Unlicensed marriages and what the Brethren can do about them


First Presidency letter

On October 18th, Zo-ma-rah blogged about a First Presidency letter that was read in his sacrament meeting. He wrote:

This Sunday was interesting. After opening the meeting we were greeted with a nice letter from the Brethren™. The letter instructed us to not participate in self help groups. Specifically they instructed [us] to avoid groups that:

1. Challenge Church™ teachings.

2. Advocate confrontation with spouse as a means for self improvement.

3. Imitate the sacred rites and rituals of the Church™.

4. Involve physical contact with others.

5. Meet late in the evening or early in the morning.

6. Involve confession.

7. Involve pairing of spouses with others.

These points might be a bit generalized, but I was taking notes [as] fast as my little hands could write, and that’s the gist of what was said.

To this I responded:

Some of the points on that list may be pointing to some of the stuff I’ve written (#’s 1, 3, and 7.) I wonder if my blog is under church surveillance (along with certain other bloggers)?

Later, a second person told me that this same First Presidency letter was read in their sacrament meeting and as they listened, all they could think about was that this letter was talking about me and the LDS Anarchy blog.

The lone wolf

A friend of mine, who believes in “the powers that be” (TPTB), once told me that what TPTB most fear is a lone wolf, someone who operates outside of the normal channels, who doesn’t give a damn what people think of him and so is not overly concerned of the consequences of his words and actions. Such a man, this lone wolf, is not restrained by normal customs and protocols, but can operate independently from institutional controls, inflicting great harm on existing systems. As he has no ties to organizations that can constrain his actions or influence his behavior, he is unpredictable. Predictability is extremely important to control methods.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m a lone wolf, but the Lone Wolf and Cub movies are some of my all-time favorite flicks. 😉

Anyway, if this blog has been assigned lone wolf status and the Brethren are taking measures to steer the membership away from the principles set forth here, I thought it would be beneficial to explain exactly what the Brethren can do to people who implement some of these ideas. Specifically, I wish to address point #7, “the pairing of spouses with others.”

Serious consequences

There are serious consequences to consider before attempting to establish a tribe using the multihusband-multiwife marriage system. If it is learned that you are even planning such an activity, you will be disciplined. The two ways of discipline in our religious institution are disfellowship and excommunication, however, because entire Mormon families are typically plugged into Mormonism, there will be further repercussions from one’s family and perhaps even friends as they spurn and/or pity you when they learn of your “apostacy.”

All of this must be weighed in the balance when considering exiting out of the confines of monogamy. There is also the law of man to consider, which does not allow polygamy. This means that to obey the laws of the state, one must practice polygamy without a state marriage license. If you attempt to marry more than one spouse using a marriage license for each one, that puts you under the jurisdiction of the bigamy laws.

Marriage without a state license is approved of God, so the state’s jurisdiction can be entirely by-passed, but the church still poses a problem if they find out what you are doing. The question then is whether the church can be kept out of one’s tribal business. To that end, I thought it would be beneficial to review some marriage scenarios to determine how easy or difficult it would be to practice the multiple spouse marriage system without the church finding out.

Marriage scenario #1: Two single people

First, let’s talk about a single man and a single woman who desire to marry. If they marry without a marriage license, by covenant between themselves only, and start living together, chances are that word is going to get out one way or another that two “unmarried” people in the church are living together (living in sin). Now, living together does not equate to having sex, but we all know how people think.

If the couple attends church and continues to partake of the sacrament, while living together, chances are that they will be asked to come in to the bishop’s office for a chat. The bishop will surely inquire about the circumstances of this highly irregular event.

Probably the first thing he will ask is if this couple is married. It is a possibility that the couple has gotten married in secret, in a civil ceremony. Perhaps they eloped to Las Vegas or something.

There are two ways that the couple can respond to questions about their marriage. They can say that they are married, which would be the truth as they entered into a covenant of marriage with each other, or they can say that they aren’t married, which would be the truth as they aren’t married in the eyes of the state because they never got a marriage license.

If they say that they aren’t married, there will be inquiries about whether they are still living the law of chastity, about the living arrangements they have made, with pressure to separate, repent, etc.

If they say that they are married, there will be inquiries about the details of their marriage. When and where they got married, wedding pics, the bridal dress, etc. If the couple divulges the details of the marriage, that it was by personal covenant-only, the bishop, the members, their family and also many other people will not consider it a bona fide marriage and the church will consider them living in sin and take action accordingly. If, however, the couple plans to keep the details secret and arranges circumstances so that it appears that they “left town,” eloped and returned married, the membership and leadership will more readily accept that, (though they will be chided for not getting a temple marriage.)

For example, a man and a woman can arrange their affairs so that they are both free on a certain date. They can leave their homes early and go off to some faraway place where others they know would not look for them and then they can enter into their marriage covenant. They can stay away for a sufficiently long time to allow for an apparent elopement to Vegas and back. When they return, the man and the woman can sport wedding rings, move in together and live their lives from that moment on as husband and wife.

