Tuesday 9 February 2016

The ideal of eternal - not merely life-long - marriage should be universal among Christians

This is LeGrand Richards speaking in a CJCLDS General Conference back in 1971

H/T Junior Ganymede: http://www.jrganymede.com/2016/02/09/love-wants-to-be-forever

I just cannot understand … how marriages could be performed in the churches all over the world until death do you part. What a flimsy concept! 

Why don’t they go back to the time when God had finished the creation of this earth, and looked upon it and found it good, and placed Adam here, at which time he said: “It is not good that the man should be alone. He made a helpmeet for him, saying, “… and they shall be one flesh.” Now what God joins together and makes one flesh, you couldn’t separate without having two halves instead of two wholes... 

How could any man who has a true love for his wife and his children not want to believe that principle? 

I like the little verse written by Anderson M. Baten, “To His Wife Beulah,” in which he said: 
“I wed thee forever, not for now, 
Not for the sham of earth’s brief years, 
I wed thee for the life beyond the tears, 
Beyond the heart pain and clouded brow. 
Love knows no grave and it shall guide us dear 
When life’s spent candles flutter and burn low.” 

There are people like that who believe that marriage ought to be eternal, but there is no other church in all this world, outside of our church, as far as I know, that believes in the eternal duration of the marriage covenant. 

Just think what a difference it makes in our lives when we know that we are to live on and on forever and forever! I would just as soon believe that death is a complete annihilation of both body and spirit as to think that when death came it would separate me from my wife and from my children and that we would not know each other. I tell you, there wouldn’t be very much to look forward to. How could you want to live on and on forever without a continuation of the love ties that bind you together here? 

We see cases of kidnapping, when children are taken away. I remember years ago, I think it was in 1932, when Colonel Lindbergh’s little boy was kidnapped and a note was left asking for $50,000. He would gladly have paid what they asked if he could have gotten his boy back again. And yet here we come along with the knowledge of life eternal. 

We had four daughters before we had a son. We were sent to California to preside over a stake down there, and our boy went out with a member of the high council and his boys, and he lost his life in an accident. That is the greatest sorrow that ever came to us, but now we are getting up on the top of the ladder, so to speak, and we look forward, knowing that these love ties are intended by God, our Eternal Father, to endure throughout the eternities. It takes the sting away from death to know that we are going to meet those who are so dear and sacred to us. 

Thank God for this knowledge! 


I feel sure that eternal marriage and eternal families are a natural and spontaneous ideal for post-mortal life; and also something which naturally flows from the nature of Christian resurrection.

But this hope seems to have been one of those aspects of simple faith which have been (unneccesarily as well as artificially, as I perceive it) ridiculed, suppressed and in general squeezed out from Christian life by abstract theological arguments.

I find the earnest, open way of speaking of LeGrand Richards very clarifying in this regard - it is wholesome and stirs my heart.  


Note added - my response to the testimonies of couples on this video is a confirmation and strengthening of my faith in the doctrine of eternal marriage.




Thursday said...

A big part of it is the actual words of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

"I would just as soon believe that death is a complete annihilation of both body and spirit as to think that when death came it would separate me from my wife and from my children and that we would not know each other."

I've often considered this, and at first I thought as you do. It worried me what Christ said in Mark 12:25,

"For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven."

If this means what it seems to mean, and there is no marriage in heaven, it does not follow that "it would separate me from my wife and from my children and that we would not know each other".

We cannot know precisely what we will be like in heaven, but we can guess that we will be somewhat different from how we are now. The reference by Christ to being 'as the angels' gives us the clue. It might be that we are filled with a radiant joy and love for all God's creation, and that rather than not knowing our spouses and children, we will know them in a more absolute sense than we could ever know them on earth. I would go further and say that a radiant and all pervasive joy might mean that no-one is excluded from our, perhaps, new found capacity to love everyone in heaven absolutely.

I know little about Mormon theology, but I do know that Mormons believe that human beings have a pre-incarnate life in heaven, and that each person on earth had the choice to come here to learn what needed to be learned (good and evil), and to choose one or the other. A return to heaven as a wiser entity having known, and done, good and evil things, and having suffered greatly, to be with God in a new relationship, seems to me to be a wonderful thing indeed. I have no doubt that this new relationship with God will extend to the whole population of heaven.

