In Matthew 19:3-8 we read:

The Pharisees also came unto [Christ], tempting him, and saying unto him, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”

And [Christ] answered and said unto them, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?’ Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

They say unto him, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?”

He saith unto them, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”

From the beginning it was not so

Lesser laws: they are what receive we when reject God’s highest ordinances and covenants. Lesser laws—the scriptures prove—always come with rough consequences, merciless micromanagement, and what appear to be unfair rules. But, if we will not accept God’s perfect laws which lead to peace and happiness, what then do we expect when we reject them? Lesser laws cannot give us the same peace and happiness that higher laws give. Wickedness never was happiness (Alma 41:10).

The original covenant God gave to Adam and Eve was that they were to be man and wife—one flesh. They were commanded to keep the covenant of eternal marriage which included: multiplying and replenishing the earth (having children and teaching them the gospel), and acting as stewards over the earth (Moses 2:26-30).

This was the covenant. There was no divorce given as a lesser law until God’s highest laws were rejected. It was fear and selfishness, on the part of mankind, that brought about something other than what God intended. It is us that choose to have less than what God wants to give us—it is us that choose laws and systems that cannot endure.

Marriage is a power and a responsibility

From the beginning, marriage has been about a covenant with God. It has been about having families and teaching them God’s plan. It has been about joining God in His work and glory (Moses 1:39). It has been about being wise stewards over the resources of the earth that we may have what we need to nurture, raise, and care for our families and lead them to God. His plan is for us to form family units that can last forever. His plan is for us to become like Him, and He has eternal family. His plan is for us to develop the attributes that He has that make true love and eternal love a reality, not merely a whim for the movie screen or a classic novel.

But, over time we have turned marriage into an institution. We have turned it into a “nice tradition.” We have turned it into a romantic gesture. We have turned it into a selfish attempt to force a commitment. We have made it into something to serve the individual instead of to serve God. Thus, under such selfish oppression marriage cannot endure as it was meant to do.

Now, I’m most heartily an advocate for romance and true love. But, what I have found (and what God is always trying to teach us) is that true love and romance—of the highest and best kind—are only available when we enter marriage as it was intended from the foundations of the earth: as a covenant.

Seeing marriage as a covenant changes all the rules for dating and romance

We all grow up waiting to run into our one true love. We date looking very little into the spiritual depth and personalities of the individuals courting us. We focus solely on physical appearance and putting our best foot forward. We focus on expectations instead of realities. We make assumptions based upon the feelings of love and infatuation that have no root in eventual reality. We try to pretend to be things we aren’t simply to get the attention of those whom we shallowly admire. We look forward to that all important first kiss.

We all formulate dreams of eternal bliss that begin with specific wedding colors, the perfect dress, the perfect bride/groom, and flower petals strewn across an aisle while family members weep tears of joy and happiness as they prepare to pose for wedding pictures in perfectly coordinated outfits.

Parents often are worse off than their offspring, building up materialistic ideals for wedding receptions, honeymoon locations, and other social events as they plan to “give their daughter or son away.” The fact that two people are about to embark on one of the most difficult, though potentially the most rewarding, covenants and ordinances the earth has ever known seems to garner no attention whatsoever. No time is devoted to its understanding and instruction.templemarriage

Very few—very few—ever stop to wonder if they are prepared for more than the whirlwind romance that has led them to an altar. They are spurred on by the anticipation of all that marriage holds little understanding what it will take to hold that dream together. And, despite how God intended it “from the beginning,” most people carry in the back of their minds the very  modern reality that divorce can be easily obtained and is a valid option if they ever get to feeling the least bit “out of love” or if their spouse makes any seriously wrong moves.

Seeing all dating and marriage as the build up to the keeping of God’s highest and holiest covenant and ordinance should change everything. Dating should become a true practice in getting to know the personality traits and spiritual depth of others. Making friends and learning to find those that share our testimonies of God and His plan should become a familiar practice. We should practice learning the difference between infatuation and physical attraction (which are of course important) and the ever critical spiritual and intellectual attraction.

