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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Eternal Marriage?

One of the most compelling Mormon teachings is that of eternal family and marriage. The idea of being with loved ones eternally is comforting and compelling. But what did Jesus say about that?

Allow me to set the stage. In Jesus' day, the Saducees did not believe in resurrection--they're "sad, you see." So some of these men get together and decided to ask Jesus a question, to either get him to agree with them or trap him.

The question was based on a part of the Law that required a man to marry his brother's wife if his brother died without giving her children. As my understanding goes, this was not for the purpose of polygamy or the man's enjoyment of multiple wives, but to protect the widow and to carry on the brother's family name by giving her children in her first husband's name.

The Saducees set up a scenario in which this type of marriage was practiced, with multiple brothers marrying a woman as each one died without given her children. They then asked Jesus which brother would be married to her after death. They were likely hoping Jesus would answer in one of a few possible ways. Either he would agree with their beliefs that there was no resurrection so that none would get her, or he'd specify a brother and they'd start throwing scenarios at him to try to prove him wrong. I supposed Jesus could have also said that all the husbands would get her, which even Mormons don't teach, and Jesus would have been rejected for saying this ad scripture never tolerated polyandry, more or less condoned or commanded it.

Instead, Jesus stumped and surprised his questions and listeners. first, he asserted that there would be no marriage in heaven, but that people would be like angels. What specifically he had in mind about angels I'm not sure, but no matter what it was, I doubt he meant that couples will be reproducing spirit children for their own planets. In fact, there is no indication anywhere that I know of that angels reproduce at all, and that being one of the main reasons for marriage in this life, it seems this function--and the covenant that makes is sacred--won't be necessary after death.

Second, he trumped the Saducees by pointing out that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that he is not the God of the dead--the logical conclusion being that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive and therefore resurrected. Not only did Jesus answer the question that he was asked, he also answered the implied question.

Let's now think about this from the Mormon perspective.

First, this story is in more than one Gospel and found in early manuscripts, making it a reliable text, so we can't claim that this part was just put in by men looking to make their own doctrine. Eternal marriage is the more pleasant teaching, so it would be less likely for them to have chosen no marriage in heaven as a doctrine to add in later, anyways. The apostle Paul's own singleness and teachings support that eternal marriage was not required by Jesus.

We can also not say that Jesus and the Saducees weren't talking about faithful Jews, either, as the Jews in this scenario were fulfilling a requirement in the Law. There was no talk of worthiness or lack thereof. A Mormon can't assume, therefore, that this applies only to those who don't make it to the Celestial Kingdom.

That limits the conclusion to exactly what Jesus intended--after death, the resurrected faithful will not be married as they are in this life. He doesn't say anything about whether we recognize or love our spouse still in heaven--I personally believe we do--he just says that marriage as we know it will end.

This means that eternal temple marriage--which incidentally was NOT practiced in the Old Testament temple--marriage for eternity, and producing spirit children are not actually either requirements or part of God's eternal plan for us.

I would also submit that focusing on marriage and family so much idolizes it and puts it above God. If being together forever with family is the main goal, then being together forever with God is not. Even a good thing can become an idol when it is put above God.

I love my husband dearly. Just seeing him come through the front door, or getting a quick kiss before one or the other of us leaves for work or whatever else we might be parting ways to do, makes me happier than any other things of this world has or could make me. But that will be absolutely eclipsed by living in the presence of God after death. I fully expect to still know and love my husband there, but our mutual focus will be on God, not each other. Many of the purposes of earthly marriage will be unnecessary at that time, anyways. Does that make me a little sad sometimes to think that I won't share the same exact relationship, or a better version if it, with my husband after death? I'd be lying if I said no. But I only feel that way because I cannot fathom the joy and love that will exist at that time.

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