The Forgotten Prohibition on Divorce

Marriage has been a moral and political subject for a very long time, while the practice goes back to ancient history. Discussions of who and how many can join together are found all over the place. The current hot topic asks the question if Mormon marriages are supposed to be equal or patriarchal authoritative. What hasn’t been talked about much is the equally growing number of marriage dissolution. Couples have been divorcing at greater numbers each year. This isn’t just the case outside the LDS Church, but within the Mormon community. Worse yet is an ever increasing rate of Temple Marriage sealings getting dissolved. The trend has become serious enough that LDS President made mention in the April 2011 General Conference of his concerns:

Now, brethren, I turn to another subject about which I feel impressed to address you. In the three years since I was sustained as President of the Church, I believe the saddest and most discouraging responsibility I have each week is the handling of cancellations of sealings. Each one was preceded by a joyous marriage in the house of the Lord, where a loving couple was beginning a new life together and looking forward to spending the rest of eternity with each other. And then months and years go by, and for one reason or another, love dies. It may be the result of financial problems, lack of communication, uncontrolled tempers, interference from in-laws, entanglement in sin. There are any number of reasons. In most cases divorce does not have to be the outcome.

The vast majority of requests for cancellations of sealings come from women who tried desperately to make a go of the marriage but who, in the final analysis, could not overcome the problems.

The high profile re-marriage of Marie Osmond to her first husband Stephen Craig is a small reminder of how fragile relationships seem to be for modern couples. Her choice will be commented on a bit later. Hopefully the second time around will last for the Eternal promise made in the LDS Temple vows. Why it didn’t work out the first time is a personal issue, but the failure is far from typical for too many. Multiple divorces and marriages are no longer associated mostly with the rich and high profile entertainers. The opinion of the Lord on this matter is not hard to find even if forgotten by the Saints. He would not be pleased.

One Flesh

Since the beginning of Creation (see Genesis 2) the union of man and woman has been sanctioned by God at the least for the establishment of the human population. In the Garden of Eden the man Adam was put into a deep sleep. When he woke up, a woman had been formed from his ribs to be a companion. From that time forward, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

This relationship is not a temporary situation, but meant to be an extension of the Church. It is possible to describe the family institution that marriage forms as a sub-organization, much like a Ward is to a Stake. Ephesians 5: 22–32, explains that how a couple treats each other is similar to how Christ does the Church. Hopefully one day the marriage, like the Church, will be sanctified and cleansed to be presented spotless. There is more than feelings involved, but real work and progress must be employed to achieve the glorious end. The Epistle ends with a type of warning that these facts about keeping the relationship strong and improving it in the same way as Christ the Church is a mystery. Often the use of “mystery” signifies an Eternal concept that few mortals can really understand.

For Latter-day Saints, marriage as a mystery is directly connected to Temple Covenants. Couples unite for an Eternity if they are to be Exalted, as D&C 131: 1–4 succinctly explains:

1In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;

2And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this border of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];

3And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

4He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

Of course, its more than an implication that woman must also be married to reach the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. Together a man and a woman are, as 1 Peter 3:7 says, “heirs together of the grace of life.” The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible that every individual can be Saved, but Exaltation cannot be done alone.

Divorce

Standing in the way of the Plan of Happiness for far too many is either lack of marriage, or worse Divorce. For a couple to separate is not just an undesirable choice, but very nearly a sin. What the Lord thinks of Divorce is unequivocal, although there is a sliver of leeway. Jesus indicated that the Mosaic Law is comparatively lenient, but even that had rules and regulations far more strict than current no fault divorce. To be more truthful, those rules set against others and make divorce a contradictory concept. Those contradictions are nearly as lacking for Jesus’ injunctions as his undeniable disdain for the practice of couples disuniting.

