The nature of authority: the Lord’s stewardship law


The word steward comes from stigweard, lit., a sty ward. Stigu means sty and weard means warden, guardian. A sty is a pen for swine and a ward is one who guards. A steward, then, is someone who guards or protects or is responsible for something that belongs to another or for someone that serves or pertains to another.

Originally, a steward in England, under feudal law, was “a household officer on a lord’s estate having charge of the cattle; later, a head manager in the administration of a manor or estate, presiding at the manorial courts, auditing accounts, conducting inquests and extents, and controlling the husbandry arrangements.” In general, a steward is “a man employed in a large family, or on a large estate, to manage the domestic concerns, supervise servants, collect rents or income, keep accounts, etc.”

Stewards are not owners

Stewards do not own the concerns which they manage nor are the servants which they supervise their own servants, but the servants of the steward’s lord. Thus, we find the Lord saying:

And if the properties are mine, then ye are stewards; otherwise ye are no stewards. (D&C 104: 56.)

Stewards and stewardships are for probation

Obviously, the Lord owns everything, so He tests His children by granting them a temporary stewardship and then seeing how they act in it.

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them (Abraham 3: 25.)

Rendering an account of one’s stewardship

At some point, every steward must give an account of his or her stewardship, both here on Earth and later at the day of judgment.

And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity. (D&C 73: 3.)

And an account of this stewardship will I require of them in the day of judgment. (D&C 70: 4.)

Good and bad stewards and their rewards

Depending upon what kind of steward we are here on Earth, so shall be our eternal reward. Those who are faithful, just and wise stewards get the top reward.

And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life. (D&C 51: 19.)

And he that is a faithful and wise steward shall inherit all things. Amen. (D&C 78: 22.)

While those who are wicked, unjust and unwise stewards don’t get so much.

And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, [the Lord] will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers; even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. (D&C 101: 90-91.)

Stewards possess authority

A stewardship (the office of a steward) comes with authority, or, in other words, a steward is given both authority and responsibility in order to manage the concerns of the stewardship. If you don’t have a stewardship, you don’t have authority. The authority of a steward is a set of keys, just as the original stigweard held the keys that opened the swine pens. These keys allow the steward to protect, guard, maintain and take care of the concerns in his or her care. Without such authority, a steward can do nothing.

In the case of a stewardship that supervises people, the authority of the steward is only valid as long as the people being cared for sustain him or her as their steward. In other words, there is a second set of keys held by the people who have claim on the steward as their steward and it is this second set of keys that allows the steward to operate in his or her office. Without the consent of these people, the steward cannot do anything in righteousness.

Parental stewardship

D&C 83 gives the order of parental stewardship as follows:

Verily, thus saith the Lord, in addition to the laws of the church concerning women and children, those who belong to the church, who have lost their husbands or fathers: Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken; and if they are not found transgressors they shall have fellowship in the church. And if they are not faithful they shall not have fellowship in the church; yet they may remain upon their inheritances according to the laws of the land. All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age. And after that, they have claim upon the church, or in other words upon the Lord’s storehouse, if their parents have not wherewith to give them inheritances. And the storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor. Amen.

Whoever has claim upon another for his or her spiritual or temporal maintenance is the concerns of the stewardship and whoever is responsible for the maintenance is the steward. Therefore, according to this revelation, parents are the stewards of their children and husbands are the stewards of their wives.

This arrangement does not go both ways. Children are not the stewards of the parents because they are not responsible for providing spiritual or temporal maintenance for their parents. Nor is the wife the steward of the husband because she is not responsible for maintaining her husband in his spiritual or temporal needs. If stewardship could go both ways, husbands could have claim upon their wives and parents upon their children. Although there may be many husbands who might love to relinquish their family stewardship to their wives and allow her to support him and their children, under gospel law it doesn’t work like that.

Children are also given stewardships

When children are old enough to obtain some responsibility, they may receive a stewardship from their parents. Perhaps they must take care of their room, keeping it clean and tidy, or their clothes, making sure they are folded and put away, or some household chores, such as sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, doing dishes, or, perhaps they are given a temporary stewardship over their younger siblings, looking over them and watching out for them while their parents are engaged in some other aspect of their own stewardship.

Stewardships in the church

Every church calling is a stewardship with responsibility and authority, and may be of a temporal and/or spiritual nature. The steward uses that authority to manage the concerns of his or her stewardship, which may include supervising, teaching, and/or leading people. So, for example, a bishop is the steward of the ward and the entire ward is the concerns of his stewardship. An elder’s quorum president is the steward of the elders quorum, which are the concerns of his stewardship. A Relief Society president is a steward and the society members are the concerns of her stewardship. A visiting or home teacher is a steward and the families or sisters being visited are the concerns. Etc.

