Monday, February 3, 2014

Marriage in Guide to the Scriptures

What do Mormons believe about marriage?

I think it is interesting to see some of the bulleted points from what the LDS church’s Guide to the Scriptures says about the topic of marriage.  
These are principles from the scriptures about marriage that are fundamental to our beliefs. (Commentary is mine.)

Marriage is “a lawful covenant or contract between a man and a woman that makes them husband and wife.”

* It is not good that man should be alone, Gen. 2:18 (Moses 3:18).
* God ordained marriage (D&C 49:15).
* Marriage is honorable. (Heb. 13:4)
* God created Adam and Eve to be man and wife.  (Moses 3:7, 18, 21–25)
* A man shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Abr. 5:18)
* The Lord commanded Lehi’s sons to marry the daughters of Ishmael. (1 Ne. 7:1, 5; 16:7–8).
* What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9)
* In the latter days some shall depart from the faith, forbidding to marry  (1 Tim. 4:1–3)

Mormons believe that marriage between a man and a woman is a very good thing, no matter the authority that performs it.    But we also believe that the best thing is to be married in the “new and everlasting covenant” for time and all eternity, which occurs in our temples by priesthood authority.  The requirements are stricter, but the blessings are greater, and this is the goal that Mormons strive for.  It is also a blessing that Mormons desire for non-Mormons… hence another reason for our efforts to convert. 

New and everlasting covenant of marriage

Marriage performed under the law of the gospel and the holy priesthood is for mortal life and for eternity. Worthy men and women thus sealed in the temple in marriage may continue as husband and wife throughout eternity.

* Jesus taught the law of marriage.  (Luke 20:27–36)
* Neither is the man without the woman in the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:11)
* To obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, a man must enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. (D&C 131:1–4)
* Whatsoever you shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven. (Hel. 10:7; Matt. 16:19)
* If a man marry a wife not by me, their covenant and marriage is not of force when they are dead. (D&C 132:15)
* If a man marry a wife by my word and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, it shall be of full force when they are out of the world. (D&C 132:19)
* Husband and wife are heirs together of the grace of life. (1 Pet. 3:7)

Interfaith marriage

Interfaith marriage is between a man and a woman of different religious beliefs and practices.

Mormons have mixed feelings about marriage between a Mormon and a non-Mormon.  On one hand, they are happy for the marriage because marriage is a good thing, but they are sad because the marriage was not a covenant marriage performed in the temple for eternity.

The concern that Mormons have that their children marry “in the covenant” mirrors the concern that is found among the patriarchs of the Old Testament and also in Book of Mormon scripture.

* You shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites. (Gen. 24:3)
* If a man marry a wife not by me, their covenant and marriage is not of force when they are dead. (D&C 132:15)
* If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, what good shall my life do me?, (Gen. 27:46; 28:1–2).
* Israel shall not marry the Canaanites. (Deut. 7:3–4)
* We would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons. (Neh. 10:30)
* Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Cor. 6:14)
* The Lord set a mark on the Lamanites so that the Nephites might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions. (Alma 3:6–10)

* The sons of men took them wives even as they chose. (Moses 8:13–15)
* Israel intermarried with the Canaanites, worshiped false gods, and was cursed, (Judg. 3:1–8)
* Solomon’s wives turned his heart to the worship of false gods. (1 Kgs. 11:1–6)

Some of these principles may seem pretty strict, but this is only because the world has trivialized marriage so much.  (Think “drive-in wedding chapels in Las Vegas” and “no-fault divorces” as examples.)  Marriage by covenant for time and eternity implies that choice of a partner requires much more care and good judgment than is presented in mass media culture, which focuses on good looks and attraction.

Let’s examine the implications of some of the principles that might seem strict, as in the following:

What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. If a couple God has joined together is not supposed to be separated, then this means the choice of a spouse is a very VERY important decision and one has to be willing to stick with the spouse and work at the marriage.  It means that one has to develop oneself as a desirable mate before marriage and work on correcting their faults during marriage as well.   Obviously this is the ideal, and much suffering comes if one or both spouses don’t give their best efforts for the happiness of the other.

If a man marry a wife not by me, their covenant and marriage is not of force when they are dead.  If a couple want to be together for eternity, this principle makes it very important for them to be joined together by the Lord through divinely authorized  priesthood, and not just anyone. 

Mormons were not the ones who set the requirements for an eternal marriage.  Eternity is God’s dominion, and He sets the terms for marriages that endure beyond death, and He communicated those terms to ancient and modern prophets.  He also gave to Joseph Smith the authority to perform eternally binding marriages.  This authority has been delegated to other righteous men in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is still on the earth today.  It is for us to learn about it, exercise faith, and act in obedience to the principle.  Further, it is the privilege of a couple being married in the temple to know by the Holy Ghost that their marriage is divinely sanctioned. 

Again, any who are anxious to have these blessings are invited to learn about the church and convert.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  This may seem strict because in the liberal view of the world, all you need is love and if two people love each other, then nothing else matters.  But let’s be real here.  A believer in Christ is going to consider certain things important to do and become that an unbeliever is not going to care so much about.  An active member of the LDS church has meetings to go to and service to render that non-member doesn’t.  In an LDS temple marriage, spouses sacrifice for each other so that each one can fulfill their duties and attend their meetings.  An active member of the church has certain expectations about how they will raise their children and teach them and encourage participation in church.  If one spouse doesn’t believe in the importance of those principles, the burden will fall heavily on the believing spouse.  A burden falling too much on one partner is what Paul means by “unequally yoked.”  When a couple is unequally yoked, it means the burden of living the principles of the gospel is only on one person in the partnership when it is much better carried (and is designed to be carried) by both.

The Lord set a mark on the Lamanites so that the Nephites might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions.  This concept of marking is historically controversial because it has racial overtones, but if we forget the race issue, the principle has a certain practical application in selection of a spouse.   To those who consider marriage in the covenant necessary to receiving exaltation, wise choice of a marriage partner becomes extremely important.  When one is trying to find a spouse to whom one can be united and stay married and be equally yoked with, one must look for signs and markers of one sort or another that indicate fitness or unfitness of a person for that type of marriage.  One must also develop oneself so that potential partners will be able to recognize one as a potential mate.  

Ultimately, the principle that drives Mormons to marry in the covenant (in the temple) is the promise that only by doing so can they gain exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.  If you want to learn about the blessings that Mormons believe are implied in the promise of exaltation, you can read here and the promise of eternal life here.

It is also the reason Mormons are very concerned about upholding traditions privileging man-woman marriage in society.  We recognize that it is easier for people to achieve an eternal marriage when they live in a society that values and upholds traditional marriage. 
I remember when I was married in the Chicago temple.  Before it, I felt separate from the man I was going to marry.  I felt like an individual.  After I was married, I noticed that I felt married, connected to this man I loved.  Eternal marriage is real


Curls said...

Wow-that's a lot of great scriptures and thoughts!

In addition, I think it's important to recognize WHY God cares so much about these marriages. One reason He cares so much is because children deserve to have the best set of circumstances possible-and every child born is a child of God.

Michaela Stephens said...

Very true, Curls. How many people choose a marriage partner specifically for how they will be with children?