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Gospel Doctrine Lesson 31: How We Taught This Topic in the Past

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 26, 2009

Lesson 31: “Sealed … for Time and for All Eternity”

This may be a good lesson to remind readers that I don’t necessarily endorse these lessons, and they don’t necessarily pass the test of good doctrine or present understanding. These old lessons are offered only as an illustration of how topics covered by this year’s Gospel Doctrine lessons have been taught in the past.

1936: Gospel Restoration Themes: A Handbook for Missionaries

Lesson 23: The Marriage Institution, by James E. Talmage

The missionary in the field will always be asked questions concerning the marriage practices among the latter-day Saints. In this brief pamphlet Brother Talmage has set forth the fundamental principles with relation to marriage as practiced in the Church. the extracts printed below are but a part of the pamphlet itself.

Man and Woman Jointly Created

When this earth, a new unit amongst uncounted worlds, had developed to a condition suited to human habitation, God created man in His own personal, physical image, and gave him dominion over the earth and its manifold belongings. Beside the man stood the woman, sharing with him the divinely bestowed honor and dignity of supremacy over all lesser creations; for the Lord god had said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him.” (Gen. 2:18.)

Be Fruitful and Multiply

The earliest recorded commandment to the newly embodied pair provided for the procreation of their kind: for unto them the Lord said: “Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth.” That the wedded state thus inaugurated was to be the permanent order of life amongst Adam’s posterity is attested by the further Scripture: “Therefor4e shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24.)

Inasmuch as the union of the sexes is the only way by which the perpetuity of the race is possible, such union is essentially as beneficent as it is necessary. Lawful, that is to say righteous, association of the sexes, is an uplifting and ennobling function to the participants, and the heritage of earth-life to pre-existent spirits who are thereby advanced to the mortal state. Conversely, all sexual union outside the bonds of legitimacy is debasing and pernicious, not only to the guilty parties themselves, but to children whoa re thus illborn, and to organize society in general.

The Marriage Covenant

The stability of society demands that the divinely established institution of marriage shall be administered under secular law, whereby the family unit shall be a legalized entity, with responsibilities and obligations clearly defined, the rights of husband, wife and children protected, property interests safeguarded, and inheritance regulated.

But the marriage covenant is more than a legalized contract. it is a solemn sacrament, under which the parties are made eligible to the blessing of Divine approval, and by which they are answerable both to the law of man and to the Power that transcends all human institutions. That marriage is honorable is as true today as when the precept was written in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The Latter-day Saints accept the doctrine of the imperative necessity of wedlock and the sanctity thereof: and they apply it as a requirement to all who are not prohibited by physical or other disability from assuming the sacred responsibilities of the married state. They hold as part of the birthright of every worthy mah the privilege and duty of standing at the head of a household, the companion of a virtuous wife, both imbued with the hope of posterity, which, by the blessing of God may never become extinct; and equally ennobling is the desire of every worthy woman to be a wife and mother in the family of mankind.

Without the power of perpetuating his kind man is in part bereft of his glory; for small is the possibility of achievement within the limited range of an individual life. Grand as may seem to be the attainments of a man who is really great as gaged by the best standards of human estimation, the culmination of his glorious heritage lies in his leaving offspring from his own body to carry forward the worthy effort of their sire. And as with the man so with the woman.

Chiildren, Gifts of God

We regard children literally as gifts from god, committed to our parental care, for whose support, protection, and training in righteousness we shall be held to a strict accounting, remembering the solemn admonition and profound affirmation of the Christ: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 18:10.)

Wedded Companionships

But the bringing of children into the world is but part of God’s beneficent plan of uplift and development through honorable marriage. Companionship of husband and wife is a divinely appointed means of mutual betterment; and according to the measure of holy love, mutual respect and honor with which that companionship is graced and sanctified, do man and woman develop toward the spiritual stature of God. It is plainly the Divine intent that husband and wife should be each the other’s great incentive to effort and achievement in good works.

Blessed indeed are the wedded pair who sev3erally find in each a helpmeet for the other.

Is the family relationship to end with death?

Celestial Marriage

Are husbands and wives to be separated, and the mutual claims of parents and children to be nullified by the grave?

If so, then surely the sting of death and the victory of the grave are enduring verities; for the dead would be lost to us and we to them. Such a conception affords ample explanation of the prevalence of black at funerals. the sombre pall and sable trappings are all in place if bereavement on earth means everlasting separation.

