The Wedding of Jesus

I was wondering how Mormons view Jesus’ status as a bachelor. In Orthodox Christianity singleness and lifelong celibacy are view as acceptable and at times even preferable for followers of Jesus. The value for singleness, devoted to lifelong service of God, is in part centered on the example of Jesus himself.

This lifestyle choice is held in tension in Mormonism. A temple wedding is the penultimate ordinance to qualify for Exaltation. It seems to be THE most exciting and highest honor in temple worship. From an outsider’s perspective it seems the Mormon experience is lacking without a sealing to an eternal spouse.

In light of this, how do Mormons reflect on Jesus’ life without a wife? What kind of justifications are offered for this disconnect? Is it a fact of His life that needs no explanation?

Truly, Honestly. I tell you, this is not just a cheap plug for the post that has become known as “The One True Post.” But I also recognize that I can’t bring up the subject of Jesus and Marriage without referencing it. So consider my obligation to silliness fulfilled.

What’s Next in 2010

Time Magazine has an interesting article on the lasting effects of the LDS church’s involvment in Propostion 8 and what they will do in 2010 when the ammendment is attempted to be repealed.

Read it here

And since we’re talking about same sex marriage again;  I felt vindicated by this Moth Podcast about the awkward experience of seeing two gay twins making out with each other at a wedding.

What Jesus Thinks About Polygamy

Exodus 21:10-11

If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights.  If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,  then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

With these scriptures in mind, the Pharisees came to Jesus to get his take on what constitued what “displeasing” meant.  Some thought it only applied to sexual immorality others thought that wrinkles and burnt food counted.  The Pharisees liked the latter definition over the former.  To them Jesus said:

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

There are a number of things set up in the Mosaic law that we would not want to live with and acting on them is not what we would call righteous.  The rest of Exodus 21 talks all about selling off your daughter and how to treat slaves.

As you may noticed the Pharisees tried to say that divorce was commanded by Moses and Jesus corrects them.  It was permitted because their hearts were hard. As polygamy and slavery are mentioned right there alongside divorce in Exodus 21, I don’t think we have to take a huge jump to conclude that they were also permitted because the Israelites hearts were hard  (Further backed up by Paul calling elders to be the husband of but one wife). The rules governing them were provisions for remaining lawfully in the nation of Israel.  They were not commandments for righteous living.

Modern day polygamist often claim that living out polygamy is an act of righteousness.  I think Jesus quite clearly tells us that it is an act of hard-heartedness.

When God commanded Joseph Smith to resume polygamy was it because he was calling him to righteousness or hard-heartedness? Will we have hard hearts in the afterlife?

Save Marriage Now

This sermon has everything you need to know about saving marriage in our contemporary culture.  It also has nothing to say about the debate on same-sex marriage.

It is quite simply a very powerful message about Jesus’ own thoughts on marriage.  It even addresses what Jesus thought of polygamy.  A topic I didn’t even know he specifically spoke about.

Take the time to listen to this sermon.  It will strengthen your marriage and improve our society.

Direct link here.

Eternal Polygamy & You

In regards to my interfaith marriage, I decided a long time ago that when I die, my husband and/or his family can go ahead and have me sealed to him posthumously. They know that I disapprove of work for the dead but they still want to do it. I don’t believe in it anyway, so I figure there’s little point in trying to insist that they not do it after I’m gone.

My husband has indicated that he’s not a big fan of the notion of having more than one wife in the next life and has been adamant that he would never, ever get sealed to a woman who isn’t me. The other day I gave him this scenario: “I die tomorrow, making you a 27 year-old single father with a 2 year-old daughter. You have my work done and have me sealed to you within the next year. Then you fall in love with a young LDS woman who’s never been married. You’re great together, she’s a good stepmother to your daughter, and she’s okay with being eternal wife #2. What would you do?” He groaned and admitted that in that scenario, he’d probably get sealed—but he really doesn’t want there to be a second eternal wife.