Dating in this way should prepare us to find the person with whom we share all three: physical attraction, intellectual attraction, and most critically, spiritual attraction. If we are attracted to someone and share commonalities in thinking but we have no confidence in their desire (or ability) to keep God’s highest covenant (whether they hold a temple recommend or not), how could we ever have confidence in making such an attempt at marriage with them? To step into the covenant with such a poor foundation is a treachery on the part of ourselves. Do we think we can force a marriage to work by solely romantic ideals? It has never, once, in all of history worked that way.

Being equally yoked is far more about spiritual attraction and unity than anything else. The common goal of both persons entering marriage should be to enter into and keep the covenant. For spiritual commitment to God always precludes the capacity to create an environment for true love within a relationship. And yet, if the spiritual connection is there but there is no intellectual or physical attraction, that too would be an unwise match. The goal is to find someone who loves and adores us and who will, as God always intended, remain loyal to God, the marriage covenant, and to us. A person who understands the covenant, desires to accept the covenant, and who is willing to sacrifice all that may be necessary in their own lives, goals, and agenda to keep the covenant.

Marriage is about two individuals remaining individual but giving their will over to God. Their unity comes from understanding that marriage is about giving their will to God, and they both do it TOGETHER. Thus, they don’t lose their lives to another person, they lose their life to God (Mark 8:35).

The marriage covenant is all about agency

Another false belief that many romantics hold is that there is only one true love for them. Marriage as a covenant completely obliterates this nice, but ultimately ridiculous romantic belief. Covenants require agency (free will), faith, and grace. If there was only ever one true love for any of us, and that person existed separate from our ability to choose, exercise faith, and receive forgiveness, then agency, faith, and the atonement of Jesus Christ could not exist.

Any time we expect that something can happen to us without us actually choosing it and without us acting to make it real once it has happened to us, we are deceived. Choice is the power that makes a person right for us. Agency is that powerful. And if there were only ever one true love for us and we failed to choose them, or recognize them, or maintain our relationship with them, then a loss of it would ensure that we could never attain true happiness in this life or the life to come. Such a reality would render all of life unjust and eternity unsalvageable.

However, the atonement of Jesus Christ is real, meaning that we can repent when we mess up. Thus, ensuring, that if we screw up a relationship or abandon a covenant, we can sincerely repent and try again. The fact that the atonement of Jesus Christ exists demands that we can be fixed, healed, and restored. And that also means that we can find true love by choosing it and acting upon it to make it real, and valid for this life and the life to come.templemarriage2

Because marriage is a covenant it is something we have the power to keep, perfect, and retain for eternity. Because it is a covenant, if we mess up it can be worked on. If we make mistakes or sin, we can repent and through faith make it right. The covenant is the focus. Not the other person. We do all that we do to keep our covenant with God, not solely to hold on to or please the other person (who may very well never manage to please us as we would ultimately wish).

The marriage covenant is made together but the covenant is individual

God’s plan is that we become as He is. All of that cannot be accomplished in this mortal sphere. However, there are many godly powers and blessings that God can dispense to us in this life, and He does so through ordinances and covenants. Ordinances and covenants grant us portions of God’s powers and attributes in this life; powers and attributes that once attained can be maintained and perfected in the next.

In the beginning, divorce, abortion, infidelity, fornication, adultery, abuse, and murder were made possible in this life because of the gift of agency; just as marriage, children, fidelity, chastity, charity, and the creation of life were all made possible because of the gift of agency, as well. Thus, though many people usurp godly powers through the formerly mentioned sinful acts (tampering with life and death), there will come an end to their ability to do so. Those able to retain the powers to create and exist in family units (beyond this life) will be those who have entered into, and kept, God’s ordinances and covenants. Thus, marriage as a covenant, is what allows each of us (if we keep the covenant) the privilege of existing in family units beyond the grave.

