Abrahamic Concubinage as an Inter-Tribal Function


Note: This is a GEMTAM chapter modified for publication on the LDS Anarchy blog. It contains more information than what is found in that chapter.

The Encyclopædia Brittannica, Eleventh Edition, says the following in its entry on concubinage:

CONCUBINAGE (Lat. concubina, a concubine; from con-, with, and cubare, to lie), the state of a man and woman cohabiting as married persons without the full sanctions of legal marriage. In early historical times, when marriage laws had scarcely advanced beyond the purely customary stage, the concubine was definitely recognized as a sort of inferior wife, differing from those of the first rank mainly by the absence of permanent guarantees. The history of Abraham’s family shows us clearly that the concubine might be dismissed at any time, and her children were liable to be cast off equally summarily with gifts, in order to leave the inheritance free for the wife’s sons (Genesis xxi 9 ff., xxv. 5 ff.).

The Roman law recognized two classes of legal marriage: (1) with the definite public ceremonies of confarreatio or coemptio, and (2) without any public form whatever and resting merely on the affectio maritalis, i.e. the fixed intention of taking a particular woman as a permanent spouse.1 Next to these strictly lawful marriages came concubinage as a recognized legal status, so long as the two parties were not married and had no other concubines. It differed from the formless marriage in the absence (1) of affectio maritalis, and therefore (2) of full conjugal rights. For instance, the concubine was not raised, like the wife, to her husband’s rank, nor were her children legitimate, though they enjoyed legal rights forbidden to mere bastards, e.g. the father was bound to maintain them and to leave them (in the absence of legitimate children) one-sixth of his property; moreover, they might be fully legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their parents.

In the East, the emperor Leo the Philosopher (d. 911) insisted on formal marriage as the only legal status; but in the Western Empire concubinage was still recognized even by the Christian emperors. The early Christians had naturally preferred the formless marriage of the Roman law as being free from all taint of pagan idolatry; and the ecclesiastical authorities recognized concubinage also. The first council of Toledo (398) bids the faithful restrict himself “to a single wife or concubine, as it shall please him”;2 and there is a similar canon of the Roman synod held by Pope Eugenius II. in 826. Even as late as the Roman councils of 1052 and 1063, the suspension from communion of laymen who had a wife and a concubine at the same time implies that mere concubinage was tolerated. It was also recognized by many early civil codes. In Germany “left-handed” or “morganatic” marriages were allowed by the Salic law between nobles and women of lower rank. In different states of Spain the laws of the later middle ages recognized concubinage under the name of barragania, the contract being lifelong, the woman obtaining by it a right to maintenance during life, and sometimes also to part of the succession, and the sons ranking as nobles if their father was a noble. In Iceland, the concubine was recognized in addition to the lawful wife, though it was forbidden that they should dwell in the same house. The Norwegian law of the later middle ages provided definitely that in default of legitimate sons, the kingdom should descend to illegitimates. In the Danish code of Valdemar II., which was in force from 1280 to 1683, it was provided that a concubine kept openly for three years shall thereby become a legal wife; this was the custom of hand vesten, the “handfasting” of the English and Scottish borders, which appears in Scott’s Monastery. In Scotland, the laws of William the Lion (d. 1214) speak of concubinage as a recognized institution; and, in the same century, the great Enlish legist Bracton treats the “concubina legitima” as entitled to certain rights.3 There seems to have been at times a pardonable confusion between some quasi-legitimate unions and those marriages by mere word of mouth, without ecclesiastical or other ceremonies, which the church, after some natural hesitation, pronounced to be valid.4 Another and more serious confusion between concubinage and marriage was caused by the gradual enforcement of clerical celibacy (see CELIBACY). During the bitter conflict between laws which forbade sacerdotal marriages and long custom which had permitted them, it was natural that the legislators and the ascetic party generally should studiously speak of the priests’ wives as concubines, and do all in their power to reduce them to this position. This very naturally resulted in a too frequent substitution of clerical concubinage for marriage; and the resultant evils form one of the commonest themes of complaint in church councils of the later middle ages.5 Concubinage in general was struck at by the concordat between the Pope Leo X. and Francis I. of France in 1516; and the council of Trent, while insisting on far more stringent conditions for lawful marriage than those which had prevailed in the middle ages, imposed at last heavy ecclesiastical penalties on concubinage and appealed to the secular arm for help against contumacious offenders (Sessio xxiv. Cap. 8).

