Marriage without a marriage license is ordained of God


My text for this post is the following scripture:

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. (D&C 49: 15.)

Between a man and a woman

To start with, let’s make it clear that the words “marry” and “marriage” in this verse referred only to marriage between a man and a woman. This revelation was given in March/May 1831 and there was no concept of same-sex marriage back then, only marriage between the sexes.

Who forbids to marry?

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. (D&C 49: 15; italics added.)

Parents – Sometimes parents forbid to marry. If a young man or woman is underage, permission from the parents is needed in order for them to marry (with a valid state marriage license). In the high school I attended, there was a very pretty 16 year old girl in one of my classes who was legally married. She received permission from her parents and loved showing people her wedding ring. All the boys in the class (including myself) were kind of bummed that she was now off-limits. It was a strange situation because we all thought that parents normally would not give permission to one so young. She never had a teen pregnancy or anything. She just fell in love and wanted to get married and her folks said, “Okay.” But that doesn’t always happen.

The State – The State is the major perpetrator of forbidding to marry, with all the marriage laws and prohibitions on the books. For example, the State forbids a man from taking a second wife while his first wife is still alive. It also forbids a woman from doing the same thing. It introduces a monetary price on marriage, so that everyone must pay for the permission to get married. It places age restrictions on marriage, as well as health restrictions. Those who don’t meet the qualifications, can’t get married. In other words, they can’t get a marriage license. Additionally, it has cohabitation laws on many of the books so that anyone who tries to marry without a valid state marriage license and then live together can still be prosecuted and thrown into jail, effectively discouraging anyone who wishes to skirt around the State monopoly on marriage authorization.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – The Church is another major perpetrator of forbidding to marry. Although it has no power to stop anyone from getting married, by preaching a valid state marriage license requirement to its congregation, it supports the State’s restrictions and monopoly on marriage. Also, by excommunicating those who marry more than one living spouse (with or without a valid state marriage license, but most often without a license), it sets up its own restrictions with attendant judgments placed upon those who marry.

These three institutions, then, are not ordained of God when they forbid to marry.

But I must add one more:

A spouse – Every man who forbids his wife from marrying another man and every woman who forbids her husband from marrying another woman is also not ordained of God when they do this.

Everything that is in the world is valid in the eyes of God…for a limited time

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 132: 7, 13.)

What this means is that God recognizes “all covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations” that are made among men “both as well for time and for all eternity,” regardless of who or what entity or entities ordained them, “whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be,” as perfectly valid and binding only until “men are dead,” at which point such “contracts…have an end.” This applies only to contracts, oaths, etc., that are not made by the Lord or by His word.

Marriage is a covenant

Marriage is accompanied by a covenant between a man and a woman (the marriage vows), therefore, it comes under the above conditions of the law of the new and everlasting covenant. There are three types of marriage covenants covered by the conditions of this law.

Marriage covenant #1: “not by me nor by my word,” for time only

Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. (D&C 132: 15.)

Here we have a man and a woman entering a marriage covenant, in which the man covenants to be the woman’s husband and the woman covenants to be the man’s wife. The covenant has a stated duration of “’till death do they part.” The marriage is not performed by the Lord nor by His word, therefore it is valid in the eyes of the Lord only until one of them dies.

Marriage covenant #2: “not by me or by my word,” for time and all eternity

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God. (D&C 132: 18.)

Here we have a man and a woman entering a marriage covenant, in which the man covenants to be the woman’s husband and the woman covenants to be the man’s wife. The covenant has a stated duration of “’for time and all eternity.” The covenant is not performed by the Lord nor by His word, therefore it is valid in the eyes of the Lord only until one of them dies.

Marriage covenant #3: “by my word, which is my law,” “in time, and through all eternity”

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (D&C 132: 19.)

Finally, we have a man and a woman entering the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, being married by the word of the Lord and having it sealed to them by the Holy Spirit of promise. He covenants to be her husband and she covenants to be his wife, for the duration of time and all eternity. This covenant is valid in the eyes of the Lord for as long as they abide in it.

All three marriage covenants are ordained of God

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. (D&C 49: 15; italics added.)

The first two marriage covenant scenarios, which operate under temporal power and authority, are ordained of God until death. The final marriage covenant scenario, which operates under eternal power and authority, is ordained of God through all eternity.

Marriage is ordained of God because it creates permanency

God is all about creating permanency: things that remain.

For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed. (D&C 132: 14.)

The only difference between fornication (unlawful sexual relations) and marriage (lawful sexual relations) is the idea of a permanent union. God wants men and women to come together and have sex (become one flesh), and He wants them to remain together, continuing to have sex. The marriage covenant is a covenant or contract to remain together permanently, as husband and wife, either until death or throughout all eternity. It is the fleeting, temporary nature of fornication that makes it wrong.

