Monday, September 2, 2013

Monogamy as God's Standard for Marriage

The new statement heading Official Declaration 1 begins with this sentence, “The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7-8 and Jacob 2:27,30).”

To me this seems like a pretty bold statement.  It is declarative in the same style as the Proclamation on the Family.  I’m glad for it.  And something tells me this little statement will turn out to be a rallying cry for the future, so keep your eye on it.

“Monogamy as God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise” has been taught for years in Sunday school.  This should not be new to us.  But there seem to be a few people who think this is new.  (?!)

I became curious about the scriptures cited, particularly 2 Samuel 12:7-8.  So I looked it up and this is what I found:
¶And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
I read it and I was like, “What-huh?  How does that say that monogamy is God’s standard unless otherwise?”  Its context is that of the prophet Nathan chastising David for adultery with Bathsheba, but it says nothing directly about monogamy.   It took me some thought before I realized that this is a case where the principle is implied, rather than stated.  “I gave thee…thy master’s wives into thy bosom” is meant to highlight the implicit principle that polygamous wives are given to a man by God, not taken by a man, and another implicit principle follows from that--before a man can have many wives he must have one.   Granted, this is a very indirect way of stating it.  Jacob 2:27, 30 is a much clearer statement: 
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;….
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
Both this scriptures have one thing in common—they have prophets teaching someone else about marriage.  I think that’s important.

There are people who are troubled by the polygamy in the church’s past.  I am not one of these people, but I feel compassion for them.  Some might prefer to see plural marriage as a mistake.  I don’t see it that way myself.  Even though we no longer practice plural marriage today, D&C 132 introducing plural marriage is still in the scriptures.  I think the Lord had a plan in mind and that the revelation and principles and even the experiences the early Saints went through may be the means of allowing future generations of Saints to discern and escape future counterfeits.  Consider how knowing the principles of consecration has helped us withstand communism.  It is likely that that D&C 132 will help us resist a tempting form of plural marriage, such as that which Isaiah tells of in Isaiah 4:1:
And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying,
We will eat our own bread,
and wear our own apparel:
only let us be called by thy name,
to take away our reproach.
Our knowledge of plural marriage as revealed by God should help us spot what’s wrong with this picture.
--Women instituting it, rather than church leaders.
--Women promising to provide for themselves, rather than allowing men to fulfill their role as providers.
--Women entering this kind of relationship just because they just want to be married so their reproach can be taken away (scripture code for “their biological clock is ticking, making them very interested in having kids”).
(Evidently the men are okay with this because it means they can have more sex with less responsibility.)

Is it just me or is our society getting closer to this scenario?  Teen mothers with kids.  Men not wanting to take responsibility for a family.  Older single professional women getting pregnant to have a kid.  And oddly enough, the above verse seems to indicate a time when people are more interested in being in this kind of plural marriage than being outside marriage.  Well, we’re not there yet.  Thank heaven.

All these years I’ve read that above verse of Isaiah thinking it was talking about plural marriage coming back, and just recently have I realized that it’s actually representative of the wrong kind!

But to get back to that first sentence of the heading for Official Declaration #1..  I do not for one minute think that it is just a coincidence those scriptures are referenced.  I have no doubt that all scriptures even remotely mentioning marriage (monogamous and polygamous) were collected and analyzed very closely by the Brethren.  (I’m half inclined to do a similar study myself, just to see what I can find.)  I have faith that these additions are for our good. 

Of course, I’m also just one little member of the church who does some crazy speculation and tends to read very deeply into things, so it is also entirely possible that events will play out differently than what I think.  I’m willing to consider I may be off, even way off.  But you can bet I’ll be watching.


Jason Allred said...

Could the scripture in Isaiah also refer to single women using sperm donors to have children without entering a committed relationship with a man?

Devon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michaela Stephens said...

Could be, could be.

Becky Rose said...

I looked at the 7 women scripture as taking hold of the Lords name and supporting herself. I guess that's singleness on earth life.

I personally am pro- polygamy. I'd be a wife and a mother if that were the case. I also did a marriage study years ago and there was more positive about plural marriage than there ever was negative.

I'm sure the scriptures were chosen carefully and I sure hope there is a change coming.

Brenda said...

I've never understood why people see this part of Isaiah as:
"symbolism, symbolism, oh look! 7 women-- woohoo it's got to be literal, ...more symbolism".

Just as a suggestion of other ways to see it, this is a cut & paste of my study notes:

My examination of the Hebrew of this verse makes me confident in translating “one man” as “a certain man.” The verse thus teaches that in the latter day seven women (symbolic number of completeness, denotes the covenant people) shall take hold of a certain man (guess who that would be?) and ask him “let us be called by thy name,” which will take away their reproach (effects of atonement). In my view this verse is Messianic and has nothing whatsoever to do with polygamy.

PROPHECY - Isaiah 4:1
"And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, "We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel Only let us be called by thy name To take away our reproach."

The day (future to Isaiah's prophecy c. 740 B.C.) will come when all the women (church, bride to be of Christ) will take hold (seize, gain possession, win, captivate charm, conduct, adopt, interpret, to operate) of one man (Jesus Christ) saying, "We will eat our own bread (own Manna, own words of life, own doctrine) and wear our own apparel (own garments of salvation or robe of righteousness); only let us be called by thy name (Jesus, Christian) to take away our reproach (shame, scorn, disgrace).

The prophesy foretells the time when all the churches will call themselves Christians in name only because they will preach their own doctrines and explain their own interpretation of righteousness ignoring the commandments of God. They believe that in calling themselves Christians will take away their shame.


A sacred number among the Jews, also indicating perfection or completion. It was used very often in a symbolic manner for the whole of a thing.

The number seven entered very largely into the religious life and observances of the Jews.

Seven spirits (Rev.1:4); Seven times wash in Jordan (2 Kings 5:10,14);

Seven stars (Rev. 1:16; 2:1; 3:1); Seven years (Gen. 29:18);

Seven years of famine (2 Sam. 24:13).

Seven women would signify a complete number of churches.

Woman - Church

The Lamb's wife signifies the Church of Jesus Christ.

Lamb's wife (Rev. 21:9); Jerusalem as bride for the Lamb (Rev. 21:2)

Worship at Jerusalem (John 4:21); Word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2).

The women mentioned in this verse would mean all the Christian Churches. The seven churches mentioned by John in Revelation 1 and 2

Man - Jesus, Son of Man

Bread - Words of God

Jesus ... the bread of life (John 6:32)

Words of God

Apparel - White Raiment, heavenly Garment

Garments of salvation (Isa. 61:10; Ps. 132:16)

Robe of Righteousness (Job 29:14)

White raiment (Re. 3:5) He that overcometh, ... clothed in white raiment.

Four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment (Re. 4:4)

Clothed with white robes (Re.7:9) Instead of preaching righteousness they are not clothed in garments of salvation.

Michaela Stephens said...

Becky Rose and Brenda, thanks for chiming in with your perspective. I love to see how different people derive meaning from the scriptures.