AUTHORITES.–Besides those quoted in the notes, the reader may consult with advantage Du Cange’s Glossarium, s.v. Concubina, the article “Concubinat” in Wetzer and Welte’s Kirchenlexikon (2nd ed., Freiburg i/B., 1884), and Dr H. C. Lea’s History of Sacerdotal Celibacy (3rd ed., London, 1907).

(G. G. Co.)

1 The difference between English and Scottish law, which once made “Gretna Green marriages” so frequent, is due to the fact that Scotland adopted the Roman law (which on this particular point was followed by the whole medieval church).

2 Gratian, in the 12th century, tried to explain this away by assuming that concubinage here referred to meant a formless marriage; but in 398 a church council can scarcely so have misused the technical terms of the then current civil law (Gratian, Decretum, pars i. dist. xxiv. c. 4).

3 Bracton, De Legibus, lib. iii. tract. ii. c. 28, § 1, and lib. iv. tract. vi. c. 8, § 4.

4 F. Pollock and F. W. Maitland, Hist. of English Law, 2nd ed. vol. ii. p. 370. In the case of Richard de Anesty, decided by papal rescript in 1143, “a marriage solemnly celebrated in church, a marriage of which a child had been born, was set aside as null in favour of an earlier marriage constituted by a mere exchange of consenting words” (ibid. p. 367; cf. the similar decretal of Alexander III. on p. 371). The great medieval canon lawyer Lyndwood illustrates the difficulty of distinguishing, even as late as the middle of the 15th century, between concubinage and a clandestine, though legal, marriage. He falls back on the definition of an earlier canonist that if the woman eats out of the same dish with the man, and if he takes her to church, she may be presumed to be his wife; if, however, he sends her to draw water and dresses her in vile clothing, she is probably a concubine (Provinciale, ed. Oxon. 1679, p. 10, s.v. concubinarios).

5 It may be gathered from the Dominican C. L. Richard’s Analysis Conciliorum (vol. ii., 1778) that there were more than 110 such complaints in councils and synods between the years 1009 and 1528. Dr Rashdall (Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, vol. ii. p. 691, note) points out that a master of the university of Prague, in 1499, complained openly to the authorities against a bachelor for assaulting his concubine.

The above write-up adequately shows the differences between a wife and a concubine.  On the one hand there was the wife, who had permanent guarantees.  The marriage contract or covenant she entered into bound her exclusively and permanently to her husband, the only way out being through death or divorce.  The wife received an inheritance and held rights to the husband’s rank or titles, as did the children she bore him.  So, for example, if he was a king,  she became a queen and the children she bore him became princes and princesses who also held rights to an inheritance.

On the other hand, the concubine’s marriage covenant had no permanent guarantees.  She was bound to her husband exclusively and temporarily and held no rights to an inheritance nor to any of his titles, nor did any the children she bore him.  Her marriage contract, being of a temporary nature, could have a stipulated duration of time after which it would end or a stipulated manner by which it could end, such as at the discretion of her husband or herself, and when it ended she was sent away with her children.

The husband leaves his tribe

It is impossible to comprehend Abrahamic concubinage without an understanding of the context of the ancient world, which was tribalism, meaning that the ancients lived in tribes.  Moses wrote:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

If there was a man who lived in one tribe and a woman who lived in a different one and the man desired to marry her, he was, per this standard, to leave his tribe and take up residence in his wife’s.  The woman was always to stay with her tribe, under the protection of her tribesmen, her father and her brothers when marrying a man from a different tribe.

No interfaith marriages

Husbands and wives were also to be of the same religious background.  Paul wrote, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14.)  Interfaith marriages, then, were prohibited by the Lord because such permanent unions would tend to turn the believing spouse’s heart away from Him.  This was especially detrimental in the case of a believing husband and a non-believing wife, for the husband would leave his believing tribe and would be immersed in the unbelieving tribe of his wife.  The marrying of believing husbands to only believing wives would make gospel tribes somewhat insular, or set apart, from the tribes of the world, for they would end up taking wives and husbands only from other gospel tribes.