When two people come together and make love, the love demonstrated and generated is intended by God to continue on forever. It is supposed to remain. The marriage bonds keep people connected (and gathered) so that they continue to nurture and grow the love generated between them. God is love, so the scriptures say, therefore, He is all-loving and never stops loving. To come together and make love and then leave (separate from one another) is akin to stop loving (stop becoming one). God wants us to continue to manifest our love for one another, through the marital covenants. In this way we learn to become like Him, all-loving and continually loving.

No mention of a State licensing requirement

In the scriptures, there is no mention of the need to have a valid state marriage license. All that is needed for a marriage to occur is that there be a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. That’s it. The marriage covenant can be written or verbal. It doesn’t matter. It can be ordained “by thrones, or principalities, or powers,” in other words, by the State, but it doesn’t have to be. It can simply be “ordained of men,” even the two people entering the covenant (the man and the woman), or even by “things of name, whatsoever they may be.”

This means that two people who enter into a marriage covenant with each other, without a State marriage license, without a religious or civil ceremony, the man agreeing to be the woman’s husband and the woman agreeing to be the man’s wife, who then begin living together and making love, presenting themselves publicly as husband and wife, are not living in sin. They are not fornicating. They have nothing to repent of for they have satisfied the conditions of the law of the new and everlasting covenant. Their marriage is ordained of God.

No mention of a wedding ceremony

The scriptures do not state that a wedding ceremony is necessary for a marriage to be valid. Typically, wedding ceremonies do occur, according to the customs of the culture the two people are from, but they are not necessary for a marriage to be valid in the eyes of God. Only the covenant is the necessary part.

No mention of witnesses

A third person can be present while the two make their marriage vows (the marriage covenant), but that is not required by the law of the new and everlasting covenant. They can enter their covenant in private, just the two of them and it’s still valid in the eyes of God.

Conflict between God and the Church

This brings up a conflict because a married couple that does not get State permission to be married is seen differently by God and the Church. In the eyes of God, they are married. In the eyes of the (modern) Church, they are not. (It was not always so.  There was a time when the Church recognized marriages as valid even without a marriage license.)  As the Church holds the keys of the priesthood, despite a couple being validly married in the eyes of God, they can be prohibited from receiving baptism, confirmation, priesthood and the temple sealing, all required ordinances for their salvation. The modern Church, then, in not recognizing a marriage as valid in the same way God does, becomes a stumbling block to their eternal progression.

Consent in marriage

Both before and after a man and a woman come together in holy matrimony (and since all marriage is ordained of God, including non-temple marriage, all matrimony is holy), the law of common consent applies. So, for example, if the couple enters marriage with vows of fidelity, meaning that they promise to abstain from loving (making love to) other people, they must keep their vows. It is the law of the Lord that all our vows and covenants and oaths be kept, for it is a sin to break a vow. Thus, a man must receive consent from his wife to marry a second wife and a woman must receive consent from her husband to marry another husband.

If they enter the marriage with no vows of abstinence and they decide they want more spouses and they receive consent from their current spouses, they may freely marry without sinning. If, on the other hand, they enter the marriage with vows of abstinence and they decide afterward that they want more spouses in their family, they can, with consent, release one another from their vows of abstinence and then consent to additional spouses. This also is not sin, for vows can be freely made and released, as long as the person to whom the vow was made is doing the releasing.

Sin in marriage

The sin of adultery occurs when a married woman is with a man who is not her spouse. Scripturally, all women who enter marriage apparently do so under a vow of abstinence (fidelity), whether they are married by the word of the Lord or not. Therefore, if she is with another man that is not her spouse, she commits adultery.

On the man’s part, it is only if he has taken a vow of abstinence (fidelity) and is with another woman who is not his wife that he commits adultery. If, on the other hand, he has not taken a vow of fidelity, (in other words, his wife gives him permission to sleep around), and is with an unmarried woman who is not his wife, he has committed the sin of fornication (sexual sin) but not adultery unless the other woman who is not his spouse is married to another man, in which case he has committed adultery (See D&C 132: 41-44 and The many definitions of adultery for more on these laws.)

(The above two paragraphs may seem confusing, but it all boils down to this: if you sleep with someone who is your spouse, there is no sin. On the other hand, if you sleep with someone who is not your spouse, you commit sin. So, to avoid sin, either don’t sleep with a person who is not your spouse or marry him or her before engaging in sexual intercourse.)

If a husband separates from his wife or a wife separates from her husband, so as to purposefully and permanently live apart from one another, this also is sin. There is only one scriptural justification for marital separation and that is if the one being left behind has committed unrepentant fornication (sexual sin). The purpose of the temporary separation is to help the sinner to repent of his or her sin. Once repentance occurs, the couple should come together again and be reconciled, forgiving one another.

Polygyny is not sin

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. (D&C 132: 61-62; italics added.)

If a woman gives consent to her husband to take additional wives, releasing him from any vows of fidelity he may have had, and giving him permission to marry this or that woman, he is justified in taking on the additional wives, for it is marriage with consent and marriage is ordained of God.

When taking on a second wife, the man needs the consent of the first wife. When taking on a third wife, the man needs the consent of the first two wives, and so on and so forth. As long as all give consent, there is no sin.