The marriage covenant, unlike all other gospel ordinances and covenants, can only be entered into between a man and a woman, together. Because it is together that they create life, nurture the life created, and help those souls through God’s plan. However, the covenant and promises they make are not to each other. God gives them both a covenant, the same covenant, and each individually chooses whether or not to accept that covenant with God. They promise God to keep the covenant to God. The covenant then requires that each party accept the covenant with God, for it must be kept together, but the accountability for the keeping of the covenant with God is individual.

If we keep our individual covenant with God, the blessings promised to us cannot be forfeited by the rebellion of our spouse whose accountability is separate. If our spouse refuses to keep their individual covenant of marriage with God they cannot, by association, remove our blessings. Only we can do that. Agency is that powerful.

Say YES to the covenant

Romance is great. I’m a fan. Falling is love is great. I’m a fan. But, if we would ever truly change the trend of declining marriages and family relationships in this world, then, we must return to the doctrine that can save them.

We must teach our children to prepare not for marriage, but for the covenant. Marriage is not meant to be simply a contract between to people that encourages them to stay committed for this life for financial and merely psychological purposes. Marriage is a covenant that is about accepting God’s covenant to have families and guide them through the plan. It is not solely about finding an eternal partner. It is about finding a person that understands God’s covenant and who wishes to keep it by our side.

We must teach our children to dream of the covenant and not simply the person they will enter into it with. We must teach our children to date and to court for marriage by looking for the kind of individual who understands the covenant and wishes to keep it. We must ensure our children understand the covenant and have a desire to keep it.

We must remove our focus on the social events surrounding the wedding and instead make the covenant the star of the occasion. That we might be willing to subtract such events from our wedding visions and replace them with covenant preparation and instruction, would be ideal. Do we have the courage to stop trying to please others (and ourselves) and start trying to ensure we, and our children, make the covenant more important than anything else? We must return the sacred nature to marriage and family. We must get better (as married couples) at understanding and keeping our covenant with God and set better examples for our children.

I could wish that a trend would begin in all Christians, but especially Latter-day Saints; that instead of people saying, “Will you marry me?” that they would instead say, “Will you say YES to the covenant with me?” That might make a bigger change than anything else could. Because the other party would then truly consider just what it was they were saying yes to.

Conclusion

Whether we have made the covenant, are struggling currently with the covenant, or are pondering entering into the covenant, we should stop and study it. We should remind ourselves what the covenant of marriage is (especially the sealing, or New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage). We should decide if we merely want to get married (create a temporary commitment), or if we are actually ready for the covenant (which is about far more eternal and holy things than the marriage we all envision and plan for). We should remind ourselves of our promise to God, and what that promise entails. We should remind ourselves of the blessings and powers that come to us if we keep it. We should ponder (especially if we are struggling in our marriage) what we can do to keep our covenant with God instead of focusing on what our spouse could, or should, be doing to keep their covenant.

The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage was instituted by God. It is His power and privilege as God to keep this covenant, Himself, eternally. And He offers it to us IF we too will say YES to and keep the covenant.

[Note: Because of the wickedness of mankind, because of our selfishness, abuse, infidelity, and neglect, there are times when divorce is not only necessary, it is the best option. I know because I’ve been through a divorce myself. This choice to divorce, however, is between each individual and God. And, this article is intended to help us all improve, better understand the covenant, make better individual choices and use wisdom, so that we might prevent the necessity for such a thing, where possible.]

BT

Forever Families is one of the few notable doctrines that Latter-day Saints preach about that sets them apart from all other Christian religions. And yet, I’m shocked at how few of them actually understand why we preach that and what it truly entails. They see in their minds that this ideal is all about true love and never being parted from your loved ones. But, beyond that, they misunderstand the ideal of eternal posterity and eternal family completely. Likely because they were never taught. Likely because they didn’t always listen or pay attention. Most certainly because they didn’t take the time to study it.

Many people are drawn to the doctrine of eternal marriage and eternal families and yet they struggle with the doctrine of godhood. However, the two doctrines are one and the same. There is no eternal family without godhood. There is no godhood without eternal parenthood. Godhood is nothing less than perfect eternal parenthood.