But behold, there is hope! God has provided a way by which the family unit may survive the grave and endure throughout eternity. It is the divine intent that marriage be an eternal union, and that the relationship between parents and offspring shall be made valid in the hereafter as here.

We affirm that even as baptism, when administered as our Lord prescribed, b those invested with the Holy priesthood, shall be a means to salvation beyond the grave, so other ordinances, including the scaling of wives to husbands and children to parents, may be authoritatively solemnized so as to be valid after death. to this effect hath the Lord spoken respecting the everlasting covenant, which embraces marriage for both time and eternity:

Concerning those who are wedded for this life only, the word of god as revealed in the present age is in strict accord with the Lord’s affirmation to the Sadducees:

“Therefore, when they are out of the world, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven: which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.” (doctrine & Covenants 132:16.)

This holy order of matrimony, involving covenant and blessing for both time and eternity, is distinctively known in the church as Celestial Marriage, and is administered to those only whoa re adjudged to be of worthy life, eligible for admission to the House of the Lord; for this sacred ordinance together with others of eternal validity may be solemnized only within the Temples reared and dedicated for such exalted service.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, sanctions and acknowledges legal marriages for mortality alone, and solemnizes such unions, as the secular law provides, between parties who do not enter the Temple or who voluntarily choose the lesser and temporal order of matrimony. The ordinance of Celestial marriage comprises and includes marriage for time, and is therefore administered to none who are not legally eligible to marry according to the law of the land.

Marriage that shall be valid after death must be solemnized here, as must all other ordinances required of men in the flesh, and that under the authority given of God for earthly administration. The resurrected state of those, otherwise worthy, who are wedded for mortality alone and that under laws created by man, is set forth in both ancient and modern Scripture as that of angels or ministers, unblessed by eternal increase:

“For these angels did not abide my law, therefore they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity, and from henceforth are not Gods, but are angels of God, for ever and ever.’ (Doctrine & Covenants 132:17.)

1939: Religious Problems from the Mormon Viewpoint

Lesson 12: Your Marriage

Problem: Why and How Does the Latter-day Saint Marry?

The Most Precious Thing in the World.

Family life has been called the most precious thing in the world. By way of contrast, President Eliot said, “the worst effect of wars, earthquakes, pestilences and famines are that they break up families and kill off the young that are ready or nearly ready to start new families.”

In making the case for marriage, in this day when many would shirk this responsibility, Popenoe, the eugenist, says, ‘It is well known that married men do live longer than single ones; that they have fewer mental and nervous breakdowns, get into jail less frequently, and win fame oftener. the married man lives more regularly, carefully, and temperately; he gets better food, exposes himself to fewer risks, and has a higher purpose in life than has the bachelor. * * *

“It is generally regarded as the natural and desirable state for every adult who is sound in mind and body, because it is the only means of attaining the maximum of physical well-being and mental contentment. Man is so made that a lasting community of life with one of the opposite sex is necessary to his greatest happiness and highest development. In his own home he finds the material comfort, regularity, and repose that he seeks. In his children, and later in his grandchildren, he lives his own life over again – that is, he finds rejuvenation. From marriage and parenthood alike he gains a liberal education that can be had in no other way, and that is of far more importance in teaching him how to get along with people, than anything the colleges have to offer. He learns to cooperate, to give and take, to bear and forbear, to work for others as well as himself, and to realize that only by benefiting others can he benefit himself.”

Inasmuch as theologians in some churches, some artists and musicians, and the would-be-great of all types argue that “a superior man may do more good in the world if he devotes all his time and attention wholly to his work, without distraction of a wife and children.” Popenoe’s answer is of great significance. He says, “I do not believe that this can be maintained as a general rule. most of the good work of the world is done by the normal people who lead normal lives, happily married and with their children around them. Most of the trouble in the world is caused by the abnormal people who lead abnormal lives, either unhappily married or not married at all. * * *

“I would say that before marriage a man cannot be more than one-third alive; after marriage he may be two-thirds alive; after he has children he can really life, if he has it in him.”

Marriage and the latter-day Saint Faith.

We can not talk of marriage at any great length without discussing its religious implications. President Joseph F. Smith said, “I want the young men of Zion to realize that this institution of marriage is not a man-made institution. It is of God. it is honorable, and no man who is of marriageable age is living his religion who remains single. It is not simply devised for the convenience alone of man, to suit his own notions, and his own ideas, to marry and then divorce, to adopt and then to discard, just as he pleases. there are great consequences which reach beyond this present time, into all eternity, for thereby souls are begotten into the world, and men and women obtain their being in the world. Marriage is the preserver of the human race. Without it, the purposes of God would be frustrated; virtues would be destroyed to give place to vice and corruption, and the earth would be void and empty.”

