Your Friday Firestorm #14

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

(D&C 131:1-4; see also this discussion.)



  1. Let’s start this off by reminding ourselves that in 1843, “celestial marriage” = “plural marriage.” That may be how some mainstream Mormons still read it, but I suspect most will invoke sensus plenior here.

  2. I just looked up sensus plenior and I have to say that I’m a sensus plenior man, myself.

  3. Have most read this post on this passage by Kevin Barney before?

    Is this relevant to the current post?

  4. Can anything save the New York Mets?

  5. …a man must enter into this border of the priesthood

    The “border of the priesthood” concept has been a sadly neglected topic in the church. Luke 8:43-44 may shed some light on it.

    43 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,

    44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

  6. Numbers 15:37-41 adds further light on what it means to “enter into this border of the priesthood.”

  7. I want to take sensus plenior with that interpretation but don’t know how? I even looked it up and am still not sure what you mean. Could you clarify a little bit Ronan?

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Curse you and your rapier wit, Justin!

  9. Brew,
    Simply widen the intended meaning. Joseph was obviously referring to polygamy; the “fuller sense” would be “celestial marriage” in its modern iteration. That may be cheating, but there you go.

  10. As we discuss the travails of the Mets as they wallow in the borders of sensus plenior, let’s not forget that the way we understand the word increase is also probably different from they way it was understood by the early saints.

  11. Ronan, I disagree with your comment #1. Most of the Saints in 1843 would not have interpreted the verse that way. Now, JSJ might have…

  12. What Steve said in #11. That was how it came to be read after polygamy was instituted, but I’m not sure it must be the intended meaning.

  13. This doctrinal point gave my wife the serious heeby-jeebies at one point as she thought that at the right moment, when I was given the chance to go plural and upgrade us all to the VIP room as it were, she would have to accept it to allow for the family to make the grade. (It didn’t bother me because I don’t believe it.) She got over it somehow, mostly because I kept pretending to be hot for dead single women (Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I) and she wanted to shut me up.

  14. My Gen-Xer response to reading this section (very superficial, yet more genuine than you might think):

    “Three heavens within the celestial glory, eh? And the celestial is probably pretty darn good. Heck, I bet the terrestrial isn’t that bad, all things considered. I’d be happy just to make it to the celestial, if I do. I don’t want to get too hung up on whether I’m the best-of-the-best if I manage to make it that far. So, you know, Celestial Kingdom, 2nd rank or 3rd rank seems fine to me.

    “Whoa, whoa, woah. Hold on a minute. Is this saying that unless I make it to the top, I don’t get to have sex in the afterlife? Or just that I don’t get to procreate? If it’s the former, I might have to give this a little more thought.”

  15. BTD, there’s no such thing as a CK Smoothie. Make to any branch, and you’ve got it made in the shade!

  16. Steve, to paraphrase Joseph Smith:

    “I want to analyze the word border. Border–an outer part or edge; the ornamental design at the edge of a garment. Where did it come from? When the inspired man wrote it, he put the first part–the b–there; but a man–a blogger without any authority–removed it. He thought it too bad to begin to talk about the border of the priesthood. It read in the first: ‘In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this border of the priesthood.’ This is the true meaning of the words.”

  17. Steve and Ray,

    Bollocks. Didn’t Joseph Smith marry one of Benjamin Johnson’s sisters in 1843? Given that D&C 131 is supposed to be what Smith told Johnson in a private setting that very year, I think the background to this is crystal clear.

  18. Great! Now I can go back to my more modest spiritual ambitions.

    (Assuming, of course, that you know what you’re talking about.)

  19. The more carefully I read the early documents, the more I feel that polygamy was part of a much larger project. The plurality of the wives corresponded with the plurality of worlds and Gods and recapitulated the patriarchal system as they saw it. Polygamy was not the only plurality in early Mormonism, nor was it the only eternal bond in early Mormonism. I am no great apologist for polygamy and am desperately glad that the practice was revoked, but I am more sympathetic to the view that in Joseph Smith’s lifetime there was enough of an infrastructure of the new and everlasting covenant (which manifestly did not refer to polygamy until late, and even then was not exclusive) for it to persist intact after the abandonment of plurality per se.

