Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, marriage between a man and a woman is considered to be "ordained of God".[1] Marriage is thought to consist of a covenant between the man, the woman, and God. The church teaches that in addition to civil marriage, which ends at death, a man and woman can undergo a celestial marriage in a temple performed by priesthood authority, whereby the marriage and parent–child relationships resulting from the marriage will last forever in the afterlife.[2]

From 1852 until 1890, the LDS Church openly authorized polygamous marriages between one man and multiple wives, though polygamous families continued cohabitating into the 1940s and 1950s.[3][4] Today, the church is opposed to such marriages and excommunicates members who participate in them or publicly teach that they are sanctioned by God. The LDS Church also opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.[5]

Teachings about marriage in general[edit]

A spouse is the only person other than the Lord that Latter-day Saints are commanded to love "with all [their] heart". A revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants states: "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."[6] Church leaders have taught that this commandment applies equally to wives loving their husbands.[7][8]

The LDS Church also teaches that marriage is a partnership of equals, and that partners should be thoughtful, respectful, and loyal to one another.[9] The church teaches that if couples keep their lives centered on Jesus Christ, their love will grow.[10] Regarding marriage and divorce, the church instructs its leaders: "No priesthood officer is to counsel a person whom to marry. Nor should he counsel a person to divorce his or her spouse. Those decisions must originate and remain with the individual. When a marriage ends in divorce, or if a husband and wife separate, they should always receive counseling from Church leaders."[11]

Teachings about celestial marriage[edit]

Celestial (or eternal) marriage is an ordinance performed by priesthood authority in a temple of the church.[12] A celestial marriage is thought to continue forever into the afterlife if the man and woman do not break their covenants.[12] Thus, eternally married couples are often referred to as being "sealed" to each other. Sealed couples who keep their covenants are also promised to have their posterity sealed to them in the afterlife.[12]

Celestial marriage as a requirement for exaltation[edit]

The LDS Church teaches that a celestial marriage is required for exaltation.[12] This teaching is based on Mormon scripture, in which Joseph Smith taught, “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase”.[13] Exaltation is also known as "eternal life" and is defined as "the kind of life God lives".[14] Those who are exalted will "live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ[;] will become gods[;] will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase [spirit children][; and] will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge".[14] Members of the LDS Church are encouraged to prepare to be celestially married in a temple.[15]

It is believed, therefore, that all humans are spirit children of "heavenly parents"[1] who as mortals were celestially married and went on to become exalted. This married couple is known to Latter-day Saints as God the Father and Heavenly Mother. Because of the beliefs that (1) celestial marriage is required for exaltation, and (2) that Jesus is exalted, some leaders of the LDS Church have hypothesized that Jesus must have been married, possibly to Mary Magdalene, Mary, sister of Lazarus, and/or Martha.[16][17][18][19][20]

Because it is a requirement for exaltation, celestial marriages are performed vicariously in church temples for deceased couples who were legally married.

Civil marriage and divorce and its relationship to celestial marriage[edit]

In some legal jurisdictions, celestial marriages can be recognized as civil marriages; in other cases, couples are civilly married outside of the temple and are later sealed in a celestial marriage.[21] The church will no longer perform a celestial marriage on a couple unless they are first (or simultaneously) legally married.

A celestial marriage is not annulled by a civil divorce: a "cancellation of a sealing" may be granted, but only by the First Presidency, the highest authority in the church. Civil divorce and marriage outside the temple carry with them a stigma in Mormon culture; the church teaches that the "gospel of Jesus Christ—including repentance, forgiveness, integrity, and love—provides the remedy for conflict in marriage.[22]

Polygamy[edit]

Until 1890, the LDS Church openly sanctioned plural marriage, which was the practice of marrying a man celestially to multiple women. Such polygamous marriages were celestial marriages only, not legal civil marriages. Today, the church is opposed to such marriages and excommunicates members who participate in them, whether or not polygamy is legal in the jurisdiction in question. The church teaches that “the standard doctrine of the church is monogamy" and that polygamy was a temporary exception to the rule.[23] Early church leaders taught that God the Father and Jesus Christ both practiced polygamy in defense of the practice, a belief widely accepted among Mormons by the late-1850s.[24][25][26]

Interracial marriage[edit]

