What happened before and after my friend asked if Joshua and Charlotte are siblings

I met Sophie* more than two years ago because of our shared interest in home birth.

I never told her my marital status.

It wasn’t relevant to a relationship.

She was interested in my head covering, so it was a point of conversation which led to sharing somewhat of my beliefs. I shared what we did with Biblical feasts and what, in the context of Mormonism, I have come to believe about them. Sophie was very interested in my points of view regarding religious and spiritual matters, and we had shared child birthing, feeding, and rearing points of view.

I wanted to go over to her home often, but life is just busy, and my plan to teach her how to make challah never got off the ground.

When our Chanukah party came up, and we had a Facebook invite list, I was mentally going through who I wanted to come to it and Sophie popped into my brain.

So, not really thinking about it beyond sharing our feast with her, I sent an invitation via Facebook and she responded positively.

I wasn’t really sure how to confront the polygamy issue, so I decided to wait until she was actually there and tell her face to face on my porch. I’m kind of in a place of just telling people when they are in circumstances that will lead them to find out anyway. It’s probably not the safest but it gives absolute clarity on where they stand, and I get to do it in a take-it-to-the-front format.

However, two hours before the party began, right in the middle of preparations, I got a phone call from my son who happened to be in town. I hadn’t seen him for 9 months. He is in the Army and been deployed to Afghanistan.  I really, really want to maintain this relationship for many reasons, but it’s kind of been on sketchy, tenuous threads and definitely on his terms.  So I opted to leave the party preparations, visit him, and get back as soon as I reasonably could.

Well, I didn’t give the heads up to Joshua and Charlotte because I thought I could get back early to take care of disclosure.

That didn’t work out.

I got a text from Sophie, asking for the address and I gave it to her.

As time ran later, I began to worry about getting back on time but there wasn’t a definitive point to leave and I finally just said that I needed to leave. I got in my car and checked my messages.

Imagine my absolute relief when the last text message appeared on my screen.

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I was floored. There are literally less than a handful of people who have reacted positively upon immediate disclosure. Sophie made #5.

So, I bawled my way home and walked into a huge hug from Sophie and a bunch of laughter and just absolute happiness about how it all went down.

*Name changed

 

Sealing Part III (The Parable of the Two Sons)

And when Jesus was come into the temple, the high priests and the elders of the church came unto him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority do you do these things?”, and, “who gave you this authority?”

Jesus answered them, “Tell me what you think? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go find yourself a wife, and make an eternal family.’

The first son said, ‘I’m not interested.’  Nevertheless, he eventually did find a wife, but they were not married in the temple.  And yet he loved and cherished her like a treasure, and worked hard to lead their growing family, and to provide for all her needs.  She likewise loved and honored him as her husband, and was a devoted and supporting wife.

Then the man came to the second son, and told him likewise to, ‘find yourself a wife, and make an eternal family.’

And he answered and said, ‘I will sir.’  He found a woman, and married her in the temple – a fact that he was always very proud of.  By and by he began to neglect and abuse her, and she him.  They insulted rather than complimented one another, they were always on the lookout to find fault and to take offense, they never apologized or reconciled, and they were secretly glad when something bad happened to the other.  They were miserable, but still took pride in the fact that they were married by the proper authority.”

When Jesus was finished he asked, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”

It was actually harder for them to answer than you might realize, but eventually one elder, wiser than the rest, replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus said unto them, “Truly I say unto you, that the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”

What is Sealing? (Part II)

What is Sealing? (Part II)

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.”

Image result for canned peaches

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?

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:

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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)

What is Sealing? (Part I)

In my post about the social/legal side of marriage I said that I would write a future post about the spiritual aspects of marriage.  In particular, I am going to give some thoughts on the Mormon concept of “sealing”.  I realize this might not be interesting to all readers, but it is an essential concept for understanding the full import of Mormon polygamy.