The majority of views on Divorce can be found in Deuteronomy 22, where it is taught that a woman must be a virgin at marriage or they can be stoned to death. That is, unless the woman lose her virginity because of rape and then not held accountable. If a man finds fault with the woman, specifically bringing the charge of losing her virginity before his marriage, and the accusation is found false, the man has to remain married to her. He will pay some money, “and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.” A possible interpretation is that making the accusation on false pretenses nullifies the Deuteronomy 24:1–4 allowance. Then again, perhaps the statement that “because he hath found some uncleanness in her” is really a shortening of the specifics mentioned previously. What makes Marie Osmond’s remarriage to her first husband Stephen Craig interesting is that the Mosaic Law completely rejects this as an abomination. Breaking the marriage is considered final.

There is no question that Jesus didn’t even have the “if the latter husband hate her” clause to excuse the marriage dissolution. For the Savior, according to Matthew 19:3–11 among others, the only reason to divorce is fornication issues. It is mostly speculation, but the Pharisees might have asked him the question about reasons for divorce as a political, rather than theological, attack. Perhaps they already knew lenient divorce laws was taking a loose interpretation of instructions on the matter. He reiterated what the Scriptures have to say and as usual pointed out a deeper doctrinal context. We learn in Mark 10:11–12 that the prohibition on divorce goes equally for the man and woman, with remarriage considered adultery.

Instructions on the matter were hard enough that the Apostles asked him to explain the teaching. They seemed a bit dumbfounded that Jesus would be harsh when it came to divorce. His answer to them and others remained, “they twain shall be one flesh,” and, “what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The later Epistle of 1 Corinthians 7 contains the writer’s opinions on remaining married to unbelievers or those who have lost faith. Among the advice remains as a commandment of the Lord that a man and woman should not get a divorce. If they do then they should remain separated unless rejoining with the previous spouse. It might even be implied, according to the reading of Matthew 19: 10–12, that if you aren’t capable of remaining married then that person shouldn’t get married; becoming a perpetual virgin.

Modern Scriptures might not touch on divorce much, but they are still just as specific on its prohibition. when Jesus taught in the New World, he restated the famous comments made to the pharisees and Apostles. There are some changes in 3 Nephi 12: 31–32 in wording:

31It hath been written, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.

32Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause ofbfornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whoso shall marry her who is divorced committeth adultery.

The man who divorces is responsible for making the woman an adulterer, most likely because the man who would marry her becomes an adulterer. Instructions for Priesthood leaders with divorce matters can be found in D&C 42:74–75 as part of a larger subject on stewardship. This time it seems assumed that the reason for divorce is fornication on the part of the woman. Yet it says, “if ye shall find that any persons have left their companions for the sake of aadultery, and they themselves are the offenders, and their companions are living, they shall be bcast out from among you.” Where the Mosaic Law states lying that the woman you marry was not a virgin has a monetary penalty with permanent marriage and fornication stoning, the modern punishment is ex-communication. There is no large difference of divorce as offensive.

No matter the reasons given for couples to separate with a divorce, the Scriptures are clear that it is considered a sinful action. Only fornication and unfaithfulness are permissible for the couple to split. Even then, once the two are no longer legally and spiritually united then both must stay that way with the acceptance of getting back together. What if the man or woman fall out of love? What if one is physically or emotionally abusive? What if . . . all kinds of things? I suppose excuses or exceptions can be made as has always been done by the unrepentant. The truth is that the Scriptures name one, and only one, reason for divorce; fornication with another. Stretching that might even include pornography, but no other reason can be found for breaking up what the Lord has put together. We as a community need to do more to repent of the easy way out and work harder to love each other as husbands and wives.

42 thoughts on “The Forgotten Prohibition on Divorce

  1. While I feel much the same way you express in this post about divorce, I am one who has to live with the knowledge of my sin for the rest of my eternity. The Spirit led me to divorce my husband.

    However, for you to say that divorce is the “easy way out” for a victim of abuse betrays that you have never been in that position.

    I hope you never are. It is hell.