    In other words the sensus plenior may not be as historically skewed as many have come to believe, despite the fact that throughout the 19th-century Utah period this scripture was understood precisely to rule out exaltation for monogamists.

  20. Justin, you’re the king.

    Ronan, bollocks? Watch that filthy, toothless mouth. Polygamy was still not widespread; although the context to Johnson matters, it’s not a slam-dunk.

  21. My head is spinning Ronan because of your original comment #1. I understand that sensus plenior means to look at the deeper or wider meaning beyond the words. However, in #1 you seem to be using it differently. Here is how I am reading your original comment. Tell me where I am wrong:

    1)”In 1843 celestial marriage=plural marriage”. You are saying here that the 1843 Saints were using the fuller or deeper meaning of celestial marriage. (i.e. sensus plenior)

    2) “SOME mainstream Mormons still interpret celestial marriage to mean plural marriage” (Now you are saying that some mainstream Mormons are still invoking sensus plenior.

    3) “However, most mormons invoke sensus plenior.” Now you are saying that most Mormons are invoking sensus plenior.

    In other words, I am reading your original post to say that ALL Mormons (1843, some, most) are invoking sensus plenior and interpreting celestial marriage to mean plural marriage.

    Did you mean to say that 1843 Mormons and Some Mormons invoke sensus plenior while most modern Mormons take exception with this interpretation (thus rejecting the sensus plenior).

    If so, I agree.

    Sorry to be so obtuse about this but I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying.

  22. I just want to make it clear: single people are damned.

  23. Stephen,
    The power of the interwebs has brought the autobiography of Benjamin Johnson before my very eyes. The spring of 1843 is saturated with plural marriage talk involving Johnson, his sisters, and Mary Ann Hale. At the same time Joseph is taking “Brother Bennie” for long walks to explain the principle. The instruction recorded in D&C 131 is clearly part of that. But you can choose to think (wish?) otherwise if you want. It certainly makes life easier for us monogs.

  24. SE, I’m with Ronan that as of the revelation celestial marriage came to indicate polygamy. Ronan, before that celestial marriage could mean that marriage performed by a mormon elder within the new and everlasting covenant, which prior to the revelation did NOT indicate polygamy.

  25. Brew,
    Actually, I think you’ve got me backwards. Context suggests to me that Joseph had plural marriage in mind when he was speaking to Benjamin Johnson. Later, polygamist Mormons made that connection explicit. Today, when monogamist Mormons read this scripture they have to either believe (as some do) that they will have to live The Principle one day, or rely on a wider meaning whereby the new and and everlasting covenant means both celestial monogamist and polygamist marriage.

  26. Sam,
    You know this stuff better than me. When Joseph was having his late night chats with ol’ Ben in 1843, which marriage do you think he was referring to, and does the “order of the priesthood” (sans parentheses) mean marriage here?

  27. As I must needs do, I bow to Sam’s superior knowledge. Query, however, as to the current-day relevance of the polygamy context.

  28. Ronan, I agree it probably meant “plural marriage” to Jospeh. I disagree that it meant that to the membership in general in 1843. I know it came to mean that after polygamy was openly practiced and taught by BY. I know it doesn’t mean that to most members now.

    So, I think we agree. I choose the last option in #25 – knowing that it might not be the ultimate answer. I figure if I make it that far and understand it fully then, I’m sure I’ll accept it at that point. IOW, I’ll try to get there with the modern view and deal with it if I succeed.

  29. RonanJH, as I argued in Kevin’s thread on this topic, I think that it is quite evident that Joseph was not talking about polygamy, or marraige at all (remember that the parenthetical phrase was added by Orson Pratt in the 1870’s). Still, if he was talking marriage, Ben was not a polygamist at this time, as far as I can tell. I think it is important to consider the source document (from William Clayton’s diary):