Concubines did things in reverse

Concubinage worked differently than normal, permanent marriage unions.  A concubine did not remain with her tribe, but left it to live with the tribe of her husband.  After her concubinage contract had ended, she was to leave her husband’s tribe with her children and return to her own.  Also, a concubine could be an unbeliever from one of the tribes of the earth, meaning one of the non-gospel Gentile tribes in the surrounding area.  Because her union was only temporary and she came to live among the believer’s tribe, it was less likely that she would have influence enough over the husband to turn his heart from the Lord.

The union of Abraham and Hagar is the prime example of this.  Hagar was an Egyptian slave possibly acquired as Pharaoh’s gift to Sarah when Abraham and Sarah were sojourning in Egypt.  She was not, therefore, of their religion and tribe.  So Abraham took Hagar to wife as his concubine, not as his wife.  Some time after she had given birth to a male child (Ishmael), her concubinage contract was ended and she was sent away with her son.  Ishmael eventually ended up marrying an Egyptian woman.

Benefits of concubinage

A concubine would bring many benefits to the tribe of her husband.  Being from a different tribe, she would bring with her different customs and ways of doing things, which would enrich his tribe and give them knowledge concerning her own.  She also would learn the customs of her husband’s tribe.  Specifically, she would learn their language, their arts and academics, their tribal organization and politics, their talents and industry, their religion and all their other customs.  And she would be totally immersed in a gospel culture, dwelling among a gospel tribe, so it would be more likely that she would convert to their religion, than that she would convert them to her religion.  If she or any of her children did end up converting to the Lord while residing within the gospel tribe, after her contract ended she would be sent back to her tribe as the perfect tribal missionary, as one who was already fully aware of all the ways of her non-gospel tribe, having grown up in it.

Concubines would also bring great benefits to their original tribes.  Upon her return, a concubine could teach her people all of what she learned while living among her husband’s tribe, including the language and religion of her husband.  In this way, she becomes an ambassador of peace between the two tribes, having lived in both for an extended period and knowing the customs and ways and languages of both.  This would do much for inter-tribal relations, allowing two foreign tribes to more easily interact with each other without any misunderstandings.  What is true for her would also be true for her children, who were raised in their father’s tribe and would now be living in their mother’s.  Each would be immensely benefited by the experience and become natural tribal ambassadors, having allegiances in both tribes.

Concubines could marry afterward

After returning to her tribe, a concubine would be free to contract marriage as a wife to a fellow tribesman or to someone of another people, while remaining among her own kind.  As a tribeswoman by birth, she would be entitled to an inheritance in her tribe.  If she was sent away with gifts from her husband, these would also benefit her people.

Genetic diversity and tribal missionary work

Another benefit, and a main one at that, would be the introduction of genetic diversity among the various tribes practicing concubinage.  A woman from a foreign tribe that became a concubine in a gospel tribe, would end up mixing her tribe’s genetic code (though her) with the genetic code of her husband’s tribe.  If she became a concubine of more than one husband of the new tribe, she would introduce even more genetic diversity into her children.  Then, when the concubinage contract(s) ended, she would take her children, the product of her and the new tribe, back to her old tribe, where these children could then pass on this genetic diversity through marriage into their mother’s tribe.

Without concubinage, gospel tribes become too insular, marrying only among themselves and not generating much genetic diversity.  Also, tribal missionary work becomes more difficult, for it is much easier to send tribal missionaries to a foreign tribe that has had concubines who have already lived in the missionaries’ tribe, who can put in a good word for the missionaries and open other doors, allowing the gospel to go forth unimpeded.

Tribal missionaries that spent much time in foreign tribes, preaching the gospel, could enter into concubinage contracts with women of that tribe for the duration that the missionaries were there.  This would allow the missionaries to marry non-believers without the danger of being unequally yoked in a permanent union.  If the concubine ended up converting to the Lord, the missionary could end the concubinage contract and either leave her there as a new ambassador of the gospel or arrange to bring her to his own tribe as a permanent wife. Whatever they decided to do, the children that came from these unions would create greater genetic diversity for whichever tribe they ended up in.

