is apparent many people care more about the topic of plural marriage than do I. To stem the flood of emails I am now receiving, let me add these general points:

Context always matters. Who is addressed always controls the content of the message. If an answer is given to a question, then the question controls the Lord’s discussion.

The Book of Mormon sermon of Jacob (Jacob 2:23-33) was to a small branch of Israelites who had departed from Jerusalem. His audience was the common man, and his sermon addressed the morality and virtue expected by God for His people.

The discussion in §132:34-40 is framed by the question Joseph asked. Joseph’s question is restated by the Lord in verse 1. Joseph was perplexed about specific ancient personalities. These were Bible “heroes” or prophets. Bible history indicates they were chosen by God. These men were apparently involved with plural marriages (at least in Joseph’s understanding of the Bible at that time). Joseph wanted to know how the list of men were “justified” before God.

Unlike Jacob’s sermon, the answer to the question Joseph raised was not about morality. [But the Lord does address morality in the first 32 verses, where marriage is between “a man” and “a woman.”] Joseph’s question about  “justification” involved only a legal issue.

In the specific case of David and Solomon (which Jacob condemned in his sermon) the Lord does not describe their conduct as moral or virtuous. He explains how the ancient kings were “justified” in receiving “many wives and concubines” under the ancient system and therefore did not “sin.” Their marriages were political. They were legal. It was part of the ancient system of binding a kingdom to their king, settling disputes, acquiring fealty from influential families, and forming alliances between neighboring kingdoms. It was a political reality, and “justified” in the circumstances. Although not moral, the arrangements were not condemned as “sin” in the answer given to Joseph.

David and Solomon were not moral examples of how the common man should live their lives, organize their families, or establish their marriages. These kings fit the warning Samuel gave about the negatives associated with kingship. Political rule by a king always results in taxes, wars, conscription of young men to fight for the king, and servitude of young women to serve the king. God told Samuel a king would afflict Israel. Samuel repeated what the Lord foretold concerning the abuses kings inflict on their kingdoms  (1 Sam. 8:10-18). It was spot-on.

I have no interest in answering endless questions about this subject. I am working on other important things. The best way to proceed with questions is to study. Study, pray and reflect. Converse with the Lord. Questions should drive you to the Lord. He will answer. Sometimes you must do your homework to arrive at the answer, but He will guide you if you allow Him.

If you believe there is a contradiction, then focus on finding the answer. It is through contradictions that the hidden mysteries of God are found. There are times when the Lord WANTS a matter to appear as a contradiction and deliberately makes it appear that way. He does that to make us think, study, pray and grow. Or, in His language, to “ask, seek and knock.”

Fidelity in Marriage

Fidelity to your spouse is foundational to righteousness. Immorality is disruptive of marriage, destructive of families, and has no place in a City of Peace.

Group sex, immoral relationships and free intercourse is offensive to God, a violation of the Ten Commandments, and the means of spreading disease.  God does not justify carnal relations except between one man and his one wife. They two are the image of God. Anything else degrades and corrupts. Participants in immoral behavior become laden with sin.

Those foolish enough to be misled by this darkness deserve to be taken captive and destroyed, as will certainly come to pass.

Role of Women, Part 2

The unity of man and woman is required for either of them to be saved in the truest meaning of “saved” (meaning exalted):
Paul wrote: “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11: 11.) But what does that mean?

Through Joseph comes this response: “Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.” (D&C 132: 15-17.) But, even with this, how does this qualify?

-Is “sealing” enough?
-What if the couple are unworthy of being preserved because, among other things, they are not happy together?
-Why keep together what is more punishment than reward?
-If this union is required for either to be exalted, then does it matter who is sealed to who, with what language?