    President Joseph and I went to B[enjamin] F. Johnsons to sleep. Before we retired the President gave Brother Johnson and wife some instructions on the priesthood. He put his hand on my knee and says “your life is hid with Christ in God, and so is many others.” Addressing Benjamin says he “nothing but the unpardonable sin can prevent him (me) from inheriting eternal glory for he is sealed up by the power of the priesthood unto eternal life having taken the step which is necessary for that purpose.” He said that except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity while in this probation by the power and authority of the Holy priesthood they will cease to increase when they die (i.e. they will not have any children in the resurrection), but those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory. The unpardonable sin is to shed innocent blood or be accessory thereto. All other sins will be visited with judgement in the flesh and the spirit being delivered to the buffetings of satan untill the day of the Lord Jesus.” I feel desirous to be united in an everlasting convenant to my wife and pray that it may soon be. President J[oseph] said that the way he knew in whom to confide, God told him in whom he might place confidence. He also said that in the celestial glory there was three heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest a man must enter into this order of the priesthood and if he don’t he can’t obtain it. He may enter into the other but that is the end of his kingdom he cannot have increase.

  30. Don’t the polygamist sects (Not Mormon splinter groups, of course!) use this exact verse to support their claim that the Church went apostate when it abandoned polygamy?

    re: 21 While hopefully Ronan will respond for himself, I think he meant that the “sensus prenlior” today is that celestial marriage = temple marriage, not plural marriage.

    Not that I stand a chance for the (contemporary LDS notion of the) CK at all, of course. As for me, when I can get it I’m thrilled with Business class for a long-haul flight. The lie-flat beds in First are lovely, but just not worth the cost. Just don’t get stuck in a middle seat in Coach when the Air Eternity flight takes off!

  31. Oops, Ronan beat me to it. So most Mormons today believe that eventually in the CK they will have to practice polygamy, Ronan? That has to be tricky numerically. Where will all the extra men go?

    Wait a minute!!!!!!!!!! This could turn out well for me up there after all….. :)

  32. “So most Mormons today believe that eventually in the CK they will have to practice polygamy, Ronan?”

    I don’t have any polling data on this, but I really doubt it. I know that I’ve never believed this to be Mormon doctrine.

    Of course, what the majority of LDS Church members believe and what the doctrine actually means may be two different things.

  33. Classic, Mike. Absolutely classic.

  34. I believe this is what Ronan is referring to talking about Ben and Joseph’s chat. The plural marriage talk is about half-way down.

    Raise your hand if your related to Benjamin Franklin Johnson. (hand raised)

  35. I think Steve should be the first officially called and set apart Blogging Missionary. In his case I think we need to harken back to the days of the 3 year mission call. In addition he will need to continue as a Blogging Home Teacher for those 65 and older.

  36. MikeInWeHo,

    Don’t you remember, women will outnumber men by at least 3 to 1 in the CK, since they are innately more spiritual than us menfolks! Problem solved. :)

  37. Stapely, #29,
    I think that the paranthetical material was added earlier. The Deseret News, on 24 September 1856, published the text as an excerpt from Wm. Clayton’s jounral and the paranthetical material was included. The material wasn’t placed in the D&C until 1876 though.

  38. Just to provide some additional context, the publication in the Deseret News came a few months after a meeting that Brigham Young held with the apostles in which they discussed, according to W. Woodruff, if the “revelation on patriarchal marriage…mean[t] that they shall take more wives than one or be damned.”

  39. Tim J. You do realize that was written after 1903, right? So I’d Say Clayton’s account (as given by J.) is probably a much better source, all things considered.

  40. Thanks for the correction Taysom. Sloppy handling on my part.

  41. Stapers,
    Read Bennie’s journal. The context is very clear. Plus, what do you make of Mary Ann Hale?

  42. It doesn’t change the nature of your argument, I just remember being surprised when doing research on an article and finding out that the parenthetical stuff was added in the 1850s. I had thought it was later, too.

  43. “So most Mormons today believe that eventually in the CK they will have to practice polygamy, Ronan?”

    I think that many, many mormons do believe that this may be a requirement eventually, though not in this life. I’m not sure about this belief myself. I hear women in my ward express this idea fairly frequently though. Often, these are single women who have not had a chance to marry, or who are divorced.

