Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster
which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

(Othello, Act 3, Scene 3)

In the first episode of the second season of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to some new people.  The lovely McGee family (Bernie and Paige).  They seem like a very tightly-knit and loving family, and the interaction between their two boys brings an involuntary smile to my face.  They are very likable people, and I’m looking forward to watching how things work out for them.screenshot 2019-01-25 23.28.43

However, we do get several glimpses into their past attempts to add a wife to their family, and it seems that Paige’s jealousy is going to be a serious and recurring issue.  And naturally so!  There is nothing wrong with jealousy!  After all, Jealousy is God’s middle name.  Okay, okay, I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but it is one of his names at least:

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

-Exodus 34:14

See!  There you go, jealousy must not be such a bad thing after all!

To be clear, I believe, that none of our fundamental natural desires or impulses are, of themselves, bad things.  The sin always comes from the perversion of our desires.  The desires themselves are God-given and innate.  Wrongs comes from the excesses and the misapplications.  We want things at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, or in the wrong amounts, and don’t always consider how our efforts to achieve our desires appear to God or to our fellow beings.red lizard

For those who know the reference, our desires are like a red lizard sitting on our shoulder and whispering in our ears; arguing for us to give selfish and vile expression to our natural inclinations (for those who don’t know the reference, it is The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis).  drawing-a-circle-with-the-compassesThey are a serious hindrance if unbridled and allowed to run free.  Appetites and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set.  Food is good;  we are even commanded to work for it (Gen 3:19, 2Thess 3:10), but too much of it and we are gluttons.  Wine is something to look forward to (Isa 25:6), but drunkenness is a thing to be avoided.  Human sexuality is a blessed and pleasurable thing, but is also the greatest snare and temptation of many people’s lives.  Money has definite value, and using it facilitates our exchanges for goods and services, but making it the object of our affection is the root of many evils.  You get the idea.horse

On the other hand, if bridled, trained, controlled, and allowed to give their proper vent, our natural inclinations can become our blessing, our strength, and our happiness.  This transformation may not be an easy one, but will be well worth the trade for anyone concerned enough to make it!

Back to jealousy.  It can be good.  It has a purpose.  The key is to find out what it is for and when it should be felt.  If we can figure out our own selves, and our own emotions (even if it is an incremental process), we will simplify our lives and the lives of everyone around us.

First we must understand what jealousy is.  Of course we all know what jealousy feels like, but I think it will be useful to discriminate between it and a very similar emotion, envy.  In many cases these two words may be very close in their usage.  They can both indicate a longing to posses something.  However, the word jealous carries the particular sense of “vigilant (or zealous) in guarding a possession”.  Jealousy also carries the connotation of a suspicious fear of losing something.  In other words, properly applied, jealousy ought to be used to describe feelings of protectiveness for things that are our own; for things that already belong to us (our own advantages, attachments, relationships, and possessions).  Thus, God is jealous for his people, for we are his!

We cross a line into envy when we begin to have similar emotions, but for things that are not ours.  Another word for envy is covetousness.  It is feeling possessive of things that we do not posses; it is feeling entitled to things to which we do not have a right.  This of course, needs to be suppressed, and not allowed to take root.

Here then is the purpose of jealousy: it is one natural mechanism to preserve the romantic bond between spouses. It functions to encourage fidelity between parents (or potential parents).  The jealous anger of one partner being both a deterrent to the infidelity of the other, and also a self-motivator for the person experiencing it to fight for the restoration of the bond.  This (a strong bond between spouses) of course leads to a multitude of benefits for their children (or potential children), and their subsequent reproductive success.

Predictably, men and women feel jealousy in different ways, and for different (but significant!) reasons.  To quote clinical psychologist, Dr. Vinita Mehta:

“Romantic jealously is widely understood to be different for men and women because each gender has a different level of investment in reproduction. For a man to provide for genetically distant children decreases his reproductive success—and because men are uncertain whether they really are the father of said children, they are most susceptible to [experiencing jealousy over] sexual infidelity. By contrast, women can rest assured that they are the mother of their own children; however, they are more dependent on men for resources, making them more sensitive to [experiencing jealousy over] emotional infidelity, since it could threaten the supply of resources for herself and her child.”

Generally speaking, women are concerned (on a basic, visceral level) that their partner’s affection for another woman will lead to a weaker emotional connection, and therefore less desire to care for them, or even that the emotional connection will be altogether severed, causing the man to abandon them for the other woman.

This all goes back to the scriptural, God-given roles and responsibilities for men and women in marriage.  This is the Biblical marriage covenant in a nutshell.  To quantify this difference, a large study, published in 2014 (this is not the only study confirming these results), reported that men were significantly more likely than women to be upset by sexual infidelity (54% vs. 35%), and significantly less likely than women to be upset by emotional infidelity (46% vs. 65%).

There are many things that could be said about the result of this study, but I want to mention two.  First, this does not mean that women don’t feel jealousy over sexual infidelity, or that men don’t feel jealousy over emotional infidelity; rather, it means that their primary causes of jealousy are generally different, and this has significant effects on the way that men and women think and act.  The other thing to mention about this finding is that it has nothing to do with age groups, income levels, history of being cheated on, history of being unfaithful, relationship type, relationship length, cultural differences, etc.  Like it or not, this difference is an innate, biological difference.