In the past, LDS Church leaders have consistently opposed marriage between different ethnicities with the apostle Boyd Packer publicly stating in 1977 that "We've always counseled in the Church for ... our Caucasians to marry Caucasians .... The counsel has been wise."[27] Nearly every decade beginning with the church's formation until the '70s has seen some denunciation against miscegenation, with most focusing on black-white marriage. These church leaders' views stem from racist "biological and social" principles.[28]:89-90[29]:42-43 One exception was intermarriage with native Americans, who Mormons believed to be Lamanites, a race descended from ancient Israelites.[30]:64 Intermarriage with native Americans was actually encouraged as a way to fulfill a Book of Mormon prophecy that the Lamanites would become white and delightsome.[31] [32][33]

Church publications have also contained statements discouraging interracial marriage. In the same June 1978 issue announcing that black members were now eligible for temple rites, missionary service, and priesthood ordination, the official newspaper of the LDS Church,[34] printed an article entitled "Interracial marriage discouraged".[35] The same day a church spokesman stated "interracial marriages generally have been discouraged in the past, ... that remains our position" and that "the Church does not prohibit ... interracial marriages but it does discourage them."[36]:5

In 2003 author Jon Krakauer's stated that "official LDS policy has continued to strongly admonish white saints not to marry blacks" in his "Under the Banner of Heaven". In response the church newsroom released a statement from BYU Dean of Religious Education Robert Millet that "There is, in fact, no mention whatsoever in [the church] handbook concerning interracial marriages. In addition, having served as a Church leader for almost 30 years, I can also certify that I have never received official verbal instructions condemning marriages between black and white members."[37] Though, denying any condemnation of interracial marriage, there was no comment on whether it was still discouraged, however.

The discouragement of marriage between those of different ethnicities by church leaders continued being taught to youth during Sunday meetings until 2013 when the use of the 1996 version of the church Sunday meeting manual for adolescent boys was discontinued. The manual had used a 1976 quote from past church president Spencer Kimball that said, "We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally".[38]:169[39] The quote is still in use, however, in the 2003 institute Eternal Marriage Student Manual.[40]

Marriage statistics for Latter-day Saints[edit]

