marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reader Question: Where is Eternal Marriage in the Bible?

I have received many questions on this same topic, so I felt it might be helpful to answer this reader’s question as an article:

Question: I am curious.. Where does the concept of the "eternal marriage" come from when it's obviously not from the scriptures of the Bible, since Christ explicitly implies the opposite in Matthew and the gospels stating "For in the Resurrection of the just the dead neither MARRY NOR ARE GIVEN IN MARRIAGE but are instead AS THE ANGELS (meaning sexless and unmarried LIKE the angels)?
The Apostle Paul also clearly states (when he is speaking regarding the future of "The Body of Christ") that there is no Jew nor Gentile, nor MALE NOR FEMALE in Christ, that they are ALL ONE!? I do understand what time frame Paul is talking about is regarding the consummation at the end of the future eon when quote "all things in heaven and earth will be gathered back under Christ's headship and then turned over to God the Father," because Paul and (Jesus Christ Himself) also talks about husband/wife relationships & Jews/Gentiles while "on the earth," yet he is clear these earthly/fleshly offices are abolished in the final eon.

Curious how the LDS doctrine of "eternal marriage" is supported by scripture from your viewpoint. Thanks for your time! 

~ John

Dear John March 8th,

Thank you very much for reading and for your question.

You are absolutely correct. The Bible does not specifically talk about “eternal marriage.” I do believe the Bible to be the word of God and a very precious piece of scripture; however it is only one point of doctrine. This is why I don’t rely only on the Bible.

Matthew 22:30, the first scripture reference you mention, is a perfect example of this. If you read only this scripture alone, without cross-reference to other scriptures, or if you separate the verse from the others in the chapter, it’s pretty easy to come up with creative interpretations of what it means.

The Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection and who were trying to trick Jesus into making a doctrinal mistake, gave Jesus a question about a man who died, leaving his wife childless. The man’s brother married the wife to raise up children to the Lord as the Mosaic law required, and then also died. She then married all the rest of his seven brothers, who each died in turn.

Their question to him was, ‘Who was going to be her husband in eternity?’

Jesus’ answer was that their marriages were not made by the proper authority, thus all of their marriages were no longer in force when they were dead. We don’t believe that this scripture refers to everyone’s state, but the state of those who marry outside of the Lord’s authority.

‘But it doesn’t specifically say that’ you say? That’s where cross-referencing scriptures becomes critical in order to determine true meaning.[i]

It’s part of our doctrine in the LDS Church that the priesthood authority given to Peter and the promise that ‘whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’[ii] refers to marriage, not only for the duration of mortality, but forever. That authority was restored to the earth through a visitation of Peter, James and John to the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. That priesthood power still exists on the earth today.

If a couple is married civilly, or by someone with authority from a college or another official body of men recognized by a legal authority, that couple is married until ‘death do they part’, but the legal body that performs the marriage does not have the authority to be legally recognized after death.

Marriage after this life would also be denied to those who have the opportunity to be married by the Lord’s priesthood authority in this life, but instead procrastinate or reject that opportunity. This, we believe, is what Jesus’ answer meant. [iii]

The second scripture that you referenced, which is Galatians 3:28, does not refer to marriage or a future time at all. It refers to equality in the Lord’s church (which is the ‘body of Christ’), and how everyone who comes and joins the Lord’s church holds equal importance in His eyes, according to our doctrine.

But this is my point…many of the verses in the Bible are so vague that they could be interpreted many different ways, and they usually are.

For example, I could use the following Bible scriptures to support my teachings about eternal marriage:

  • Eccl 3:14 (refers to God’s authority being in effect in this life and the life to come)
  • Matt 16:19 (God can give the authority to make a marriage last after this life),
  • 1 Cor 11:11 (telling of the necessity for marriage in order for a man and woman to be exalted to God’s life)
  • Eph 5:31 (regarding the commandment to marry)
  • Matt 19:6 (when a man and woman marry, they are one family unit before the Lord, and should not be separated)
  • 1 Cor 7:2 (this talks about the Lord’s law of chastity outside of marriage, and the necessity to marry to avoid fornication, which violates this law)
  • 1 Tim 4:3 (marriage is part of God’s eternal plan – God doesn’t think in two-dimensional mortal terms, he thinks beyond mortality)  
However, a minister from another church could use these very same verses to support a completely different perspective.

Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy talked about this recently:

“…why is the Book of Mormon so essential if we already have the Bible to teach us about Jesus Christ? Have you ever wondered why there are so many Christian churches in the world today when they obtain their doctrines from essentially the same Bible? It is because they interpret the Bible differently.
If they interpreted it the same, they would be the same church. This is not a condition the Lord desires, for the Apostle Paul declared that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” [iv] To help bring this oneness about, the Lord established a divine law of witnesses. Paul taught, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”[v]
The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial?
The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite. For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church.
What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses.
Again and again the Book of Mormon acts as a confirming, clarifying, unifying witness of the doctrines taught in the Bible so that there is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” [vi]

In the 1800’s, the religious revivals in the New England area demonstrated how the Bible could support many different churches and beliefs. It was for this reason a 14-year-old boy from that era named Joseph Smith, Jr. went into a grove of trees to ask God which of all the churches he should join. God answered Joseph’s prayer as promised when he read James 1:5. [vii]

Even though he wasn’t perfect and made human errors, it was because of that boy’s faith and that prayer that we now have additional scripture and a living prophet today.

If I only had the Bible to refer to, I absolutely could not teach the doctrine of eternal marriage. When you have two or more scriptures supporting the same principle, it helps solidify that principle as a truth you can trust to follow.

I also believe in and use the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and the teachings of living modern-day prophets who have authority directly from God to speak for him.

Section 131 and 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants talk about what God’s plan is for us in regards to marriage. It also cross-references with the Bible and Book of Mormon to demonstrate that the policy surrounding eternal marriage is what was intended in those verses.

If you don’t believe that these are true scriptures and are unwilling to find out for yourself if these scripture are truth and that our prophets are the real deal, then anything I say, do, or share with you here is irrelevant.

There are plenty of ministers, therapists and Christian marriage counselors out there who will be willing to teach you only from the Bible. I’m here because there are many who do believe these additional scriptures are true and that we have a living prophet today. I’m here to provide a place to discuss how these beliefs and scriptures can help us understand and enhance our intimacy with our spouses, and help us get in the habit of living like our marriages will last forever. We do believe they can.

Anyone is welcome here. However, please understand that my articles and discussions here are intended for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those that also believe these additional scriptures are the word of God.

I hope that you will stay curious; curiosity is great. I am always here to answer any questions about LDS marriage and married sexuality that you may have.

Sam Zaragoza (Coach Sam)
LDS Marital Intimacy Coach

[i] See Matthew 18:16 “…in the mouth of two or three witnesses (in this case, two or more scriptures) shall every word be established.”
[ii] Matthew16:19
[iii] Doctrine and Covenants section 131 and 132
[iv] Ephesians 4:5
[v] 2 Corinthians 13:1
[vi] Callister, Tad R., Oct 2012 General Conference, The Book of Mormon, A Book From God
[vii]  Joseph Smith History Ch. 1:11-19


Amanda said...

Thanks so much for this Sam!!! It's so funny because my husband and I were just discussing this very issue last night! We were listening to one of Mark Gungor's relationship podcasts and he mentioned the scripture were Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven. Naturally as a born and raised Mormon I did a Scooby-Doo esque double take! What on earth was he talking about?! Jesus wouldn't say that! So we went a hunting for the scripture in question and did some research. Of course my reaction to reading the scripture for myself was to declare, "Well obviously this lady won't be married to any of those 7 brothers in heaven because none of them married her for eternity!" Amazing how clear scriptures are when you have te proper information and perspective! Anyway, long story short I just thought it was very cool that the very issue we were studying last night was the topic of your post today! Love it! Love your blog! Keep up the awesome work!

CoachSam said...

You and your husband are very welcome Amanda.

Thank you for reading :)

Anonymous said...

