In the heavens, are parents single?

On Monday (April 14, 2008) the Salt Lake Tribune ran an interesting article by Michael Nielsen, one of nine on the editorial board of the independent publication Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. The opinion article addresses the query regarding “How the LDS Church could address the polygamy question.” Dr. Nielsen rightly notes,

“To deny polygamy’s importance to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormonism is, well, to be in denial. Many Latter-day Saints prefer to avoid polygamy or to think that it has no bearing on the present, but this is pointless if we are to consider what other people think of the church…

“From my reading of newspaper letters, article comments and blogs, it seems that defenders of the church too often provide information that is clear but inaccurate or incomplete. For example, it strikes an observer as disingenuous when told ‘the LDS Church has nothing to do with polygamy,’ as I’ve read in the comments to several newspaper articles in recent days. Clear? Yes. Accurate? Not so much.”

These LDS members have taken their cue from late President Gordon B. Hinckley. He made a similar statement during the Church’s October 1998 General Conference:

“I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy.”

Clear? Yes. Accurate? Not so much, given that the specific religion he refers to is a splinter group with roots in the LDS Church, and the polygamy they practice is in obedience to alleged revelations clearly emanating from Joseph Smith and subsequent LDS prophets.

Dr. Nielsen concludes his Salt Lake Tribune article with several suggestions regarding what the LDS Church could do to address the polygamy issue. These include acknowledging and clarifying the LDS Church’s past history of polygamy as well as encouraging the public to understand past and present polygamy in context. His suggestion that is most likely to draw fire, however, is this:

“Develop a new understanding — a revelation, even — regarding Doctrine & Covenants 132, the section of Mormon scripture that forms the foundation for polygamy and celestial marriage. As part of this, discontinue the policy allowing men to be sealed to more than one woman. Such a change would make it clearer than ever that polygamy is in the past. After all, the LDS hymnal asks, ‘In the heavens, are parents single?’ to which it answers, ‘No.’ That the current policy suggests parents are not only wed in eternity, but are sometimes even wed to more than one spouse, seriously undermines the claim that polygamy is in the past. Instead, it suggests that polygamy is in both the past and the future, and that current policy is the exception rather than the rule.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Marriage and Singlehood. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to In the heavens, are parents single?

  1. David says:

    The idea of celestial marriage and families being together forever (either in a monogamous or polygamous context), seems to contradict scripture.

    In response to a theoretical problem proposed by the Sadducees, Jesus gives a response (in Mark 12 & Luke 20) that pretty much destroys the LDS view of heaven – “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven”.

    Some Mormons counter by saying that, “the text simply states that people will not marry nor be given in marriage in heaven, which we agree with. It says nothing about continuing already existing marriages.”

    But this still does not get one around the original problem. Who will be the woman’s husband? The LDS interpretation makes Jesus’ words meaningless, as they do not address the problem that is posed to him. Furthermore, the Sadducees seem satisfied, or at least silenced, by this answer (which they would not be if they had the Mormon understanding and subsequent comeback in mind). The phrase,”but are like angels in heaven” seems to make the point even stronger. Humans live in a wedded state, angels don’t, the resurrected saints will be like the angels (single) – contra the way humans are now. I don’t see how one gets around the above without doing violence to the text, or simply blowing it off.

    With the reality of death, divorce, and occasionally polygamy on earth it is hard to see how heaven would not turn into some polyamorous, sexual six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon kind of affair if marriages are maintained in the afterlife.

  2. Michael P says:

    When I read this, and I read the article, too, what jumped out at me what the church needs to develop a revelation about 132. Does anyone else find this terribly problematic?

    “Developing a new understanding, a revelation even” is the quote.

    I’d love to know how they develop a revelation if a revelation is to come from God whenever God gives revelations, and not to get them out of a pickle.

    As a comment to the goal he expressed, it will never happen. Too much of their past is tied to it to let it go.

