Eternal Companion: A few passages

This is the second post in a series about the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal marriage that began on May 27 with “Eternal Companion: Introduction”.

Jesus and the Sadducees

Most Latter-day Saints have already encountered one common objection to celestial marriage put forward by Evangelicals: the story of Jesus being questioned by a group of Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection. As told in Matt. 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, and Luke 20:27-40, the Sadducees pose a rather outrageous hypothetical situation in which seven brothers in turn marry the same woman out of obligation to raise children for the previous brother who has died. After setting up the situation, the Sudducees ask Jesus whose wife the woman will be in the resurrection. Jesus replies that she won’t be married to any of them, for “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

The easy refutation of this passage for the Latter-day Saint is to point out that Jesus only says no one gets married in heaven. He doesn’t say no one is married in heaven. Couple that with a claim that this woman wasn’t eternally sealed to any of these husbands, and it seems easy to explain away this passage. However, this is not the only Biblical passage on the subject of marriage after death, and others are not so easy to explain away.

Paul’s epistles teach that marriage ends at death

It surprises me that I never encountered Romans 7:1-3 or 1 Corinthians 7:38 while I was LDS. I know I read them, as I read the entire New Testament twice on my LDS mission, but I must’ve skimmed over them or simply never realized their impact on the subject of celestial marriage. I don’t think clearer passages can be found concerning marriage and whether or not it endures beyond death:

bq. Or do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to those who know the law — that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

bq. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Here it is explicitly stated that the institute of marriage is absolved at death. I can’t find these passages (let alone an explanation of them) anywhere on the “FAIR”: or “SHIELDS”: websites. I would be very interested to see how a Latter-day Saint would interpret these verses.

I’ve still got a few more aspects of this doctrine to consider, so stay tuned.

This entry was posted in essay.
  • The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean (Jonathan Edwards, “Works, II”, 244).

  • Joey, I am surprised. Normally, you do a decent job at researching, developing, and explaining Latter-day Saint doctrine before attempting to discredit it with Biblical passages. Often, you site your sources of Mormon doctrine. Allow me to cite some trustworthy sources and arguments for you, to prove the doctrine of eternal marriage, and to address the Biblical passages you mentioned.

    Mormon Doctrine (with Sources) on Jesus and the Sadducees

    Your post reduces the LDS view of “Jesus and the Sadducees” to two minor arguments without sources: 1) “no one gets married in heaven,” and 2) “this woman wasn’t eternally sealed to any of these husbands.”

    That isn’t to say these arguments are incorrect. James E. Talmage agrees with the first one (Jesus the Christ, ch. 31, p. 509), and so does Joseph Fielding Smith (Doctrines of Salvation 2:71-73). Additionally, Smith vaguely seems to agree with the second one.

    However, Talmage suggests a third argument, related to the second, “…in the resurrected state there can be no question among the seven brothers as to whose wife for eternity the woman shall be, since all except the first had married her for the duration of mortal life only….”

    Smith makes a fourth argument, “The very fact that [the Sadducees] asked the question indicates that the doctrine of marriage for eternity was taught and accepted…. Otherwise they never would have presented the question to the Savior” (emphasis in original).

    Smith also makes a fifth argument. Mixing my words with his, the argument is that the since the Sadducees denied the resurrection and believed not in the Savior, they were children of “this world,” while the Lord and his disciples did not belong to “this world” (see John 17:9-16). And when Christ says, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” he is describing the children of this world, or the Sadducees.

    Basically, the Savior was referring directly to the people in the Sadducees’ example when he said that they will not be married eternally in heaven, because they, as Sadducees, don’t even believe in a resurrection or in the Savior! They will be as angels. According to Smith, “this is the only answer the Lord could have given to these unbelievers” (emphasis in original).

    Proving the Doctrine of Eternal Marriage

    Have I sufficiently proven with my words above that the doctrine of eternal marriage is true and consistent with the New Testament? Of course not. I hope you didn’t actually think I would.