Stewards and concerns likewise judged

Just as every steward must render an account of his or her stewardship to the Judge of us all, so the concerns of a stewardship will have to render an account of how they acted toward the steward. The steward is the Lord’s representative, empowered to take care of the concerns of the stewardship. Any interference with a steward’s divinely appointed duties is treated by the Lord as if it was done to the Lord of the steward Himself.

As long as a steward is acting righteously, meaning that he or she is acting in the stewardship in the following way—

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of [a stewardship], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.  (D&C 121: 41-44, re-worded a little.)

—those who have claim on the steward are bound by the Lord to use their second set of keys to authorize the steward’s own set of keys (his or her authority). If the steward is not authorized by the people concerned with his or her stewardship, yet is acting in righteousness, these people stand condemned by the Lord.

The principle is this: respect all stewards and stewardships insofar as they act righteously.

It is wickedness

Thus, it is wickedness to do away with a steward and stewardship granted by the Lord because this is how He tests His children. For example, some in the world would do away with the stewardship of the parents by granting the State stewardship over the children. This is wickedness. Others would do away with the stewardship of the husband, claiming that this diminishes the role of the wife. This is also wickedness.

Another form of wickedness is the interference in the operations of a steward’s duties. For example, no one is to perform the duties of the steward, other than the steward himself. If you do this, you interfere with the test, for the Lord appoints stewards and then steps back to see what he (or she) will do. Even if you think you can do a much better job than the steward, you are to step back, like the Lord, and let the man or woman perform, or attempt to perform, the duty. Another way to interfere is to withhold your authorization from the steward, so that he cannot perform the duties of his office and calling because you (the concerns of his stewardship) do not authorize him.

Finally, those who are not a part of the concerns of a stewardship, when dealing with a steward, should respect his or her calling, and recognize both the authority and responsibility that the steward has in managing his or her concerns. It is disrespectful and offensive both to the steward and to the One who appointed the steward to not recognize the stewardship, authority and responsibility that was given to the individual by the Lord.

Stewardships and equality

Stewardships are, by design, not equal. The Lord places one steward to preserve, maintain and increase a small amount of property, while another steward is placed over ten times as much. A pair of parental stewards may care for three children while a different pair may watch over ten. It is the inequality of the stewardships that adds to the test, to see what the children of God will do, both the stewards and those they look after.

Nevertheless, the gospel provides means whereby the unequal stewardships may become equalized. This is done through covenants.

Therefore, verily I say unto you, that it is expedient for my servants Edward Partridge and Newel K. Whitney, A. Sidney Gilbert and Sidney Rigdon, and my servant Joseph Smith, and John Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, and W. W. Phelps and Martin Harris to be bound together by a bond and covenant that cannot be broken by transgression, except judgment shall immediately follow, in your several stewardships—to manage the affairs of the poor, and all things pertaining to the bishopric both in the land of Zion and in the land of Kirtland; for I have consecrated the land of Kirtland in mine own due time for the benefit of the saints of the Most High, and for a stake to Zion.

For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

Therefore, I give unto you this commandment, that ye bind yourselves by this covenant, and it shall be done according to the laws of the Lord.

Behold, here is wisdom also in me for your good.

And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—and all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. (D&C 82: 11-19.)

So here we have the Lord telling these nine stewards to bind themselves to each other by bond and covenant in their several stewardships, so that they become equal in both earthly and heavenly things.

For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion—for a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven; that you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.

For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things; for if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you. (D&C 78: 3-7.)

The equality spoken of in these verses is all-important, yet unobtainable except by voluntarily entering into covenants, including marriage covenants, with other stewards. The Lord then creates a perfect test by first giving out unequal stewardships and then explaining how to equalize everything, with attendant blessings should His children decide to use their agency to that end.

He who is appointed to administer spiritual things, the same is worthy of his hire, even as those who are appointed to a stewardship to administer in temporal things; yea, even more abundantly, which abundance is multiplied unto them through the manifestations of the Spirit. Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld. (D&C 70: 12-14.)

Stewardships are meant to be increased

Every steward is to maintain, preserve, care for, protect, guard and increase his or her stewardship. Thus, missionary work is based on the law of stewardships. And when we hear the phrase, “multiply and replenish the earth,” that is also the law of stewardships at work. And so, parents, if able, are expected to bring more children to Earth.

Keep this law in mind

It may be beneficial to keep the law of stewardships in mind when dealing with stewards, whether they are found in one’s family, in the church, or in the world at large. A proper understanding of this law may make it easier to accept the steward’s authority, and a corresponding proper action towards that steward may make it easier to live other parts of the gospel and to stay in the Lord’s favor.

