Monday, January 14, 2008

Til Death do Us Part

A common enough phrase, whether raised in the LDS world or not, wouldn't you say? I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Especially in regards to the Mormon response of Time and all Eternity. I went to the Rexburg Temple Open House today and got to hear some prophets and apostles talking about how heaven wouldn't be heaven without their wives and children, and how they were so grateful for the idea of time and all eternity (and of course they got that dreamy, happy look in their eyes that we always see on missionary videos). Now, I don't know how I feel about an after life (a post unto itself), but supposing we do live on after death, what would our relationships be like afterwards? According to non-LDS Christianity, we would go to heaven and not have our familial relationships. We might recognize people that we'd spent time with on earth, but we wouldn't necessarily look at them as spouses, mothers, etc. but rather as fellow praisers of God Almighty. According to LDS theology, not only will we recognize others in the same relationships as we have now, but we will also stay in those relationships if we've been through the temple to have them sealed up.

This got me to thinking about the way we practice time and eternity. Historically (from a Christian view point) a man married a woman and they (at least in theory) stayed faithful to each other until one of them died, then the other one was free to find a different spouse if the need or desire arose. In early LDS practice, a man could marry more than one wife regardless of whether or not wives could marry other husbands. However, if the husband died, then the various wives, if so inclined, could try and find another husband. Now, a woman marries a man and they stay faithful to each other until the other one dies and then the left over spouse is free to marry again. Is it me, or has "til death do us part" been in force throughout?

I know that some will say, yes, but because of the temple, they can be married after they die. What I'm saying is that "til death do us part" has been severely misinterpreted. "Til death do us part" simply refers to the life long commitment that couples have made to remain faithful to each other. It means that they are not to go forming other marriage-like relationships while their current spouse is living. However, once that current spouse is dead, all bets are off and they can find someone else. It works this way with or without a temple sealing. You don't see a widower/widow who was sealed to his/her deceased spouse staying single for the rest of her/his life (well, not regularly at least) do you? No, because death has parted the two of them and so the living one is free to find another partner.

So what I'm saying is that if there's an afterlife, then we will indeed either have our relationships as they are now or not, but I don't think the sealing power will really be relevant. Those who marry again waited for death to part them from their first spouse (at least ideally) before moving on. I don't think we need to worry about not having our spouses there with us. They'll be there waiting for us either way.


Rich said...

To me, being sealed is like adding your personal thread to the great tapestry of God's family. Consequently, divorce, death of a spouse, etc., becomes a moot point.

Lessie said...

But rich, don't you already believe that you're a member of God's family? Aren't you already his spirit son? According to Alma, don't you take that same spirit with you when you die? So if you die a sinner, wouldn't you also die a lover, father, etc.? Indeed, you are a divorcé are you not? So are you saying that you're glad that your divorce is moot after you and your ex die? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a divorce? If we know the relationships we had when we were living, know that they connected us, miss these people when we die before them and want to be reunited with them, how is sealing relevant? If I die before my husband, and then he dies later and we see each other again in the after life, we're going to know who we are to each other. God's not going to change that. And if he does, and we don't know each other, then we won't be any the worse off, will we?

G said...

'course, what I think is messed up is bro jones' eternal companion dies, he can just go and marry another eternal companion. But when sis smith's eternal companion dies and she meets someone else later on, she's got to choose between on or the other.

Rich said...

Sorry, my bad. I'm often way too terse and assume too much.

You asked:
"So are you saying that you're glad that your divorce is moot after you and your ex die? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a divorce? If we know the relationships we had when we were living, know that they connected us, miss these people when we die before them and want to be reunited with them, how is sealing relevant?"

What I meant was that my sealing wasn't necessarily exclusive to/with my spouse. Now that we are divorced, (I believe) we are both still sealed to the family of God. Our kids are still sealed to us, but in the larger sense, I see all of us in the hereafter in our respective primes, multiple familial generations together, not as gray-haired grandmas and infant grand-babies -- we'll all look like Aphrodite and Apollo, no? All peers, all friends, all in a cosmic adventure together! Divorce (in my personal perspective) won't change any of that, except that she and I won't continue as a couple in the eternities (whatever that's really supposed to mean). I like to think we will still be friends, and get along (better than we currently do!). And if/when she or I remarries, nobody has to worry about who's sealed to whom, and all the fuss that people tend to make over that.

Did any of that rambling make any sense? I realize I've taken quite a bit of liberty with "doctrine" and traditions, but it's what I feel comfortable with, FWIW.

Lessie said...

G, I'm right there with ya babe.

Rich, that's an interesting interpretation of the sealing doctrine. One that would actually probably be very comforting to a lot of people. Have you said that in Sunday School yet? However, it doesn't answer my first question to you which was, don't you already consider yourself to be part of God's family?

Stephen said...

But when sis smith's eternal companion dies and she meets someone else later on, she's got to choose between on or the other.

I seriously doubt that to be correct.

my sealing wasn't necessarily exclusive to/with my spouse. Now that we are divorced, (I believe) we are both still sealed to the family of God.

Which is why they keep sealings in effect until people remarry.

Sealing is an ordinance, like baptism. Surely we are God's children, but it is baptism that makes us a Child of God.

Interesting, isn't it.

Rich said...

I actually have shared that before in SS, and I don't remember anyone being upset to anything (though I'm sure many don't agree with my perspective). I just know several people that really get worked up about the details, and make a lot of fuss over it, and I think it's unwarranted. Goes back to the "man wasn't made for the sabbath, but the sabbath made for man" idea that the Lord loves us and I highly doubt a loving father is going to make it anywhere near as messy for us as we do!