    Eternal marriage is a huge subject, which five arguments from two or three authors will neither prove nor disprove. Furthermore, it generally is not considered a New Testament doctrine, even by Latter-day Saint faithful. Eternal marriage is a restored doctrine that the Bible does not address directly.

    Joseph Smith did not teach eternal marriage simply because he found a verse in the Bible that no other religion seemed to understand. He didn’t piece together Mormonism from Biblical passages or from his own interpretation of the Bible.

    Joseph Smith received the doctrine of eternal marriage in a revelation directly from the Savior, himself (read D&C 131 and D&C 132:7–19).

    Compare this to Peter receiving a revelation that the gospel of Christ is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Acts 10:9-16). Such a doctrine was not known, taught, or understood at the time Peter received the revelation, and it ran counter to the scriptures of the time (the Old Testament) and to some of the Savior’s own words while he was alive (see Matt. 15:21-28 for just one example).

    Peter did not start preaching to the Gentiles simply because he found a verse in the Old Testament that the Jews seemed to be ignoring. He did not try to use the Old Testament to prove that Christians should be preaching the gospel to Gentiles. In fact, he contradicted the religious doctrine of the time because he, as the Lord’s leading apostle, had received a revelation directly from God.

    I maintain that anyone who tries to prove controversial religious doctrines with the Bible will fail. If it were possible to prove an interpretation of these doctrines, they would not remain controversial after two thousand years of Christianity and thousands more of Judaism. Readers can often validly interpret one or two (or two hundred) biblical passage several different ways, and some passages even contradict others.

    The Impact of Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7

    Having said that the bible does not directly address, prove, or disprove eternal marriage, I will briefly point out that the passages you quote from Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7 do not contradict eternal marriage. Latter-day Saints adhere to these passages, even while believing in eternal marriage. Those who are eternally married may remarry when their spouses die, without committing adultery and without losing their eternal marriage.

    These verses do not “explicitly [state] that the institute of marriage is absolved at death.” They simply state that the portion of the “law of marriage” that binds spouses to each other and calls an unfaithful spouse an adulterer, is lifted upon death, so that a widow or widower may remarry without being labeled an adulterer.

    I do not see the “impact on the subject of celestial marriage” caused by these verses. Apparently, neither do the authors of the FAIR or SHIELDS websites (who faithfully promulgate Church doctrine—feel my sarcasm), since they have not addressed these verses.

  • Joey: Here it is explicitly stated that the institute of marriage is absolved at death.

    Why would God choose the term “marriage” as a metaphor for his relationship with those who are born again if he also explicitly stated that the institution of marriage is absolved at death? If marriage is understood as something that is absolved at the time or death, then wouldn’t the use of the word “marriage” or “bridegrrom” imply that salvation is also absolved at death?

    Did God make a bad choice of words to describe the covenant relationship?

    I think there is ample evidence in the Bible that God honors and values marriage beyond the grave: Genesis 1:27, Genesis 1:31, Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9, Genesis 2:18, Malachi 2:16

  • Keith, you forgot 1 Cor. 11:3-12, especially verse 11. These verses are certainly talking about husbands and wives. They say that men and women are not independent of each other in the Lord. Wouldn’t “in the Lord” apply after death, since living in heaven is possible only “in the Lord”?

    Matt. 16:19 has the Lord giving power to Peter to bind on earth and in heaven. This power is significant, and it has several purposes. Why couldn’t it include binding spouses and families, as Joseph Smith taught?

    But now you have me trying to prove the new and everlasting covenant of marriage from the bible, which I said I won’t do.

    I was just adding a few verses to your collection, Keith. It seems to me that the jury is still out on whether or not the bible “explicitly states” that marriage ends at death.

    Let the jurors ask the Lord in sincere prayer and seek diligently for the truth, wherever it may be.