This is part 10 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. The part following this entry is here.
Much of the July 12 revelation is simplistically divisible into two kinds of speech: 1) Joseph is in the right. 2) Emma is in the wrong. The last section of the revelation falls into both categories. Along with this, we also get some talk of “virgins.” Earlier text in the revelation treats issues of sexual transgression (see part 8 for example).
58 Now, as touching the law of the priesthood, there are many things pertaining thereunto.
If there was any doubt what the “law” really refers to in the revelation, this settles it, right? I’m not sure. I think this revelation consists of a scattering of concepts that Joseph was familiar with (by inspiration, I believe) at different junctures, linked by the theme of plurality. Again, I think the revelation, by an inspired hand, might be edited to display the foundations of current and ongoing practice. Mayhap the rest would be a footnote in history. I understand the height of the hurdle here, and I’m not staking any claims to revelation or inspiration about what, if anything, should be done with the revelation text, though in a later installment I’ll present a possible edited version. All that is merely my opinion.
59 Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me, and I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him.
60 Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God.
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
Verse 59 first appeals to one of Mormonism’s favorite passages on priesthood and then seems to give amazing carte blanche to Joseph—perhaps even bypassing a divine command ethic, but really it seems meant to justify his previous acts to Emma (and other readers, of course).
The use of the word “virgins” here cannot mean (given Joseph’s practice of marrying women who already had husbands, or marrying widows) “a person who has never experienced sexual intercourse.” Virgin might mean virtuous: an exemplary person, say. But the revelation certainly emphasizes sex too (vs 63). The 1843 reader probably saw this condition as “free of (unrepented?) fornication/adultery.”
Verse 63 has some theological reasoning for the virtuous sister-wives of men: they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
The idea seems to promote the notion that some seed is more valuable than other seed. Sex in plurality was a pretty hit and miss thing in Nauvoo. Testimony both contemporary (for example, Clayton’s reports of Joseph’s assignations with Flora Woodworth) and in later affidavits in Utah, make it clear that the small cadre of Nauvoo polygamists—certainly including Joseph—were sexually active. The theological purpose of that sex seems clear: children. But sex in early Nauvoo plurality was, by all accounts, rather unproductive. The rules for sex were probably driven by the propensities of the parties, their cultural upbringing, and their religious scruples. But with the isolation of Utah, church leaders, men and women, spoke out on sex.
The ground rules were made by men it seems and oddly enough, that might work toward the view that sex was for reproduction, not for pleasure. If a man engaged in sex for pleasure with his wives, he risked becoming subservient to those women and he risked destructive jealousy among them. He would lose the power to lead his families to exaltation, lose focus on the prize of godhood, and sex during pregnancy to satisfy the desires of his wives or himself must lead to substandard children in every way. Here’s Orson Hyde, 1857:
Now when the proper intercourse which is necessary for the propagation of our species takes place between a man and a woman, and no more than that—the balance of his power of muscle—goes to strengthen other parts of his system, and thus gives him power over disease and enables him to prolong his life. But when the contrary is the case the man becomes prostrated, by this overindulgence and having given his strength to women, he becomes prostrated and is rendered liable to disease—not only this . . . [he] becomes weak in mind, and debilitated in intellect and . . . why is it some are born Idiots? It is because . . . they were not let alone in their Mother’s womb . . . I will venture to say, that in a Majority of cases, our of one hundred times, one has gone to propagate our species and ninety nine to the gratification of our baser passions. . . I say . . . where there is no intercourse of this kind, only with the prospect of children being born—That family can be governed.
As note  suggests, there was considerable variation in attitudes about sexual desire, some bragging about their self-mastery in avoiding desire altogether, others recounting the dangers of doing so. Women entered the discussion in several ways, one seeing what we might generally call “foreplay” or more broadly, affection, as key in making sexual experiences into love-building episodes rather than soul-diminishing exercises.