I gave him another scenario. He dies young. I eventually re-marry another LDS guy (we all know I have a thing)1 and spend the rest of my life with LDS husband #2. He dies, then before I die my LDS relatives want to know which husband to seal me to. I have the option of being sealed to both.

Again, my husband groaned and stated that he really didn’t want to have to share me with anyone. Fair enough; I don’t fault him for feeling that way.

So, the question is: eternal polygamy (both polygyny and polyandry). How do you feel about it? Can you see yourself having other wives or husbands in the next life? Can you see your spouse having other wives or husbands? What would you do if your current spouse died and you had the option of being sealed to a second person? If you’re a woman, you can either pretend that the church’s current policy allows you to be sealed to multiple people while alive, or you can speculate on which spouse you’d eternally jettison under the current standards. If you’re not LDS, pretend. Continue reading

Hi from Kolob! Why E.T. might be a Mormon (probably not an Evangelical)

According to some estimates, there are billions of inhabitated planets in the universe, and maybe even tens of billions of “earth-like planets”  in our galaxy alone.

Mormon scriptures are in accord.  We believe that there are unumerable  inhabited planets created by God. In Moses 1:33-39: God tells Moses:

33 And aworlds without number have I bcreated; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the cSon I dcreated them, which is mine eOnly Begotten.

34 And the afirst man of all men have I called bAdam, which is cmany.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I aknow them.

. . .

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no aend to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my awork and my bglory—to bring to pass the cimmortality and deternal elife of man.

For me these are some of the most intriguing and powerful descriptions of God.  They are at the heart of Mormon ideas of the purpose of life and the relationship between man, God and creation.

When you consider that there are over 100 billion galaxies and tens of billions of earth-like planets in each of those galaxies you are really talking about an unimaginably large number of worlds like ours.

Later in the Pearl of Great price, Abraham sees a vision of the greatest of these worlds: Abraham 3:2-3

2 And I saw the astars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

Evangelicals and others are quick to laugh at references to a planet Kolob. In a recent blog conversation I had with a few Evangelicals and I was told that the Mormon belief in the planet Kolob was simply unbelievable.

I really have no idea what Evangelicals think about extra-terrestrial life aside from these sorts of comments,  but given the scientific evidence of other worlds, the evidence for extra-terrestrial life is far stronger than the evidence for a worldwide flood or any number of biblical accounts.

I do think, however, that christian thought is generally earth-centric.  If no one is saved without knowing about Jesus while alive, it looks like the infinitely vast majority of God’s creation is just out of luck, or out of touch. If traditional Christianity hasn’t been able to effectively penetrate the Indian subcontinent, how can we expect it to penetrate the depths of the Milky-way?

Mormon thought seems to take into account of the cosmological reality a bit better than what I know of Evangelical thought.  Am I wrong?

P.S. here is in an interesting related discussion from Parchment and Pen, an evangelical theology blog.

Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven

Since Tim is gone, I thought I would back him up by writing a Tim-Style Post.  i.e. throw out a controversial LDS doctrine in sort of a challenging way and then open it up for comments.

Few Mormon doctrines are more radically paradigm-shifting than the believe in the existence of a Heavenly Mother.

What equally interesting to me is what this particular doctrine tells about how Mormonism works.

I think Evangelicals often stand with open-mouth when they read that those crazy Mormon’s believe such things because they are nowhere to be found in the Bible.  Aside from being a radical shift in understanding of God and Man between Protestants and Mormons, the doctrine also shows a fundamental difference in the way Mormons form their personal theology vs. the way Evangelicals seem to go about it.  This is what I want to explore with this post.  To try to explain to bible-focused (limited?) Evangelicals why Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven, even when its not in the bible.  For this I am going to have to call on the usual bunch of commentators.

Few people, if any, know the ultimate origin of the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven.  Joseph Smith does not seem to have spoken directly about it in his life and there is no reference in the LDS Canon.

The first time we see it in writing comes from a woman, Eliza R. Snow, in a hymn, “O My Father”  President Kimball acknowledged that “O My Father” was a “doctrinal hymn” and dozens of prophets and apostles have reiterated this idea.