God, our Heavenly Father, is the God of our universe—worlds without end. He is sinless. He is perfectly just. He is perfectly merciful. He is love.

God is bound by covenant to our Heavenly Mother. She is also sinless, She is perfectly just. She is perfectly merciful. And She is love.

Our heavenly parents have glorified, resurrected, celestial bodies. Not only are their bodies free from corruption, are perfect, and cannot die; their (celestial) bodies can create, beget, and organize eternal spirit children—in the same manner that we beget mortal children. And, as perfect eternal parents, they spend all of their eternal time helping these spirit children become like them—to become eternal parents, or gods.

The whole plan of salvation is about nothing more than helping each and every one of us become eternal parents, like our heavenly parents. The whole plan of salvation is designed so that we can become sinless, perfectly just, perfectly merciful, and become the embodiment of love. The whole plan is set up so that we can, if we so choose, receive a glorified, resurrected, celestial body. For, this is the only type of body that can enjoy “eternal life, (Moses 1:39)” sexual relations, and continue to beget children (i.e. eternal family, forever family) beyond the veil of death. All other resurrections i.e. immortality (Moses 1:39) (terrestrial, telestial, etc.) will glorify and perfect a body, but will not enable those bodies to enjoy sexual relations and beget spirit children. Modern revelation is fairly clear that all resurrected bodies are not the same (see Doctrine and Covenants 76, 88 for further study).

Forever family, or eternal family, is not simply about coexisting with another being (or beings) for eternity. It’s not about having everybody in our current family under the same celestial roof. Just as in this life begotten children grow up, leave home, and create their own homes; so also it is in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. “The same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which we do not now enjoy” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2). That we may associate together is certain. That our lives are focused around each other is unlikely. We will (if we as family members all choose to inherit celestial glory) far more likely work side-by-side in our work and glory of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life” of our spirit children.

In Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4 and 132:19-21 we are taught that in order to become like God, each of us must enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, an actual order of God’s Priesthood Power (i.e. sealing ordinance of the temple) and keep our covenants, in order to receive godhood, or in other words, eternal parenthood. God is, and always has been, very exact with how He dispenses Priesthood power, authority, and blessings.

God…has ordained that the highest order and class of beings that should exist in the eternal worlds should exist in the capacity of husbands and wives, and that they alone should have the privilege of propagating their species…Now it is wise, no doubt, in the Great Creator to thus limit this great and heavenly principle to those who have arrived or come to the highest state of exaltation…to dwell in His presence, that they by this means shall be prepared to bring up their spirit offspring in all pure and holy principles in the eternal worlds, in order that they may be happy. Consequently, He does not entrust this privilege of multiplying spirits with the terrestrial or telestial, or the lower order of beings there, nor with angels. But why not? Because they have not proved themselves worthy of this great privilege. (In Journal of Discourses 13:186) (Elder Orson Pratt, quoted by Douglas E. Brinley, The Keys of Marital Success—Part 2, Eternal Companions, pp. 90-91)

Brigham Young taught concerning the way we have children that “there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth,…or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be” (Journal of Discourses 11:122). It is clear that God’s plan requires sexual intimacy, but he didn’t create us with compliance built in biologically. Instead he gave us a body like his, with all of the possibilities that entails. Our physical bodies are thus gifts, not givens. (Emily M. Reynolds, Talking About Sexual Intimacy, Eternal Companions, p. 147)

I have blogged before about God’s power not being absolute. He, in order to hold the powers, priesthoods, and position He has, must be bound by eternal law and covenant. If He were to soften, side-step, or go against any of these binding eternal laws and covenants “He would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13, 22-23, 25-26). I have also blogged about what true Motherhood and Fatherhood are and how we become such—it is through covenant that we attain such titles, not merely by birthing children. Such birthing makes us temporary, mortal parents only.