On another occasion President Smith said, “No man will ever enter there (heaven) until he has consummated his mission; for we have come here to be conformed to the likeness of God. he made us in the beginning in his own image and in his own likeness, and he made us male and female. We never could be in the image of God if we were not both male and female. * * * God has shown us the way and given us the means by which we may consummate and fill our mission upon this earth and perfect our destiny; for we are destined and foreordained to become like God, and unless we do become like him we will never be permitted to dwell with him. When we become like him you will find that we will be presented before Him in the form in which we were created, male and female.”

The Truest Greatness.

On one occasion President Smith said, “After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman. One is universal and eternal greatness, the other is phenomenal. It is true that such secondary greatness may be added to that which we style commonplace; but when such secondary greatness is not added to that which is fundamental, it is merely an empty honor, and fades away from the common and universal good in life, even though it may find a place in the desultory pages of history. Our first care, after all, brings us back to the beautiful admonition of our Savior: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.’” (Matthew 6:33.)

Incidentally, “true greatness,” i.e. fatherhood and motherhood, has its joys unexcelled. As Eliot puts it, “The bringing up of children may have its anxieties and disappointment; but its joys are keen and lasting, and its satisfactions increase as life goes on. One of the most exquisite of the later satisfactions for the parent is to witness the development in the child of beauty, grace, power, or capacity which the parent has never possessed. People who marry get this satisfaction from three successive generations. those classes or races that marry young in Christian society are more likely to win this satisfaction than those that postpone marriage. Here again it is to be observed that the greatest satisfactions of life are accessible to all sorts and conditions of men.”

When to Marry.

The above quotations indicate that the eugenist, the religious leader, and the educator alike favor fairly reasonable early marriages. Early marriage affords a girl a wider choice of mates – the girl who thinks she will wait a few years comes to the time when she desires to wed, and waits the rest of her life looking in vain or a husband. Early marriage makes for happy and lasting marriage; young couples adjust much more rapidly than older couples, where character traits are permanently set, oftentimes in two different patterns. Early marriages produce more children, which, after all, is the main purpose of all marriages. Furthermore, early marriage is accompanied by greater longevity of the mother, who has her first child at a comparatively early age. Another common observation is that young couples enjoy the association of their children, probably because young parents normally have more leisure than those who assume this responsibility at the height of their careers. Also, young parents enjoy many years of association with their grown children – all of which adds zest to living, visits, excursions, reunions, etc.

Temple Marriages.

Latter-day Saints marry for time and eternity. This is unique in the annals of man. No church, except the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claims such privileges. The right to marry for eternity is vested in the Priesthood of God and such marriages must be consummated in His Temple. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:13-20.)

If the young man and young woman are serious about their marriage they will desire a temple marriage; and, conversely, if they want a temple marriage they had better be serious about ties which will endure always. Anything which will enhance the thought given to this important step is to be encouraged. Although a temple marriage requires long-time planning and long-time living at an acceptable standard and, possibly, some temporary inconvenience as to time, place, and guests, every requirement serves to strengthen the new bond.

Obviously, a temple marriage is reserved for members of the Church.

In subsequent lessons we shall discuss appropriate mates in marriage, problems of courtship, and the establishment of a home.

Personal Questions.

1. Do you accept the Latter-day Saint view of marriage?
2. Do you favor an early marriage (i.e., early or middle twenties) for yourself?
3. To what extent should your parents’ wishes govern the manner of your marriage?
4. Do you desire a temple marriage?
5. Is your marriage your own private affair?

Note: The manner in which we meet this crisis in life, marriage, will depend upon our answers to the above questions.

1939: Religious Problems from the Mormon Viewpoint

Lesson 13: Your Mate

Problem: What Personal Attributes Should I Seek in a Mate?

Your Choice in Marriage.

Your choice in marriage determines your future. Most married men or women at any age are what they are in large measure because of the mate they selected in their early years. Who has not seen the tragedy of mis-mated couples – destined to misunderstandings, broken families, and personal hazards of all sorts (economic, vocational and personal). Much of the misfortunes of life could be eliminated by more attention to this most important problem.