President Lorenzo Snow explained that Eliza Snow got the doctrine from Joseph shortly before he was murdered.

President Spencer W. Kimball in a general conference address:

“When we sing that doctrinal hymn … ‘O My Father,’ we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less?” (Ensign, May 1978, p. 6.)

The doctrine of the hymn is pretty straightforward, there is a mother in heaven and we will return to live with Her and the Father, and that they together sent people on their mission to earth:

I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Let me come and dwell with you.
With your mutual approbation
All you sent me forth to do,
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

So there we have it, a revolutionary new way of looking at God and heaven that turns traditional notions on their ear.

Mormons believe it, but I can see the Evangelicals left scratching their heads:

  1. The doctrine is not found in scripture, including Mormon Scripture
  2. The doctrine was not explicitly taught or explained by Joseph Smith (even though it is pretty clear that he was claimed that he originally  taught the doctrine)
  3. It really shifts away from all traditional interpretations of the Bible.

I can see how an Evangelical is probably left dumbfounded:  “You can’t win with those Mormons, how can I teach them correct theology whenthey are going to beleive stuff like this with such slim support or understanding?”

Here we have, in my mind, the genius as well as the vulnerability of  Mormonism. . . our willingness to believe in things that are not in the Bible.  To some Mormons, this doctrine is very uncomfortable.  We sometimes downplay it and even reproach those that make “too much” of it due to the little we “know” about it.  To others, agreeing with Eliza R. Snow, it makes religion make more sense: i.e. “If man is made in the image of God, why wouldn’t there be family in heaven as well as on earth. ”

I think if we can give a good explanation to our Evangelical friends  of why we believe this doctrine, they will be a lot closer to really understanding Mormonism.  (and we might have a clearer way of understanding our own view of how “doctrine” is born).

So Mormons, explain to Evangelicals :

1. Do you believe in a Mother in Heaven? and

2. Why?

3. What is the significance of the doctrine to you, to the Church, and to the world?

Evangelicals, we know you don’t believe it, and we know its not in the Bible, if you try to understand why we believe you may learn a lot about Mormonism in general that will enlighten you on how we do religion in other areas.

In Defense of Mormons and Marriage

LDS might be glad to hear that Evangelical commentator and leader, Charles Colson, came to the defense of the LDS church and the status quo of marriage in a recent Breakpoint commentary.  You can listen to what he had to say here

Or read it for yourself here

The offending advertisement was this one

It’s About Sex not Love

I recently posted a response to Runtu’s take on Same-Sex Marriage.  I thought I’d clean it up and post it here. I don’t really seeing anybody making positive secular arguments for the status quo of marriage.

As a caveat, I think same-sex marriage is likely an inevitability in the United States. I think that civil unions for everyone might be an eventual solution to the problem. I also recognize that a good number of my readers are lawyers so I expect to be ripped a new one for one reason or another.  Take it easy on my legal ignorance and take the opportunity to illuminate me on where I might have it wrong.

Marriage is about property rights, but the question is “why do married people need their property rights defined?”. My impression is that government started issuing marriage licenses in an effort stabilize families for the protection of children.  Men and women who cohabitate together with a sexual relationship produce children as a natural by-product.  To ensure that children are given a stable environment in which to thrive marriage licenses were drawn up. This protected the property of one or both parties and meant it would remain with the newly created family if either died.  The financial benefits of marriage were delivered so that cohabitating couples would feel encouraged to join into marriage and give the stabilizing benefits to their children.

IF the benefits of marriage were created to protect children then they need not necessarily be passed on to cohabitating men and women who do not produce children.  But that’s where the equal protection of the law comes in.  All men must be allowed to marry any woman and all women must be allowed to marry any man. This ensures everyone has the same rights because (generally) the natural by product of cohabitation between men and women is children.