In fact, we, as mortals, and even as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, take for granted our opportunity to gain a body, marry, and learn true parenthood. So much so that we engage in sexual relations lightly, selfishly, and lustfully. So much so that we marry, divorce, cohabitate, and indulge in sexual addictions as though we were entitled to the satisfaction and pleasure by simply being alive. We are not. Whether we are heterosexual or claim other gender identities matters little. We are not entitled to eternal family or eternal parenthood unless we are willing to become like God.

There is no discrimination from God in this. All of us are born with issues that make it difficult for us to desire and pursue godhood (eternal parenthood). It doesn’t matter if it’s our sexual orientation, genetic obesity, missing limbs, propensity for sexual addiction (of any kind), mental depression, propensity for anger addiction or alcoholism, etc., they all make it difficult (heroic, even Abrahamic, D&C 101:4) to desire and pursue godhood. And yet, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can have these issues and still become like God if we try our best to accept and follow His will and commandments. It matters not the status of our progress in comparison to others; only that we continue to progress and try—and never give up. If we simply try with all our might, mind, heart, and strength, then His grace is sufficient (Moroni 10:32). If we simply do not give up and repent every time we fail. If we do what we can do in keeping God’s ordinances, covenants, and commandments; we will be healed of our weaknesses and issues and become godly because we met the conditions for His grace. Mortal weaknesses, inclinations, and struggles will, and can, be overcome through grace by our efforts in this life, or healed completely before our final judgment and resurrection. Not one of us is ultimately denied anything, certainly not godhood/eternal parenthood, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful (Alma 42) because of the atonement.

Eternal parenthood/godhood is not for the good or the better. It is only for the best (metaphorically speaking). Yet, if people decide to choose good or better, that does not diminish them. They will get what they want, ultimately, with some exceptions (Alma 41:10) wherein they want to find happiness in sin which simply cannot be had (now, or in the eternities). There is plenty of suffering in this life. More than we can bear. But, if we choose not to repent in this life we will be subject to the full weight of the law of justice. We will suffer for our own sins (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19). This cleansing from sin will proceed the final resurrection and judgment. We cannot be assigned to a kingdom of glory (even if it is not the celestial kingdom), without confessing Jesus is the Christ, that God is just, and that we have sinned (Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:23, Alma 12:15, Mosiah 16:1, Doctrine and Covenants 88:104).

It’s important to note that Satan, who showed himself unworthy to even try for godhood in his attempted coup of God’s throne and power (Moses 4:1-4), was cast out of heaven. He was not allowed to be born on this earth, to get a body, or to seek godhood. He was damned—literally. He is left without family and any eternal association forever (Isaiah 14:12-20). Family, we should all understand, is the crowning glory of life and most certainly of godhood. Other glories are available, but they do not include this crowning glory, and cannot. For those who inherit them, while good, are not godly and cannot be trusted with the powers of creation (see quotes above by Orson Pratt and Brigham Young).

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Many religions preach two eternal outcomes as locations. They are heaven or hell. The kingdoms, however, of which they preach are basically the terrestrial and the telestial. And, if one aspires to the ideals preached about these kingdoms, one will not be disappointed when this life is over—if that is one’s only aspiration. If our goal is simply to be basically happy. Then, that’s what we’ll get (Alma 29:4). If our goal is to bowl, play golf, chess, cards, Yahtzee, or other pursuits, forever, then that’s what we’ll get (though likely much better, as God knows how to give good gifts to His children, Luke 11:13).

On the other hand, if our goal is to enjoy the blessings of godhood, and eternal parenthood and family, which brings more happiness than we could possibly ever even imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9), then we cannot have the same expectations for our conduct in this life, nor in our eternal progression. And, it is possible to grasp this high goal and reach it, we will only trust God, have faith in Him, and believe it!

In Doctrine and Covenants 88 we read the following about the purpose of our souls and the differences in our resurrections based upon what eternal laws we are willing to abide.

14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.

15 And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

16 And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul (the spirit and the body).

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.

18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;

19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;

20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it (the soul) made and created, and for this intent are they (souls) sanctified.

21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.