Unfortunately, all too many hold too rigidly to the romantic idea of marriage. Although we should love our mates, we should give up the idea that a man’s selection of his mate should be largely accidental, that it is the result of “some mysterious and uncontrollable power that picks out a certain man and woman who have never seen each other, brings them together without any intention on their part, and leads them to the altar.” As Popenoe puts it, “There are of course enough cases of love at first sight to keep that theory alive; but on examination it will be found in most instances, at least, that the two persons who were the victims of this delicious intoxication were prepared for it in advance: they were ready to mate, and each was merely awaiting the appearance of the right partner.” This preparation included the formation of ideals of the appropriate mate and, probably, much “trial and error” in courtship before the mate with the desired appearance, manners, and interests made her appearance on the horizon. As a matter of fact, most courtships are deliberate affairs in which the participants have consciously selected the partners from among church, school, neighborhood, or business acquaintances, met in the normal activities of life. As Popenoe says, “It is sheer nonsense to talk as if mating were a wholly haphazard, accidental, fatalistic affair in which reason plays no part.”

In the next lesson we shall discuss the process of courtship; for the time being, let us canvass the desirable traits of our prospective mates.

General Considerations in Mating.

Along with the Jews and the Catholics, the Latter-day Saints advocate church marriages. As we have seen in our last article we believe that L.D.S. marriages are for eternity and that family relationships from such marriages are eternal. Consequently, those who desire the blessings of these relationships will think only in terms of a Temple marriage with a Latter-day Saint.

The importance of religion in marriage is sometimes overlooked by youth. Oftentimes, conflict makes its first appearance with the arrival of the children. Then the Catholic father will make a fight for his children, aided and abetted by the priests and nuns. Meantime, the Mormon mother will call in the elders for administrations in case of sickness, demand baptism for her children, etc. Obviously, such a marriage is a tragedy. If the participants decide that their love is such that they can do without children, they make a great mistake. It is only natural that both man and woman will not hold the romantic ideals of the twenties into the thirties, forties, and fifties; the assumption of the roles of motherhood and fatherhood is the act that saves most marriages. Furthermore, the childless couple violates the fundamental reason for marriage, namely, the rearing of offspring. In this connection, we should be willing to learn from observation. Let us make two lists, one of couples of the same religious faith and one of couples who have denied this convention. Let us then study the family relationships and determine whether the same harmony, peace, and contentment abides in the two types of households. Incidentally, let us observe the tragedy of the childless marriages – not overlooking couples in their fifties and sixties.

Chastity of the participants is the greatest safeguard to marriage. there can be no lasting respect for partners in past sins – where there have been intimate relationships of the mates before marriage. There can be little joy in relationships with a man or woman who has had similar relationships with others. There can be no confidence in such a person; what he has done before, he will likely do again at the first temptation. Christian society is making a great advance in regard to the ethics of marriage. The double standard – one for men and another for women – has never had church approval. The Latter-day Saints believe that the young man should be as pure as the young woman, and that this original status should always be maintained. they put their faith in durable satisfactions – chivalrous regard of men for women, natural hope for children and happy family life – over fleeting gratifications. “Wild oats’ not only register in the spinal cord –as David Starr Jordan said in The Strength of Being clean – but they often go to the marrow of the bone. A young woman or young man should have the assurance that the prospective mate is free from physical taint so often associated with promiscuous sexual relations.

The success of most marriages is measured by the interests held in common by the participants. When a man has to change his vocation to suit his wife, his marriage is in danger; the husband’s vocation should at least be his wife’s avocation. Likewise, the civic-minded wife is at home only with a civic-minded husband. Interests are far more important than appearances in selecting mates. Fortunately, we can all cultivate and even alter our interests completely. sympathy with each other’s aims and a large share of common tastes and habits are the keys to compatibility. These embrace education, character, artistic talents, social inclination, disposition, religion, dress, sports, and fondness for children.

Unfortunately, there is a great body of superstition regarding physical attractions in mating. In this connection, Popenoe is the authority for the statement, “it has been found that beyond all doubt that, even in the most trivial details husband and wife resemble each other on the average more than would be possible if men and women mated at random.”

Long acquaintanceship is an additional safeguard to a happy marriage. Popenoe says, ‘marriages in which the two young people have been brought up in the same town, belong to the same church, or have gone to school or college together, are likely to turn out well; those based on a brief acquaintance away from home are found in excess in divorce records. In general, one ought to know a girl at least six months, and see her a good deal during that time, before seriously looking upon her as ‘that not impossible she.’”

The Ideal Mate.

Popenoe says, “Before one reaches the stage of falling in love, it will do no harm to have clearly in mind the kind of girl with whom one should prefer to fall in love. If the girl is the right one, the husband’s love for her will be likely to last much longer than if it is based on mere propinquity sex attraction, ignorance, and curiosity.”

