Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Mormon View of Marriage and Family©

[Introduction: Today’s Living Philosophies is a reproduction of a brief article on some aspects of the Mormon concept of marriage by Apostle John A. Widtsoe. I am reproducing it here for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that many of the modern generation, say from age 12 up to 45, are largely not familiar with Elder Widtsoe and his marvelous writings. Also, I wanted to bring this specific article to the attention of readers because of some of Elder Widtsoe’s ideas about our doctrines. In the six categories which he very briefly treats, he raises some very important concepts to consider. Here are several from my point of view.
1. From the Mormon point of view that there are many spirit children of God in the pre-mortal existence awaiting their opportunity for a mortal experience, we should give serious thought to them, not just to we who are presently living or those who have passed on. “These waiting spirits must also be a concern to humanity.” And the reason we should concern ourselves is because we have a duty to bring them into mortality through the process of procreation. This is one of the “high purposes of life.” 
2. The first command given to Adam and Eve was to multiply and replenish the earth. By extension, “It becomes a necessary duty for all wedded persons to bring children into the world and to rear them in obedience to the Great Plan.” The doctrine to not have children or limit family size “is erroneous and contrary to the spirit of the Great Plan.” When married people have children it is “evidence” they have accepted the doctrines of the brotherhood of man and of unselfishness. Promiscuity  is one of the “terrible ... iniquities” because “it leads, assuredly, to the decay of the race.” This is a proposition that the present generation, including many Mormons, have not given serious consideration in the face of the “sex is for recreation” philosophy dominant today. 
3. If procreation can be eternal, and it can, then “one of the chief duties of men and women will be to beget spiritual children.” This doctrine is heavily debated among LDS intellectuals, but it has been part of our doctrinal heritage for a long time and is therefore worthy of prayerful consideration. Elder Widtsoe also links marriage with the doctrine of deification, or becoming gods when he writes:“It is a reward of intelligent development, that we may become to other spiritual beings, what our God has been to us.” 
4. Finally, in some very insightful remarks about the “sealing power” he teaches that this “is the supreme power committed to man’s keeping.” It would be an interesting exercise for readers to write a paragraph or two as to why you believe this is the case. Elder Widtsoe also teaches that the sealing keys are held by the President of the Church, but he can delegate this power to others such as other general authorities and sealers in the temples.  However this special power is different from the Priesthood in that it “may be withdrawn at any moment,” where as the Priesthood which men hold “can be withdrawn from a man only when he is found in sin.” Finally he gives us this eloquent statement: “...only through the sealing power may the eternal relationship of the sexes, the eternal increase of life, and the consequent joy, be obtained.”
 I hope readers will enjoy this brief statement and more importantly, study it and learn the doctrines it teaches. They will go a long way to helping this generation fit the doctrine of “eternal marriage” into the plan of the salvation.  As always, your questions or comments about any Living Philosophies column are welcome.]


John A. Widtsoe

We are not the last spirits to enter upon the earth career. Countless numbers of unborn spirits are waiting for the privilege of receiving earthly bodies and of tasting the sorrows and joys of earth. Therefore, the living, who understand the Great Plan, must not confine their attention to themselves and to those who have gone before. The waiting spirits must also be a concern of humanity.  

Eternity of Sex. It has already been said that sex is an eternal principle. The equivalent of sex, dimly understood by man, has always existed and will continue forever. Since sex, then, represents an eternal condition, the begetting of children is coincidentally an eternal necessity. We were begotten into the spirit world by God the Father, and have been born into the world which we now possess.

The Waiting Spirits. According to the Great Plan, all who, in the Great Council, accepted the Christ and the Plan, will in time appear on earth clothed with mortal bodies. All these spirits must be born as children into the world. A high purpose of life on earth must be, therefore, to continue the race by begetting children and properly caring for them until they reach maturity. The waiting spirits are hoping patiently for their turn to reach the earth-a glorious step in their progressive advancement, which they have earned by their righteous lives. 

The First Command. This doctrine makes clear the meaning of the first command to Adam and Eve, to multiply and replenish the earth. It is not only for the joy and satisfaction of humanity that the possibility of begetting offspring prevails on earth, but as much for the fulfilment of the eternal Great Plan. It becomes a necessary duty for all wedded persons to bring children into the world and to rear them in obedience to the Great Plan. This is a holy and necessary mission of man. Fatherhood and motherhood become glorified in the light of their vital place in the eternal plan of salvation.

The doctrine that wedded man and woman should not beget children, or should limit the number of children born to them, is erroneous and contrary to the spirit of the Great Plan. Let the waiting spirits come! Let children be born into the earth! Let fatherhood and motherhood be the most honored of all the professions on earth! Let society provide such material means as may be necessary! Marriage resulting in parenthood is an evidence of the acceptance of the reality of the brotherhood of man, of the unselfishness of man. However, only in the marriage relation should children be begotten. Looseness of life between man and woman is the most terrible of human iniquities, for it leads, assuredly, to the decay of the race. With the sanction of the Priesthood, men and women should contract to live together as husband and wife. 

The Family. The unit of society is the family. The family circle is intimate; in it the keenest human loves prevail.As the family develops so will society as a whole develop.With children comes complete family life. Without children, family life is incomplete. Children are necessary to fulfill the possibilities of the Church. The true Church always encourages large families, the intensifying of family life, and the dignifying of all duties pertaining to marriage. 

Celestial Marriage. If sex is eternal, it follows of necessity that the marriage covenant may also be eternal. It is not a far step to the doctrine that after the work on earth has been completed and exaltation in the next estate has been attained, one of the chief duties of men and women will be to beget spiritual children. These spirits, in turn, in the process of time, will come down upon an "earth," there to obtain an acquaintance with gross matter, and through the possession of earthly bodies to control more fully, and forever, the manifold forces surrounding them. It is a reward of intelligent development, that we may become to other spiritual beings, what our God has been to us.

Among those who understand the Gospel, marriage may be, and indeed should be, for time and eternity. Marriage that lasts only during earth life is a sad one, for the love established between man and woman, as they live together and rear their family, should not die, but live, and grow richer with the eternal years. Marriage for time and eternity establishes a unique relation between husband and wife. Their children belong to them eternally; the family, continued from this earth into the next world, becomes a unit in eternal life; and all family relations are shaped in anticipation of an undying relationship.  

The Sealing Power. The power to seal men and women to one another for time and eternity, and to seal children to their parents for the eternal ages, is the supreme power committed to man's keeping. The President of the Church alone on the earth holds the keys of these sealing ordinances. True, he may delegate his power to workers in the several temples, so that celestial marriages and sealings may be performed, but such delegated authority may be withdrawn at any moment. In that respect, such committed authority differs wholly from the power of the Priesthood, which can be withdrawn from a man only when he is found in sin. It is proper that only one man should hold this power, for it is of infinite effect, and should be guarded with the most jealous care, and kept from the prejudices and jealousies of frail men.

The power which can bind for time and eternity may also loose that which has been bound, should it be found necessary. Under human conditions, mistakes may be made. If such mistakes are not rectified on earth, they will, no doubt, under the supervision of an intelligent Being, be rectified in the hereafter. However, only through the sealing power may the eternal relationship of the sexes, the eternal increase of life, and the consequent eternal joy, be obtained.  

John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966), pp. 155-58.

Let’s think together again, soon.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the truth has, does, and always will set us free!