    I was raised with this idea of 3 divisions within the Celestial Kingdom, though I don’t remember anyone ever giving an explanation of how those divisions are made. However, newer members of the church don’t seem to be hearing this. I think it’s interesting sometimes that there is a bit of a difference in the ideas of long time members of the church and newer members. When we are raised from a young age in the gospel, many of these smaller points of doctrine seem to have stuck with us naturally. A friend of mine who was joined the church 15 years ago knows almost nothing about most of these more obscure doctrinal points.

    That has to be tricky numerically. Where will all the extra men go?

    There was a pretty long discussion about this on Waters of Mormon a few weeks ago:

  44. Where will all the extra men go?


  45. Matt W. #39,

    Fully aware. Just pointing out where one could find the discussion between JSJ and BFJ that was referred to earlier.

  46. The text as published in the September 24, 1856, issue of the Deseret News:

    History of Joseph Smith

  47. StillConfused says:

    So can you find your eternal companion in the afterlife? I have always felt that way.

  48. Steve Evans says:

    Justin, that DN article is very very interesting. What’s your take on the shift between that and the D&C text?

  49. About 15 years ago, Eugene England wrote an essay, either in Sunstone or Dialog, about fidelity in marriage, and argued that polygamy is not the same as the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage, and made a pretty good argument that polygamy is not a higher law, nor necessary for exaltation. In the essay, he essentially points out that in D&C 132, our seminal text on celestial marriage, that only 5 or 6 verses in the entire section actually refer to plurality of wives, and his reading did not equate that with celestial marriage.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have this at work with me, and so I can’t give the exact reference. I have to look back and say that D&C 131 does not refer to polygamy specifically. The practice was still mostly underground in 1843, and an argument could be made that we may be conflating celestial marriage with polygamy, when in fact polygamy may only be one aspect of celestial marriage. And is there not also evidence that these two revelations may have been received much earlier than 1843, ie during the Kirtland period?

  50. re: 36 I think you missed the joke, Matt G, but that’s understandable if you don’t know me as resident bloggernacle friendly gay sorta-Mormon guy. WeHo = West Hollywood, details here:

    My point was that an excess of unattached men in the afterlife isn’t necessarily a bad thing from everyone’s perspective….

    re: 45 Darn. I hadn’t thought of that.

  51. Thanks for that pointer, Taysom (and link Justin). It appears not to contain the parenthetical, however:

    In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood, and if he does not he cannot obtain.

    I checked Woodford and he cites the Manuscript History of the Church (handwriting of Leo Hawkins) as the earliest Manuscript (he didn’t have access to Clayton’s Journal), which I presume is the source for the Deseret News. According to Woodford, the first occasion of the parenthetical phrase is in Orson’s D&C in the 1870’s.

  52. Kevinf,
    I’m fully behind EE, but I don’t think that’s what the text intended. But it’s OK to reinterpret meanings.

  53. Mike,

    Gotcha. Thanks, I didn’t catch the joke, I’m a bit new here.

  54. 22 – there went my chance of escaping damnation!

    I wonder how many single guys were around in the 1840s. I feel enough like a failure now being 26 and single, imagine how bad it would be to single in a polygamous community. Theoretically, you’d have plenty of women to choose from, and you could marry more than one!!

  55. Steve Evans says:

    Jacob, your chances were pretty slim already. Don’t feel bad. Lots of people are damned. Just kiss your genitals goodbye.

    er, scratch that last bit.

    er, don’t scratch…. never mind.

  56. J.,
    Now its my turn to stand corrected. I’ll have to check back into my files to figure out where I went wrong!

  57. I was also under the impression that we would have to live it someday in some form, either in this life or in the next. A close read of the manifesto (at least as I interpret it) is not a revocation of it as a valid doctrine, but more of “in the interest of keeping peace with the government we’re suspending this practice for now”. Am I misinterpreting things?

  58. MattG, you’re misinterpreting things. Unless you’re a fundie. Give it a day or so, they’ll start showing up and you’ll know.

  59. I recall Dialog back in the day printing the report from “The Committee on Celestial Demographics” that extrapolated that since more boy babies are conceived, born, and also die before age 8 then girls, the likely balance in the CK is probably tilted in favor of males over females, numerically.

  60. Thanks Steve,

    Not a fundie, I live well north of Colorado City (and, apparently, now Texas).One wife is plenty for me, I prefer to keep it that way if at all possible!