In selecting a wife, Popenoe advocates attention to (1) health, (2) compatibility, (3) race, and (4) age. If Latter-day Saints observe the Word of Wisdom, health will be guaranteed to all. Compatibility has been discussed above. Church membership will take care of race. All eugenists advocate fairly early marriage for women. Popenoe says, “all those who encourage her to postpone marriage even until she is twenty-five are doing both her and the nation an injury.”

Score cards for brides are not at all uncommon. Galloway’s (see Love and Marriage) is paraphrased as follows: How do children respond to her, and she to them? How does she win her friends, and hold them? How does she treat her mother, brothers, and sisters? How does she regard her home duties and responsibilities? How does she respond to disappointment? to illness? to weariness? to success? How does she meet unexpected or difficult situations? How does she regard those less, or more fortunate? Possessions, savings, spendings? what is her conception of happiness, service, and usefulness. What is her taste in recreation, sports, amusements, reading, music, etc.? what is her attitude toward sincerity, honor, duty, and religion?

The above paragraphs, likewise, apply to the prospective groom. The University of Mississippi girls ranked the qualities of the ideal mate in this order: Sexual purity, disposition, honesty, health, natural mental ability, education, abstinence from liquor, abstinence from drugs, ambition, interest in religion, business ability, personal neatness, willingness to have a family, mutual intellectual interests, family connections, prominence, social ability, abstinence from tobacco, artistic ability, fondness for sports, wealth, native state or section, and attitude of woman suffrage. Could the Latter-day Saint girls of this class make a better list?

Personal Problems:

1. What kind of mate will best assure me of realizing my ambitions (vocational, social, cultural, etc.)
2. What are my personal hazards in marrying outside the church? Inside the church?
3. Where should I look for a prospective bride?
4. Do I personally measure up to the requirements of an ideal mate?
5. Wherein can I improve myself?

1939: Religious Problems from the Mormon Viewpoint

Lesson 14: Your Courtship

Problem: How Shall I Conduct My Courtship?

A Guarantee.

At our age we may think that this topic is a bit far-fetched. However, as Eliot said, the crises in life are usually much nearer than we are apt to realize. As a matter of fact, many of us are now experiencing what is commonly referred to as “puppy love.” If so, we resent such a disparaging expression, but if we wish to know how funny we look to others we should read Booth Tarkington’s Seventeen. nevertheless, people should not poke fun at us. Our dates are perfectly normal and vastly important.

Popenoe says, “No young man can afford to be without the companionship of girls, but he who is wise will limit his intimate friendships to girls who would be, in general, suitable wives. The man who finds his companions among girls of an entirely different class or station – girls whom he knows he would not possibly be willing to marry – is making it difficult for himself later, when he is ready to marry. On the other hand, the man who seeks only girls whom he would be proud to call his wife ensures that, when the time does come and he falls in love, he cannot be disastrously wrong, at least. naturally, he dies not care to marry except for love; and in order to have a chance to fall in love with the right kind of girl, he must have the right kind of girls – the more the better – in his circle of friends.”

If we would follow this bit of advice, we would “date” only Latter-day Saint girls and boys, as we encounter them in Mutual, in Sunday School, in ward and stake socials, in school, and in neighborhood groups. furthermore, at our age, we would date several of them, not narrowing the field to any given one. In time, as we mature, we will desire to limit the field and ultimately to concentrate our attention on one individual. Even though we are not overly concerned about our youthful dates, we should know that they are fraught with woeful consequences.

From the latter-day Saint standpoint one must always talk of love, marriage, and parenthood in reverential terms. Let us then seriously consider the period of courtship, remembering that the process by which a man selects a wife usually begins in his boyhood and is carried on for a number of years by the method of “trial and error.” although for the moment, we are not concerned with “wooing and winning,” all too soon it will be our major problem. Meantime, let us not get caught in any pitfalls. It is perfectly normal and natural to fix our affection temporarily on a series of girls or boys during our late teens. Each girl or boy is entitled to our utmost respect, even though to us they may be simply the means by which we prepare ourselves to select ultimately an ideal mate.

Cautions in Courtship.

Any wiseacre who has gone through the mill, can tell youth of the pitfalls in life (see Proverbs 2a;1-22, especially 16-22 and 5;1-23 and 6:20, 7:27 inclusive. Read these in private.) Let us proceed on the promise that to be “fore-warned” is to be “fore-armed.”