Polygyny, whether practiced in the new and everlasting covenant (the law of the priesthood), or practiced in a for-time, man-made covenant, is ordained of God as long as consent is given by the wife or wives of the man.

Polyandry is not sin

In the new and everlasting covenant, there are two ways in which a woman get can an additional husband. One way is that she is simply sealed to a second (or third, etc.) husband.

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. (D&C 132: 41; italics added.)

The second way is that her husband breaks his marriage vows and commits adultery, whereby she is taken and given (married) to another man. She remains married to the first husband, for the word ‘taken” doesn’t explicitly mean that she has received a divorce.

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: 44; italics added.)

Outside of the new and everlasting covenant, a woman may obtain a second marriage through consent of her current husband or husbands, in the same way as discussed above for polygyny. Like polygyny, polyandry is ordained of God, as long as consent is given by all parties involved.

Objections to polyandry unfounded

LDS men may object to polyandry based upon the following scripture:

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. (D&C 132: 61-62; italics added.)

These verses only state that a man cannot commit adultery with a wife that belongs to him and to no one else. They do not state that a man commits adultery with a wife that belongs to both him and someone else. The gospel is all about joint-ownership, or becoming joint-heirs with Christ of all things that the Father has. There is no gospel law against a wife belonging to two or more husbands, or to a husband belonging to two or more wives. The scriptures do not prohibit such an arrangement. To make this assumption is to wrest them.

Not giving consent to marry is sin

When a man wishes to take an additional wife and his current wife or wives do not give their consent (the keys of this power), they sin because they are forbidding him from marrying, making them not ordained of God. Likewise, when a woman wishes to take an additional husband and her current husband or husbands do not give consent, the husbands become sinners in forbidding her from marrying.

The law of Sarah is applicable to both men and women:

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.

Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife. (D&C 132: 64-65; italics added.)

The transgression consists in forbidding to marry, which makes the person doing the forbidding “not ordained of God.”

A secondary and third transgression

When consent is not given, because marriage is labeled sin, a second transgression occurs: calling that which is holy, or ordained of God, evil. Satan wants no one to be married. He would rather that everyone sleep around without entering into marriage covenants with each other. When monogamy is labeled holy matrimony but polygyny or polyandry is labeled sin, this works into his hands, for then he can tempt mankind to break their marriage vows and commit sin. Giving consent to marry more than one spouse keeps the law of chastity intact, stopping Satan in his tracks.

The third transgression comes from judging others as sinners, who have done no sin. All marriage between a man and woman, whether singly or in multiple spouse form, is ordained of God, but if the multiple spouse form is looked upon as sin, or if a marriage without a marriage license is looked upon as sin, then the people who engage in these righteous practices will be looked upon as sinners.

Plural marriage engenders charity

In particular, modern LDS need to stop painting plural marriage (the multiple-husband multiple-wife marriage system) as undesirable or evil. Under such a system, children have multiple fathers and multiple mothers (though only one biological mother). Any husband will look upon all children born to his wives as his children, regardless of whether they are his biological seed or not. This engenders charity, because all husbands/fathers will care for all the children, not just their own. In other words, all children will become alike to them:

And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation. (Moro. 8: 17.)

Plural marriage retains agency

Agency remains fully intact with plural marriage consent, allowing people to open up their hearts and love those around them in the most intimate manner possible, all the while remaining justified before the Lord. This more fully knits people’s hearts together in unity. Without such consent, love must be limited, even if the desire to love more fully exists, which also limits agency and causes distance between people.

Plural marriage creates Zion

And ye shall hereafter receive church covenants, such as shall be sufficient to establish you, both here and in the New Jerusalem. (D&C 42: 67.)

There are certain covenants given to the Gentile Mormons that are sufficient to establish them in Zion. One is the law of consecration, in which they freely share of their substance. Another is the United Order, in which they bind themselves by covenant to establish Zion. Yet another is the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (plural marriage) in which they freely give of their love and hearts in plural marriages, essentially sharing their spouses with other spouses.

Of the three covenants, though, plural marriage is probably the most powerful, for if one is able to give consent to freely share one’s spouse with other spouses, effectively eliminating all jealousy and envy, sharing everything else would be a snap.

Plural marriage corresponds to nature

As the research revealed in the book Sex at Dawn reveals, by nature mankind’s sexuality is a multiplemale-multiplefemale mating system. God has ordained marriage to exactly correspond to our natural sexual desires and nature, so that we may live out our lives free from guilt and shame, in joy, happiness and pleasure.

Plural marriage causes rapid formation of super-strong tribes

Because marriage bonds go in every direction, everyone becomes related to everyone else, in the most intimate way. The concept of distant relations becomes blurred, as all become intimate members of one’s immediate family through marriage. The group, being linked in this way, becomes and acts as a tribe, but also as an intimate family, everyone seeking the interest of his neighbor, for his neighbor is a close family relation.

