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Is there Eternal Marriage?

by W.  John Walsh

Latter-day Saints believe that the faithful will live in family units in Heaven. We believe that this world is patterned after the Heavenly world, and we are simply practicing in this life that which will be eternally enjoyed. (See Eternal Marriage)

Objections to this belief are usually based on Matthew 22:30: "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Notice, it does not say matrimonial relationships do not exist in Heaven, but that no one marries in Heaven. Mormons do not believe that anyone actually marries in Heaven. We believe marriage is an earthly ordinance and must be done here. We believe those who were sealed in the Temple here on earth, and live faithful to their covenants with God, continue their family relationships in Heaven.

We believe that if you to choose to wait until after the resurrection to seek eternal marriage, it is too late and you will spend eternity as a serving angel. For those who did not have the opportunity for eternal marriage in mortality, God will make allowances. Therefore, LDS beliefs are in accordance with this interpretation of scripture. However, there is additional evidence of the concept of eternal marriage contained within the Bible. It is important to recognize that one verse of scripture does not define all eternal truth. To properly understand the scriptures, it is crucial that we bring all relevant passages into the discussion so that our understanding is placed into proper context.

Let's start at the beginning, with Adam and Eve. "And the LORD God said, [It is] not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (Genesis 2:18) Here the Lord God makes a declarative statement that not only is marriage acceptable, but it is good. To remain single and alone is not good (evil).  Does heaven contain good or evil things?  If heaven contains good things, then it must contained married couples, since marriage has been defined by God himself as good. Also, our first parents were married by God in the Garden of Eden. Remember that before they partook of the fruit, there was no death. Therefore, when God married them, he intended for them to stay married forever, which is clear Biblical support for the concept of eternal marriage.  "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever:" (Ecclesiastes 3:14) What did Jesus Christ say about marriage? "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)

But due to the effects of the Fall, death entered into the world. It is true that except for an atonement, Adam and Eve would have been forever separated from each other and from God. However, there was an Atonement made by Jesus Christ that overcame the effects of the Fall. If the Atonement is not powerful enough to restore the eternal marriage of Adam and Eve, then it is not infinite and eternal. In which case, no one has any hope of salvation because an infinite and eternal atonement was not made. Furthermore, if the atonement was not powerful enough to restore the eternal marriage of Adam and Eve, then that means the purposes of God have been frustrated eternally, since he intended from the beginning for them to be eternally married.   But it is my testimony that the Atonement of Jesus Christ was infinite and eternal, and because of it, the promise of salvation and eternal marriage is extended to all. We will all be resurrected. Those who became "one flesh" through eternal marriage will rise in the resurrection as one flesh, even eternally married.

As final point on Matthew 22:30, please keep in mind that Christ is addressing this statement of doctrine to the Sadducees. Jesus made his response to the Sadducees after they asked him the trick question concerning the brothers and the woman. Remember that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, immortality, or eternal marriage. His answer to them must be understood in that context.

Before someone learns advanced gospel principles, like eternal marriage, it is necessary for him to master the basic ones like the resurrection. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." (Hebrews 5:12)  Before one understands the basic principles, a person is not capable of understanding, much less appreciating, the precious pearls of the gospel. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (Matthew 7:6)   It is clear from these Biblical passages that Jesus did not believe that all things should be taught to all people.

Because the Sadducees rejected the simple doctrine of the resurrection, there was no need to explain the advanced doctrine of eternal marriage, for how can one accept the realities of resurrected life before one accepts the resurrection itself? Considering how unreceptive his audience was to the basic concept, Jesus decided that this was not the appropriate time to give a full discourse on this precious pearl.  This understanding of scriptural development is understood by both Jews and Christians alike.  For example, Jewish theologians have struggled to explain why there is no clear teaching about the resurrection and afterlife in the Old Testament.   Moses Maimonides, one of the most famous Jewish medieval philosophers, answered the question this way:

"Simply put, the answer is that the people of that age were not ready to accept that doctrine. They did not believe in miracles and in prophecy, only in the predictable course of nature. Teaching them about the miracle of resurrection would have led to its rejection and even to the rejection of revelation as a whole." (Summary of Maimonides’ explanation as found in Gillman, N., The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought. Vermont: Jewish Lights, 1997, p. 162.)

It is absolutely true that the doctrine of eternal marriage is ambiguously taught in the Bible (See Can you prove [insert the doctrine of your choice] strictly through the Bible?).  This is one of the reasons the latter-day Restoration of the Gospel was needed, along with it's clarified prophetic teachings.  However, there are strong implicit teachings on eternal marriage in the Bible if one studies that sacred work in totality and context.

Please ponder these issues and pray about them. Do you love your family? Do you love your spouse? If you believe that God is love (1 John 4:8), then surely you cannot believe that God would deprive you of your dearest and most special relationships. It is my testimony that God has provided a way for families to live together forever.

(See Teachings about Marriage and Family Relationships home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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