On the further assumption that we are restricting our dates to those of our religious faith what hints can be given? First, above all, a man must not take any liberties. Popenoe says, “The reputed tactics of the caveman usually lead one’s sincerity to be doubted – and properly so. Even if successful, they are not desirable for either party concerned.” It hardly seems necessary to elaborate these thoughts. Certainly, the young girl is suspicious of the “petter” and “mauler” – his intentions are too obvious. if her curiosity and innocence lead to reciprocation, the couple is “playing with fire” which will cheapen them in one another’s sight, if it does not consume them, body and soul. Everyone knows some innocent girl who has earned an unsavory reputation by permitting liberties to curious, talkative boys. Furthermore, some mighty fine men go through life under a cloud because of a reputation earned in the days of their youth. Imagine the humility of later falling in love with a girl or boy who was the subject of an early flirtation or of encountering these individuals when a candidate for office, or as a speaker in Church, etc.

President Joseph F. Smith once said, “No man is safe unless he is master of himself; and there is no tyrant more merciless or more to be dreaded than an uncontrollable appetite or passion. We will find that if we give way to the groveling appetites of the flesh and follow them up, that the end will be invariably bitter, injurious and sorrowful, both to the individual and society.”

In a recent sermon, President David O. McKay said, “Our passions – sex instincts, are given for a noble purpose. The perpetuation of life, reproduction and the proper control demands mastery. But indulgence which leads to licentiousness will kill spirituality more quickly than anything else in this world.

“More widespread and more insidious than the quest for unearned power is the search for the unearned pleasures of love, without love’s duties or love’s responsibilities. The way to unearned love leads through the valley of the shadow of death. The path is white with dead men’s bones. to shirk the bonds of love for the vice of lust is the devil’s temptation. To associate with the vile is to assume their vileness. Secret vice comes to the same end, but all the more surely, because the folly of lying is added to the other agencies of decay. Open vice brings with it a certain disease and degradation, and the man who tries to lead a double life is either a neurotic freak, or else the prince of fools. Generally, he is something of both at first, and at best an irreclaimable scoundrel.”

Second, avoid vulgarity. Probably a more cowardly act than the direct rushing which results in some form of physical assault, is the indirect approach of vulgarity in which the mind is set at play in dangerous circles. President McKay said, “Vulgarity has in some measure its foundation in precocity. It is an expression of arrested development in matters of good taste or good character. To be vulgar is to do that which is not the best of its kind. Vulgarity weakens the mind, and thus brings all other weaknesses in its train.”

Popenoe says, ‘Some girls jeopardize their chances by misinterpreting the word ‘sport’; and trying to be a sort of ‘hail fellow well met,’ or the feminine equivalent of ‘a man about town,’ a type of female that does not appeal to most men as a life-long companion. What a man seeks is rather a sense of genuine sportsmanship which will lead a girl to play fair, to be a good loser, to be ‘game,’ not a ‘quitter,’ to be a considerate winner.”

Third, avoid misrepresentations. There seems to be a common disposition to exaggerate, and to stretch the truth and to over-sell oneself in dealing with members of the opposite sex. If a lie is damnable at other times, it is doubly so in this situation. The young man should avoid misrepresenting his business, athletic, scholastic, or social prospects; in the first place he is not trying to purchase his friend, or overwhelm her; in the second place, if she finds out that he has deceived her, she will not trust him thereafter. Some good women have been led to the altar under a cloud of misrepresentation only to have their entire lives ruined and their confidence in their partners shaken forever. Frankness in all matters is the only sensible procedure. If one has unusual potentialities or offers they will soon come to light. If not, their absence will be detected only when they have been claimed wrongfully.

Fourth, avoid cruelty. The lie should be given to the theory that brutal treatment is particularly effective in awakening the love of a man or woman. whereas, “making up” after a quarrel is a thrilling experience, it is doubtful if it compensates for, and it can never erase from memory, the original offense. One of the worst forms of cruelty is that of playing with love and affection. Even if it produces the desired result, the risk is too great when the tortured person’s affections are valued at all, in any relationship. Most divorce suits have an element of cruelty, if not as the main charge as a secondary offense. the same can be said for broken engagements.

Fifth, avoid trivial corrections. Nothing can be more disconcerting than being constantly detected and corrected in trivial matters. In fact, this borders on cruelty. Although real partners will invite correction form one another, this is a relationship to be gained and not something to be assumed at the outset.

