41 But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
42 For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
43 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:41-43)
This statement about how things were in the days of Noah has always puzzled me. Why are eating and drinking and marrying used as statements to encapsulate the wickedness during the days of Noah? What is so bad about eating and drinking and marrying? On the surface, there isn’t anything wrong.
When I was thinking about this scripture, I thought it was odd that eating and drinking (something that is done a least three times a day in prosperous, plentiful times) is paired with marrying and giving in marriage (something that ideally is only done once in a lifetime). It realized that pairing those activities together was implying something about their frequency.
Eating and drinking happens often because we need food and water. But if marrying happens just as often, that really says something about appetites and passions—they are practically unbridled. It is as though people are marrying and divorcing almost as often as they are feeding themselves. It means marriage has lost its sacredness and is used as a hypocritical cloak for casual sex. It says something about how unstable families and society will be.
Now, I don't know if that will literally be true or whether it is a hyperbolic statement meant to emphasize hyper-disloyalty and moral decadance. However, it seems to me that these verses warn us that unbridled gratification of appetites and passions shrinks spiritual awareness to nothing, since these behaviors made people completely blind and deaf to the warnings of the flood in Noah’s day. It will similarly prevent awareness and responsiveness to the signs of Christ’s coming as well.
I ran across a quote by M. Russell Ballard about the influence of the entertainment industry which is related to this: “I believe human sexuality cannot be continually portrayed as just another physical appetite that has to be satisfied—whenever and with whomever the urge strikes—without diminishing respect for God and His commandments.” (“When Shall These Things Be?” Ensign Dec 1996.)
So, while everyone else seems to surrender to their appetites and passions, we must not. We must keep marriage sacred.