  61. re: 60 Perhaps, but even if every man in the CK only has two wives (which is obviously low in a polygamous world), the fact that more male children die pre-8 can’t possibly offset the imbalance.

    No matter how one looks at it, you wind up with an excess of men. This is exactly what happens with the FLDS, which is why they expel so many young men.

    Polyandry would solve the problem, but then everyone winds up woven together in one huge extended family. (Don’t think I can’t see your crypto-universalism, Ronan!)

  62. I have to say look around your ward this sunday. How many single men do you see sitting there? Now, how many single women do you see?

    It seems a fair assumption that the numbers you see represented in your weekly meeting may be very close to the numbers and percentages we will see in the CK.

    Just a thought.

  63. one huge extended family!

    Voila, brother Mike!

  64. Stepping back from the standard mormon doctrine for a moment: it seems strange that our chances at salvation to any degree would end up being dependent on someone else. I grew up with the notion that we would be ushered into the CK two by two, but since then I find that inconsistent with what I read in most scripture. I realize it gets taken care of with the Only True and Living Loophole — ‘it will get worked out in the afterlife’ — which one of the good brothers here always points out is pretty weak as a core doctrine. (As opposed to TK Smoothies, which is one hell of a sound doctrine.)

  65. Ah but Norbert, as m&m reminds us on the other thread “we aren’t saved alone.”

  66. Mike and Bandanamon, in # 62 & 63. I should take up fly fishing.

    A quote from “The Committee on Celestial Demographics: Report # 1”, Dialog Volume 17:1, winter 1984:

    The sex ratio places limits on marriage patterns. If all 19.2 billion women and none of the 18.9 billion men who survived past eight were exalted, the sex ration in the heavens would barely exceed two women per man. Thus, one would need an extremely favorable image of women to believe in the possibility of universal polygyny. Indeed, these projections suggest that many women who have been distressed at the possiblility of sharing their mate may rest at ease. In fact, they may face an equally formidable task of keeping two men in eternal bliss. Perhaps Eliza Snow’s rhetorical question, “In the heavens are parents single?” requires more serious consideration.

  67. Isn’t it possible that the early leaders would have been damned if they had not entered into polygamy? I think it’s possible that God commanded them to do it knowing that it would not always be neccessary or required. And even if it isn’t an eternal principle, if God says do it, you do it or you’re damned. Right?

  68. Mathematically speaking, if there are an infinite number of men and women then the ratio argument doesn’t matter. That is, of course, assuming that the CK will have an infinite number of males and females which is completely possible if there is only one CK for every one of God’s earths. Or does each earth have it’s own CK?


  69. Each earth becomes its own CK.

  70. Brewhaha, # 69,

    I can only assume that if there is an infinite number of men and women, populating an infinite number of worlds, and an infinite number of celestial kingdoms, then ultimately we can argue that they will eventually produce an exact balance of worthy men and women for either polygamy, polyandry, or just plain old one to one marriages, perhaps all at the same time!

  71. Justin, that DN article is very very interesting. What’s your take on the shift between that and the D&C text?

    I think the parenthetical phrase should be deleted. As a more general matter, Clayton’s brief journal notes form a questionable basis for canonized scripture, and I would vote for decanonization of section 131 (same for sections 129 and 130).

  72. I appears we need someone (Stapley, Sam, Ronan, Justin, Taysom, etc.) to put together a detailed history of this text. It seems that as the evidence is coming in on this thread, Ronan’s interpretation (#1) is holding up the best.

    kevinf (#50),

    I have a link to the paper you’re thinking of at the top of this post.

  73. Decanonize Sec. 129!!! How would I ever be able to tell if I’m talking to an angel or a devil!

  74. Justin, I think there are strong arguments to be made for your position, but I would say that the treatment and use of these sections by the Church post-JSJ indicates that canonization (and prooftexting) of these verses will continue…

  75. It’s still there in the History of the Church. Really, though, in my experience it’s best to have it memorized when situations arise. There’s no time to find and flip open the book.