  3. falcon says:

    My simple reasoning tells me that Joseph Smith developed the concept of plural marrage as a means of covering his sexual desires. He did it because he could. His was a most egregious exploitation of his power and status as the LDS leader and prophet. He wasn’t held accountable then and he isn’t held accountable now for his sinful life style. I believe it’s the LDS sect the Community of Saints that have basically labeled Joseph Smith a false prophet. They dumped the D&C and went back to the original Book of Commandments that formed that basis for the early LDS doctrine. The Utah Mormons are stuck with Smith and Young and are basically guilty after the fact for not condeming their behavior. Also, please tell me, if these guys were prophets and if plural marrage got the believer into the highest ranked heaven, could the later prophet just dump it. The LDS leaders just keep movin-on because the faithful followers have never held any of them accountable for their actions. I give the splinter groups some credit for at least challenging the status quo.

  4. Just for Quix says:

    One major misunderstanding LDS have with with this biblical principle is that they think that Christians don’t belief relationships extend to the afterlife. It’s as if we who are saved will live independently in separate mansions on separate clouds, never to commune with one another. If that were the truth, it is no wonder Mormons feel the Christian gospel is hopeless.

    Why do Mormons need eternal marriages? It is not for the purpose of “forever families.” That doesn’t logically follow. 1) Given an “eternal chain” the only basic Celestial unit, really, would be a husband and wife(s). (Children would ultimately be sealed to their own spouses, and on and on…) 2) There are all kinds of appropriate, close, intimate (not sexual definition in this case), uplifting relationships that humans enjoy, including with our personal God, that don’t need the institution of marriage to be fruitful.

    Therefore, marriage indeed can be a blessed experience, and perhaps in Heaven our relationship with our previous spouse will be a deep and abiding soulful connection. But marriage’s purpose is primarily to govern sexual behavior, family fidelity, parental accountability, and legal titles and ownerships. While important in the earthy sphere, for sure, why does Heaven need this if not for what LDS believe? Despite what they (or their prophets) may say that they “don’t know much about it” or “don’t emphasize it”, they believe they will be Gods. Not Christian theosis “gods.” But literal Gods with their own world(s) and posterity who will worship them like they worship the Father. IMO, this is the only logical extension for the LDS doctrinal allegiance to Celestial Marriage as a heavenly institution, because it “more perfectly” reflects the sexual, parental accountability and legal entitlements of the mortal institution.

    This is the logical extension. And while LDS may not teach directly to this point, it is the understood social doctrine motivating the hearts of strong LDS believers.

  5. Just for Quix says:

    Of course, Celestial Marriage also works a very practical purpose of cementing believers into fearful loyalty to the LDS church; to reinforce the cultural notion of being more privileged, favored or blessed of God; to uphold a “proof” of the distinct, extra Truth that makes Mormonism the “only true church”; and to distinguish the less-than-blessed, or even corrupted, nature of other religions, namely that of Christianity. It’s as if God would need such a “practical” (read: manipulative) practice and institution in Heaven…

    (I know I’m preaching to the choir.) It is difficult to address outrightly with Mormons this matter of becoming Gods, because many do not consciously consider the extensions of their doctrine and practices. (Remember that most Mormons really don’t value doctrine as a vital part of faith or study; it is a more practical “day to day” moral [and legalistic] benefits perspective.) Without being sensational by using terms like “cosmic sex” it is a logical question to ask Mormons why the institution of Celestial Marriage is necessary without making them commit to their hope (or belief) in this nebulous LDS social doctrine.

  6. Ralph says:

    Sealing a marriage for time and all eternity is performed by the Melchezidek Priesthood (according to our doctrine) which was not on this earth at the time of Jesus. Anyone married at this time was married for time only. No matter who she was married to it was for this life only, not in the next one as well. Who asked Jesus the question – it was people who did not believe in an after life or resurrection, so why were they asking Jesus about something they did not subscribe to? But if you look around at other sites there are better answers to that question/problem.