So, how does knowing any of this help the Paige McGees of the world?  I think there are at least two useful lessons that can be gleaned from the above.

1) Jealousy is natural, and can even be good, but care must be taken that it does not spill over into envy or covetousness.  In order to keep jealousy within a righteous bound, we need to be certain of what is ours to be jealous over.  In marriage, wives have a right to financial support for themselves and their children.  They have full claim on their husband for that purpose.  However, they do not have exclusive rights to him sexually.  This is important to know because it can keep you from worrying over things that are not yours to worry about.  To put it another way, you shouldn’t feel jealous over things that aren’t yours.

2) Understand that the source of your jealousy may largely (even unconsciously) come from a fear of being abandoned (emotional infidelity).  This is certainly a rational fear, as we all know; this scenario has played out many times before.  Many monogamous relationships have been broken by an unfaithful man tragically abandoning his wife and children for another woman.  However, if you can realize that, in the case of polygamy, your husband is not at all interested in trading you for another woman, but rather wants to keep you both (or however many wives there may be), then that ought to restore your confidence that you are not being abandoned!  At least it ought to increase the confidence in your mind – there may still be a battle with emotions, but what’s new paige and bernieabout that?  If he is a godly man, then he still wants you to be his wife just as much as ever, his emotions towards you are just as strong as ever, and he still wants to keep his commitment to you and your children just as much as ever.

So, to Paige, and to all the other plural (and potentially plural) wives out there I say: Have confidence in your husband and in your relationship, keep working on maintaining and improving your own relationship with your husband, and don’t worry too much about things that are not your business to worry about.

What is Sealing? (Part II) – Commentary on D&C 132

Marriage vs Sealing

It will be good now to make a distinction between marriage and sealing.  They are different, but not in the sense that they are two similar but different sorts of contracts (or covenants, or relationships) between people.  Nor are they different as if they were alternatives to one another.    If you have been in the LDS Church a while, you likely have heard people say things like, “People outside the Church have marriages, but we have sealings.”  Or perhaps, “In the temple you don’t get married, you get sealed.” Or something else along those lines.  They speak of sealing as if it were a different and advanced form of marriage, or a higher type of relationship.

Sealing is not different than marriage in this sense; rather, it is in addition to it.  A “sealing” is not a type of relationship.  I will go a little farther and say, there is no “sealing” of one person to another where there is no relationship between the parties.  Our language is very sloppy.  One person does not get sealed to another.  As I will show in this post, it is the relationship that is sealed.   Sealing is not a stronger kind of marriage; the marriage is the thing that is sealed.

But we must back up a little first.  You see, marriage was always intended to be eternal.

In the New Testament we have recorded an instance where some Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him about divorce.  We have Jesus’ answer to them recorded:

Matthew 19:4-6  “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.”

So it’s not just the Mormons!  Even the Catholics and Protestants, who perform marriages “until death”, believe that marriage, at least originally, was intended to be eternal.

Our first parents came to this earth as immortal souls, with bodies of flesh and bone, and while in this state of immortality, Moses records that they were Man and Wife – they were married!  They had been joined together by God.  If they had remained in the garden they would seemingly have remained wed forever.  Thus, the original intent was always an eternal union – an eternal family.

Image result for adam and eve ldsEven upon their expulsion from the garden, there is no indication that the change from immortality to mortality brought a severance of their marriage.  They were still Man and Wife.  Nor is there any indication that their transition to the next world by death brought any sort of severance of that relationship.  Thus the words of Jesus (Matthew 19:6):

“What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder.”

Alright then, marriage is supposed to be permanent, and sealing has something to do with that, what then is the meaning of the word, “seal”?  And how are we to understand it?Canned-Peaches-12

I have heard several different analogies given to describe this concept, maybe you too have heard it explained in one of these ways.  One is that sealing is like canning food.  When you can peaches, for example, you “seal” them in a jar.  Thus, the peaches are preserved, and this is similar to the way a marriage is preserved for eternity.  Well, this is interesting, and perhaps there are some things to learn there, but this is not quite right.

Image result for pipe sealAnother way to think about it, is pipes, or machine parts, with a gasket between them, and sealing compound, so that the joint is “sealed”.  In this way, nothing can leak out; nothing is lost.  This is also an interesting analogy, but is still not quite it.

A third way to think about sealing is like “sealing” an envelope.  Image result for envelopeThe two sides are stuck together, there is glue between them, and nothing can get in between them or pull them apart.  This is probably the most common cultural understanding among Mormons that believe in the concept of sealing which I am describing.  It is like a divine glue that sticks one person to another.  It is the idea that Joseph Smith had people sealed to him so that he could drag them along to heaven with him.  They were stuck to him you see, so they had to be with him wherever he went.  What a tacky idea.  Sealing does not mean that someone is stuck to you like glue. This idea is not right either.

