Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Lesson 38: “Eternal Marriage” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on July 14, 2011

This week I’m going to take up a series of questions directly from the manual and post some preliminary thoughts and responses.

1. Why is it important to know that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God?

I have great respect for other churches—in fact, I frequently have holy envy when visiting musical events at other churches (most recently, an Anglican mass I was able to attend in Oxford; I also frequently felt envy during Russian Orthodox services). Catholic priests are forbidden to marry, and some passages from Paul’s epistles suggest that it is better not to marry. Recognizing this background of Christian tradition can, I think, help us better think through the implications of this question.

I think the fact that temple marriages last for eternity is important because it suggests, at least to me, that the struggles we face in marriage in this life are not merely temporary struggles. This gives added significance to the way we handle the struggles of marriage. Also, I think it can add significance to all of our relations which can be viewed, then, as types of the marriage relationship. That is, I can practice or typify the kind of patience, love, or forgiveness in marriage by exhibiting these virtues in other relationships.

2. What is the Lord’s doctrine of marriage, and how does it differ from the views of the world?

I really like the part in the manual about the world often considering marriage “only a social custom, a legal agreement between a man and a woman to live together.” This takes all of the sacredness out of marriage. But what do we mean by sacredness? This is a tough question to really answer in our increasingly secular and nihilistic culture. Sacred includes, I believe, that for which we are willing to orient everything in our life around. The world, it seems to me, views as sacred only things like money, power and sex.

3. Why must a marriage be performed by proper authority in the temple to be eternal?

I think the social and religious context of making vows is very important. Not just because of the eternal effects, but because it can have important effects on the way we think about marriage. There’s an increasingly casual attitude in the world toward marriage and divorce, and this makes me sad because of the effects it has on children, and on the parties involved. It would hurt me deeply if my wife took our marriage less seriously. The fact that we were sealed in the temple and took upon ourselves solemn vows that we are both trying to live true to—this gives me comfort and confidence, especially in the more trying moments that I think any marriage can experience.

4. What can we do to help youth prepare for eternal marriage?

I believe this question is pertinent to all of us, since the church is a sociological (though not merely sociological) institution, as are families, and the future of the Church depends on how the youth are being raised. So, whether you’re a parent or not, helping the youth of the Church is a burden we all share in. (This is also largely how I understand the Church’s position on gay marriage, as pertaining to the importance of fostering a culture where children have the best chance of being cared for—not that heterosexual marriage isn’t suffering significantly from casual attitudes, but that heterosexual marriage is where biological children can be begotten and raised in a way that maximizes the chances of family happiness. For more on this view see writings by Robert George, a Catholic writer on the topic, including this paper.)

So, how do we do this? I think it is imperative that we take commitments seriously. President Uchtdorf’s Ensign message this month is on this topic and it’s a fantastic (and short) message to ponder, esp. in our culture which oftentimes advocates an attitude that simply takes the “prudent” route at any given moment in time, without really developing a robust sense of commitment. (I understand this cultural phenomenon as reflecting, in part, economic trends that have increased mobility and instability. That is, in the good ol’ days, working for the same company in the same town all of your life was common whereas it is less and less common these days. This is part of the what Weber called the “rationalization” of society, where firms make decisions based on cost-benefit analysis from the perspective of shareholders, not on commitments it makes to employees.)

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So, what are some of your own thoughts in response to these questions, or other parts of the lesson? Please share!

2 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 38: “Eternal Marriage” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. L Shaw said

    i believe that one important aspect the lesson left out regarding temple marriages is that both parties enter into a covenant with God. This marriage covenant with God as a third partner helps balance the difficult moments that a couple might face. It helps balance it with the love, mercy, strength, faith and commitment that God’s presence brings. Also when we are married in the temple we are aware of the covenants that each partner has made. I believe this gives us the right to speak up when our partner strays. We don’t have to be judgmental about how we speak up but we do need to work hard to keep the standards of the temple marriage strong. Hence we become a strength to one another. We begin to realize that we can not only call on God when we have difficulty but we can also call on our partner for help. We have claim on our partner for additional faith, hope, strength and virtue.

  2. Robert C. said

    Thanks, L Shaw.

    A couple extra thoughts that came up in or from our discussion of this lesson on Sunday:

    1. Differences in marriage can be celebrated. I like to think about this in terms of 2 Ne 2:11 and the contrast of “compound in one” vs. “one body” (see some notes at the wiki commentary on this).

    2. When worldly goals and aims create stress in our lives, marital covenants and relations seem to really suffer. When I’m feeling stressed about non-family-related matters, I am not a very good, kind, patient, or loving father or husband. Non-eternal concerns of this world have a tendency to really crowd out eternal concerns. Covenantal reminders—including sacrament, weekly worship, daily prayer and scripture study, service, prayer, etc.—all help focus us on eternal rather than worldly concerns.

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