IF marriage is just about joining property with someone you choose to join property with (for love, sex, business, coercion, or any other reason), then marriage should not only be extended to same sex couples, but also non-sexual friendships, cousins, siblings, parent-child relationships and perhaps to multiple partners as well.  None of these relationships affect your marriage any more than same-sex marriage do.  If that’s the litmus test we are using than you really should be in favor of no restrictions on marriage whatsoever.  Any restrictions you come up with will ultimately be shown to be arbitrary with no more weight than you think they are “icky”.

The very fact that marriages must be sexually consummated to be valid suggests to me at least that the government thinks it’s about the creation of children and not just property law.

As dissatisfying as the argument comes across gay men have the same rights as straight men; neither are allowed to marry men.  The same goes for straigh and gay women.  I think Victorian romanticism has strongly injected itself into our thoughts on marriage.  Marriage has been around much much longer than our belief that it should be about love.  It’s about sex (that may produce children), not love.

Because Joseph Said It Was True

Leviticus 18:18
Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

In March of 1843 Joseph Smith took two sisters, Emily and Eliza Partridge as polygamous wives. (Actually he married them twice but that’s another story.) In discussing Old Testament polygamy, defenders of latter-day polygamy are quick to point out the provisions and restrictions on polygamy listed in the Bible as justification.

As interesting as polygamy is, this post is not about that.

A problem I think Evangelicals and Mormons encounter in discussing Biblical doctrine is that we’re really not on the same playing field. We have different rules for its application. We Evangelicals want to show why Mormonism is false by illustrating through the Bible why Mormon doctrine is in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. The slipperiness or non-existence of Mormon doctrine not withstanding, this is a difficult proposition.

It is difficult for one reason. Despite the fact that Mormons claim that the Bible is scripture and hold it up as such, the Bible will always take a seat when something Joseph Smith said or did comes in contradiction to it. Joseph can do or say anything because he says he’s a prophet with authority over the Bible. I point out the passage from Numbers as an illustration of this. Here on one hand, we have a clear Biblical passage restricting polygamous wives from being sisters. On our other hand we have Joseph Smith’s direct violation of this commandment. Mormons will wave this off quite simply by saying “But God commanded him to do it.”

So it seems that no matter how clearly the Bible might or might not illuminate to us that there is and only will be ONE God, it’s generally fruitless for me to point it out because Joseph was told something different. Mormons will always hold the words of Joseph Smith over the words of the Bible.

What troubles me about that is that I have friends who are willing to reject teachings of the Bible in favor of something one man merely says Gold told him. There is no evidence for any of Joseph’s revelation whether it is the plurality of gods or the plurality of wives that anyone experienced other than Joseph Smith. The only thing anyone has ever had to go on is “because Joseph said it was true” (and perhaps “I’ve got a good feeling about it”).

I could point out Biblical passages which instruct us to accept new prophecy only when it conforms to scripture. But here again, there’s no point in directing Mormons to the Bible, as long as Joseph tells them that his new revelations supercede scripture and they decide to take his word for it.

Divorce and A Loss of Faith

I think divorce is one of American culture’s greatest sins. It’s an epidemic and the church and Christians are by no means exempt. Sadly, divorce stats among Christians are exactly the same as the rest of society. I actually think that Jesus in his teaching on marriage allows for divorce but not for remarriage (except in some cases). [see Matthew 5 and Matthew 19]

As I’ve begun to study the LDS church there is a cultural phenomenon within Mormonism that leaves me perplexed. In countless stories I’ve read from Mormons who are thinking of leaving the faith they are constantly faced with the fear of losing their immediate families. (see this link for instance) It seems Mormon spouses are quite quick on the divorce trigger if their partner no longer believes. This is not something I have seen in Protestantism.

The reason this saddens and confuses me is because Mormons are Bible-believing. While Jesus does make room for divorce, Paul quite clearly counsels that believers should NOT divorce unbelievers.

I Corinthians 7:12-16
12To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul does make it clear that these are his words and not the Lord’s. But is it still not good counsel? I understand what a difficult situation it must be, but I don’t understand how an ultimatum like that would help anyone with doubt. “Believe or I’ll divorce you.” Personally I would rather live with my wife in authenticity than conformity (you can never force anyone to believe, the best you can get is outward conformity).