In conclusion, let us go back to President Eliot’s dictum: “it is a very safe protective rule to live today as if you were going to marry a pure woman within the month. That rule you will find a safeguard for worthy living.”

Meanwhile, let us not get too attached to one another until we are more mature, have most of our schooling behind us, have selected and made a reasonable start in our vocations, and have the “where-with” to make a respectable start. Authorities deplore long engagements. Popenoe says, “Ordinarily it (the engagement) should not last many months – certainly no longer than a year, if the two see a good deal of each other. The emotional strain under which lovers exist is damaging and should be ended as soon as possible. Long acquaintance preceding marriage is desirable; long betrothal is injurious.”

A Parting Word.

While we commemorate Mothers’ Day (and later Fathers’ Day), let us remember that we should be seeking persons with the attributes of successful mothers and fathers. Let the girls emulate their Latter-day Saint mothers and the boys their fathers, and few will go astray in shaping their characters or in selecting mates.

Personal Problems.

1. Should I consciously plan my courtship?
2. when should I seriously enter upon genuine “courtship”?
3. Meanwhile, what should be my relations with girls (or boys)?
4. Have I violated any of the “cautions in courtship?
5. If so, what can I do?

1941: Gospel Doctrine Sunday School Lessons

Lesson 85: Eternity of the Marriage Covenant

(Read Section 132)

1. A Contrast: all down the Christian centuries it has been the universal custom to perform marriage ceremonies for time only. A couple are supposed to remain married only until the death of one of the contracting parties. This idea is based on a statement in Matthew. “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30.) Men and women, therefore, who are married according to the law of the churches or the law of the land will find their divorce papers with their marriage certificate. For they are not married for time and eternity.

The modern habit of divorce, especially in the United States, virtually shortens the period of marriage from that of the marriage till death parts them. For the parties to a marriage may, as a matter of fact, get a separation on the slightest pretext, or no pretext. and then there is the doctrine of the “trial marriage,” where a couple may marry for a year or two, to ascertain whether they could make a go of a longer period. The pace in divorce has been set by Hollywood in recent years.

The Latter-day Saints, on the contrary, perform temple marriages for eternity as well as for time, and they base their practice on a revelation from God (Section 132) to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

There is a social reason for this practice, as well as a religious reason. The length of any marriage is determined partly by what is in the minds of the parties to the contract. If they begin their married life with the notion that they can separate, if the marriage is not what they expected it to be, the chances are very great that they will presently look around for an excuse to separate, instead of making an effort to make a go of it by overlooking small disagreements and altering their attitudes. Latter-day Saints who marry in the temple have the idea to begin with that they have entered into an everlasting covenant, and this helps, to say the least. there are comparatively few divorces after a temple marriage.

2. Basis of Eternal marriages: In our spirits we are eternal. We existed before we were born in the flesh; we exist here in the flesh; and we shall be immortal souls after the resurrection from the dead. It is the spirit, not the body, that thinks, that feels, and that acts. This is true for all the stages of our existence.

This being true, why, Mormonism asks, should the needs of the physical body be the only consideration in marriage, instead of the needs also of the spirit?

Then, too, the Mormon heaven differs radically from the modern Christian heaven. We believe that the human spirit will perform essentially the same functions in the hereafter that it does here. That is, it will think, will act, love then as now. Sex is an eternal difference, not temporary. Men and women will love each other in heaven as they do on Earth, and they will also love their children. it is highly improbable that, in the resurrection, the essential characteristics of human beings, the characteristics that have brought them so much joy here and now, will vanish or be done away with after the resurrection, and the word of the Lord confirms us in the belief that these will be enhanced rather than diminish.

Marriage is necessary to those who would aspire to the highest degree in the celestial kingdom. “In the celestial glory,” says the Prophet, “there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the Priesthood,” meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. (Section 131, verses 1-4.) And he continues, “If he does not, he cannot obtain it. he may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.”

3. Our Marriage Contract: “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, 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 … 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.”

Such marriages are performed in the temples, of which we now have seven, with others in course of construction. The authority to perform these marriages resides in the President of the church, who may delegate the authority to others by special appointment.

4. Plurality of Wives: Section 132 is on marriage for time and eternity. At the time this revelation was first committed to writing (it was received as early as 1831), a man was permitted to have more than one wife at a time. The law of plural marriage was first publicly announced in 1852, by President Brigham Young. And it was practiced both in Nauvoo and in Utah. There never was, however, a higher per cent than about two out of one hundred marriageable men who were married in this order.