  76. Jacob J,


  77. Jacob J., the textual hisory seems to be strait forward. We have the Clayton Journal (see #29), which was adapted to Joseph’s History (link to original in #47 and excerpted in #52). This text seems to have been adapted for Orson’s D&C, which is fairly close to what we use now. I stand by my assessment in #29. I also agree with Justin (#72).

    I also seemed to have missed you comment Ronan:

    Read Bennie’s journal. The context is very clear. Plus, what do you make of Mary Ann Hale?

    I am familiar with his autobiography, which doesn’t address this. Do you have journal excerpts? I am also drawing a blank on Mary Ann Hale, if you care to enlighten me.

  78. Jacob J,

    I still don’t see how you get to Ronan’s theory from the DN account. It still looks like monogamy to me.

  79. Staps,
    The autobiog mentions MAH as an orphan girl who lived with the Johnsons. During the spring 1843 section, BFJ says that she became, or was to become, his second wife, although it is unclear if it was made “official.” So with MAH, plus BFJ’s sisters marrying JSJ at the time, it just seemed to support the plural marriage context for D&C 131. But I agree broadly with Justin: this section is more tenuous than the Gospel of Judas

  80. Ronan, I just checked and Benjamin didn’t marry her until November 1844. I typically find Benjamin being not the best source for Joseph’s thoughts. He tended to misunderstand things or at least amplify ideas. As it is an Autobiographical sketch, I put the primacy in Clayton’s diary, which while not a tenuous as the Gospel of Judas, doesn’t really implicate polygamy.

  81. It does indeed mention Mary Ann Hale. See here. About 1/5 down.

  82. Tim, right, but it doesn’t address Section 131.

  83. Jacob,
    Stapely is correct about the textual history. I added some confusion to a simple situation because I apparently took some careless notes at some point in my research years ago. Let that be a lesson to y’all.

  84. It doesn’t address Section 131.

    No, but that was what was flying around at exactly that time.

    I understand the impulse to de-polygify this stuff, but we should be aware of the collateral damage it does to the Deseret Church. Are we prepared to reinterpret everything they held as gospel? Actually I am, but there are some who would be bothered to know how loose (shoddy?) Deseret-era exegesis was.

  85. c’mon Ronan, just fess up that J. owned you and bow before his mad skillz.

  86. Fair enough, Ronan, but taken as a whole, I believe that Clayton’s entry is viewed most coherently in light of temple theology, not polygamy. See here for some of that reasoning.

  87. Steve Evans says:

    Matt, the term is “p0wn3d.” This is the internet, after all.

  88. I bow to no one.

  89. What am I missing here? Stapley’s #29 makes it pretty clear to me that the original comments weren’t specifically about marriage at all. Rather, they were about the general group of sealings and ordinances that led up to the 2nd anointing and/or having one’s calling and election made sure.

    But despite his comment discussions continued on about monogamy vs. polygamy etc. Doesn’t #29 change everything in this discussion?

  90. Geoff: I would guess because, as stated in #29, Joseph did say:

    that except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity while in this probation by the power and authority of the Holy priesthood they will cease to increase when they die (i.e. they will not have any children in the resurrection), but those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.

    This does mirror the “increase” term used in the final part of the quot:

    He also said that in the celestial glory there was three
    heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest a man must enter into this order of the priesthood and if he don’t he can’t obtain it. He may enter into the other but that is the end of his kingdom he cannot have increase.

    This coupled with the fact that “this order of the priesthood” was discussed as a response to Ben saying:

    I feel desirous to be united in an everlasting convenant to my wife and pray that it may soon be.

    We know also the Ben was not married to anyone but 1 wife at this time.

    While plural marriage and eternal marriage are intertwined, the end of plural marriage need not be an end to eternal marriage…

  91. Jacob,

    Wasn’t that NCT post written in response to this post, where someone suggested that England’s article was one bloggers should have hotkeyed and ready to cite to in discussion?

  92. I liked what Elder Christofferson had to say recently about monogamy being the “default” position in marriage. This doesn’t seem to be consistent with the idea that polygamy will be required in the CK.

    From the interview with Reuters:
    CHRISTOFFERSON: It’s consistent with biblical teaching, with Book of Mormon teaching, and that is to say, to use computer language, the default mode is monogamy. That was divinely established at the beginning of time with Adam and Eve and it continues unless God for His own purposes, for whatever reason, permits, or authorizes or directs in this case the practice of plural marriage, and there have been times when He has, if you look at Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the old patriarchs of the Old Testament. And this instance here in the early (LDS) church history.

