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