Instead of tribes growing slowly as tribal members have children who grow up and marry and have children of themselves, plural marriage has the ability to rapidly infuse a tribe with large groups of people, while retaining the intimate relationship aspects of the immediate family. Child-birth is maximized, so that every woman who wants children can have as many as she desires, thus allowing the tribe to grow as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. (D&C 49: 15.)

When taken at face value, the above scripture is plainly shown to be true. Marriage is a divine institution which has been given to us to maximize our happiness here on Earth, in accordance with the principles of nature, and in preparation for glory to be added in heaven. To remain on God’s side on this issue, men, women, parents, churches, the State and spouses need to follow and encourage others to follow this two-step rule:

1) Don’t forbid anyone from marrying (not even your own spouse) and 2) look upon all marriage between a man and a woman as ordained of God.

Inspiration behind this post

I had read the arguments that Christian polygamists make about not needing a valid state marriage license, but had never actually taken the time to do any research and come to any conclusion about it. It was Justin’s Tribal Relationships post that introduced me to the Sex at Dawn research, which, upon reviewing it, got me thinking about what exactly marriage is and what it is all about. This post is a result of my decision to take a look at the scriptures with the Sex at Dawn research in mind. If you still don’t know where I’m coming from, I encourage you to read the following posts, as this article is influenced by, and builds upon, them: Tribal worship services, Establishing the tribes of Israel: the real reason for plural marriage, The tribal nature of the gospel, The Return of Polygamy, The many definitions of adultery, Deep Waters: How many wives? How many husbands?, and An alternate view of the keys.

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist

The Law of Chastity: What It Is and What It Isn’t


As part of an article that I have been preparing on the law of chastity, I thought it would be good to first define it.  However, as I began writing that portion of the article (the definition of the law of chastity), the article became quite long and I realized that this was a topic sufficient for its own post.  So, I am splitting the article into two, this being the first part.

There have been two definitions given of the law of chastity in the temple of God.

The temple definition of the law of chastityprior to April, 1990

“The law of chastity…is that the daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam shall have no sexual intercourse except with their husbands or wives to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded.”  (Source: The Telestial World.)

and

“We are instructed to give unto you the law of chastity. This I will explain.

“To the sisters, it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your husband to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. To the brethren it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.”  (Source: The Terrestrial World.)

The temple definition of the law of chastityApril, 1990 Revision

The 1990 revision speaks of sexual “relations” rather than sexual “intercourse.”

The 1990 revision does not have women and men covenant separately to keep the law of chastity. Instead, women and men simultaneously covenant to have no sexual relations except with their “husband or wife” to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded.  (Source: The Terrestrial World, Notes 1 and 2.)

Paraphrased law of chastity with pre- and post-April, 1990 revision comparisons

I will paraphrase the definition given previous to April, 1990, and state it as follows:

The law of chastity is that no woman will have sexual intercourse except with her husband to whom she is legally and lawfully wedded and that no man will have sexual intercourse except with his wife to whom he is legally and lawfully wedded.

And here is a paraphrase of the definition given in the April, 1990 revision:

The law of chastity is that no woman will have sexual relations except with her husband to whom she is legally and lawfully wedded and that no man will have sexual relations except with his wife to whom he is legally and lawfully wedded.

Would the real law of chastity please stand up?

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, the term sexual intercourse has two shades of meaning:

1 : heterosexual intercourse involving penetration of the vagina by the penis : COITUS

2 : intercourse (as anal or oral intercourse) that does not involve penetration of the vagina by the penis

(Definition taken from this page.)

According to the same dictionary, the term sexual relations has the following, singular definition:

: SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

(Definition taken from this page.)

We see from these definitions that the terms sexual intercourse and sexual relations are synonymous.

More on the second shade of meaning

As stated above, the term sexual intercourse has two shades of meaning.

So that there is no misunderstanding over the second shade of meaning, which is defined as intercourse, here is the definition of the word intercourse:

3 : physical sexual contact between individuals that involves the genitalia of at least one person <anal intercouse> <oral intercourse>; especially : SEXUAL INTERCOURSE 1 <heterosexual intercourse>

(Definition taken from this page.)

And for those who aren’t sure just what is considered human genitalia,

“The Latin term genitalia, sometimes anglicized as genitals and genital area, is used to describe the externally visible sex organs, known as primary genitalia or external genitalia: in males the penis, in females the clitoris and vulva.”

(Taken from the Sex organ entry of Wikipedia.)

Church manuals give the same definition as the temple definition

For example, in the book Gospel Principles, in chapter 39, entitled, The Law of Chastity, under the section called What Is the Law of Chastity?, chastity is stated this way:

“We are to have sexual relations only with our spouse to whom we are legally married. No one, male or female, is to have sexual relations before marriage. After marriage, sexual relations are permitted only with our spouse.”

The Gospel Topics Gospel Library found on lds.org, an official web site of the Church, under the entry Chastity, states the following:

“Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.”