There is no need to worry, I am sure of it.


G. said...

That was a judicious selection of an extended quote. Well done.

Robert Brockman said...

The issue here is Matthew 22:23-33. It seems quite explicit about there being no marriage at the Resurrection. Perhaps there is still marriage between death and the Resurrection?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Th - It depends (as it almost always does) on the assumptions with which you approach the subject, and what one takes to be the major focus of Christianity as a whole. The fact that the second or third generation of Christian leaders focused on highly abstract philosophical disputes about the definitions of Christ and the Trinity and the properties of God - so much so, that the church was soon torn apart irrevocably - shows the nature of this legacy. But it did not have to be this way - and surely was not intended to be this way (from the actual words of Jesus).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seek - wrt specific Biblical verses - the Bible cannot, as a rule, be understood a verse at a time; and when specific verses seem clearly to contradict what we know to be strong general principles, then we must assume misunderstanding or mistranslation.

Some discussion and links here


Bruce Charlton said...

@RB - See what I wrote to Thursday - but also:

1. The way I am proposing reading the Bible is NOT like Liberals do and indeed mainstream scriptural scholarship since Strauss - including say NT Wright) - which is to analyse any isolated passage they dislike, word by word translation, the assumed historical context and the latest scholarship...and every other conceivable context - until it falls to pieces in their hands - becoming doubtful, ambiguous, uncertain - perhaps meaning its opposite.

When Liberals do this to justify non-traditional sexuality, by saying the Bible does not forbid it; they fail to consider the question of whether there is anything in the Chrstian message which would encourage nontraditional sexuality - which puts it forward as a good pattern for life. There is much in scripture and even more in the Christian message as a whole which puts forward marriage as a good pattern for life.

2. Clearly there is not enough in the Bible to justify eternal marriage as a positive doctrine - let's say the subject area is insufficiently defined by the Bible, ambiguous.

This, then, is the reason why the Mormon Restoration was *necessary* including the emergence of the Mormon scriptures and the emergence of modern day prophets - i.e. to clarify and settle several key areas of long-term ambiguity in Christianity, and perhaps most especially in the area of marriage and families.

So, in sum, the Bible leaves this area unsure; but clarification has been given by the emergence of new scriptures and (perhaps even more importantly) the emergence and identification of living prophets to interpret all ambiguous (and vital) scriptures by the authority of direct divine revelation

Unknown said...

Bruce, I see what you're saying, but how do you justify this with Jesus's response to the Sadducee?

Jesus was asked about a woman who married 7 brothers who all died, and who she would be married to after the resurrection. Jesus answered that she would not be married because we would be like "the angels in heaven."

I've always been taught that after the resurrection there would be no death, and therefore no reason to reproduce, and therefore, human beings would be asexual creatures and the whole male/female paradigm would be obsolete.

How would you respond to this?

Bruce Charlton said...

@JD - There is a response to this particlular passage in the reference I cited above to @Seek.

But in general I try to read the Bible as inspired true literature - not a series of infallible statements like laws, nor do I regard it as sufficient to define all aspects of life and doctrine.

One thing that living in this modern era has made clear to me, is that human beings cannot be governed by leglalism and books unsupported - that we can twist and interpret words - the words do not suffice, and never were meant to stand alone.

Nor can we be governmed by Men as Men - but only by Men who subordinate themselves to divinity as best as they may.

On top of this, for vital aspects of faith, we simply must have confirmation from personal revelation.

Thus - as well as scripture - there have to be living, inspired interpreters whom we regard as authoritative; and this must be confirmed in the heart of each Christian in response to contemplation and prayer.

Therefore I get my belief in the possibility and ideal of eternal marriage as part of a larger package of metaphysical beliefs, and a knowledge of God's intentions and methods, which is structured by scripture, more closely defined by that church which I regard as having authoritative living interpreters, and then confirmed in my inmost heart by the power and warmth of my response to this doctrine.

For instance, I am deeply moved by the personal testimonies of the video which I have added to the above post - this strengthens my faith for this day.