  2. Jettboy, I will agree with the intentions of this post. Too many people these days call it quits on a marriage much too quickly. Modern-day prophets have stated unequivocally that people should take extreme efforts to make a marriage work.

    Having said that, I really think you need to reconsider this statement:

    “No matter the reasons given for couples to separate with a divorce, the Scriptures are clear that it is considered a sinful action. Only fornication and unfaithfulness are permissible for the couple to split. Even then, once the two are no longer legally and spiritually united then both must stay that way with the acceptance of getting back together. What if the man or woman fall out of love? What if one is physically or emotionally abusive? What if . . . all kinds of things? I suppose excuses or exceptions can be made as has always been done by the unrepentant. The truth is that the Scriptures name one, and only one, reason for divorce; fornication with another. Stretching that might even include pornography, but no other reason can be found for breaking up what the Lord has put together.”

    This is simply not true. Prophets have also said that abuse is a justified reason for divorce. I don’t have time to look up the references right now, but I have followed this issue pretty closely because I am divorced and was involved in an abusive relationship.

    Again, I think your intentions are good here but you really need to reconsider that last paragraph.

    This is a good opportunity for an object lesson. Let’s see how many people are tolerant of your right to speak out and write what you want. Reminder: Jettboy does not have authority over you. The only people who have authority are your spouse, your bishop and your stake president. If what he writes offends you, go read something else or politely disagree. As a divorced person (and somebody who feels 100 percent justified in my divorce), I should be more offended than anybody at Jettboy’s “intolerance.” His words can’t and don’t hurt me — I am OK with God in my own mind, so all is good.

  3. I would say that while there is a clear prohibition against divorce, and that divorce is embraced far too often, and that no-fault divorce is one of the worse mistakes modern society has ever made -

    saying that divorce for physical or (seriously damaging) emotional abuse is a sin and that using it as an excuse makes one “unrepentant” is morally abhorrent and ruins your entire post.

    And I say this as one who has been accused falsely of emotional abuse by an ex-wife (in order to get a better deal in court). However, even reiterations of the clear prohibitions against divorce in the gospel would not have stopped her from leaving me, as it became quite clear her family was only “culturally” LDS and money was more important than temple covenants.

    But depsite firsthand knowledge that at least some accusations of abuse are false, living in an abusive relationship is hell. I’ve known way too many people who should have gotten out of marriages earlier (or still need to) because of abuse.

    Jettboy’s reading of the doctrine differs from the church leadership and the latter-day prophets. The church allows re-marriage, so to claim re-marriage is fornication is wrong, or else the church wouldn’t allow re-marriage except in limited circumstances (much like the Catholic church). This post is nothing more than “I am smarter than the General Authorities on this issue and the church has gone astray” – only coming from a conservative stance. I expect it from the liberal wing on other ‘Nacle sites, but this is the same basic thing.

    If Jettboy is right, he’s going to have to explain why the church is okay with me marrying another divorced woman, and why they might even allow us to get sealed in the temple (can’t say for sure, as the sealing clearance has to go through, but I know enough people who did get them to know it’s a regular occurrence).

  4. Geoff –

    I’m totally tolerant of Jettboy to say whatever he wants. Can you be tolerant of my right to call him on it? You did – so are you being intolerant? Very odd statement on your part.

    Only an M* moderator could be truly intolerant, by deleting his post.

  5. “The truth is that the Scriptures name one, and only one, reason for divorce; fornication with another.”

    I think Jettboy is right in his analysis, but it only shows that the Scriptures are limited in their applications—sometimes, severely so.

  6. Adultery need not be sexual in nature. The scriptures are clear on that a well. It is possible to commit adultery by placing one’s affections on something other than one’s spouse. Alcohol, drugs, pride (source of abuse), sports, friends are all examples of such. The bottom line is that a celestial marriage is only such if both spouses remain faithful and have the marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

  7. Hm, I fully agree with the idea that no-fault marriages have harmed our society. But, I’m fairly uncomfortable with saying the general authorities are wrong about this. Not because I think it’s wrong to say general authorities are wrong about things, just because they’re not wrong on this count.