Church manuals and leader’s teachings often go beyond the temple definition

To give an example, I refer back to the Gospel Principles book, same chapter, same section, and directly under the definition quoted above.  Two paragraphs follow which state:

We have been taught that the law of chastity encompasses more than sexual intercourse. Elder Spencer W. Kimball warned young people of other sexual sins:

“Among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. Not only do these improper relations often lead to fornication, [unwed] pregnancy, and abortions—all ugly sins—but in and of themselves they are pernicious evils, and it is often difficult for youth to distinguish where one ends and another begins. They awaken lust and stir evil thoughts and sex desires. They are but parts of the whole family of related sins and indiscretions” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 65).

This tendency to go beyond the temple definition and lump together anything and everything that can lead to breaking the law of chastity is fairly common in the church.  These “related sins and indiscretions” are often categorically labeled immorality.

The sexual laws of the Bible

What the Bible says about proper sexual activity is not quite the same as the temple definition of the law of chastity.  It is not my intention to address the biblical sexuality laws here.  It would take too much time and require more than one post.  Others, however, have addressed these issues, so I will refer the reader to one of them, the Controversial Truths section of the Righteous Warriors website, in which can be found biblical sexuality articles.

For the purposes of this post, I will be sticking to the temple definition of the law of chastity and to nothing else.

Where fornication and adultery fit in the law of chastity

For the sins of fornication and adultery, only the first definition of sexual intercourse applies.  In other words, if a married woman has oral sex with some guy she’s not married to, she is breaking the law of chastity, but she isn’t committing the sin of adultery.  If she has a lesbian affair, she is breaking the law of chastity, but she isn’t committing adultery.  The sins of fornication and adultery require vaginal penetration by the penis.  But, don’t take my word on this. Go ask your bishop to see the church handbook for yourself.

Now that we know what the law of chastity is, let’s talk about what it isn’t.

Masturbation does not break the law of chastity

To break the law of chastity, at least two people are required.  Therefore, masturbation, which is sexual self-stimulation, does not break the law of chastity.

Kissing does not break the law of chastity

Kissing, even passionate kissing, as long as the genitalia are not involved, does not break the law of chastity.

Petting does not break the law of chastity

Petting and even heavy petting, like kissing, does not break the law of chastity, as long as the genitalia are not involved.  Also, keep in mind that the breasts are not considered genitalia.

Viewing pornography does not break the law of chastity

For the reasons stated above, looking at pornography does not break the law of chastity.  It is impossible to physically have sexual intercourse with just the eyes.

Committing adultery in one’s heart does not break the law of chastity

Jesus said “that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  (See Matthew 5: 28.)  The Lord also said, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath denied the faith, and shall not have the Spirit, and if he repents not he shall be cast out.”  (See D&C 42: 23.)

“Looking on a woman to lust after her” means that a man consciously wishes that he could cheat on his wife (if he is already married) and have sexual intercourse (1st shade of meaning of that term, which covers the sin of adultery) with another man’s wife.

Obviously, this is a sin that can rapidly lead to breaking the law of chastity, but in and of itself, this sin does not break the law of chastity.

Immodesty does not break the law of chastity

How you dress can affect how you feel about yourself and how others treat you, but it is outside of the jurisdiction of the law of chastity, therefore, dressing immodestly does not break the law of chastity.

(For a fuller treatment of modesty, see its Wikipedia entry.  For a brief review of modern LDS modesty standards, see the blog post, A Style of Our Own.)

Why knowing the definition of chastity is helpful

People often beat themselves up unnecessarily.  A person is, of course, free to add as many personal rules as they want to the laws of the gospel, including the law of chastity, as did the Pharisees, but when it comes right down to it, chastity is what the Lord, in His holy temple, has defined it as being.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So, the next time you are sitting in a temple recommend interview with your bishop or stake president, and you are asked if you live the law of chastity, you may want to keep these things in mind.  Having the temple definition in your head may make answering the question a whole lot easier.

Next Chastity article: “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me”

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

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Establishing the tribes of Israel: the real reason for plural marriage


Background

I haven’t ventured into any of the other the LDS blogs in a very long time. I usually just confine myself to this blog. However, on July 28th, 2009, while viewing the LDS Anarchy blog stats, I backtracked a referral link and found myself on the Mormon Heretic blog. Apparently OWIW had commented over there back in November and linked to one of his posts here.

Anyway, as it had been a really long time since I’d been at Mormon Heretic’s blog, I thought I would check out what was new. That’s when I saw he had two recent posts on polygamy. (See My perspective on polygamy—he also has the same post at Mormon Matters—and Bushman’s Perspective on Polygamy, Alger and Snow.) I was impressed by the number of comments that both posts contained. Granted, these comments were from just a handful of people, but still the fervor of the individuals indicated a great interest in the subject matter. I also found a link to The Faithful Dissident’s recent post on polygamy entitled, What Would You Do If Polygamy Came Back?, which also had a lot of comments (from many different people, this time).

I skimmed through the comments on all three posts (but didn’t read every word) and found the viewpoints interesting. I was struck by how much interest polygamy still garners among the people and how divisive a topic it still is, both the doctrine itself and how Joseph Smith practiced it. The Faithful Dissident’s post, in particular, seemed to confirm my assertion that most LDS would reject polygamy if it returned as an allowable practice among the membership.