Concubines must go back

A concubine whose marriage contract does not end and who is not sent back to her father’s tribe defeats the whole purpose of concubinage.  The benefits that come from concubinage—benefits for both her, her children, her husband’s tribe and her father’s tribe—come only when the concubine and her children return to live with the tribe she originated from.  Not receiving an inheritance in her husband’s tribe is necessary, in order that she return from whence she comes.  Otherwise, concubinage is merely a method for the exploitation of women—having the benefits of a wife, without any associated responsibilities.

Abrahamic concubinage as revealed to Joseph Smith

A concubine is a noble, honorable calling and title, that accomplishes a great deal of good for two whole tribes.  Only when viewed in this manner, under tribal filters, does concubinage make any sense.

When Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord concerning how it was that the ancients were justified in having many wives and concubines, he was given the revelation found in D&C 132.  This revelation, for the most part, only speaks of wives.  The reason is because it was the purpose of the Lord that Joseph and the saints establish themselves into two bona-fide, fully functioning tribes of Israel using the principle of plural marriage.  The revelation ends with an enigmatic carrot on a stick:

And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. (D&C 132:66)

The only thing that the Lord says about concubines in this revelation is that the ancients were justified in receiving them and that it was accounted to them as righteousness and not sin.  But there is no indication that Joseph was supposed to start contracting concubines, only that more would be revealed later.

Tribal formation first, concubinage second

It makes sense that the Lord wouldn’t get into all the details of the doctrine and practice of concubines at this point because concubinage serves an inter-tribal function and the saints had not, yet, even formed themselves into one gospel tribe.  The intention of the Lord was to have the saints form themselves first into two gospel tribes, a tribe of Ephraim and a tribe of Manasseh and then, and only then, were they to start entering into concubine arrangements with the tribes of the earth.  This would serve to counteract the insular nature of the two gospel tribes, who would marry among themselves, in believer-only marriages.

A commandment to practice concubinage

Although the Lord did not go into detail concerning concubines, there is enough in the revelation and in the Bible for modern, gospel-based tribes organized according to the Gospel-based, Multihusband-Multiwife, Tribal Anarchy Model to enter into concubinage contracts if they see fit.  In fact, the Lord gives a commandment that these things be done in the revelation itself:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand whereby I, the Lord, justified my servants…as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter [of having many wives and concubines]. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law [concerning having many wives and concubines] revealed unto them must obey the same. (D&C 132:1-3)

So, once a gospel tribe is established using plural marriage, the Lord expects it to begin entering into concubinage contracts with the tribes of the earth, in order that the purposes, promises and prophecies of the Lord may be fulfilled about the people of the Lord becoming the salt and leaven of the earth.  The Savior said:

The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)

Through converted concubines, returned back from whence they come, entire tribes will be converted.  Concubinage, then, is a true principle of the gospel and one which any gospel-based tribe may justifiably embrace.

Concubinage and wife contracts are equally impermanent

All covenants, contracts…that are not…sealed…as well for time and for all eternity…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. (D&C 132:7)

This scripture shows that a marriage contract between a husband and a wife and a marriage contract between a husband and a concubine are similarly temporary.  The only difference is that one is intended to last a little bit longer than the other.  The wife’s contract has an end at death, while the concubine’s contract has an end sometime during mortality, but neither in reality are permanent contracts.

It is the sealing power that will vicariously seal all such impermanent marriage contracts, including concubinage contracts, making them all permanent unions in the afterlife.  Because of this, it is not correct to speak of a concubine as “a sort of inferior wife.”  She is every bit as much a wife as any other and will be sealed to her husband permanently after her death just as every other wife will be, and she will inherit the same reward as a wife will in the eternities.

Concubinage has a heavenly origin

Lastly, concubinage appears to be patterned after a heavenly object (a comet, a planetoid, a planet or a brown dwarf) that enters an insular solar system for a time, causing new planetary birth (the electrical expulsion model of planetary birth) and then after passing through leaves the solar system with an entourage of captured, newly birthed, planetary objects.

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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.

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