While it is still the case that verse 63 may be seen in either of the two proto/eschatological contexts outlined at the beginning of part 8, it is most commonly seen, if it still makes the reading list at all, as support for eternally pregnant females in heaven. But pregnant with what? I think a better context is to take “souls of men” as a part of Joseph’s blessing and the blessing of his wives to lay claim to lots of children in mortality, though perhaps not this mortality and not in the sense of sex producing bodies. In either case, I think the revelation may fit either of the cosmologies of part 8. Whatever, Orson Pratt’s eternal sex idea still has the large following if the “literal children of God” discourse is traced to its endpoint:
Fallen beings beget children whose bodies are constituted of flesh and bones, being formed out of the blood circulating in the veins of the parents. Celestial beings beget children composed of the fluid which circulates in their veins, which is spiritual, therefore their children must be spirits, and not flesh and bones. This is the origin of our spiritual organization in Heaven. The spirits of all mankind, destined for this earth, were begotten by a father, and born of a mother in Heaven . . . If we suppose, as an average, that only one year intervened between each birth, then it would have required over on hundred thousand million of years for the same Mother to have given birth to this vast family . . . If the Father of these spirits, prior to his redemption, had secured to himself, through the everlasting covenant of marriage, many wives, as the prophet David did in our world, the period required to people a world would be shorter, within certain limits, in proportion to the number of wives.
Pratt’s computations and ideas may seem like speculative curiosities today but I believe the literalness of his vision still lies somewhere underneath much of the language we hear in church preaching. But don’t count on drilling down to that. It’s part of the unwritten order. In recent years, women have not been so sanguine about eternally bulging abdomens however, and I think the alternative cosmology is more comforting on that score. But it has its own problems, like what to do with a Mother in Heaven (again, see part 8).
Verse 60 is another mystery and makes one wonder if this was again directed to Emma as a kind of assurance that she was not the only one who is in some kind of jeopardy over the provisions of the revelation. One thing is certain, Joseph gave up his life over his actions in Nauvoo, political, marital, or otherwise.
Verse 59 recalls Joseph’s favorite New Testament vehicle, the book of Hebrews. Someone should do a series about *that.*
Coming up next time: I’ll finish with the verse by verse comments.
 Some took and yet take this passage as justification for believing that spirits are born in heaven via sex between the exalted. I think this presses the passage beyond reasonable limits. Read on.
 There were stories of abortion for plural wives in Nauvoo. Given attitudes about that in other contexts, such practice among Smithian polygamists is so far-fetched as to have probability zero. In the George A. Smith papers at the University of Utah special collections is a letter from one of Smith’s plural wives giving an eye witness report for Emma at the delivery of a plural baby.
 William Gallup diary, Feb. 11, 1857, CHL. Hardy, Abraham, pp. 132, 138-40. Hyde’s dictum was not universal, by his own estimation (though it was echoed by Brigham Young and others), and over the next 40 years was reversed in many respects. For example, the special priesthood meeting for the October conference of 1893 saw preaching to the effect that if the sexual desires of pregnant women were not met, adverse nervous disease in mother and child could be the result. This sort of fun medical science played much the same role as the patent medicine ads of nineteenth-century newsprint, but plurality was especially subject to it, given its isolated clientele. Myths, like a large imbalance in the populations of women and men in the United States, were held as fact in Utah. Hyde’s kind of sex advice wasn’t unusual at the time in America, but it was a variable (and mostly male dominated) trend in history. Medieval sex “manuals” show recommended positions for sex *during* pregnancy.
Unfortunately, much of this faux-science/physiology/psychology permeated Mormon thinking about sex and marriage into the twentieth century and still seems to quicken the occasional speech.
Some Mormons may have seen (mortal) sex desire as a necessary evil, but they were not ignorant of worldly practice (check out Oliver Huntington’s journal for June 12, 1842 if you dare). The variety of attitude here is displayed in the complaint of one of John D. Lee’s new wives. Turner, Brigham Young, 159.
 See Hannah King’s “Procreation” in the Women’s Exponent (Sept. 1, 1885), p.51.
 In Nauvoo, see Franklin Richards’s interpretive comments on Joseph Smith’s afternoon sermon of Sunday July 16, 1843, 4 days after section 132 was written down (text in note  too).