A little while later, I came across another article, written by TruthSeekerToo entitled, Why I don’t believe in Polygamy. For the record, both TruthSeekerToo (obviously) and Mormon Heretic disbelieve that D&C 132 was a revelation inspired of God. And The Faithful Dissident and her commenters also seem to tend towards rejection of the revelation.

The elephant in the room

I had no plans on visiting the topic of plural marriage again on this blog. I thought what I had written already was sufficient. (See The Return of Polygamy, The many definitions of adultery, How the Lord will clean his church: a possible scenario, and Scriptural Discussion #16: David and Solomon.) But reading these other LDS blog posts on polygamy, and seeing just how uncomfortable a doctrine it was to them, I felt to explain one of the reasons why I find the revelation consistent with what I know about God and His gospel. I won’t tackle every aspect of this elephant, just one that I believe most have overlooked, and which may throw a fresh perspective on it.

I’m an open anarchist

Contrary to what you may believe, anarchists are not very accepting. There is every shade of anarchist out there and they bicker and fight among themselves as to which flavor is the best or proper one. Just saying you are an anarchist is not good enough for most of them. They want to know what kind of an anarchist you are. Are you an anarcho-syndicalist? An anarcho-capitalist? A green anarchist? An anarcho-primitivist? Etc. If you aren’t the “proper” type of anarchist, they will reject your believe system and argue with you over why it is wrong.

Fortunately, there are also other anarchists who are tired of such designations and who simply call themselves “anarchists without adjectives.” These are just anarchists, period. They accept all forms of anarchism.

I align myself more with the “anarchists without adjectives” and am accepting of all forms of anarchism, however, I do put a designation on my particular type. It’s called tribal anarchism and so I’m a tribal anarchist. I follow this principle because it is both scriptural and according to the nature of man.

Tribal anarchism may be on the rise

During a recent search on YouTube, I found some videos on tribal anarchism. Some of these videos are promoting what they call “national anarchism,” but it is really just a modified form of tribal anarchism. I find the appearance of these videos fascinating, as people (other than myself) are starting to understand the tribal nature of humanity and that tribal anarchy, and not any other type of anarchy, is the fundamental kind. This makes me wonder if tribal anarchism is gaining traction among the anarchists of the world. At any rate, it is encouraging to find anarchists promoting scriptural, tribal anarchism.

Here are the links to the YouTube videos and also to a web site of national anarchists (tribal anarchists) that are located in San Francisco, California.

I’m listing these with a disclaimer: Although the principles of tribal anarchy are contained therein, you may also notice a racist element that I don’t condone. If you can learn to filter out the racism and focus on the principles of tribal anarchism, this information may be of use as a learning tool. If you can’t, then don’t click on any of the following links.

The following five videos were posted by DSuploads:

Tribal Anarchism 1

Tribal Anarchism 2

Tribal Anarchism 3

Tribal Anarchism 4

Tribal Anarchism 5

Bay Area National Anarchists

You may ask, “What does this have to do with polygamy?”

Pretty much everything. The tribal aspect of the gospel, as well as the tribal anarchy aspect, is currently in a state of suspended animation. Through our patriarchal blessings, we LDS are told that we are members of this or that tribe of Israel, but the tribal functions are not in place. We are tribes in word, but not in deed, action or function. The Lord attempted, with Joseph Smith’s D&C 132 revelation, to begin to activate the tribal functions. In order to explain this, we need to come to some understanding of what a tribe is.

What is a tribe?

From Wikipedia:

A tribe, is a social group of humans connected by a shared system of values and organized for mutual care, defense, and survival beyond that which could be attained by a lone individual or family. A ‘tribe’ is defined in anthropology. When viewed historically or developmentally, a tribe is a mutual care system which, unlike a kingdom or state or other schema, is oriented around kinship and shared beliefs. Tribes can well exist simultaneously with other schema (see Schema (psychology)) such as states or other systems. They might consist of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states. Tribes are the most enduring and successful social survival system that has ever existed on earth. Tribes can exist within or without a state or kingdom and may or may not depend on the state or kingdom to endure.

Many anthropologists use the term to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups (see clan and lineage).

Emphasis mine.

It is kinship that makes a tribe a tribe. Keep this in mind, as it is the key to understanding the revelation that is D&C 132 and Joseph Smith’s interesting polygamous marriages. Shared belief alone does not a tribe make. There must be shared belief and kinship.

Kinship

In his blog post, Mormon Heretic quoted from Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling book:

The personal anguish caused by plural marriage did not stop Joseph Smith from marrying more women. He married three in 1841, eleven in 1842, and seventeen in 1843. Historians debate these numbers, but the total figure is most likely between twenty-eight and thirty-three. Larger numbers have been proposed based on the sealing records in the Nauvoo temple. Eight additional women were sealed to Joseph in the temple after his death, possibly implying a marriage while he was still alive. Whatever the exact number, the marriages are numerous enough to indicate an impersonal bond. Joseph did not marry women to form a warm, human companionship, but to create a network of related wives, children, and kinsmen that would endure into the eternities…. He did not lust for women so much as he lusted for kin.