  93. Matt, note that it wasn’t Ben that said that, but William.

  94. Stapley,

    Of course you are correct that the text in the Clayton journal doesn’t say anything about plural marriage. The extent to which Joseph separated eternal marriage from polygamy during this time period is debatable. So, I’ll grant that you can make a good case against this necessarily referring to polygamy.

    I still think that given the historical context Ronan is pointing out there is ample evidence to believe that in Joseph’s mind the two were tied together. Notice that the comments he makes to BFJ are virtually identical to the comments he makes in the first half of D&C 132. There are those who argue that most of D&C 132 is unrelated to polygamy, but I don’t buy into those arguments for a similar reason. It just more likely to me that these words referred to polygamy in Joseph’s mind at the time he said this. (Blake will come beat on me about “authorial intention” any second now. Yes, I believe the intent of the author should be a principle guide in discovering the meaning of the text.)

    As I said, a good argument could be made on your side against this view. However, I don’t see how you can reasonably disassociate this comment from marriage (as you suggested in #29). The quote has everything to do with eternal marriage. And to add to Matt W’s response to Geoff in #90, the 2nd anointing cannot be decoupled from marriage due to the nature of the ordinance.

  95. Kaimi (#92),

    Actually, my post was written about 8 years ago, (so not in response to you specifically) but I did use your post as a reason to put mine up. Just for the record, I did link to both your post and the ExII post (also very favorable coverage) at the very top of my post, so I figured I was providing reasonable access to positive opinions on the paper as well as my own.

  96. D. Fletcher says:

    I don’t need to live in the highest of highs with all the snooty-types who got their own world to play with.

    I’m perfectly happy with the middle-class Terrestrial community, with clean air, good schools and other ministering angels like myself.

  97. There is no question that Joseph used “eternal marraige” (or the sealing of a man to his wife) as a carrot in his efforts to bring some folks around to polygamy. The case of Hyrum Smith shows how people saw eternal marriage as resulting in polygamy for a lot of folk, but there is oodles of evidence that monogamous eternal marriages were commonplace and in no way deficient.

  98. Man, you guys write fast.
    I’m not persuaded that the date of the parenthetical addition is particularly relevant, since the added material is diachronically ambiguous: in the 1840s, the new and everlasting covenant was much broader than polygamy; in the 1870s it was much more emphatically polygamy. Tom Alexander mentioned this issue some in an old Sunstone essay, and I know others (eg Cooper) have tried to place early Mormonism within covenant theology, but I haven’t seen sustained treatments of the new and everlasting covenant. It started out meaning something like a dispensation ushered in by a new prophet and a new scripture but clearly invoked the sense of a community permanently associated with God. The phrase closed many of the missionary letters back to home base in the 1830s, long before people like Ben Johnson had heard of plurality. Mormons knew that the Zion society they were creating was both sanctioned by new revelation and scripture (the “covenant” of the Book of Mormon) and represented a saving society.

    As Smith made clear more of his Elijah temple theology, the specific contours of the latter definition became increasingly clear. I treat this briefly in a paper on Elias in a recent Dialogue, and though the Elijah discourse is somewhat late, it is quite clear that Smith had in mind a sense of an intimate but broad society robust to death. He fully intended, via what I have elsewhere called a sacerdotal genealogy, to establish all humanity into a single family.

    But Smith had to grapple with the remnants of Calvinism as expressed in the conflict with Universalism. He could not maintain that everyone would simply be together again no matter what; it offended pious and religious sensibilities, and from a human perspective ran counter to their experience with their unfriendly neighbors in the West (Ohio, Missouri, Illinois). But he would also not maintain the horribly sad heaven of Calvinist predestination and theocentrism. his solution was the sealing of humanity through Priesthood and the mystical power of Elijah, as expressed in his evolving temple theology.