    While I was dating my sweet and wonderful wife, we talked about our ideas about “acceptable” reasons to divorce, and I shared my opinion that only adultery and severe abuse were acceptable reasons. But that’s not a scriptural viewpoint, it’s my own. Then again, no where do the scriptures talk about their own completeness, so claiming that everything they say is valid for all points in times is to ASSume something about the text which the text itself does not say. We can assume that the text was valid & complete for its own day, but we are unjustified (and sometimes just a little nutty) if we assume the text is complete for our day.

    A couple of simple scriptural examples should make this clear.

    Circumcision being a perpetual and eternal covenant. Well it WAS perpetual, up until
    when God stopped requiring it after Jesus atonement and resurrection.

    Full consecration and tithing as described in the DC was perpetual and eternal, yet we don’t actually only give up ALL of our surplus and only tithe the remaining.

    So, some literalistic Christian could be forced into believing that two scriptures are equally valid (Exodus and Romans) and could be forced to believe two contradictory statements, or one can accept the FACT that some things in the scriptures are not completely complete.

    I agree that “falling out of love” is no reason to get divorced. But quite frankly, eternal marriage only matters if the couple is living a celestial law, and if either spouse is abusing the other, physically, sexually, or emotionally, it doesn’t really matter if they never got divorced. Quite frankly, I’m happy to know the characteristic of God is to help people be happy, and sometimes that happens through divorce. So I guess what I’m saying is, I have a testimony that my loving God, and His Heavenly Father do allow divorce to help us become celestial, just in far fewer instances than it is currently being used for.

    I do believe, however, that implying the exceptions are being made by the unrepentant sounds incredibly judgmental and rude, considering it is the apostles who are granting the exceptions and accepting the excuses. I’m fine with all sorts of criticism of the brethren, this however, is beyond the pale. I recommend contacting Jettboy’s Bishop.

  8. I know that the GAs have taught that abuse is an acceptable reason for divorce. But I don’t know if there is ever any way for a person to know indubitably that they actually were a victim of abuse.

    Most days, I feel that I did follow the Spirit to the best of my ability, and I know that if it wasn’t the Spirit directing me to eventually divorce, I have never felt the Spirit in my life.

    But deep down, I don’t feel clean. And on that level, I agree with what Jettboy says. Sin is that which separates a person from God. And I certainly feel more separated from the Gospel teachings now than at any other time.

  9. Just to be clear, Jettboy is stating what he believes the Church’s policy to be. In his mind, he is following Church policy, not challenging it. I happen to disagree with his take, but to claim he is challenging Church policy is not accurate.

  10. Geoff,

    This was Jettboy’s direct quote:

    I suppose excuses or exceptions can be made as has always been done by the unrepentant.

    If the general authorities are accepting excuses and granting exceptions, which I think everyone here can agree to (and if not please state so), how can the statement not be taken as criticism? FWIW, I don’t really recommend contacting Jettboy’s bishop. But I don’t think it is unfair to read that line as a criticism of the brethren either.

  11. I am open to the idea that the LDS Church, believing in a living prophet and revelation, have stated differently than what the Scriptures have taught. That wasn’t the point of this post to study modern Prophets and Apostles views, although Pres. Monson’s statement fit in well my feelings. Nowhere, that I can see here, have I said, “I am smarter than the General Authorities on this issue and the church has gone astray.” Not that there isn’t some things I have said that could be interpreted that way if someone wanted to, but such doesn’t take away from my thoughts on the subject.

    Also, I realize its not an easy topic. The Apostles of old had similar concerns about what Jesus Christ said, although he never backed out as I stated above. Maybe once again Jesus has lifted the ban on divorce and allows for a bill of divorce in the modern days. Of course, we must remember why he did that during the time of Moses. By the way, that isn’t a slam on the Apostles and Prophets, but one against the membership.