 The Seer 1/3 p.38ff. Pratt suggests that celestial beings are so handsome/beautiful that sex is sort of inevitable. Pratt couldn’t predict it at the time, but his assertion implies a whole endocrinology–physiology overlaying resurrection. But given his anatomical descriptions (“celestial wombs”) that probably would not have troubled him. On the other hand, it may be difficult to feature god-like beings as driven by hormones. So much of what humans see as domestic bliss is physiological that one wonders how our nineteenth-century predecessors might have coped with that knowledge. Pratt’s admission of sexual desire in heaven seems to conflict with much of the ascetic narrative of Mormon sex attitudes in Utah. But, as I’ve observed already, there was built-in dissonance here. Orson the scientist: I wonder how he might have seen in vitro fertilization and its inevitable entailment—1984s babies in a beaker. I like the idea of sex in heaven, but I can’t really see it as a necessary component of spirit propagation. I’m thinking the 3D printing of souls here. Look. Let’s face it. “Spirits are eternal” is the way, the truth, and the reason for everything. We need to get past the other, someday, somehow, somewhere, or something.
 I’m not a particular fan of the idea of my many post-mortal celestial wives birthing spirits in the billions and more. But there are those who must see this as the ideal state. That’s ok. There are some odd physics and biology questions about the whole thing that seem troublesome, though. Frankly, I see interpreting verse 63 as anything other than a reference to mortal reproduction as uncomfortable. On the other hand, there may have been those who saw it that way from Joseph Smith’s time. Witness Franklin D. Richards interpretation of Joseph four days after the revelation:
No man can obtain an eternal Blessing unless the contract or covenant be made in view of Eternity All contracts in view of this Life only terminate with this Life. Case of the woman & 7 husbands Luke 20-29 &c Those who keep no eternal Law in this life or make no eternal contract are single & alone in the eternal world (Luke 20-35) and are only made Angels to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation never becoming Sons of God having never kept the Law of God ie eternal Law The earthly is the image of the Heavenly shows that is by the multiplication of Lives that the eternal worlds are created and occupied that which is born of the flesh is flesh that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.[Franklin D. Richards report and comments.]
Addendum: Sealing and Excommunication
The effect of excommunication on sealings is made somewhat problematic by the July 12 revelation. This is a bit of a hangover from the unconditional version found in verses 19 and 26. To really understand the angsty nature of what’s going on here, we have to delve into the cosmology of excommunication. I can’t really do that here. So very briefly: what is excommunication in Mormonism? It means your name is sort of removed from church records. Scripturally, the terms “blotted out” or “cut off” are used. Being removed from church records is not like you were never there at all. You’re still there. Just with some anathama attached. Something similar is true with regard to having one’s name removed from church records. It’s not like a fresh start. There are degrees of excommunication. Most excommunicants can come back in, but some cannot. Adulterers can come back (the “law” says that two-time losers have to go, for instance). Public, insistent, apostasy will get you gone (apostasy can have some variable definitions since excommunication is a local process). Child sex predators—gone, incest—gone, and so on. From these, the possibility exists that you can come back. But murderers have to go, and probably can’t ever come back as mortals—open, like everything else—to First Presidency interpretation.
So how does excommunication interface with sealing? Bishoprics and high councils excommunicate (and reinstate mostly). But they can’t seal or unseal. D&C 132 seems to make this clear. And it seems final approval of unsealing is not delegated outside the First Presidency, again, this is complicated by D&C 132 and other revelations.
With conditional sealings, one might suppose that the pessimistic clause implies dissolution of sealing upon excommunication. But this is tricky, partly because:
Conditional sealings are not scriptural.
Hence, dealing with the interplay between excommunication (which, barring murder, or the “unpardonable,” has no effect on scriptural sealing) is not straight-forward. Hence, the intervention of “policy.” Out of said interplay came the idea of “restoration of blessings.” In effect, excommunication began to be seen as placing all church temple sacraments in a sort of limbo. They’re there, but, not. Bishops and stake presidents can’t do restoration of blessings presently–a laying on of hands ordinance that restores former blessings, except those declared dissolved by the church president in the interim. Hence, a sealing is still in effect during excommunication, really. There is a new category here: dormant sacraments. I think the idea deserves study. [While we Mormons talk a lot about the necessity of priesthood in enacting our sacraments, I'm not sure we fully appreciate those sacraments.]