As to your first question, sure, we are already members of God's family in a sense, but just as in "real" life, we all have agency to choose the level of participation. Some of us choose a lifestyle or friendships or whatever that separate us from the rest of the family; make us feel uncomfortable around them, and not feel like being together. To me the sealing symbolically is the making of commitments and covenants to move ahead, express a willingness to become like our spirit parents, and follow their lead. To make a marriage that includes a commitment not only to each other but to gospel principles. Becoming like God is more than just "growing up"; kids become adults regardless of the choices they make. We become like God only when we choose -- when we covenant -- to do so. It doesn't just "happen".

Did that answer make sense, or were you getting at something else?

G said...

"But when sis smith's eternal companion dies and she meets someone else later on, she's got to choose between on or the other."

stephen: ""I seriously doubt that to be correct"

me too. I doubt a lot of things the church teaches.

(as to whether or not that is on official teaching, I don't think it is any sunday school manuals... but I have heard of enough instances of the practice and cultural discussion about it to lend some level of relevancy to the idea. It is probably discussed in the bishop's handbook.)

personally, I think all the concepts and theories of what the after-life will look like are pipe dreams. I have read lots of versions from lots of cultures and faiths... some I like, some I don't... and I have no faith that my personal preferences will do much to change reality... but then again... maybe we do create our own realities after we die.

who knows?

Lessie said...

Sorry everyone, I've been reading your comments, just been pressed for time, so I haven't responded.

Stephen, I must admit that I think the only thing differentiating your two definitions is word order and capitalization. What part of God's child don't you understand? :-) I think that the sealing is mincing words. According to what I learned in my religion classes back in the day, some LDS theologians posit that the priesthood is an ancient organization not only for us, but for all of the gods out there. Sealing is a way to join this order. I remember it being all rather mystical and exciting at the time I learned it. Now it's simply multiplying theories (imo) and rather exclusive.

Rich, I think I understand where you're coming from, but similar to what I mentioned to Stephen above, I think this doctrine is largely mincing words. The more I come to look at other traditions, the more I realize that being a good person is the most important thing. Period. All the ordinances, rituals, societies, etc. that humanity has devised are simply extras, ways to make them feel better compared to their unenlightened neighbor. A friend of mine once asked me why we wanted to make it more complicated to get to heaven. I didn't understand him then, but I do now. I think things like this are simply making it more difficult to be a good person.

G, I know what you mean about the afterlife. If there is one, I don't think there's even a one in a million chance that any of us could really know what it's like.

Julia said...

Hey there. I just wanted to say thanks for your comment on my blog. This is an interesting post and something that I've often wondered about. When my brother and his wife didn't get married in the temple, my mom started sobbing when she heard the "till death do you part" part of the ceremony. My husband has often wondered about his daughter...she was not born "under the covenant" so is technically not sealed to anyone yet. If she doesn't marry in the temple, is she damned for eternity. My grandmother was married three times. Sealed to the first, he passed after six months. She married her second husband and had nine kids. Her third husband was much later in life and they were best of friends and traveled the world together. Who will she be with? According to doctrine, the first one right. Still, I don't think anyone knows the half of it. I have to tell myself to not get to crazy over it all since I don't think anyone can truly KNOW what is going to happen if there is indeed an after life. Thanks for such an interesting post. Sorry I don't add much insight! :)

(chandelle) said...

"But when sis smith's eternal companion dies and she meets someone else later on, she's got to choose between on or the other."

g, i'm pretty sure (but not positive) that the way that it actually works is this:

men may be married to as many women as they want in the temple, and whether it's explicitly spoken of or not, it seems to go without saying that he will have all of those wives when he goes to the CK. women, on the other hand, may not be sealed in the temple to more than one man. if a woman is sealed to one man and then divorces and wants to be sealed to another, she must obtain a "temple divorce," which requires permission from the GAs. then she is not married, sealed or connected to the first husband (except with children, as in the tapestry idea that rich explained). she is not married, in this life or the next. and then she can be sealed in the temple. but a woman may only be sealed to one man at one time, whereas a man may be sealed to as many women as he wants and he'll supposedly maintain all those marriages in the afterlife, if he is worthy. now, if a woman marries secularly and divorces secularly and remarries secularly ("secularly" defined here as "out of the temple") then it doesn't matter anyway since mormon theology doesn't recognize those as real marriages, in the eternal sense. if a woman marries in the temple, then she is married for time and all eternity, regardless of whether she obtains a secular divorce. if she remarries secularly, out of the temple (which is her only option if she cannot obtain a temple divorce, which as i understand it is very difficult), then her second marriage is for time only - not for eternity. eternally, she is still married to the first husband, and she and her second husband will be separated at death. now, plenty of people will try to put a candy coating on that and say that god would never force the issue if they didn't want to be together and if she really belonged with the second husband and blah blah blah, but that's the bare bones dogma of it, as i was always taught. my very good friend was married in the temple and then later divorced secularly. she met a man who had been married in the temple and they decided to get married. she wanted to be with him for eternity, not just for time, so she petitioned for a temple divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty and unrighteousness on the part of her ex. she was granted a temple divorce after more than a year and she and her husband were sealed in the temple. but her new husband didn't have to obtain a temple divorce; he'll just keep both wives, according to doctrine. there have been exceptions to this with women (such as women sealed to more than one husband, living or dead, back when polygamy was instituted), but those seem to be the general rules.

sorry to run off at the mouth there. :)

G said...

chandelle... ya, that is pretty much how I understand it as well,

I also understood that it would be the same not only in instances of divorce, but also death of a spouse. that a woman would have to cancel the sealing to her deceased husband before she could be married for eternity to a living husband.
but a man would not need to.

(chandelle) said...

yyyyyyyyyyuck. :(

Anonymous said...

After everybody involved in these multiple marriage situations is dead, a woman can be sealed to more than one man...