    As for another ‘revelation’ about polygamy being rescinded going against the practise of the church, here is a quote from BY which I have Lautensack to thank for – ”If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by, and he will put it away that it will not be known in the Church.” JoD 11:266 I think that just about covers it.

    With Quix’s comments, I have said this in the past, we do not know how spirit children are ‘conceived and born’ to physical parents so this idea of sex in the next life is just that – an idea. It is not, as far as I know, official doctrine, but some misguided people teach it as though it is. It does stand to reason that that is what will happen, which does not bother me, but it is not doctrine. All I know is that when we are resurrected it will be with a full physical body – ie all organs and parts fully functional. As we know Jesus ate in front of witnesses, so does this mean that we will have to eat even though we are immortal? The LDS teach that the difference between an immortal body and a mortal one is that the blood, but when we are resurrected we will still have a heart and fully functional vascular system – so will it be empty and pump air/nothing or will there be something else? We do not know much about these things so any other than what is in the scriptures or revelation is just speculation.

  7. Rick B says:

    When you quote BY And the JoD 11, how do you connect these when they seem to disagree with each other?

    “Some quietly listen to those who speak against the Lord’s servants, against his annointed, against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have a half dozen devils with them all the time. YOU MIGHT AS WELL DENY “MORMONISM,” AND TURN AWAY FROM IT, AS TO OPPOSE THE PLURALITY OF WIVES. Let the presidency of this church, and the twelve apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 203)

  8. Ralph says:


    I answered that question in the other post “Faith Promoting Perceptions” in response to Lautensack’s quote from the JoD.

    Basically BY said in JoD 11:266 that if one believed in polygamy but did not have the chance to practise, then it would be the same as if they had practised polygamy and they will receive salvation in the Celestial Kingdom. The quote you have referred to says nothing about not practising, but about denying or turning away from the teaching of polygamy. Anyway, go and read the full post on the other page – it was better written.

    Last post for the day so any other questions for me will have to wait.

  9. eric017 says:

    I too read Dr. Nelsons editorial to the Trib. and thought it was very interesting. It isn’t surprising that he’s involved with Diolog as they and Sunstone seem to be the only ones within the LDS church who are willing to ask interesting questions.

    I think he makes some interesting points regarding trying to help the LDS come to terms with polygamy. I agree they (the members) need to come to grips that thier heritige as mainline Mormons has polygamy as a major part. Half the persons in the intermountain west have ancestors who were polygamists. Myself included. One couldn’t throw a rock in Provo without hitting someone who has polygamists in thier family tree.

    But did anyone else find it odd that he called for “a revelation”? It’s almost as if Dr. Nelson thinks public opinion could sway the will of God. I’m reading Jeremiah these days, and there are many passages beginning with “Thus sayeth the Lord….”. Usually these passages (in Jeremiah, but also others) follow with something that the people didn’t want to hear or severially incovenienced business as usual in the lives of the children of Isreal. It seems to me that Dr. Nelson and other Mormons play fast and loose with the concept of revelation from God. This brings up another misunderstanding I think Mormons have with Christians. Christians do believe in continueing revelation. We just believe that God reveals things to our hearts through His Spirit, rather than from a single individual revealing things enforcing hegemony, conformity and control. And often, when God speaks to us He certainly isn’t concerned if what He says is something we didn’t want to hear, much less that of public opinion.

  10. falcon says:

    I’ve been pushing hard on another thread on this site for Mormons to hold those in leadership accountable especially for their prophetic utterences. As Christians, this idea that the faithful are to roll over when the leader/prophet speaks is not in keeping with the NT tradition or teaching. Mormonism does the roll over. In First Cor. 12, 13 and 14 Paul instructs believers on the manifestations of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the principles that are to apply to there use. He tells believers not to dispise prophetic utterences but also tells them, as individuals, to take their turn in the assembly but then to judge what is said. Joseph Smith got intoxicated with his own power and influence and there wasn’t anyone to step forward and call him to account. The one guy who did, got his printing press smashed for his attempts. Smith’s abuse of power led to his demise, but his legacy of unfettered power and domination survive. I think the book “Under the Banner of Heaven” does a good job of describing and explaining this legacy among the followers of Joseph Smith.