The implication, again, is that the Lord’s revelation to Joseph was designed to make the Gentile converts, now called Ephraimites, an actual tribe, meaning that everyone in the tribe needed to be related to each other by blood, adoption or marriage.

The tribal view of polygamy

FireTag, an RLDS member, commenting on Mormon Heretic’s My perspective on polygamy post, stated:

Our denomination’s crisis with polygamy came in about 1970. We began baptizing in an Indian-subculture in which the tribesmen were already living in polygamous marriages. After struggling so hard for a century to disassociate ourselves from this particular LDS belief, what were we to do?

The revelation brought to the church and confirmed by the general conference established for us the principle that “monogamy is the basic principle on which Christian married life is built” and authorized the First Presidency and the Quorum of 12 (Apostles) in their field jurisdictions to interpret that principle as directed by the Spirit.

The implementation ultimately meant that newly baptized polygamous people were allowed to remain in those marriages for the rest of their lives, but were not allowed to take additional marital partners into the marriage. The latter act would be treated as adultery or fornication under church law (I forget which).

This ruling became a schismatic issue for a number of people.

Emphasis mine. Notice that the problem only came when the non-tribal RLDS church came in contact with an actual tribe. Keep this in mind. We’ll revisit this dilemma later on down the post.

Tribes and polygamy go hand in hand

Polygamy may be abhorrent to most Americans, but in the global community it is common, normal and accepted.

Although the percentage of men in the world who have more than one wife is relatively small, as many as a third of the world’s population belongs to a community that allows it, says Israeli anthropologist Joseph Ginat.

There are many plural marriages in Africa, the Middle East and in Asia, said Ginat, professor of social and culture anthropology at the University of Haifa.

Many American Indian tribes allow polygamy; several experimental Christian groups practice it. And, of course, there are those famous offshoots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

American Indians: Polygamy was fairly widespread among American Indian tribes, said Patricia Albers, chairman of American Indian studies at the University of Minneapolis. There were plural marriages among the Dakota of Southern Minnesota, Ojibway of northern Wisconsin, Mesquakia of Iowa, and the Ho-chunk (formerly Winnebago). In the Intermountain West, plural marriage was common among the Shoshone and Paiute tribes; it was also practiced by the Utes and Navajos. “I don’t know any tribal nation in this general region that didn’t have it or disallowed it,” Albers said. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Blackfoot Indians of the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana were increasingly involved in buffalo-hide trade, and “families were more successful when they had more women engaged in processing of buffalo hides,” she said.

In many American Indian tribes, polygamy “was not a sign of subordinate position,” Albers said. “It occurred where women stood on fairly equal footing with the men in their communities.” Many tribes expected women to have responsibility, not only for her own children, but for those of her sisters as well. That could be one reason why the most common type of polygamy practiced by American Indians was sororal polygamy, or two sisters married to the same man. If a woman’s husband died, it was not uncommon for her to then marry her sister’s husband, Albers said. It was a way of “melding family units.”

(Excerpts from Globally, Polygamy Is Commonplace, by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday, September 20, 1998. Emphasis mine.)

If you take a look at the FLDS or other LDS offshoots that practice polygamy, who can say that these groups do not functions as tribes?

The only child left in state custody after being swept from a polygamist sect’s West Texas ranch was placed permanently with a relative on Thursday, ending one of the largest custody cases in U.S. history.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther signed an order giving permanent custody of the 15-year-old girl to a relative who is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The girl is not allowed to communicate with jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs, whom she allegedly married when she was 12, but is otherwise allowed to stay with church members.

The girl was among 439 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in April 2008 after authorities responded to bogus calls to a domestic abuse hotline. Texas child welfare authorities removed all the children from the Eldorado ranch, and they were placed in foster care until the state Supreme Court ruled authorities had overreached.

The 15-year-old initially was returned to her mother, but she went back to foster care last August after her mother refused during a court hearing to guarantee the girl’s safety. The girl has been allowed to live with a relative for several months, but Thursday’s order made the arrangement permanent and resolved the last of the Child Protective Services’ cases involving FLDS members.

“It’s clearly a huge relief. We’re extremely happy to get all the children back,” said FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop. “It’s been a long road for her, but we made it.”

He said the girl has been much happier living with relatives, who understand the insular sect’s culture, pioneer-style dress and religious beliefs.

(Excerpt from Judge resolves final Texas polygamist custody case, by Michelle Roberts, The Associated Press, July 23, 2009. Emphasis mine.)

The last sentence could have been worded just as accurately, “He said the girl has been much happier living with [her tribe, which understands the tribal ways she is accustomed to].”