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Priesthood Offices in a Tribal Setting


Church ordinations

During the time of Christ, one of the qualifications for priesthood was that men had to be married.  (See 1 Tim. 3: 2, 12 and Titus 1: 6.)  During the time of Joseph Smith, adult men were ordained to both Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.  Later, during brother Brigham’s time the Aaronic priesthood began to be conferred upon young men.

Currently, in the modern church, if men and boys are worthy and are sustained by the congregation, they are ordained to these offices in the following way: deacons are ordained when 12 years old, teachers when 14, priests when 16 and boys become eligible for the office of an elder when they turn 18 (prospective elders.)  The Aaronic priesthood is now, essentially, a youth program, to prepare boys to receive the Melchizedek priesthood.

Grown men entering the priesthood may be given the office of a priest, becoming a prospective elder and then later ordained an elder, or may merely be ordained an elder from the start.

The following are the duties of an elder, priest, teacher and deacon in the church.  (E=Elder; P=Priest; T=Teacher; and D=Deacon.)

Duties of the Priesthood (for the church)

.P..          Preach
EP..         Baptize
E…          Confirm baptized church members by the laying on of hands
E…          Administer the sacrament
.P..          Administer the sacrament (when no elder is present)
E…          Take the lead in all church meetings
.P..         Take the lead in church meetings (when no elder is present)
..T.         Take the lead in church meetings (in the absence of the elder or priest)
E…          Conduct church meetings as led by the Holy Ghost
.P..          Assist elder (if occasion requires)
E…          Ordain elders
EP..        Ordain priests
EP..        Ordain teachers
EP..        Ordain deacons
EPTD      Teach
EPTD      Expound
EPTD      Exhort
E.TD       Watch over the church
.P..         Visit the house of each church member (exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties)
..T.         Be with and strengthen church
..T.        See that there is no iniquity in the church
..T.        See that there is no hardness in the church with each other
..T.        See that there is no lying in the church
..T.        See that there is backbiting in the church
..T.        See that there is no evil speaking in the church
..T.        See that all the church members do their duty
..T.        See that the church meet together often
..TD      Warn
..TD      Invite all to come to Christ
..TD      Be a standing minister to the church
…D       Assist teachers in their duties (if occasion requires)

Now let’s look at these same duties and offices of the priesthood in a tribal setting.

Duties of the Priesthood (for the tribe)

.P..          Preach
EP..         Baptize
E…          Confirm baptized tribal members by the laying on of hands
E…          Administer the sacrament
.P..          Administer the sacrament (when no elder is present)
E…          Take the lead in all tribal gatherings
.P..         Take the lead in tribal gatherings (when no elder is present)
..T.         Take the lead in tribal gatherings (in the absence of the elder or priest)
E…          Conduct tribal gatherings as led by the Holy Ghost
.P..          Assist elder (if occasion requires)
E…          Ordain elders
EP..        Ordain priests
EP..        Ordain teachers
EP..        Ordain deacons
EPTD      Teach
EPTD      Expound
EPTD      Exhort
E.TD       Watch over the tribe
.P..         Visit the house of each tribal member (exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties)
..T.         Be with and strengthen tribe
..T.        See that there is no iniquity in the tribe
..T.        See that there is no hardness in the tribe with each other
..T.        See that there is no lying in the tribe
..T.        See that there is backbiting in the tribe
..T.        See that there is no evil speaking in the tribe
..T.        See that all the tribal members do their duty
..T.        See that the tribe gather together often
..TD      Warn
..TD      Invite all to come to Christ
..TD      Be a standing minister to the tribe
…D       Assist teachers in their duties (if occasion requires)

Tribal ordinations

Obviously, a tribe can do what it wants, meaning it can organize itself using the priesthood however it wants.  So, a tribe can opt to duplicate the modern church model and ordain boys to the Aaronic priesthood.  But it can also follow the New Testament/Early Mormonism models and ordain only married men to either priesthood.

Let me give an example of how a tribe can develop its own “priesthood qualifications” for ordination to its tribal priesthoods.

According to how connected one is to the tribe, by the number of covenants

Ordaining to the offices of the priesthood in a tribal setting can depend upon the man’s connectedness to the tribe.  Connectedness can be determined by the number of wives he has and the combined number of husbands his wives have.  Once the required number of wives/husbands is reached, he can be eligible for ordination if the tribe consents to it.  Here is one way to do it:

  • Deacon – Monogamy (1 wife and 1 husband)
  • Teacher – Multi-spouse System (husband has 2 wives and his wives have a combined total of 2 distinct husbands)
  • Priest – Multi-spouse System (husband has 4 wives and his wives have a combined total of 4 distinct husbands)
  • Elder – Multi-spouse System (husband has 8 wives and his wives have a combined total of 8 distinct husbands)

These numbers are, of course, arbitrary.  A tribe can decide how many covenantal connections a man and his wives must have for the man to be ordained to an office of the priesthood.  The principle, though, is that with more connections a man has to the tribe, he has that much more vested interest in it.  Also, as men take on more wives (and their wives covenant with more husbands), they enter into more marriage/family/clan/tribal responsibilities, therefore, their priesthood office should reflect a corresponding increase in duties and responsibility.