    That last paragraph is offensive to some. That is understandable. However, I’

  12. Geoff – “What if the man or woman fall out of love?”

    There is the root of the problem right there. If we only do things because we feel like it, we are not really very committed at all. The covenant itself is a commitment, not a warm fuzzy feeling. I find it interesting that romance and ‘being in love’ are almost entirely absent in the Book of Mormon and D&C. Perhaps that is a sign to us that we need to put somethings as a higher priority in marriage than whether or not someone had a warm fuzzy this week.

  13. In the responses above, there has been a lot of “the General Authorities say.” That sort of vagueness can go astray. A specific reference or two would ground teachings a bit better.

  14. Sorry, hit a button and it printed by mistake:

    That last paragraph is offensive to some. That is understandable. However, I’m not going to change it at this time. Its how I feel. Even if the Apostles and Prophets have stated there are other reasons than mentioned in the Scriptures for divorce, the reason for doing it will still be the sins of one or the other partner. A no fault divorce is, far as I can tell, still looked upon as a grave action. My concern is that, as I stated in the first portion, divorce isn’t even a discussion anymore. Its practically taken for granted that someone can do it no matter what.

  15. It has been my experience that legally even when one member states a reason for the divorce, it is still often submitted as a no fault divorce. For reasons of abuse, it is too difficult to prove and generally speaking extends the abuse towards the victim.

    So I, for one, am grateful I didn’t have to go through the trauma of legally establishing my grounds for divorce, though it upset me at the time.

  16. Five minutes of searching on LDS.org shows that the section Geoff quoted by Jettboy is at odds with what the Church teaches about divorce. I would hope that anyone prayerfully considering this talks to their bishop instead of coming to this website. What he is writing is false and is some standard that he has made up for his own brand of Mormonism. I’m guessing this is one of the few times we’ll see Geoff telling people not to be intolerant of someone claiming the Lord teaches something that he clearly does not.

    “the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. ” – Dallin H. Oaks.

    “When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it.” – Dallin H. Oaks

  17. Thank you jjohnsen. I stand corrected.

    “I would hope that anyone prayerfully considering this talks to their bishop instead of coming to this website.”

    I second this statement and agree with all my heart.

  18. Adam fell that men might be. This is a profound doctrine that to me seems to state it’s better to transgress and repent than to never have transgressed — for such a thing is an impossibility anyway.

    I’m not divorced, but I bare no shame for those mistakes I have made, which have been washed cleaned in the atonement of Christ. And indeed, through that transgression and repentance process as a part of the atonement, I have been made stronger than before.

  19. Jjohnsen, thanks for finding those quotations. There were many others I looked at when considering my own divorce.

    As for Jettboy’s last paragraph, well, I’m standing up for the general principle of politely disagreeing rather than being snarky and rude, which is what we see a lot on the Bloggernacle, unfortunately. You accomplished more by being polite — and citing actual conference talks — than you ever would if you had left a comment like “classy.” ;)

  20. Actually Geoff, you can see he not only managed to offer correction to the offender, but got in a dig at you as well. “I’m guessing this is one of the few times we’ll see Geoff telling people not to be intolerant of someone claiming the Lord teaches something that he clearly does not.”

    It gives the comment an air of not about seeking to provide correction where needed, but “win” in the process. The temptation is great to battle with the words of the Prophets, and the Apostles and Prophets (and the Lord) understand this, so it’s a wonder they speak at all.

  21. The temptation is great to battle with the words of the Prophets, and the Apostles. The Prophets (and the Lord) understand this, so it’s a wonder they speak at all.

  22. My general authority quote can beat up your general authority quote!

    Okay – more seriously, I would love to use this as a way to attack my ex wife, but I can’t bring myself to do that (one reason I use a pseudonym – I don’t want to be seen as attacking my ex-wife; It’s bad form).