22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

36 All kingdoms have a law given;

37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

I hope you had the patience to study that long excerpt of scripture, because it is so powerful.

So, now let me address something very important.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is comprised of doctrines, principles, and commandments. Principles and commandments are subject to individual application and interpretation (many times) through the Holy Spirit because they are how we apply doctrines. However, doctrines (which are fundamental eternal truths) do not change and are not subject to interpretation or change. Principles can also dual as doctrines.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to strain and gnats and swallow camels (Matthew 23:24) as in the tiny differences that can be talked about between doctrines and principles. The purpose of this blog is to point out a very important, fundamental point. Here it is.

While the personal, societal, historical, and cultural applications of the principles and commandments of God may vary, fundamental Gospel doctrines and universal truths do not change.

For example, the Israelites had a different word of wisdom than we do. We apply the principles behind this commandment differently based upon prophetic direction. We can eat pork. They couldn’t. And on and on. But the doctrine behind the word of wisdom is the same. It is: by adhering to a word of wisdom, as revealed by God, we mark ourselves as Christ’s, that when the time comes for the separating the wheat from the tares, the destroying angel will pass us by (Doctrine and Covenants 89:21). All other blessings and proposed purposes of the commandment are both spiritual and physical, but can side track us from its main doctrinal basis. It’s a law for the weakest saint to mark themselves as Christ’s (verse 3).

So, when it comes to marriage, family, and sex, it is clear that we are seeing both outside and inside the church, an incredible softening toward the unconventional family unit, and even unconventional sexual orientations and claimed genders. Genderless marriage has been approved by government and all around people are trying very hard to be tolerant of what historically have been unconventional and unaccepted forms of behavior and beliefs. These children of God have previously been treated unfairly and unkindly, even persecuted, exiled, imprisoned, and mistreated.

Many, inside and outside the church, are beginning to assume that this softening in treatment (or the increase of understanding how to love the sinner but not the sin) of such individuals, who are beloved children of God, means a future change in commandments…or an eventual change in doctrine and therefore policy. I think if they make this assumption, in this they will be verily disappointed.

To me, the big leap that is taking place is that the church (which God allows to be carried forward by His flawed children who must learn and be saved individually and collectively) is beginning to realize that treating more unconventional sinners as evil criminals is not only wrong and un-Christlike, but that it is ultimately unproductive in spreading the Gospel. Historically, the fire and brimstone preacher would have condemned all of these sinning souls to hell without any mercy. The unwed mother, the inmate, the interracial couple, etc. Gratefully, we are, if slowly, getting beyond that un-Christlike understanding and reasoning. But, I think it would be wrong to presuppose an eventual change in principle, doctrine, or policy regarding God’s plan for eternal families, eternal parenthood, and eternal marriage.

Here are two examples. First, addictions have also been incorrectly assessed and misunderstood over the years. Where once people were disfellowshipped, or even excommunicated, for struggling with an addiction (smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.), they are now counseled, supported, maintained in fellowship, and even allowed to serve in some capacities as they willingly work through and try to work consistent recovery. However, that all of these issues are still sins, and prevent us from being happy and becoming godly, has not changed—and won’t change. Simply our understanding of how to love and support the sinner has improved. And God seems to be content with allowing us to learn as we go.

Second, while Latter-day Saint women have for years and years enjoyed greater rights and privileges than women in regular society, and even in other religions (and still do); recently the assumption was made that society’s attempts to finally catch up with this trend meant that God would eventually let women officiate in Priesthood Leadership positions within the church on the basis that women in other churches can become paid ministers and because women can do what men can do—it was just assumed. There are many fundamentally incorrect comparisons made to argue for women being ordained to the Priesthood, but it boils down to the fact that even “the men” don’t get paid, and that the Priesthood is God’s and He determines how it is utilized, dispensed, and officiated in.