In 2008 the American Religious Identification Survey reported: "Mormons have the highest proportions of currently married adults, and lowest divorce rates reflecting the emphasis on family values in this tradition .... Commitment to 'traditional or normative family values' is measured by creating a combined index of the proportions divorced and cohabiting, whereby those traditions that score lowest are the most familial. The tradition with the lowest percentages on this index are Mormons (11%)".[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles (September 23, 1995), "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", Gospel Topics, LDS Church, retrieved 2013-12-11 . See also: "The Family: A Proclamation to the World".
  2. ^ "Temples", Gospel Topics, LDS Church 
  3. ^ Embry, Jessie L. (1994). "The History of Polygamy". heritage.utah.gov. Utah State Historical Society. Those involved in plural marriages after 1904 were excommunicated; and those married between 1890 and 1904 were not to have church callings where other members would have to sustain them. Although the Mormon church officially prohibited new plural marriages after 1904, many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s. 
  4. ^ Leaders of the church secretly practiced and taught plural marriage from about 1831 to 1852.
  5. ^ Fred Karger, "The Mormon church won't drop its opposition to gay marriage", The Guardian, 2013-11-29.
  6. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 42:22
  7. ^ Spencer W. Kimball, "Oneness in Marriage", Tambuli, June 1978.
  8. ^ Marlin K. Jensen, "A Union of Love and Understanding", Ensign October 1994.
  9. ^ "Marriage", Gospel Topics, LDS Church, Marriage is a partnership of equals, with neither person exercising dominion over the other, but with each encouraging, comforting, and helping the other .... it needs and deserves time over less-important commitments. Couples can strengthen their marriage as they take time to talk together and to listen to one another, to be thoughtful and respectful, and to express tender feelings and affection often... Marriage partners must be loyal to one another and faithful in their marriage covenants in thought, word, and deed. Married couples should stay away from anything that could lead to unfaithfulness in any way. Pornography, unwholesome fantasies, and flirtations will erode character and strike at the foundation of marriage. 
  10. ^ "Marriage", Gospel Topics, LDS Church, Couples must center their lives in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As couples help one another keep the covenants they have made, attend church and the temple together, study the scriptures together, and kneel together in prayer, God will guide them. Their companionship will sweeten through the years; their love will strengthen. Their appreciation for one another will grow. 
  11. ^ Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2010) § 7.2.5.
  12. ^ a b c d "Chapter 38: Eternal Marriage", Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2011).
  13. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4
  14. ^ a b "Chapter 47: Exaltation", Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2011).
  15. ^ Bushman, Richard L. (2008), Mormonism: a Very Short Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 58–59, ISBN 9780195310306, OCLC 179802646 
  16. ^ Hyde, Orson (October 6, 1854), "The Marriage Relations", in Watt, G.D., Journal of Discourses, 2, Liverpool: F. D. Richards, pp. 75–87 .
  17. ^ Hyde, Orson (185), "Man the Head of Woman—Kingdom of God—The Seed of Christ—Polygamy—Society in Utah", in Watt, G.D., Journal of Discourses, 4, Liverpool: S. W. Richards, pp. 257–263 .
  18. ^ Pratt, Orson (October 1853), "Celestial Marriage", The Seer, 1 (10), p. 159 
  19. ^ Wilford Woodruff, Journal Entry 1883-07-22, reporting on a sermon given by Joseph F. Smith.
  20. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith, Handwritten note responding to letter from J. Ricks Smith, 1963.
  21. ^ Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2010) § 3.5.
  22. ^ "Gospel Topics: Divorce", lds.org.
  23. ^ "Polygamy: Latter-day Saints and the Practice of Plural Marriage", LDS Newsroom, mormonnewsroom.org.
  24. ^ Swanson, Vern G. (2013). "Christ and Polygamy". Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism's Holy Bloodline. Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc. p. 247–259. ISBN 9781462104048. Dr. William E. Phipps noted that the belief that 'Jesus married, and married often!' was used to encourage and promote the doctrine of polygamy amongst timid Latter-Day Saints ... By the late-1850s the idea that more than one woman was married to Jesus was widely accepted among Mormon circles. ... As if the concept of Christ's polygamy was not unsettling enough, Mormonism even taught in the nineteenth century that God the Father had a plurality of wives as well. 
  25. ^ Dana, Bruce E. (September 2004). The Eternal Father and His Son. Cedar Fort Inc. p. 62. ISBN 1555177883. Retrieved 9 October 2017. 
  26. ^ Schelling Durham, Michael (1997). Desert Between the Mountains: Mormons, Miners, Padres, Mountain Men, and the Opening of the Great Basin, 1772-1869 (1st ed.). New York City: Henry Holt & Company, Inc. p. 182. Pratt clearly loud out arguments in favor of polygamy that the Saints would use for years to come. ... Pratt and others argued that Jesus had three wives: Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus' two sisters, Mary and Martha. Orson Hyde went a step further and preached that 'Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children.' 
  27. ^ Packer, Boyd. "Follow the Rule". byu.edu. LDS Church. Retrieved 26 August 2017. We’ve always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians. The counsel has been wise. ... You might even say, “I can show you local Church leaders or perhaps even general leaders who have married out of their race.” I say, “Yes—exceptions.” Then I would remind you of that Relief Society woman’s near-scriptural statement, “We’d like to follow the rule first, and then we’ll take care of the exceptions.” 
  28. ^ Bush, Lester E., Jr.; Mauss, Armand L., eds. (1984). Neither White Nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books. ISBN 0-941214-22-2. 
  29. ^ Bush, Lester E. (1973). "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview" (PDF). Dialogue. 8 (1). 
  30. ^ Mauss, Armand L. (2003). All Abraham's Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02803-1. 
  31. ^ Max Perry Mueller. Race and the Making of the Mormon People. 
  32. ^ B. Carmon Hardy. Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy—Its Origin, Practice, and Demise. 
  33. ^ Shirley Ann Wilson Moore. Sweet Freedom's Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails, 1841–1869. 
  34. ^ Paul T. Roberts (August 1983). "A History of the Development and Objectives of the LDS Church News Section of the Deseret News" (PDF). [Master's Thesis]. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Department of Communications: 7. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Interracial Marriage Discouraged". Church News. LDS Church. Deseret News. 17 June 1978. Retrieved 27 August 2017. For a number of years, President Spencer W. Kimball has counseled young members of the Church to not cross racial lines in dating and marrying. 
  36. ^ Bringhurst, Newell G.; Smith, Darron T., eds. (2004). Black and Mormon. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252073568. 
  37. ^ Robert L. Millet, "Church Response to Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven", June 27, 2003.
  38. ^ Embry, Jessie L. (1994). Black Saints in a White Church. Signature Books. ISBN 1-56085-044-2. Retrieved 26 August 2017. 
  39. ^ "Lesson 31: Choosing an Eternal Companion". Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3. LDS Church. 1995. pp. 127–29. 
  40. ^ Eternal Marriage Student Manual. 2003. We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question 
  41. ^ Kosmin, Barry A.; Keysar, Ariela (March 2009), American Religious Identification Survey 2008: Summary Report (PDF), Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut), p. 13 

Further reading[edit]