Owing to the fierce opposition to the practice of this principle of marriage, against which laws were enacted by Congress and later declared to be Constitutional by the Supreme Court, the Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice, though not a belief in the principle, by a manifesto issued by President Wilford, in October, 1890. it ways in part: “Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by congress forbidding plural marriages which laws have been pronounce constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.” (See “Official Declaration” at the end of the current issue of the Doctrine and Covenants.)

This manifesto was read to the General Conference of the Church on October 6, 1890, and approved, the motion being made by Lorenzo Snow, President of the Twelve apostles.

No plural marriage can be performed today anywhere in the Church, which can claim the authorization of the only man in the organization who has the right to authorize it – the President. Any man or woman who is persuaded to enter into the practice of plural marriage may be sure, therefore, that he or she is being deluded.

4. Sealings: Just as those who have passed away without having been baptized may have this rite performed for them, so they may be married, both rites being performed by proxy. this marriage ceremony is called a sealing. Hundreds of thousands of couples have been sealed to each other in this way, and the ceremony is as efficacious as if it were performed in the flesh. Also children have been sealed to their parents in our temples. Much of the work done there is of this sort.

Here, again, we have the chain that binds the human family together – a turning of the hearts of the children to the fathers and a turning of the hearts of the fathers, no doubt, to the children.

Questions and Problems

1. Under what conditions is marriage holy? Under what conditions unholy? In which direction is the tendency nowadays? How can this tendency, if wrong, be checked?

2. What is the social effect of short and long marriages? Show that the length of a marriage is affected by what is in the mind of the man and the woman being married. What is the religious effect?

3. What attitude should a Latter-day Saint have toward marriage? What conditions make for a happy marriage anywhere?

4. Every contract has certain definite terms. Show that a contract of marriage, too, has terms. what reason is there to suppose that spiritual contracts also have their terms of agreement?

5. How can we get more of our young people to see the need of being married in the temple?



5 Comments »

  1. Am I the only one who thought the questions from that 1939 lesson (Lesson 12) were a bit odd?

    Personal Questions.

    1. Do you accept the Latter-day Saint view of marriage?
    2. Do you favor an early marriage (i.e., early or middle twenties) for yourself?
    3. To what extent should your parents’ wishes govern the manner of your marriage?
    4. Do you desire a temple marriage?
    5. Is your marriage your own private affair?

    Note: The manner in which we meet this crisis in life, marriage, will depend upon our answers to the above questions.

    And what a strange way to describe marriage (i.e., as a crisis).

    Even more troubling, though was the idea presented in that lesson that folks who are not married are “abnormal.” It’s one thing to promote the institution of marriage as an important component of a healthy society; it’s another thing to call those that are not married “abnormal.” Also, I thought it was inconsistent that the lesson’s author would promote careful deliberation before getting married, but then also promote getting married at a young age. I note that both arguments are unsupported by scripture.

    Not to be a total downer, then, I will mention something that I enjoyed seeing. I liked the bit in the 1941 lesson about plural marriage. I think it was right on – a short, concise explanation and a prohibition, but not avoiding it entirely, either. I think this could be a model for current lessons.

    Comment by Hunter — July 27, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  2. Hunter, that’s the chief reason for my disclaimer at the beginning — that I’m not endorsing all these views, and that “older” doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” even to a fan of history. As with everything else, I think it’s interesting to see how we’ve changed over time, or even when something is an anomaly to understand that it was taught.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 27, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  3. Yes, your disclaimer is assumed and understood.

    The main reason I commented is because, in these regards, I don’t necessarily believe “we’ve changed over time,” to use your phrase. I still hear people claiming a doctrinal justification for marrying young, and I still hear people confuse a preference for marriage as a societal institution with a person’s eternal self-worth. To me, part of the value of reading these older lessons, then, is to help tease out which aspects taught are truly “the Gospel,” and which are a more a mingling of societal values with “the Gospel.”

    These lessons are so timely given the contemporaneous discussion happening about the (new) Gospel Principles manual.

    Comment by Hunter — July 27, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

  4. Though it seems so silly about the expanded choice of mates when young, it is true. I have definitely noticed a . . . “different” shall we say quality and quantity of dates. I guess that would also have to do with the fact that I’m in a country where Mormons are so spread out.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — August 2, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  5. Wait’ll you hit 30, Michelle … and 40 … The pool shrinks to a puddle, then a damp stain on the pavement. Then comes 50 — represented in my imagination by those pictures of parched lake beds, dry as a bone and covered in deep cracks …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

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