The words that follow are adaptations of the words I prepared for a marriage rededication ceremony for some friends of mine.  Just to give a little of the back story, I will repeat the beginning of my previous post:

A few years ago (November 2015) some friends of mine decided to rededicate their marriage.  They threw a big party and asked if I would “officiate” at their ceremony.  It was a relatively informal event; I said a few words, and they renewed their vows with each other.  It was a beautiful thing, but the reason they were doing it was a bit disappointing.  You see, they had just left the LDS Church (the reason why is unimportant to this post), and the validity of their Church marriage (specifically their sealing – more about this later) was being called into question by some of their acquaintances.  This is sadly not an uncommon occurrence.  When the Church kicked us out we had the same experience.  Concerns were expressed to us that we had broken our covenants and now we were adulterers, had lost all our blessings, no longer had the Holy Ghost with us, etc.

My friends were not polygamists (never have been and never want to be), but many of the things I said will have obvious application to marriage in general.  Here we go.

Related imageTo express it briefly, sealing is all about a continuation of the family relationships that are formed in mortality.  The hope is that those relationships which have been sealed will have the power to extend beyond this life, and into eternity, or in other words, that the covenants involved in family life will continue indefinitely.

The belief is that there is something essential about human familial interaction that can be preserved and endure forever – if it is worth preserving (that is, if it is Heavenly).  While it is true that we may not know the exact details of Heavenly life, we believe that earthly life can be made to mirror Heaven in some respects, that earth can be made a little piece of Heaven, that the Kingdom of God can be within us, and among us, and that we can be personally (and as a family and even as a community) fashioned and made fit for Heaven as clay in a potter’s hand.

If you had to guess which one heaven was more like, a Church or a Family, which would you say?  I would say that Heaven is more like a Family than a Church.  In fact I would say that it was like one family in particular: The family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In fact Jesus calls Heaven, “Abraham’s bosom“.  Those who enter are said to, “sit down” with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And all the faithful who are Christ’s will be part of that family.  Whether natural branches or adopted in, they will be the seed of Abraham.

Capture

The structure of this family looks like this; there are 3 patriarchs at the head (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), below them are the 12 tribes (the sons of Jacob), next are the 70 descendants of Israel that entered into Egypt (which is symbolic of the world), finally there is the mixed multitude of their descendants and others who have joined them in their journey to the Promised Land.  This structure is very similar to the hierarchical structure of the Church with it’s Presidency (3), Apostles (12), 70s, and members.

But here is the question: is Abraham’s family supposed to be reminding us that the Church is the real thing to be a part of, or is the Church supposed to be reminding us that Abraham’s Family is the real thing to be a part of?  Well, I’ll give you a hint; Jesus never refers to Heaven as Russell’s bosom.

For Elder Parley P. Pratt, a knowledge of this doctrine of an eternal, heavenly family deepened his love for his own family:

     “It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes, in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.
.     Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which my heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.
.     It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.
.     It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.…
.     I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean.… In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also.”
– Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 297–298

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Lester Ralph’s illustration from Eve’s Diary, pg 42

For those who love and cherish their families, and spouses, it would not fully be Heaven without them.  Mark Twain expressed it very well in, Eve’s DiaryThe final words of that story are Adam’s description of his beloved Eve:

“Wheresoever she was, THERE was Eden.”

Mormons get too wrapped up in authority. They argue with everyone about it.  They even argue among themselves about it.  For many of them it seems that authority, for all the reverence they give it,  is their religion, and this sometimes leads them to say foolish things.  Things like, “Plural marriage without the proper authority is sin.” or, “Unauthorized polygamy is adultery.” or, “Polygamy will damn those who practice it, unless their unions have been authorized by the One Man who holds all the authority (keys)”.

I’ll say a little more about authority in the next installment of this post, but for now I’d just like to point out that in section 132 the Lord mentions three separate cases where a man and woman can make a covenant with each other (these cases are in verses 15, 18, 19).  In every case mentioned, the covenant is between the man and the woman, or between the man, the woman, and God.  There are no mentions made of government officials, state approval, judges, magistrates, or licenses, nor priests, bishops, elders or other clergy.  Furthermore, in every case, no matter how it is done, the Lord calls it “Marriage”, and marriage is always honorable.

And yet, a marriage union has both civil and religious recognition and ramifications.  This is because marriage is fundamental both to our society here as well as in Heaven.  In D&C 130:2 we read,

“And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”

Indeed, there is something potentially eternal about our relationships.  Hopefully, we will treat them that way.

What is Sealing? Part II