I was recently discussing the dilemma of a close LDS friend’s mother with that friend (“Bill”), and his mother. Here’s the fact scenario:
Bill’s parents divorced several years ago, after he and all his siblings were grown. The divorce came unexpectedly, and was hard on much of the family religiously, psychologically, etc., etc. Most of Bill’s many siblings are now less active or have left the Church entirely (the causes of this are complex in each case, but the divorce seems to have been a catalyst for most of them). Bill and one of his siblings are still active in the Church. Both of Bill’s parents are still active in the Church. They are still sealed together in the Temple. Bill’s father would like to reconcile with and remarry Bill’s mother. Bill’s mother has no interest in doing so. (Assume that she has her reasons, and that they are good ones).
In the last few years, Bill’s mother has been seeing someone. She is in love with this man, and would like to marry him — a potentially likely outcome eventually, if she pursues the relationship. Her love interest is not a member of the Church, and appears to have no interest in joining. Bill’s mother would like to get married again, and in a perfect world, would like to get married in the Temple. But this isn’t a perfect world. She has dated various LDS men since her divorce, but she never hit it off with anyone. She dated this one non-member, and fell in love.
Bill’s siblings have had varying reactions to this situation. Some of the inactive or apostate children are fully supportive. Presumably, others are unsupportive, but only because they’re unhappy that their parents got divorced to begin with. Bill, who is active in Church, is supportive, since he believes the companionship is something his mother needs. She appears to be truly in love with this man, and he is apparently a great guy. The only other active sibling in the family is not supportive of the relationship, as he thinks that should his mother remarry, she should do so only in the Temple, since doing otherwise would be selling out and giving up on her true goals and values.
Question: What would be the “right” decision for Bill’s mother? Should she pursue the relationship with her non-LDS friend, or not? If not, why not? Of course, there may be no “right” answer to her dilemma in some cosmic sense. But let’s assume remarriage to her former husband is not a serious option, and let’s also assume that God and/or the Spirit are not providing a definitive answer. What is your reaction to this scenario in light of your understanding of Mormon theology?
You can say Bill’s mother should hold out for an LDS temple marriage, but doesn’t she already have one? Marring a non-member will not give her an automatic temple divorce (and since her ex-husband probably wouldn’t want one, and she doubtfully has good cause to pursue one unilaterally, she probably won’t be getting one anyway). In fact, come to think of it, could she even get a temple marriage again without her ex-husband’s approving of a temple divorce? (I think the answer is "no," but someone correct me if I’m wrong).
Wouldn’t pursuing a temple-worthy LDS mate be more theologically problematic than pursuing a non-LDS mate? At least if she marries outside the Temple, Bill’s “eternal family unit” will be unchanged, and those siblings who were unhappy with the divorce can take comfort that their parents’ temple sealing is likely to remain intact (assuming they care, which they may not). Also, by foregoing a new LDS mate, she will be freeing up an LDS man who can then pursue finding a temple-worthy woman in the LDS singles’ market and start an eternal family of his own.
Note that if the roles were reversed, and Bill’s father were facing this dilemma, rather than his mother, the stakes would be different. Bill’s father could just remarry another LDS woman in the Temple and there would be no theological complication with his “eternal family” structure. The only “unresolved” issue would be the whole “polygamy-in-the-afterlife” question, which he can probably comfortably shelve by assuming he’s got an enduring Celestial marriage to both wives.
Of course, one way of resolving thorny “eternal family” dilemmas like this generally is to recast the post-Earth landscape as one of a big extended Celestial “family” where as long as we’ve all had the necessary temple ordinances with somebody, we’ll all be “related” and together in our Celestial bliss, never mind the details. This sort of Celestial “Borg” paradigm, in which we’re all assimilated into one big happy Kolob Collective strikes me as a bit too easy and lazy, and I think it deliteralizes our theology of eternal “families” to the point that it renders the missionary marketing of LDS “eternal family” theology as a bit disingenuous.
What should Bill’s mother do, and how do your understandings of LDS theologies on the “eternal family” and/or “polygamy-in-the-afterlife” impact your thinking on this question?