The unity of man and woman does not come by one dominating the other, as some view the inevitable result of patriarchy. The relationship is not worth preserving if it lacks joyful association. No relationship is unified if one party dominates the other. Godly unity comes by the man conforming to the image of God, and the woman likewise conforming to the image of God, so both reflect His image. Christ put it into these words: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17: 19-23.) What is this “glory” which the Lord has given to His disciples and which He offers us? How can we become “glorified” like the Father and the Son?
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93: 36.) 
Rather than envying the authority of patriarchy or the claims to priesthood, we should all envy/seek God’s glory. Why seek after something that does not exist? Why not seek after what is enduring?
Suppose you do become one with God? Suppose you do take in His glory, or light and truth, and become filled with light? And suppose further that your husband does not. What then?
-What is your responsibility?
-How can you return to God without seeking to reclaim and redeem your husband?
-Remember the counsel of Hyrum Smith when he wrote as the prophet to the church? He said:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceedings we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in hast nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes. Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world.
And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceived him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever; and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband. The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.
And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i.e., the believer) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

These things we have written in plainness and we desire that they should be publicly known,

(See also 1 Cor. 7: 13-14.)

The marriage of man and woman puts into the closest and most intimate contact two very different people. In their union it is possible to create offspring. It is this basic relationship where the two most important things are accomplished:
1. The work of bringing new life into the world, and
2. The work of overcoming the world and becoming “one.”
Yet fools seek to overcome the world while leaving their spouse uninvolved. Or, in other words, they seek to avoid the very test that is required and which is given to us all to help us to overcome the world. Remember there is neither the man nor the woman without the other in the Lord.

Assuming this is the requirement, then does the wording of church rites matter? Does language sealing the woman to the man change this need of unity?

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.)

3 Nephi 11: 39

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”
This is the reason for this doctrine. It will allow those who accept and follow it to endure against all enemies. It will allow them to prevail.
Even the “gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” Meaning that death and hell can have no claim upon them. They will not be taken captive either in this world (Alma 12: 11) or when they leave this world (Alma 40: 13.)

When we consider the Father is to bear record of the Son, and the Son bears record of the Father, and the Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and Son, then we realize this doctrine of Christ is designed to put us in contact with all three members of the Godhead. We are to join them. We are to be one with them.

There is no separating us from God when we have the record of each given to us.

It is interesting that the “rock” upon which we build is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There is abundant evidence of other “gods” and of “goddesses.” It is beyond dispute that the “image of God” includes both “male and female.” (Gen. 1: 27; Moses 2: 27; Abraham 4: 27.) It is inescapable, therefore, that the God we worship includes a Father and a Mother. However, we are only to seek after the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as the “rock” upon which our salvation is to be built.

Oddly enough, mankind prefers a female deity over a male deity.  Catholicism has reconciled this preference by the doctrine of Immaculate Conception and the cultic veneration of Mary. Pope John Paul II was an ardent believer in the Cult of Mary and made no secret of that veneration. It is almost beyond dispute that Mary’s status is preferred over Christ’s in the lives of the common Catholic.

In the Old Testament, the goddess Ashtoreth, (in her various iterations) was a leading figure in apostasies of ancient Israel. She was the female consort to Baal (who also had various spellings). The Egyptian counterpart being Hathor, whose image appears in figure 5 of Facsimile No. 2 in the Book of Abraham. The representation there being Egyptian, that is, emerging through the great cycle of life, afterlife and resurrection coming through the womb. An understanding of which Hugh Nibley was setting forth in One Eternal Round. This work was reduced in volume by half before publication. This resulted in problems with the published text. That, however, is another subject not relevant here.

Notwithstanding man’s preference for the female god, for salvation we must anchor ourselves to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They are the “rock” upon which we must build to avoid the gates of hell, despite our knowledge of heaven, salvation and the necessary unity of the sexes before salvation is obtained. (1 Cor. 11: 11.) It is through the union of the sexes that mortals imitate immortality, for all of us will die. Yet if joined together we will continue through the seed forever, as the gods.  (D&C 132: 20-22.)

There is also the continuing trouble about polygamy which so often afflicted the discussions on this blog before comments were discontinued. Those who preach on the subject often speak out of the coarseness of ambition and insecurity (for those always go together), and without understanding how a marriage must work to warrant preservation beyond this life.

