Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Eternal Blessings of Marriage?

I can still remember when my family went to the temple to be sealed together for time and all eternity[1]. I was only nine years old, so my memory is fuzzy, but I remember well spending what seemed like all day long in the temple nursery (I’ve since found out that it was probably just 2-3 hours while my parents went through the endowment ceremony) playing with these really fun marble tracks where you put a marble (or marbles) in the top and the marble raced down the tracks. I remember too, that this was a big deal—a very big deal, and was supposed to be sacred, as well as very important to us as a family.

About the time we grew really bored with the toys, the temple workers that were watching over us dressed each of us in a totally white outfit (dresses for the girls and pants and dress shirts for the boys, complete with ties) and brought us into the temple sealing room where we were sealed to our parents. I don’t remember what, exactly, was said, but I do remember kneeling around the alter (I think they placed my baby sister in my parents hands which were entwined over the alter), with my parents, brothers, and sister while something very special happened.

My dad has since shared with me that going to the temple to be sealed to his family was one of the deepest, and strongest experiences he has ever experienced, as he was surrounded by the love and care of many good friends from our ward, and of course his family too. This experience figures deeply in my dad’s “knowing” that the LDS church is true, despite his inactivity these many years.

I couldn’t help but think about this experience as I read this month’s First Presidency message on the LDS website. In it Elder Richard G. Scott recounts his wedding to his bride many years ago, as well as goes on to share the blessings that this type of wedding carries. He says, in fact that “two of the vital pillars that sustain Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness are marriage and the family.”

And, so I wanted to look at what the Bible has to say about marriage and family, and see if I could find the same thread there. Marriage, after all, was something God created in the beginning, and in some ways it seems as if Elder Scott has a valid point. God was the one who said,
It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18)
After which Adam said of his wife:
This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  (Genesis 2:23-24)
 And, in Matthew 19 Jesus reaffirms the sanctity of marriage when He quoted this passage, and added to it that nothing should tear that union apart.
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:4-6)
 So, in many ways biblical Christianity would agree with Elder Scott, marriage is an institution that was created by God, and even in our time is blessed by God. It is in fact, sacred to God. There are other passages in the New Testament that sternly warn Christians not to mess with the marriage bed, and to do all in their power to keep marriages together.

However, Elder Scott’s teaching doesn’t end with just saying marriage is wonderful and blessed by God, but adds to the biblical teaching of marriage by adding a concept that’s uniquely LDS. He adds that if a couple is married in the temple those blessings will go on into the eternities. Or in other words, if a couple gets sealed together in the temple as my parents did, their marriage, and their bonds with their children, will last forever—they’ll be together in the state of being married forever (teaching I’ve heard about this states that the eternities will be very much like it is here, working together and being surrounded by children, grandchildren, etc. forever and ever—the picture they paint is like the most ideal commercial you’ve ever seen of a retired couple surrounded by bright, happy, and perfect children and grandchildren smiling and happily enjoying life together.)
But, that again, is not a teaching we see in the Bible. Jesus, who had the perfect opportunity to teach about this wonderful truth, taught just the opposite.
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.  (Matthew 22:23-30)
 And, Paul also seems to teach a different ideal when he taught that being single could actually be a real help to the furtherance of God’s work.
 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. (1 Corinthians. 7:8)
Instead of focusing on marriage and family as His Father’s ideal for the world, Jesus instead taught that the MOST important thing for a person to do was to love and serve God, and that from that love of God we should love each other (and not just our spouses and children):
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
 And, I think there’s real good reason Jesus taught that. You see, God created us to worship Him, and Him alone.
Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. . . (Ps. 29:1-2)
 I could quote scripture, after scripture, after scripture that says that our chief aim in life should be to glorify Him: God Almighty! In fact, the one topic God strongly condemns again and again in the Old Testament is the worship of idols. It’s easy for us to see (and condemn) the people of the old Testament when they were fooled into putting their trust in blocks of wood, or statues of precious metals, but what we don’t often see is that today we still have idols: it’s just that our idols are more subtle: our work, our money, our things, and maybe most of all our families. You see, biblically speaking, an idol would be anything that comes between, or is more important to us than our relationship with God. (This could even be a church, or a strongly held belief.)

And, I think that’s what can happen when we exalt marriage and family to the point of being the point of eternity. I was listening the other day to a LDS friend of mine giving a radio interview, and while I can’t judge and shouldn’t judge her relationship with God, what came across in the radio interview was her relationship with her dad even though he is no longer alive. Now, I knew her dad, and loved him very much. He was one of the most loving men I’ve ever known, and I too mourn him and wish his life had lasted longer. But, as I listened to her it kept coming back to her dad and what he was doing in the afterlife. He was, in essence, the one who was directing her life paths. He was the one who was waiting for her patients to pass over into the afterlife (she was a hospice nurse).

And, truthfully that’s what comes across in Elder Scott’s address too: his wonderful wife. I didn’t know her personally so I can’t vouch for what he says, but from what he says she was a wonderful, kind, wise, and loving woman. And, I can relate to his missing her, and appreciating her input in his life. And, I can even relate to his deep desire to be reunited with her, I too have friends who’ve gone before and whom I desperately miss. But, unlike Elder Scott, my greatest desire isn’t to be reunited with them. My greatest desire is to see and be with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who will make all things perfect, and will make heaven, well. . . heaven!

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about what we’ll be doing in the eternities. But, John in his Revelation from God gives us a glimpse:
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. (Revelation 5:11-14)
And, that’s just how it should be: you see the Bible teaches that ALL the honor, ALL the praise, and ALL the glory are due to God Himself, and to no one else. That’s why I can honestly say I’m so looking forward to heaven when I’ll be with Him, and He will wipe away my every tear, and He will provide my light, my joy, my fulfillment in ways that my family—much as I love them, and rest assured I do—never can.

[1] The ideal for Mormon families is for the parents to be sealed together when they are first married. When done that way, all the kids automatically are “in the covenant,” and don’t have to be sealed to their parents. In my family, however, my father was a convert. Since by the time he converted my parents had five children, we too had to go to the temple and be sealed to them. My youngest brother who was yet to be born didn’t have to go through this physical sealing since he was born “under the covenant,” or after my parents had been sealed together.

1 comment:

  1. I love this is mirrors my own thoughts that I had whilst attending my last ever sacrament meeting. It was a fast and testimony meeting at which for some reason I decided to note down the most common things everyone was thankful for and spoke about and sadly noticed that it was mostly "the church!" that was a real eyeopener for me and I suddenly realised that what a fantastic tool for the devil "the church" is. How much easier could it be to have all these good people led astray by thinking and truely believing that they are doing the right thing. I truely cannot believe how blind I was and am so thankful to God for the graces received that allowed me and my family to walk away. Keep up the good work x