    Instead, I think it’s best to hold the general principle: divorce is bad and should be avoided – and avoided much more than it is now. It is too taken for granted. In my case, it was not necessary at all. There is no way the Lord will justify my divorce. But I have my own sins (not related to the divorce) to repent of, and perhaps my ex will someday realize what she did wrong and repent. It’s too bad the damage to my children has been done – I can see it in their behavior. I do not hope that in the final judgment, my ex and her parents “gets what’s coming to em” for their role in the divorce. I hope they repent and eventually realize just what a great evil divorce is.

    However, I can also say that sometimes I feel a bit like SilverRain, in that the divorce was not my fault, there was no sin on my part, and yet I still feel separated from God. In my case, it’s mostly the bitterness that I sometime still feel, and I need to just let go and give it over to God. I hope SilverRain finds some peace in her life.

  23. twiceuponatime, we should start a Mormon on-line support community for those who are divorced. Toughest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. The separation from the kids kills me. Just joking about my ex-wife. We are getting along pretty well now.

  24. So far it seems the response has been, “your wrong! Except your also right, but I just wanted to point out how wrong you are.” Fine. Point taken. There is another context that this was written in that can be found by reading the first paragraph. I’ll use jjohnson’s response as an example when someone asks why I would support anti-gay marriage legislation, but not for introducing anti-divorce legislation (although, who says I wouldn’t)? I’ll just answer, because modern day prophets don’t teach against divorce and actually support it as necessary.

    Do I think the LDS Leadership is wrong? Of course not since they are the ones who receive revelation for the whole Church. However, even Elder Oaks stated, “the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard,” meaning there is a higher law. As members of the LDS Church we should be striving to live the higher laws even if we are not required because of the weaknesses of the flesh. That goes for any aspect of our lives. I submit then that we should stop using excuses for our sins because the Lord has allowed a loophole because of our weaknesses, but that we might work on through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to make them strengths.

  25. Jettboy, I agree that divorce is treated far too lightly in our society. But do you really want to be quoting Deuteronomy for your divorce laws? This is the same book that says if a virgin is raped, she must marry her rapist.

  26. Oh come on proud daughter of eve, you left out the 50 pieces of silver. Why that’s more than Judas got for betraying Jesus.

  27. Geoff said: “As a divorced person (and somebody who feels 100 percent justified in my divorce), I should be more offended than anybody at Jettboy’s “intolerance.” His words can’t and don’t hurt me — I am OK with God in my own mind, so all is good.”

    Amen, brother. Good point.

    SilverRain, you rock too.

  28. Here is the thing: the Old Testament has no notion of spousal abuse at all. Husbands have free reign to beat the tar out of their wives, because their wives are their property. It has all the moral value of someone taking an axe to their divan; possibly a waste of resources but not immoral.

    So, you may not want to turn to the OT for moral notions regarding marriage. (Frankly, I don’t find the NT that much better, but at least Paul takes some steps forward (kinda)).

  29. It is such a pity that Joseph F. Smith did not have your post before he and his first wife divorced (not for unfaithfulness).

  30. “It is such a pity that Joseph F. Smith did not have your post before he and his first wife divorced (not for unfaithfulness).”

    I believe all presidents of the Church who practiced polygamy were divorced at least once (except Joseph Smith, who probably didn’t live long enough for any of marriages to fail.

    Just a note about President Monson’s talk–he did not speak in absolutes, nor did he limit situations to particular circumstances where divorces or cancellations were appropriate. Indeed, at the conclusion of his discussion, he simply said, “I realize that there are situations where marriages cannot be saved, but I feel strongly that for the most part they can be and should be.”

    I agree with this principle.

