Is the church under attack?


I just now came across a post by Bryce Haymond of the Temple Study blog entitled, The Grossest Form of Church Criticism, in which he states:

In recent weeks I have encountered what I consider to be one of the most damaging forms of criticism of the Church….It is that criticism which comes from within the Church.

He then goes on to quote President Benson as well as the scriptures and he lists the attributes of the LDS he is referring to, but without actually naming who they are or from what quarter they are coming.  I am not aware of apostates within my own ward and stake, so I am assuming that these criticisms are coming from LDS online, but maybe he is referring to critics within his own locality.  I don’t know.

The post has comments closed, so I wasn’t able to ask him what these critics are saying or who they are.  Does anyone know of a recent barrage of criticism from LDS towards the leadership or doctrine of the church?  Is there a recent division in the church that I don’t know of?  (I’m not one to regularly surf the “Bloggernacle” so anyone with information, please divulge.  Thanks.)

Warning: Bryce’s post is pretty harsh, though it contains many scriptures and thus, much truth.  There are some things I don’t agree with in his post, of course, but I’m not asking anyone to analyze whether his accusations or conclusions are founded or unfounded toward these people, whoever they are, I’m just curious as to whom he is referring, if anyone knows.

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The many definitions of adultery


Note: This post deals with physical adultery in marriage and not with spiritual adultery (committing adultery in thought or committing adultery against God by going after idols, etc.)

The Bible’s Definition of Adultery

  • Adultery = “Unlawful breach of a marriage covenant; consisting of a man (married or unmarried) having sexual intercourse with a woman who is either married or betrothed to another man.”
  • Adulterer = “A man who has sexual intercourse with the wife or betrothed of another man.”
  • Adulteress = “A married or betrothed woman who has sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband.”

The Hebrew word for adultery is na’aph and refers to a “woman that breaks wedlock.”  (See Strong’s #5003.)

To explore the biblical definition of adultery, lets set up some imaginary couples with which to mix and match and come up with an ADULTERY or NOT ADULTERY conclusion.

Two Non-Temple Marriages Aaron and Abigail were married to each other outside of the temple.  Brad and Bertha were married to each other outside of the temple. Two Singles Charles is a single man.  Deborah is a single woman.

So, using the above imaginary people in pretended affairs, we come to the following conclusions:

ADULTERY

If Abigail and Brad have an affair, both are guilty of ADULTERY because Abigail is married to (belongs to) Aaron and not Brad.

If Bertha and Aaron have an affair, both are guilty of ADULTERY because Bertha is married to (belongs to) Brad and not Aaron.

If either Abigail or Bertha has an affair with Charles, all parties are guilty of ADULTERY because Abigail and Bertha are both married to (belong to) men other than Charles.

NOT ADULTERY

If either Aaron, Brad or Charles has an affair with Deborah, this is NOT ADULTERY because Deborah is not a married woman (does not belong to anyone.)

If we add a polygynous marriage (which was practiced during the time of the Bible) to the above couples, we get the following:

One Polygynous Non-Temple Marriage Peter is married to both Polly and Patricia outside of the temple.

All the same rules apply as above when you mix and match people in affairs.  Also, when you put Peter with either Polly or Patricia, you don’t get adultery.

NOT ADULTERY

If Peter is with Polly, this is NOT ADULTERY as Polly is married to (belongs to) Peter.  If Peter is with Patricia, this is NOT ADULTERY as Patricia is married to (belongs to) Peter.

Scriptures that pertain to this definition:

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.  (Leviticus 20: 10)

If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.  If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you  (Deuteronomy 22: 22-24)

(See also Proverbs 6: 207: 27)

To understand the above, it is important to grasp the concept of the biblical marriage covenant or contract.  In all the biblical marriage contracts, the woman was joined to the man, not vice versa.  Thus, the woman was given to the man and the man received the woman, not vice versa.  So, the married woman belonged to the man, meaning that she was his property (according to Encyclopaedia Judaica) and he had exclusive right to her and not vice versa.  This is why the biblical definition of adultery always deals with what occurs between a married woman and someone other than her husband.