Anyway, while overall, the church sought to self-evaluate and include women where-ever it was possible that it already had not; yet, it did not, and will not, change that fundamental doctrine. God has doctrinally established covenant roles within His plan and those will not change. Just as God, the Father, has a different role than Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost within the godhead (and doesn’t belly-ache about it and neither do the other members of the godhead); men and women have different roles in godhood, the Church, and eternal parenthood. God isn’t going to change that. It’s biological, spiritual, and doctrinal.

I can look all around me and I can see successful heterosexual marriages that may never be eternal because the couples have no desire to get baptized, live the commandments, and receive those ordinances necessary to achieve their exaltation. No matter if they are two peas in a pod. That they get along is great. But that alone is not sufficient to make them worthy of godhood (i.e. eternal parenthood). To be eternal parents, not just eternal lovers, we must submit to the conditions required for godhood. Why? Because that is the only way to also be eternal lovers.

The same applies to people who are in genderless relationships or marriages. That they are happy together is great. That they are also extremely wonderful and spiritual and kind is great. These traits and beautiful things about them are not diminished by their sexual inclinations. But just like all of us, they must still submit to God’s conditions IF they want to be like Him. And, if they don’t, they will still receive a kingdom of glory—which we often fail to preach. This is the doctrine! And it’s wonderful, and it’s beautiful. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about giving us the chance to become like God. God will not force it upon us. Neither will He hand it over lightly. Yet, the plan also provides for those who are good but also simply don’t want godhood on its universally required and unchangeable terms.

They are not the lowest of the low as society has (and we have) always been want to treat them. They are divine, amazing, spirit children of God with godly potential. They will be blessed, and are blessed, for all the good they do (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21). But, they are also denied blessings (like any other) for not submitting to God’s laws and commandments. That’s the doctrine.

Together Forever… the question only now remains, “Is that what you truly want?”

BT

It’s a long story and I don’t have time to tell it. But, suffice it to say, I know what it’s like to be childless and to not have children and to think you may never have children. I know what it’s like to be the one sitting by yourself in a portrait next to portraits of all your siblings who have both children and spouses and you don’t. I know what it’s like to stand out in a church full of what often appears (even though it isn’t) to be perfect families.

During many long years I endured messages from the Brethren about how even though I wasn’t a biological mother, I was still a mother. I used to listen to these messages. I appreciated them. But, in many ways I also resented them. “Easy for them to say,” I would think. “Nice of them to try to make me feel understood and validated,” I would think. But to myself and to others I still wasn’t a real mother.

It was during these years, however, that I began to ponder the whole idea of Motherhood. I mean, Latter-day Saints believe in Eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood. It IS the highest role a woman can hold as a female. It was in this time that I began to ponder what Motherhood really was. Was it biologically reproducing children? Well, the brethren said I was a mother, so biological reproduction couldn’t be the only indicator. Perhaps biological reproduction initiates the process of becoming a mother faster, or differently? I wasn’t sure.

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Then, I began to think, “Well, what happens to a woman when she gets pregnant and has a baby?”

  • Her focus transitions from herself to another soul
  • She sacrifices personal wants, and even needs at times, for the consistent wellbeing of another soul
  • She is granted (or takes upon herself) the stewardship to guide another of God’s children through this life
  • She commits to helping another soul, another child of God, learn and grow at whatever pace and capability he/she has
  • She commits to provide (to the best of her ability) the resources and help this soul needs to function successfully physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in this life
  • She helps this child, this soul, to understand God’s plan for him/her, and helps them to receive the ordinances and covenants God offers them
  • She helps this soul through God’s plan, nurtures them through ups and downs, encourages them to live righteously, forgives them when they repent, comforts them, and allows them to learn from the consequences of their choices so that they can come to know who they are and what they want for themselves

As I was making this list, it occurred to me that the role of Motherhood is none other than the role of godhood. God spends all of his time (Moses 1:39) trying to exalt us. So, then, I pondered the sealing covenant (the crowning ordinance of the Gospel). It is NOT, as many think, a covenant between individuals, as you see in a civil marriage. There are NO vows exchanged between individuals. It is nothing less than two individuals covenanting personally, and directly, with God that they will take upon themselves His work and glory (i.e. godhood). Their marriage is not about them at all. It is about their desire to be like Him. It is about bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of their offspring, which they are commanded to have only after they have accepted this covenant and these eternal roles of Motherhood and Fatherhood.