The polygamy of heaven

D&C 132 is not precisely the Biblical polygamy. There are aspects of it, but it adds the additional dimension of polyandry. This makes the polygamy practiced in Joseph’s day more egalitarian than that practiced by Brigham and others. In fact, it resembles the unity of the heavens, in which all have all things common. This makes sense, as it is Joseph’s mission in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times to gather together all things in one, in Christ, both things in heaven and on Earth. (See Ephesians 1: 10 and D&C 27: 13.) So, going beyond the Bible is definitely a sign of the times we are living in.

Had Joseph succeeded in promoting D&C 132’s full doctrine among the people, the Gentile Ephraimites would have been converted into a bona fide tribe, but a tribe stronger and unlike any other tribe on Earth, as all would have been related to all through marriage sealings. It would have resembled the tribal family of the heavens. (See 379 Yah’shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), an article on the nccg.org web site, which talks about the heavenly family of God, His work of expanding it and the importance God places on family relations, or kin. Had the author used the word ‘tribe’ instead of family, he would have been closer to the truth, as the ‘family’ of God is infinite in number and complexity, resembling more a tribe than a nuclear family.)

Brigham Young’s polygamy was a diluted or limited form of what Joseph and his wives are said to have practiced. Brigham (and others) practiced polygyny, without the polyandrous aspects of the revelation. Although this did serve to create strong tribal relationships, it was not the heavenly ideal Joseph was striving to gather to the saints.

Modern LDS are not currently tribal, but soon will be

It is true that we call the people at church brother and sister so-and-so, and even though they may be of the same tribe as we (usually of Ephraim), we still view them differently than our real kin. They are members of our tribe in name only. They are our brothers and sisters in name only. Our real brothers and sisters, those of blood, take precedence over our church brother and sisters. We distinguish between our blood family and our church family. This is natural and normal in society and true for just about everyone.

Be that as it may, we must always remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to be lived by genuine tribes (composed of kin) and not just tribes in name only. (See The tribal nature of the gospel.) This means that there will be a tribal movement among the saints at some time in the future, which will activate the tribal functions. This also means that D&C 132, which is a tribal key, will likely at some point be lived again in its fulness.

Twelve tribes, not one tribe, under Christ

There’s one more point that I wish to address with this post. (This really is what4anarchy’s job as he is the resident tribist among the blog contributors, but I’ll do it for him anyway.) And that point is the tendency of Ephraimites to believe that their tribe is the main tribe of the restoration, meaning the leadership tribe, or tribe in which all or most of the church leadership will come from, in the time preceding the Second Coming. Also, the tendency of Ephraimites to believe that it matters not which tribe you belong to, that the important thing is that you are of the house of Israel. (This is said to non-Ephraimites to placate them into not minding that the Ephraimites lead the church.)

The truth of the matter is, though, that all of the tribes will have vitally important roles in the restoration and gathering and there will be an equal division of the leadership, each tribe directing itself under Christ. Once this tribal aspect of the gospel is understood, then the revelations given in this dispensation can be looked through tribal filters and be shown as being directed principally to the tribe of Ephraim. There are still more revelations that must come that will be for Ephraim, through the Ephraimitish prophets, but there also will be plenty of revelations that must come to the other tribes, through their own prophets.

Remember, the gospel is divided into twelve tribes, not one single tribe. Therefore, each tribe must have its own set of prophets, its own set of scriptures, its own leaders. (See, for example, 2 Nephi 29: 13.) Were this not so, there would be no point in having twelve tribes. One single tribe would suffice. And there would be no point in saying that the people of God even belong to a ‘tribe” if they were never to function as a tribe (composed of actual kin), but as just a group of unrelated people who believe in Christ (a church).

Polygamy ties into this because it is polygamy that activates the tribal functions of all the tribes. Also, as we know that other tribes are coming, and by this I mean literal tribes, composed of people related to each other, it is possible that these other tribes are living polygamy already. If the Gentile, Ephraimitish church is rejecting polygamy and the other eleven tribes show up and they are living polygamy, this creates quite a problem, as the Gentile church will end up spurning the literal seed of Abraham. Thus, D&C 132 prepares and allows the Gentile converts to act as the literal seed of Ephraim in all its tribal functions and to become assimilated among the other eleven tribes.

Conclusion

Tribalism is the nature of the gospel. The sooner we realize this, the easier it will be to enact the plan of salvation and fulfill the revelations of God that have already come forth and that will come forth, including that revelation contained in D&C 132. By getting a tribal view of the gospel, certain mysteries, such as polygamy, can make a little more sense.

The American Gentiles have a saying, when referring to what is really important in politics, “It’s the economy, stupid!” It might be appropriate for LDS to adopt a similar one, “It’s the tribe, unlearned one!”

(After all, we really shouldn’t be calling people stupid, now should we?) 😉

Next Anarchism/Anarchy article: Let Us Unite Our Efforts to Establish Gift Societies Based Upon Tribal Anarchism

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Scriptural Discussion #16: David and Solomon


DAVID AND SOLOMON

Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. (Jacob 2: 24)

David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.  David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.  (D&C 132: 38-39)

Discuss.

Previous Scriptural Discussion: #15 ABORTION

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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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