As I said before, sealing has to do with relationships.  It is not the people that are sealed together, it is the relationship that is sealed, and this is an important distinction.

So, in what sense then aught we to understand the word, “sealed”?  I have here the definition of the word as found in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language:

Picture2

SEALED:  Furnished with a seal; fastened with a seal; confirmed; closed.

Ah, this is the correct understanding of the word.  Let us now read a little farther to discover the definition of, “seal”.  Here it is (also from the Webster’s 1828):

SEAL, noun [L. sigillum.]:

  1. A piece of metal or other hard substance, usually round or oval, on which is engraved some image or device, and sometimes a legend or inscription. This is used by individuals, corporate bodies and states, for making impressions on wax upon instruments of writing (a.k.a. documents), as an evidence of their authenticity….
  2. The wax set to an instrument (a.k.a. document), and impressed or stamped with a seal…
  3. The wax or wafer that makes fast a letter or other paper.
  4. Any act of confirmation.
  5. That which confirms, ratifies or makes stable; assurance. 2 Timothy 2:19.
  6. That which effectually shuts, confines or secures; that which makes fast. Revelation 20:3.

SEAL, verb:

  1. To fasten with a seal; to attach together with a wafer or with wax; as, to seal a letter.
  2. To set or affix a seal as a mark of authenticity; as, to seal a deed. Hence,
  3. To confirm; to ratify; to establish.

There are a few other definitions but this will suffice, and this is the correct sense of the word.  We ought to understand it in the same sense as a, “Seal of Approval”, or “Stamp of Approval“.

Here are several examples of documents that have seals on them:

  • Related imageA US issued passport with the Seal of the United States of America.
  • A US dollar bill with the seal of the Federal Reserve, and the US treasury, and also the Great Seal of the United States of America.
  • My Driver License with the seal of the State of Utah.
  • My diploma with the seal of the University of California.
  • My daughter’s birth certificate stamped with the seal of the State of California.

In every case, the purpose of the seal on these documents is to show their validity, and authenticity.  You could contact the State of California and they would tell you that my daughter’s birth certificate is valid, it was issued by them, and they will vouch for its authenticity.

The dollar bill has the seal of the United States on it, and it is a valid currency, but what would happen to this money if the United States collapsed and went away?  It may well become worthless then, because the authority that issued it, and placed its seal upon it, would be gone.  Or, what would happen to my Driver License if the State of Utah seceded from the Union and became the Independent Nation of Deseret?  Of course, my license would become invalid.  True, they may grant me some sort of grace period, but I would ultimately have to get a new license issued by the new authority – or else stop driving.

All things that exist, will exist for as long as the power that upholds them.  This is very clearly expressed in section 132 as well:

D&C 132:7  “And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise… are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”

Notice, it is the relationship that is sealed!  It is the covenant, contract, association, connection, etc. which is sealed.  Whatever it is that has God’s seal on it, also has his approval.  It means that God has placed his stamp upon that thing, that he claims and supports that thing as his, that he will preserve and protect that thing, and that he will vouch for its authenticity.  Jumping to verse 13:

D&C 132:13-14  “And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.  For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.”

In other words, all things are upheld for as long as the power which upholds them remains.  Who then seals?  And by what power are eternal, sealed relationships upheld?  Ultimately, it is by the power of God’s One Anointed.  And who is that?  The Anointed in Hebrew is Messiah; in Greek it is Christ.  He is Jesus.

People, relationships, and things may be sealed (or approved) by men, and even by the devil:

Alma 34:35  “For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”

And people, relationships, and things may be sealed (or approved) by God:

Mosiah 5:15  “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.”

However, everything ordained by men, or by Satan, will ultimately crumble and will not be upheld (D&C 132:13) at the last day.

Alma 30:60  “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”

In contrast, whatever God has placed his stamp, his approval, or seal, upon will be preserved.  He claims it as his, he seals it as his, and he will uphold it (D&C 132:14).

Ecclesiastes 3:14  “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it.”

If you want your marriage to have God’s stamp of approval upon it, if you want your marriage sealed, then here is my simple advice to you:  Make your relationship the kind that God would want to preserve in Heaven, because he finds that it is a small piece of Heaven already.  Keep the covenants you have made with each other, and with God.  Remain faithful thru both the difficult times and the good.

If your marriage has been neglected, then do what needs to be done to remedy it.  Swallow your pride, seek after God to help you first become what you should be, and second to help your marriage become what it should be.

We have probably all caught glimpses of Heaven on Earth at times.  Moments when our peace and satisfaction with life and our relationships seem full to the brim and overflowing.  And yet, we are very often our own worst saboteurs.  When the seeds of Heaven have been cast upon our lives, and upon our relationships, we so easily, and carelessly, let the thorns grow unchecked until they choke the sprouting seeds, or we uproot the tender plants ourselves, just so we can check to see whether they are growing or not.

God will sow the seeds of Heaven on all types of soil.  He is very generous and merciful in that way.  But we must nourish and protect the seeds in order for them to produce fruit to harvest.  Some will return thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some an hundredfold.

What is Sealing? (Part I)      Sealing Part III (The Parable of the Two Sons)