In modern civil marriages, each one is said to belong to each other and/or to give him or herself to his or her spouse and they often exchange vows.  This was not what occurred with the people of the Lord during the time of the Bible.

To read an in-depth exegesis of the biblical laws concerning marriage, adultery, etc., please review the following, well-written articles courtesy of the Christian (non-LDS) Righteous Warriors web site:

Biblical Polygyny (part 1): Definition of Words

Biblical Polygyny (part 2): Polygyny in Scripture

Biblical Polygyny (part 3): Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

Biblical Polygyny (part 4): Common Objections to Polygyny

Biblical Polygyny (part 5): Clash of Cultures

An Open Letter to the Christian Church Regarding Polygyny

Biblical Definitions of Important Terms

These same articles, and others, are also listed on their Controversial Truths page.

The Definition of Adultery Given by the Lord to Joseph Smith

The following revelations were given by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he inquired about adultery:

And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed.  If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery.  And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.  And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many.  (D&C 132: 41-44)

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.  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.  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.  (D&C 132: 61-63)

It is important to realize that the temple ceremony which unites a man and his wife for time and all eternity by the holy priesthood, has it so that the man is under no vow to his wife and also that the man receives the woman and the woman is given to the man and not vice versa. In fact, the wording of the above revelation indicates that the woman then belongs to the man, just as the ancient Jews were married.

Now, lets make up another imaginary group of people, with temple marriages included, as well as a polyandrous marriage:

Three Temple Marriages Ephraim and Ethel were married to each other in the temple for time and all eternity.  Felipe and Fanny were married to each other in the temple for time and all eternity.  Felix and Fiona were married to each other in the temple for time and all eternity.  Also, Felipe has been “appointed unto Fiona by the holy anointing.” Two Non-Temple Marriages Garrett and Gigi were married outside of the temple, Garrett taking a vow of fidelity.  Henry and Harriet were married outside of the temple, but Henry took no vow.  Two Singles Ian is a single man.  Jill is a single woman.

So, using the Lord’s definition of adultery given to Joseph Smith and the above imaginary people in pretended affairs, we come to the following conclusions:

ADULTERY

If Ethel has an affair with Felipe, Felix, Garrett, Henry or Ian, all parties are guilty of ADULTERY because Ethel is married to (belongs to) Ephraim and not to any of these other men.

If Fanny has an affair with Ephraim, Felix, Garrett, Henry or Ian, all parties are guilty of ADULTERY because Fanny is married to (belongs to) Felipe and not to any of these other men.

If Fiona has an affair with Ephraim, Garrett, Henry or Ian, all parties are guilty of ADULTERY because Fanny is married to (belongs to) Felix and not to any of these other men.

If Gigi has an affair with Ephraim, Felipe, Felix, Henry or Ian, all parties are guilty of ADULTERY because Gigi is married to (belongs to) Garrett and not to any of these other men.

If Harriet has an affair with Ephraim, Felipe, Felix, Garrett or Ian, all parties are guilty of ADULTERY because Harriet is married to (belongs to) Henry and not to any of these other men.

If Jill has an affair with Garrett, this is ADULTERY because although Jill is married to (belongs to) no man, Garrett is under a vow to Gigi.

NOT ADULTERY

If Fiona has an affair with Felipe, this is NOT ADULTERY because Felipe is “appointed unto her by the holy anointing,” meaning that she is married to (belongs to) both Felix and Felipe, her husbands.

If Jill has an affair with Ephraim, Felipe, Felix, Henry or Ian, this is NOT ADULTERY because Jill is married to (belongs to) no man and none of these men are under a vow.

If we add a polygynous marriage (which was practiced during the early days of the restored church) to the above couples, we get the following:

One Polygynous Non-Temple Marriage Peter is married to both Polly and Patricia outside of the temple.

All the same rules apply as above when you mix and match people in affairs.  Also, when you put Peter with either Polly or Patricia, you don’t get adultery.

NOT ADULTERY

If Peter is with Polly, this is NOT ADULTERY as Polly is married to (belongs to) Peter.  If Peter is with Patricia, this is NOT ADULTERY as Patricia is married to (belongs to) Peter.

