During the Priesthood Session of last September/October’s General Conference, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to the men and boys of the Church, urging them to be worthy of the LDS priesthood. President Hinckley instructed them to shun unclean thoughts, pornography and abuse of any kind. He told them to watch their language and stop dressing in a “slouchy manner.” Then he said,
I call your attention to another matter that gives me great concern. …young women are exceeding young men in pursuing educational programs. And so I say to you young men, rise up and discipline yourself to take advantage of educational opportunities. Do you wish to marry a girl whose education has been far superior to your own? We speak of being “unequally yoked.” That applies, I think, to the matter of education. (“Rise Up, O Men of God,” Ensign, November 2006, 60)
When President Hinckley said, “We speak of being ‘unequally yoked,'” I can only think he was referring to the New Testament passage where the apostle Paul says,
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Of course President Hinckley was not suggesting that women with higher educations fall under the category of “unbelievers.” He must have thought to broaden Paul’s teaching on being unequally yoked.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment that President Hinckley is a true prophet and, while speaking in his official capacity as such, was giving prophetic counsel. He said the idea of being unequally yoked applies to the level of education achieved by each individual in a potential “couple.” If the biblical command is to not be unequally yoked, and being unequally yoked is defined as being married to someone with a differing level of education, then the prophetic counsel given by President Hinckley boils down to this: Marriage must only take place between partners who are equally educated.
Have I got that right?
In the Priesthood Session of the October 2000 General Conference, President Hinckley gave another bit of prophetic counsel which, while on a different topic, was similar to the counsel on education in that it spoke to what constitutes proper behavior among Church members. On this occasion President Hinckley said,
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have declared that we discourage tattoos and also “the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes.” We do not, however, take any position “on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings” — one pair. (“Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,” Ensign, November 2000, 52)
Since President Hinckley gave his counsel against more than one set of pierced earrings per woman, the number of earrings in a Mormon girl’s ear has become somewhat of a benchmark of her willingness to obey the prophet. Consider this story related by an LDS apostle in last month’s Ensign:
Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. He cared for her very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage. This relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe. (David A. Bednar, “Quick to Observe,” Ensign, December 2006, 31)
I wonder. Did President Hinckley’s counsel against young men marrying women with unequal educations result in faithful members being quick to observe? Did the morning of October 1st, 2006 dawn over a Temple Square littered with the broken engagements of people who had planned to marry outside their level of education? If not, I wonder why not, for according to LDS Apostle James Faust,
We have been promised that the President of the Church will receive guidance for all of us as the revelator for the Church. Our safety lies in paying heed to that which he says and following his counsel. (Quoted in “Following the Prophets: A Book of Mormon Perspective,” Ensign, July 2000, 22)
Be that as it may, I believe President Hinckley fails in his interpretation of what the Bible means when God tells us not to be “unequally yoked.” Putting the passage in its context, Paul is making an impassioned plea to the Corinthian church to be holy.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)
Is this biblical passage really talking about unequal education in marriage? God is telling the Corinthians — and us — not to unite with unbelievers,* for they walk in darkness and dishonor God.
What does a college degree have to do with that?
* That is, false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:2-4), and perhaps idolaters (1 Corinthians 10:14)