When asked about their wedding, they can say they eloped. When asked when they were married, they can say the date that they entered into their marriage covenant. When asked where they were married or if they can show pictures or, for the really nosy ones, a marriage certificate, they can say, “We wish to keep the details of our elopement private, which is why we eloped in the first place.” For proof of their marriage, they can show their wedding rings. As long as they project to the public that they are married, the public will consider them married, including all church officers.

The drawback to this will be a denial of a temple wedding sealing. The Brethren will not allow them to be sealed without a valid state marriage license or certificate, so they will have to wait until the work for the dead is done for them for their time marriage to be turned into an eternity marriage.

Marriage scenario #2: A married couple and a single individual

In the case of a married couple that wishes to add another spouse to its marriage arrangement, by covenant-only without a state marriage license, which is the only non-illegal way it can be done anyway, the man or woman who is to be married to the second spouse, with permission of the first spouse, can have a private meeting with the second spouse, in which they enter into a marriage covenant. Living arrangements can either remain as is, with the new spouse living alone in their own dwelling, or the family can be combined under one roof.

If the two husbands or two wives have separate dwellings, nothing out of the ordinary would be noticed. If the two husbands or two wives live under the same roof, church members may notice and begin inquiring or report what they see to their bishop, who may end up calling these three members into his office.

During a bishop’s inquiry, a couple may simply say that they, the couple, invited so-and-so to come live with them. This would be the truth. If asked why the invitation, they could say, for a stay-at-home second wife, “So-and-so is helping around the house.” For a working second husband, “So-and-so is helping us out financially.” All of this would be the truth.

If there are suspicions that more than that is going on and that there is an affair happening, any one of them can instruct the bishop to ask them the temple question. The temple question concerning relationships is, “Are you living the law of chastity?” To which can be answered, yes. As long as the question remains on the law of chastity, and whether any of them is living it, answer the question honestly with yes. If the bishop tries to slip a, “Are you having sex with this man/woman?” answer, “I am not breaking the law of chastity.” Bring everything back to the law of chastity.

Without witnesses of wrongdoing, a bishop cannot pursue the matter further. As long as neither one of the three married individuals divulges information about the non-licensed marriage, the bishop cannot build a case against them. He either needs witnesses or a confession to act.

Like the situation with the two single individuals, the only penalty the Brethren can use towards these people is to stop them from getting the marriage sealed in the temple. They will have to wait until the work for the dead is done for them to be sealed eternally.

Marriage scenario #3: Two married couples

If two married couples wish to marry each other, making an interconnected marriage arrangement with two wives and two husbands, by covenant-only without a marriage license, this can be easily done by private meeting among all involved, whereby they covenant with each other to be married. They can then live their lives in their separate dwellings, but visit each other as they please as husbands and wives. In this case, it is doubtful that church members would notice what is going on unless they are around one of the newly married men and his new wife and saw them carrying on romantically. Were that to happen, word would surely get to the bishop, who would call the suspects into his office.

Again, the way to handle this would be to answer all questions in terms of breaking the law of chastity, and that’s it. Is the law of chastity being broken? Nope. That’s all the bishop needs to know.

As with the other scenarios, only the temple marriage sealing can be denied to the newly weds, that is until the work for the dead is done for them.

Children

The children of one or more of the spouses can cause trouble for the non-licensed married couple if the adults are presenting to the world that they are not married (using the state’s definition). For couples that do tell people they are married, such as two single individuals coming together, children pose no problem. But for marriages involving three or more people, in which no one but the spouses themselves know they are married, children might need to be kept in the dark, at least initially, so that they don’t go blabbing to church members or officials about the non-church sanctioned marriage.

Conclusion as to what the Brethren can do

If those entering marriage in this manner plan it right and understand how they are going to present it, or not present it, to the public, the church and their children, the Brethren can’t do a damn thing about it. They can’t stop the marriage from happening, they can’t discipline the newlyweds without evidence, witnesses and/or confessions, and they can’t keep the parties unsealed (because eventually all these marriages will be temple sealed.)

The Lord has, essentially, opened the way for any of His sons and daughters to establish themselves tribally, without repercussions from the state or from the church. The only ones who have power to stop it from happening are the wives.

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Connecting with Pixels


By way of full disclosure, I volunteered to write this post because I have personal experience with the topic.  I’ve viewed online pornographic movies both before and since I joined the church.  I felt no guilt associated with viewing it before joining the church (which was also before I was married), but when I began to view it after joining (which was also after I had been married), I desired to repent and have since studied the topic to better understand it.

Pornography:

When I use “pornography” in this post, I will be referring to video or photographs of adults engaging in sexual relations.  Currently, there are more than 300 million pages of pornographic material on the internet, an increase of 1800% over the last five years.  More than 70% of American men, ages 18 – 34, visit a pornographic website in a typical month.  Further, in 2006, the pornography industry netted just short of $100 billion – more revenue than that of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined.  The state that contributes the most to those profits – Utah.

The inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

Porneia is rendered “fornication” all 26 times it is used in the New Testament.  It is from the word used to designate the temple prostitutes the Gentiles used for fertility worship.