Another point is to differentiate between being married versus being sealed. I know we typically use the terms interchangeably, but they do differ. I realize as members we have to use some modern revelation to supplant the Bible in some instances, and that's okay. The fact that we have so many denominations interpreting the Bible in so many directions shows how it can be manipulated to suit one's own interest. Here's my question as relates to that scipture, but with a modern LDS spin. Suppose a woman is sealed to H1, and H1 dies. She subsquently marries H2, he dies, then she marries H3, he dies, and so forth. Our sealing policies say after she dies and all husbands have died, we can seal her to H2 - H7. We also believe that in order for sealings performed vicariously to take effect, the parties have to "accept" them. So, if Wife and H2 - H7 accept those sealings, will Wife have seven husbands? Is there anything in modern day church publications to say she won't? I can already answer the question: No. There isn't. The language about "accepting" vicarious work is simple and straightforward and makes no "exceptions." If the parties accept them and otherwise keep their covenants, those ordinances performed on their behalf are effective and binding. IDIAT

Amanda said...

Interesting point to bring up. The way I've always viewed it is different and I have no real evidence to back it up, it's just how I've always viewed the situation. From everything I've been taught it is my understanding that a man can be sealed to more than one woman, however, a woman can not be sealed to more than one man. My mom was faced with this. She was sealed to my dad who died after 6 years of marriage. When she was dating my stepdad and decided to marry him she wanted to be sealed but was not allowed to be. They refused to cancel her sealing to my dad. So she married my step dad for time only. After her death her intention is for us to make sure she is sealed to my stepdad. However, it is her belief (and mine) that she will have to choose which sealing to uphold in heaven. Perhaps when she dies and is reunited with my dad again she'll feel certain he's who she belongs with or maybe she'll feel it's my stepdad she should be with for eternity. Whichever it is, we believe she'll have to choose at some point. But she also has the faith that regardless of her decision they will all be happy and all will be able to have the opportunity to be in the highest degree of glory.

If a woman could be sealed to more than one man then there'd be no reason to wait for her death for the sealing to be performed. I think waiting till after death gives the woman the chance to be reunited with the original sealed spouse and to then make a decision based on the greater perspective of eternity. Then she can choose to accept or reject any subsequent sealings. If they happened during her life it would be like she'd already accepted them all and I don't think that's a possibility. Hope that all makes sense. As I said, no doctrine to really back it up with that I've got to offer, just the experience of my mom going through it and how she's come to understand and accept it. To me, it makes sense. :)

Anonymous said...

Amanda, there are many people like you who believe women will have to choose, but men won't have to choose. There are some who believe men and women will have to choose so that there will be that "one and only." The only thing I can point out is that in modern church publications, there is no language that implies only women will have to choose. You are correct -- a living woman can only be sealed to one man at a time. However, I think this is for lineage reasons, as all children born to a woman that's been sealed are born "under the covenant" of her first sealing, no matter who the father might be. There is some language in the handbook that essentially says for those children who find themselves "born under the covenant" of their mother and a man they never met, that God will be fair with respect to all family relationships. In other words, not to worry. I wish we had more examples of women who've remarried and had them express their feelings about whether they would rather choose one husband out of several, or not have to choose at all. I know I've seen several comments from men who've remarried who can't imagine eternity not being sealed to all wives they've had in mortality. Maybe women have a different feeling when it comes to these things. I do agree that in the end, we'll all be happy however things shake out. That tends to tell me we should probably lean more towards widows and widowers remarrying as not.

HollyAdele said...

Additionally, the story of Job is a testimony to eternal families.

Before his trials, Job had 7 sons, 3 daughters, 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke oxen, 500 she asses (Job 1)

Later, the Lord gave Job double of what he had. "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning," giving him 14,000 sheep, 6000 camels, 1000 yoke oxen, 1000 she asses, and 7 sons and 3 daughters (Job 42).

The Lord gave Job twice as much material blessings as he had before, but the same number of children. Why? Because the children he had before are still his, and he will have them soon.

CoachSam said...

Thanks Holly Adele!
Great insight. :)