The Lord’s definition of adultery coincides with the biblical definition, with the addition of two points: that a man who is under a vow can commit adultery with an unmarried woman and that polyandry (a wife with multiple husbands) is a sanctioned practice if appointed by the holy anointing.  Thus, the marriage laws revealed by the Lord to Joseph Smith is rightly called plural marriage or polygamy as it encompasses both polygyny and polyandry.

Modern Dictionary Definition of Adultery

If you look at any modern dictionary under the entry of “adultery,” you’ll find a definition similar to the following:

“voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband; also : an act of adultery”

(Taken from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary’s entry on adultery)

Most, if not all, churches and legal entities (governments) subscribe to this modern view of adultery.

During the time of Joseph Smith, the dictionary in use was Noah Webster’s first edition, published in 1828.  Under the entry of “adultery” that dictionary give the following definition:

ADUL’TERY, n. [L. adulterium. See Adulterate.]

1. Violation of the marriage bed; a crime, or a civil injury, which introduces, or may introduce, into a family, a spurious offspring.

By the laws of Connecticut, the sexual intercourse of any man, with a married woman, is the crime of adultery in both: such intercourse of a married man, with an unmarried woman, is fornication in both, and adultery of the man, within the meaning of the law respecting divorce; but not a felonious adultery in either, or the crime of adultery at common law, or by statute. This latter offense is, in England, proceeded with only in the ecclesiastical courts.

In common usage, adultery means the unfaithfulness of any married person to the marriage bed. In England, Parliament grant absolute divorces for infidelity to the marriage bed in either party; and the spiritual courts divorce a mensa et thoro.

(Taken from http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/adultery)

It is interesting to note that the 1828 definition is essentially the same as the 2008 dictionary definitions, which means that Joseph broke away from the definition of “adultery” that was current for his time and returned to a practice that almost exactly matched that of the biblical definition.

Modern LDS Church’s Definition of Adultery

In the book, True to the Faith, published by the Church, we read under the Chastity entry the following definitions of the sins of adultery and fornication:

The Ten Commandments include the command that we not commit adultery, which is sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband (see Exodus 20:14). The Apostle Paul said that it is “the will of God” that we “abstain from fornication,” which is sexual intercourse between an unmarried person and anyone else (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Latter-day prophets repeatedly speak out against these sins and against the evil practice of sexual abuse.

This definition is identical to the one found in modern dictionaries and is how most people define adultery, nevertheless, it departs from both the biblical definition as well as the one given by the Lord to Joseph Smith.

Definition of Sexual Intercourse

Although I don’t know the exact standards given to our priesthood leaders as to what kind or kinds of sexual intercourse could result in adultery, I do know from my experience in talking with two women who have broken the law of chastity that oral sex does not constitute, in the eyes of the priesthood leadership, adultery. This was surprising to me, as I believe most Americans think that a married man or woman having oral sex with someone who is not his or her spouse is adultery. But on this point, the leadership breaks with the ideas of modern society.  Full frontal intercourse definitely qualifies as possible adulterous activity, but I do not know about “the back door” kind.

Conclusion

All of this shows that adultery is defined in various and sundry ways.  Adultery is widely interpreted and assigned to all extramarital affairs—extramarital being anything outside of the first marriage, as polygyny and polyandry is not recognized as valid—by modern legal systems and churches (including the modern LDS Church), whereas the biblical model narrows it down quite a bit to only extramarital affairs involving married women and excluding polygynous relationships.  The Joseph Smith model adopts the biblical model and expands it to include vow-breaking men, while narrowing it to exclude polyandrous relationships anointed by the priesthood.  And finally, the world looks upon any extra-marital sexual activity to be adulterous, while the Church has more narrow definitions.

It may be helpful to keep all of this in mind the next time you hear that someone has had an “adulterous relationship.”  Depending on the model you choose to use to define adultery, the act may more aptly be titled fornication.

Next Chastity article: Does legalized, same-sex “marriage” break the law of chastity?

Previous Chastity article: Why the long process?

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