    However, for me as an individual considering the situations of others, I think that the Church’s counsel on birth control might apply–that just as we are not to judge others by their choices (or circumstances) as to timing and number of children, so also we ought not to judge anyone else with respect to their choice, or reaction to a choice, about ending a marriage. “Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly, in the quiet heart is hidden, sorry that the eye can’t see.”

    I do not know personally anyone who lightly made a decision to divorce, or declined to contest a divorce. And when I have become better acquainted with divorced individuals when I might have questioned the dissolution, I have learned that I really had not understood.

    Divorce is painful to the parties involved, to the children, to the parents, to the siblings, to the friends. Often the marriage that ends has also been painful and unhappy and hurtful in similar ways.

    I am not in a position to judge (even to judge someone like Henry VIII), but I am in a position to pray for and hope for God’s healing grace and mercy to alleviate pains and sorrows and to mend broken hearts and broken souls affected by unsuccessful marriages and painful divorces.

  31. John C,

    I’d be interested on how you see scripture as binding or not binding on us modernly. Maybe I’m reading Jettboy wrong, but I don’t think he was saying we should accept the OT on this.

    Jettboy,

    I recently found that that the ‘theory of reproduction’ in ancient times was based on the analogy of seed and ground. The man supplied the ‘seed’ and the woman the ‘ground.’ So they essentially believed that the children were 100% the decendents of the man but grown within the woman.

    This *might* explain what was intended by “because he hath found some uncleanness in her.” I.e. there was real concern that a man that married a woman previously married was still seeded with the first man’s children. Of course we now know this is only true for 1 month at the most, but if you had no way to know that, it would be fairly natural to be worried about the paternity of a child if the woman had has sexual relationships before. The real exception would be a Leverite marriage type situation where the children are expected to be the first husbands.

    Frankly, I have no idea which cultures did or didn’t believe this or if it influenced the OT or not or by how much. But it’s food for thought. We do well to understand a people as they were as much as possible.

    I generally assume that God usually tries to work within the understanding of the people he is currently working with, so it seems at least possible to me that God would allow for or accept laws that are consistent with how they understood the world. (How much sense would it make for God to force them into a situation at odds with their very best possible understandings of the world long before the explanations were even comprehensible?) But, of course, I’m just making a wild speculation at this point, so take it with a grain of salt.

  32. Ephesians 5: 22–32, explains that how a couple treats each other is similar to how Christ does the Church.

    So marriage is a man married to an organization led by men…Hmmmm….I see what you mean.

  33. I must say this has brought about, related to what BrianJ says, the question of Mormonism’s treatment of Scriptures. I believe in modern Prophets and Apostles, but how relevant is the Scriptures to personal interpretations of moral questions? Like much of the Mosaic Law do some things become obsolete? And Bruce, you are right. I was comparing and contrasting the Old Testament teachings and what Jesus Christ taught on the subject of divorce. Ironically for those who accuse me of going back to the Old Testament views of women, it is the modern leniency on divorce that actually goes back to the Old Testament. Some people like to assume and not to read what is actually written just to make, yet another irony, a judgement on me.

  34. “I believe in modern Prophets and Apostles, but how relevant is the Scriptures to personal interpretations of moral questions?”

    I think there’s a real danger in relying too much on the scriptures if it comes at the expense of relying on the Spirit. I don’t think that when it comes time for Judgment we will be able to look God in the eye and say, “I know I was a total jerk, but I was just following [my understanding of] the Scriptures.” He’ll look right back at us and say, “That’s why the Spirit kept screaming at you to act differently. Duh!”

    Along these lines, Alma tells us that judgment consists of restoring “good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.” So if you feel that what the scriptures are teaching is not merciful, then you have the choice of whether to follow that or to follow mercy (psst! choose mercy). Or, as Paul puts it: “Charity never fails, but prophecies will pass away….”