Dehumanizing:

The popularity of pornography relies on dehumanizing the subject, which is typically a woman.  The characters in pornography are not depicted as children of God with intellects and personalities – but as a collection of anatomical features that can be used to induce a physiological response.  Ask a man who watches pornography if he would want his wife or daughter to be in videos like the ones he watches – and 68.2689492137% will say, “No.”  (Note:  this figure was edited from 100% per comments below)  They want somebody else’s wife or daughter.  They prefer to do unto others’ daughters what they would not want done to their own.

The sexual climax is intended to be the sequel of the unification of two real persons.  The fact that the pleasure associated with the discharge can be produced in solitude demonstrates that the feelings are designed to conclude the sexual act – and are not a part of the unifying aspect of sex.  This is what I find most troubling about pornography use.  The release that ends sexual unification is designed to bind a person to the other person he or she is having relations with.  What are pornography users binding themselves to – a computer screen, pixels?  Humans are meant to make real connections with real people.

Hiding:

Recent discussion indicates that Satan introduced the concept of shame for nudity.  It is the same with sexuality.  Satan either covers up sexuality, teaching that it is too private to discuss openly, or he teaches only the physical biology of it, leaving out the spiritual connection that takes place.  He motivates sinners to hide from God and from others.  On the other hand, God sees all things, and thus He motivates sinners to be open, in full-fellowship and intimacy with Him and with others.

Sites like FightTheNewDrug promote addressing pornography by letting it into the light to be seen for what it really is – much like the “Truth” ads did for changing the discussion on cigarette smoking.  Having progressed, we can now look back on old cigarette ads as a deceptive venture to make an unhealthy practice popular for the sake of making money.  FightTheNewDrug focuses on addressing pornography by reducing demand – not supply.  When something is banned – rather by states, religions, etc. – without addressing the underlying motivations, the behavior is just pushed underground, becoming darker in the process.  When people learn that, for example, the reason for pornography actors shave their pubic hair is to make them look more like large children – people can choose to turn away from such perversions.  Instead of demonizing sexual expression or victimizing “porn addicts”, the rhetoric should focus on re-humanizing the people involved with pornography and re-emphasizing the sexiness of humans connecting with humans.

Intimacy is the opposite of what Satan suggested Adam and Eve do when they discovered their nakedness in the garden.  Before he found them, they were naked and were not ashamed.  Adam was fully exposed to Eve – and Eve to Adam.  This is the light that pornography should be seen in.  Humans are not meant to experience sexuality in front of computer screens, alone, feeling cycles of shame and guilt.

Confessing:

Boyd Packer told members during the most recent General Conference that:

The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography—and it is a plague—if you are succumbing to its influence. If one is obedient, the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction. Holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.

I think the evidence on this site should make it clear that you do not have to do anything with your bishop if you have viewed pornography.  A person that has viewed pornography has most likely committed adultery in his heart – if he were married, then confession to a spouse would be warranted.  But whether or not a person chooses to talk to his or her bishop is a personal decision – and it should be made in light of what will be the most helpful to the person.  When confession to a bishop is not expedient – as it would be in cases of unrepentant sin brought to the authorities by witnesses – then confession should be treated only as a tool to help the person.  One should weigh the risk of opening up grounds for a witch-hunt from an unprepared or unrighteous priesthood leader with the comfort that being completely open with a trusted and capable bishop can bring.  For example, I spoke with my bishop in the past when I had fell into a habit of viewing pornography – because I knew him to be a man of integrity and Godly love.  I received no formal or informal disciplines.  It was hard to speak openly about it with my wife, and I used my time with him to get many things off my chest.  I, unlike Packer, would not recommend confession to a bishop to everyone.  Many bishops are unprepared for dealing with such a nuanced situation and have been conditioned to use extreme measures with pornography because of inflated rhetoric about the subject.  So tread carefully.

Moving on:

I don’t mean to say porn can’t be a problem for some people.  However, it is more often the symptom of a different problem – e.g. poor socialization by parents on sexuality, unaddressed childhood abuse, an addictive personality, or feelings of insecurity.  The visual depiction of a man and women engaging in sexual relations is not, in and of itself, sinful – not any more than shopping is, or spending too much time on the computer.  The current state of pornography is a complicated issue and calling it evil or a plague doesn’t help anybody.  All you do is demonize something that, unless you have some dependence on it, isn’t bad for you.  Proclaiming some moral absolute on a mental health issue is just harmful to those involved.

We should take comfort in the fact that, for our generation, pornography is largely a problem of technology.  Just 30 years ago, to obtain pornography, a man would don a trench coat and sunglasses and go to the back of a dimly lit store to secretly purchase a VHS tape, hoping no one would see him walking back to his car – then he’d have to keep the tapes hidden at home, hoping kids or spouse didn’t find them.  However, today, I can type in a URL in the privacy of my home or office, instantly steam hours of free videos, and then delete my browsing history.  That’s it.  The reason this is a good thing for anyone who finds themselves habitually viewing pornography – if technology is the reason it is so available to you, then use technology to make it less available.  Effective webfilters are as readily available as free porn sites.  Humans should choose to connect with people — not pixels.

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