Ask yourself what kind of a relationship would be godlike? What association between a man and a woman would be something the heavens would want to preserve and continue? Is an ambitious man who looks upon a woman as someone to rule over worthy of heavenly preservation? Is such a man worthy of one wife, let alone several?

Wouldn’t you expect the relationship between a man and woman worthy of eternal preservation to evidence such things as equality, respect, kindness, joyful and voluntary interchange of thoughts, and to be grounded in love? Wouldn’t you expect such a marriage to be part of heaven, though the parties live as mortals on the earth? Why would you expect a form of marriage, having as its chief output, unhappy but frequently pregnant women, having an absentee husband to be godlike?

Have you read the tenth parable? If you have and still think you need a “brood” of women to become godlike, then you haven’t understood the tenth parable.

Foolishness never was enlightenment. Ambition is unbecoming in a candidate for exaltation. We will keep going into Christ’s sermons to the Nephites and, as we do, you will find He emphasizes how to become like Him through service and abasing yourself. By sacrifice and devotion to the best interests of others. Not by compulsion, dominion and ruling over others. 

If you want to prevail against the gates of hell, then Christ’s simple doctrines need to become yours. They need to be how you live and what you do. They are the only rock upon which you can build and have something which will endure the buffetings of hell itself.

If a man hasn’t made a single woman happy, why would he be trusted to have more wives? Why would he want them? What does such a man think the purpose of marriage to be? Gratification? Industrial baby-production? What’s the reason? If happiness is the end of our design by God, then wouldn’t you need to find someone who can live in peace and happiness with another person as their husband as the first step? If that is true, then why isn’t that challenge enough in a marriage between one man and one woman? Until that has been conquered, why should misery be multiplied by adding additional spouses into a failed interpersonal relationship?

Too many people are advocating too many alternatives which distract from the simplicity of what is really needed. There aren’t enough marriages worthy of preservation. Make yours one of them. That is a very good work and challenge enough for all of us at present. 

Onward, then…

Abraham and Sarah

I have been thinking a lot lately about Abraham and Sarah and their relationship. Their story is one of the greatest in history.
Little details in the story are touching.  The “ten years” that Sarah waited (Gen. 16: 3) before urging Abraham to father a child with Hagar is based upon a custom at the time.  Abraham’s willingness to follow the custom was because the Lord promised him children, Sarah could not conceive and Sarah urged him to do so. In fact, of the three, Sarah’s urging was what seems to persuade Abraham.  Her urging is tempered by making it seem she is looking out for her own interests: “it may be that I (Sarah) may obtain children by her.”  (Gen. 16: 2.)  This softens the request, makes it a blessing for Sarah, and casts it in terms which do not belittle or dismiss Sarah.  Then, as the account reads: “Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.”  (Gen. 16: 2.)
Abraham was willing to wait on the Lord’s promises of children. He was willing to forego the customs that allowed a man to take another wife.  It was Sarah’s gentle persuasion that convinced Abraham to take Hagar. Sarah was loved by Abraham with his whole heart.  It was this great marriage relationship that allowed the Lord to preserve them as the parents of “all righteous.”  A new Adam for the Lord’s covenant people.  And, of course, there cannot be an Adam without an Eve.  Sarah becomes the “Mother of All Righteous.”
This is more critical than most people recognize.  It was because of this important relationship that the tenth parable in Ten Parables begins with the marriage relationship.  Without this, there was no reason to save the man.
Marriage is separate from its two parties. It has a life of its own.  The husband and the wife may be parties to the marriage, but the marriage itself is a separate and living thing.  It is distinct from the two partners in the relationship, and greater than either of them.  It lives.  It is real.
The only people whose right to eternal life has been secured, to my knowledge, came as a result of the marriage relationship and its worthiness to be preserved into eternity.  Neither is the man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.  Therefore, if you are interested in eternal life, the very first place to begin is inside your marriage.