    “Like much of the Mosaic Law do some things become obsolete?” One way to view the Mosaic Law is as a way of tempering ancient society: it was not a perfect law, and its rules are far less important than the direction it was pointing. All those regulations about how much recompense to exact from one’s neighbor if he injured your cow, for example, serve to put limits on revenge and feuding. (And there certainly wasn’t any prohibition in the Mosaic Law against simply forgiving your neighbor!) What I mean to point out is that the details of the Mosaic Law are probably mostly obsolete, but the spirit of the Law—to avoid “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness” and to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy”—that hasn’t changed one bit.

  35. Jettboy,
    I apologize for misinterpreting you. My impression was that you approved generally of the way things are set up in Deut 22. Was that incorrect?

    Bruce,
    I don’t particularly see that issue as relevant. Modern prophets have defined divorce as regrettable but acceptable. They’ve even called it necessary. So the binding power of ancient scripture (without context) is irrelevant. We have a context.

    That said, you asked a question. I apply D&C 91 to pretty much everything. I don’t know what else we could do.

  36. But at the same time, I agree with Jettboy that divorce is not the higher law. It is a law in place out of necessity for a fallen state. And while we should all try to live the higher law while on this earth, we must balance that with an acceptance that we are in a fallen world. And sometimes it is not sin to do something that would otherwise be sin, were it not for the commandment of God.

    Is this not one of the main themes of the Book of Mormon (and the Old Testament, to an extent)?

    Because while eternal marriage is a higher law than divorce, being humble, charitable, and listening to the promptings of the Spirit is an even higher law. If pride is causing you to refrain from sin, that itself is also a sin.

    This is not to justify committing sin willfully, but as Pahoran reiterated to Moroni taught in regards to killing another of God’s children, “We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us. We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us so to do. But behold he doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us . . . let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words . . . let us resist them with our swords.”

    And yet, despite these convictions in their hearts, they still, “sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood; [and] they were sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God.”

    There are those who have used this eternal truth to justify their own desires, from divorcees to religious suicide-murder. But there is really no way for us to judge the mental and emotional process that another has or has not gone through, whether or not they have “wrestled before the Lord”. We can’t blanket a behavior with a judgment that is truly dependent on the feelings of the heart.

    Otherwise, Nephi, Captain Moroni, Mormon and Moroni and countless others were unrepentant because they “excused” their lack of adherance to even the most basic of the Ten Commandments.

  37. jettboy, you say: “As members of the LDS Church we should be striving to live the higher laws even if we are not required because of the weaknesses of the flesh.”

    Yes, you’re right.

    Part of that higher law is that it is ratified by the confirmation of the spirit rather than the words of the law. SilverRain and others have shared their specific experiences in that regard, particularly as it pertains to staying in marriages with convenant breakers who have abused.

    In the end, that same higher law allows us only to examine our own behavior and not another’s, unless we sit in the judgement seat. (And to those in the judgement seat, the counsel is clear: they are not to advise in matters of marriage or divorce; those decisions rest solely with the persons involved.)

  38. Brigham Young had 6 formal divorces, and possibly a few more wives left him without formal divorce (“Book of Mormons”, page 404).

    I can’t find the references, but (if I remember correctly) Brigham made some statements that were very tolerant, perhaps approving, of cases where wives left their husbands because some other man could provide for them better, ie, it was the wives who were “trading up.”

    In fact, the early saints didn’t even put all that much emphasis on formalizing divorce. Example: it was the legal husband of Parley Pratt’s last multiple wife who shot and killed him. She hadn’t bothered formally divorcing him before marrying Parley. (Brigham even made a comment somewhere about Parley’s responsibility in the shooting.) Though the trial that occured immediately prior to the shooting may have formalized the divorce, or at least acknowledged the validity of the woman leaving her abusive first husband. If I remember correctly, the trial was the husband suing Parley for stealing his wife.

    (Me: never married, and no kids. Going on a mission cemented the idea of never living with teenagers ever again. I learned only a couple years ago that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. Undiagnosed Asperger’s pretty much guarantees failure at family life, so remaining single and childless worked out for the best.)

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