    Polygamy is a component of this system, certainly. But so is a) monogamous covenantal marriage, b) adoption, c) baptism for the dead, d) the resurrection rites, e) second anointing, f) physical Zion/law of consecration, and g) the Quorum of the Anointed. These are integrated into the endowment process itself, but they simultaneously expand its scope.

    I will admit that with the exception of (a) and (c) (perhaps (d), but that doesn’t get much press now), these are no longer a part of normative Mormonism, but the strong emphasis on polygamy reflects an 1850-1890 bias and is at least somewhat sensationalistic.

    This has not always been my position. In the past, I have felt that attempts to read the revelation as eternal monogamy are inconsistent and obscurantist. As I have spent the last few years trying to understand what Smith was attempting to do during his religious career, I am much more skeptical of this claim and less strident in my denunciations of the monogamic model.

    Mike: I keep trying to decide whether to include in the conclusion of a treatment of Smith’s afterlife community whether his afterlife is better able to accommodate gay men and women (not just as angelic assistants unable to “generate”) as nodes in the vast family tree of heaven than the faceless heaven of theocentric Protestantism.

    To summarize in a single sentence: Polygamy was one part of a broader effort to unite all humanity into an eternal family, and eternal monogamy is a reasonable replacement for polygamy within the broader (temple-based) project, even in light of the scripture from Steve’s post.

  99. SMB: I keep trying to decide whether to include in the conclusion of a treatment of Smith’s afterlife community whether his afterlife is better able to accommodate gay men and women (not just as angelic assistants unable to “generate”) as nodes in the vast family tree of heaven than the faceless heaven of theocentric Protestantism.

    Sam, if you don’t do it in that article (or book), please explore that line of thought elsewhere.
    (btw, so far we’re enjoying your old stomping grounds, I hope you like SL as much).

  100. Stirling, I haven’t quite thought it through yet.
    We were just back stomping and felt deep nostalgia. SLC is also a wonderful place, even as it is quite different.

  101. I agree with Stirling: Please give that some more thought and share it with us, smb.

    The “faceless heaven of theocentric Protestantism” (wherein everyone gets a CK smoothie) holds little appeal to me. In fact, it sounds downright creepy. I don’t share D. Fletcher’s blithe acceptance of ministering angel status, though. What if I wind up assembling Ronan’s Ikea furniture for all eternity????

  102. Mike, we are talking about Heaven – not Hell.

  103. Peter Priesthood says:

    All this talk of plural marriage/celestial marriage is funny. All the gods and goddesses are married to each other. Otherwise, one god would have more wives than another and one goddess would have more husbands than another. They are all inheritors of “all things.” They are all equal in all things. The number of wives and husbands increases continually, as more people become gods and goddesses and the amount of dominion, etc., increases as more planets and other things come into existence. It is literally an eternal increase of all things.

  104. Molly Mormon says:

    Please can I be one of your ever-increasing harem?

  105. I regretfully missed this firestorm. I find myself in full agreement with J. Stapley. I think that the equation “celestial marriage” = “plural marriage” was a Utah development.

    Some of my reasoning for seeing it this way is:

    1) D&C 132 brings up Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David, Solomon, and the 1 bride for 7 brothers scenario recorded in Matthew and other places. Isaac was known as a monogamist. Therefore we can identify the celestial marriage spoken of (or the new covenant) as a monogamous marriage performed by the proper authority. Plural marriage would include multiple instantiations of this covenant.

    2) It was understood in 1843 that covenants had to be “sealed” in order for the blessings associated with that ordinance to be guaranteed. Bruce R. McConkie demonstrated a great grasp of this concept in his June 1978 New Era article. The original performance of an ordinance involved a 2-way promise with blessings conditioned on continued faithfulness. The “sealing” removed that condition.

    3) It is somewhat anachronistic to call marriages sealings, as Gregory Prince notes in Power from on High. It wasn’t until January 1844 that we have contemporary records that marriages were called sealings. (However some retrospective accounts used such terminology.) D&C 131 and 132 should be read in that light.

    4) In practice, we have a handful of incidences where church authorities recognized that the calling and election of some monogamous couples was made sure prior to any plural marriage. This practice started with Joseph Smith and continued in the Utah period. Basically there were other Abrahamic tests that could be passed to prove faithfulness besides practicing plural marriage.

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