  11. Michael P says:

    Eric, yup, I saw that same problem, and asked yesterda if anyone else saw it.

    Its as if revelation here is used to get them out of a jam, which is telling because this is a Mormon writing it.

  12. eric017 says:

    Sorry Michael, I should have given you props. So, I picked up the D&C yesterday for the first time in about ten years. There were a number of things that struck me. First, the language is in my opinion overly complex. Granted this was a way persons often wrote back then, but if God was giving a revelation wouldn’t we expect it to be as clear as possible? The D&C is often hard to follow, unless one likes to diagram sentences. The second observation is that many of the revelations, if you know the history of what was occuring at the time, really seem to come at convenient times for Smith anyway. D&C 25 really struck me. To a non-believer, like myself, it seems Smith is ultimately trying to silence Emma, his wife. In essesence, he seems to be saying “God told me to tell you to stop giving me a hard time about what I’m saying or doing.” For me the question isn’t Smith’s motivation. This to me is clear; the question is why it seemed to have worked? Emma seems to have been satisfied with this revelation and let Smith continue with what he was doing that was getting on her nerves. Why? And is there anything we can learn from this that may give us insight into explaining the responses the Eldoradoites have given explaining thier unfailing loyalty?

    I also read the infamous D&C 132, and two things stuck out. First, essentially God is telling the church through Smith that only Smith (and those okayed by Smith) has the right to act in God’s name in performing the rituals needed for one to get into heaven (i.e. baptisms, ect., and ultimately marriages that are considered valid after this life). This strikes me as very arrogant and ultimately what seems like a logical extention of Smith’s power over these early saints. Second, when polygamy is first brought up, the justification for it directly addresses the accusation of adultary Smith faced. To me it seems to say, “what you might call adultary, I God considers greater than mere civil marriage.”

  13. eric017 says:

    Whether or not the state of Texas has a case against the Eldoradoites remains to be seen. However, looking from the outside, it really appears that these men were using D&C 132 as justification for molesting underage girls. Where did they learn this behaviour? Helen Mar Kimball and Fanny Alger come to mind.

    The children from an early age are taught, “you are special and the only ones who have the ultimate truth. You are not like the wicked outside world. If you leave the group and don’t accept ‘the principle’ we are damned”. This how the first 40 or so verses of 132 read to me, and this seems to be what is coming out explaining the justification the Eldoradoites are giving.

    I recognize that the vast majority of Mormons do not self identify with polygamy. But, it seems based on common behaviour the FLDS certainly are living the spirit of D&C 132 much more so than the LDS church. I see the LDS church between a rock and a hard place. They, and the members, are jumping six ways to Wednesday in an effort to make sure they aren’t in any way associated with the FLDS and polygamy. But they can’t outright denounce 132, doing so casts a doubtful light on Smith, but moreso because “families are forever.”

  14. Michael P says:

    Eric, no worries. I am not in it for props, I was jsut glad to see someone else raise the same question. And its an important one, I think. Kind of gets to the heart of the use of “revelation”.

    As to your thoughts on the D&C, those are iteresting. I admit I have not read them all. I hate reading them. And what little I have read of the Book of Mormon, the two seem overly written with a purpose to sound religious. I am not so sure people of the time wrote that way. Look at the words of the American founders; you will not see that language. You really won’t see it anywhere.

    The FLDS has them in a pickle indeed, seeing as they first must not condemn polygamy, but they cannot endorse the FLDS. I’ve said it before, but they are first and formost, in my mind, defending Joseph Smith. Who cares about these folks and their abuse of children. Joseph Smith practiced it, as did so many others, so we must defend that first, and oh yeah, the FLDS is not us, so um, don’t confuse us.

Comments are closed.