Another reason to link the priesthood to marriage is because the Lord has set the husband at the head of the wife, regardless of whether he has the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthoods.  Because of this relationship, priesthood is useful to keep a husband in his proper place, for entrance into the priesthood is designed to be entrance into lifelong service.  All husbands, therefore, should be priesthood servants.

For the other priesthood offices, such as high priest, bishop, seventy, apostle, etc., inter-husband covenants—meaning that two or more husbands enter into a united order for the establishment of Zion by covenanting with each other—can be added as eligibility requirements to the qualifications of an elder.  For the office of high priest, it can follow the scriptural pattern of having it confirmed by the voice of God out of the heavens, etc.

Manner of tribal ordinations

There are three valid methods of priesthood ordination.  The first method comes from the Book of Mormon:

In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen.  (Moroni 3: 3)

The second one is the method used during the time of Joseph Smith:

By authority of the Holy Priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I ordain you an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers, keys and authority pertaining to this office and calling, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The final method is that used from 1919 onward, including today:

To perform a priesthood ordination, one or more authorized priesthood holders place their hands lightly on the person’s head. Then the priesthood holder who performs the ordination:

1. Calls the person by his full name.

2. States the authority by which the ordination is performed (Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood).

3. Confers the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood unless it has already been conferred.

4. Ordains the person to an office in the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood and bestows the rights, powers and authority of that office. (Priesthood keys are not bestowed in conferring the priesthood or ordaining to one of these offices.)

5. Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.

6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Of the three methods, I would recommend that a tribe use only the first two because the third method creates the perception that priesthood keys are not passed on, even though they are.  This, of course, is a control mechanism to center power in priesthood “leaders” who “hold keys.”  Also, when using the second method, one would not ordain to an office in the church, but to an office in the tribe.

Priesthood re-ordinations

A man that comes into a tribe who has already been ordained an elder in the church may be ordained to an office of the tribal priesthood according to the tribe’s eligibility requirements.  So, let’s say the man is in a monogamous marriage when he enters the tribe and the tribe allows monogamous men to be only ordained tribal deacons.  In this case, the man would be ordained a tribal deacon, despite being an elder of the church.  The tribe then recognizes his priesthood office as that of a deacon, whereas the church recognizes his priesthood office as that of an elder.  The tribe can continue to utilize and recognize validly ordained church elders until such time when the tribe has ordained tribal elders according to its eligibility requirements.  Then it may use the tribal elders (and priests) exclusively to ordain all other tribal offices.

For example, in cases of taking the lead in tribal gatherings, if there are four men in the tribe who are ordained elders in the church but three are tribal deacons and one is a tribal teacher, the tribal teacher would take the lead in the tribal gatherings, for in a tribal setting, tribal priesthood takes precedence over church priesthood.  Nevertheless, if someone needs to be baptized (requiring the office of a priest or elder), any of these four men could do it using church priesthood authorized by the tribe.  At some point, one of these tribal men will hold the tribal office of elder, at which point church priesthood no longer need be relied upon. 

Tribal records

While a tribe is still in its infancy and consists of but few persons, ordinances can be performed without witnesses or record-keeping.  However, when there is finally a sufficient number of tribal members, the tribe may gather and formally establish itself according to the gospel laws.  The gathered tribe, using its tribal keys and the law of common consent, can then authorize the performing of all the tribal ordinances once more for each of the tribal members, but this time with two or three tribal witnesses (the law of witnesses) and with a tribal recorder appointed among their number to record all the names, dates, ordinances, convenants entered into (including marriage covenants) and ordinations performed, as well as recording the names and certifications of the witnesses, etc., all on a tribal record or book.  Doing this utilizes the priesthood sealing power so that the tribal record becomes “a law on earth and in heaven, [that can] not be annulled”.  This tribal record is all important so that when the time comes for the tribe to be assimilated into the larger tribes of Israel, these tribal ordinances will be accepted as valid and binding both on earth and in heaven.

Working in this way, using the priesthood sealing power to formally establish a tribe, sets the tribe up for permanency both here and in the afterlife.

A mere example

Please don’t take these words as being the only way to organize a tribal priesthood.  I merely write this to get people thinking tribally, to help them conceive of the options available to them and to provide an example of one way to organize a tribal priesthood in righteousness so that Lord will be pleased and pour down His blessings and the tribe’s actions will be justified.  But there are undoubtedly other, valid ways to go about this.

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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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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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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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