So, as I thought about that, I realized that God doesn’t condone procreation (or parenthood) between a man and a woman until they covenant with Him to take upon themselves the role of Motherhood and Fatherhood. Or, in other words, godhood. I realized in that moment that one doesn’t become a mother or father simply by biologically producing a child. One becomes a mother or father when they covenant with God to take upon them that godly role. (And technically, if all people abided by God’s laws, they wouldn’t be allowed to procreate before accepting that covenant.)

So, while people get married civilly and can maintain their morality and still procreate, God’s plan has always been about eternal marriage (civil marriage is a lesser law for those unprepared for the covenants that lead to godhood). God’s plan has always been about us covenanting to take upon us His role and thereby a portion of His powers so that we can learn to become like Him.

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After years of pondering my lack of being seen as a Mother, in the eyes of others, I suddenly understood what the Brethren were teaching, or had been trying to teach me and others like me. Motherhood isn’t about biologically producing a child. It’s a covenant with God!

It was during this time that I began to take seriously my role as a Mother. I had been sealed in the temple. And, even though I had struggled with the idea of Motherhood for many years; even though my temple marriage had ended; because I had made and kept my New and Everlasting Covenant (Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4) with God I was a Mother.

My life began to change drastically at this personal leap of knowledge and understanding of God’s plan. I saw my nieces and nephews as so much more deeply “mine” as I began to take seriously my role to help them through this life and through God’s plan. I adopted, into my heart, all those put under my stewardship in my callings at church. In the Seminary program, as I taught, every single one of those kids became mine. I took my role as “their mother” seriously.

Now, I didn’t interfere with their biological parents (that would be nutty and obsessive). But, I did understand and try to the best of my ability to treat them as God would—my own feelings, worries, fears, and concerns aside. I tried to see them as Christ saw them; and as I did I found my capability to “mother them” increase exponentially. I interacted with them outside of class. I tried to create connections with them through books and other shared likes. I bore my testimony to them in every way I could (and I don’t mean at the front of a class room).

My own mother, during this time, once referred to me as a Velveteen Mother, because she could see that I was a real mother, I knew I was a real mother, but others didn’t know I was real. God had made me real through the sealing covenant. By keeping that covenant and coming to understand it I enabled God to make me real.

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Eleven years childless. Nearly six years divorced. And then, one day the Lord presented the idea of remarrying and biological motherhood in front of me again. He also presented the idea of seven step children. It was not as tempting to me as it might have been to others who hunger for children. I was no longer dependent upon the idea of biological motherhood to make me a real mother. I knew I’d have no trouble adopting the seven stepchildren as my own—piece of cake—so that wasn’t a problem. But, as I had kept my sealing covenant, I knew I also didn’t need to get remarried to receive all of God’s promises and blessings. I simply had to wait for the millennium and whatever God had in store for me and because I trusted Him I was okay with that.

But, through a few spiritual nudges, I did get remarried and sealed to a faithful priesthood holder who was prepared to enter into the sealing covenant by my side as a Father. I was immediately endowed with seven amazing and dear stepchildren. And, by a wondrous miracle, I was then blessed to biologically bear my own sweet daughter. When she was born I thought my heart would burst with joy. And yet, in that moment when she arrived physically upon this earth, I didn’t know any more then, than I already had, that I was a Mother.

Thereafter, this beautiful daughter has changed me in so many ways. She is helping me to understand God better each day and to become more like Him. And so, to others I finally appear as a Real Mother. But, though to them I was always “Velveteen,” I have known and want others to know, that the moment they enter that sealing covenant with God (and truly understand it), that that is the moment they become the kind of Mother (or Father) God intended—and the only kind of Mother that lasts beyond the mortal veil of death.

BT

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can be ugly, except to people who don’t understand” ~Velveteen Rabbit