Modern Commentary Related to Chapter XVII
LAWS OF MARRIAGE AND PROCREATION.
Ye kindred spirits, filled with mutual love,
Pure as the dews descending from above,
All hail! for you the sacred Keys are given,
To make you one on earth, and one in heaven.
Be fruitful then, and let your race extend;
Fill Earth, the stars, and worlds that never end.
The great science of life consists in the knowledge of ourselves, the laws of our existence, the relations we sustain to each other, to things and beings around us, to our ancestry, to our posterity, to time, to eternity, to our heavenly Father, and to the universe.
To understand these laws, and regulate our actions by them, is the whole duty of intelligences. It should therefore comprise our whole study.
This science comprises the fountain of wisdom, the well-springs of life, the boundless ocean of knowledge, the infinitude of light, and truth, and love. It penetrates the depths, soars to the heights, and circumscribes the broad expanse of eternity.
Its pursuit leads to exaltation, glory, immortality, and to an eternity of life, light, purity, and unity of fellowship with kindred spirits.
To contemplate man in his true light, we must, as it were, forget that death is in his path; we must look upon him as an eternal, ever living being, possessing spirit, flesh and bones, with all the mental and physical organs, and all the affections and sympathies which characterise him in this world. Or rather, all his natural affections and sympathies will be purified, exalted, and immeasurably increased.
Let the candidate for celestial glory forget, for a moment, the groveling sphere of his present existence, and make the effort to contemplate himself in the light of eternity, in the higher spheres of his progressive existence, beyond the grave—a pure spirit, free from sin and guile, enlightened in the school of heaven, by observation and experience, and association with the highest order of intelligences, for thousands of years; and clothed with immortal flesh, in all the vigour, freshness and beauty of eternal youth; alike free from pain, disease, death, and the corroding effects of time; looking back through the vista of far distant years, and contemplating his former sojourn amid the sorrows and pains of mortal life, his passage through the dark valley of death, and his sojourn in the spirit world, as we now contemplate a transient dream, or a night of sleep, from which we have awakened, renewed and refreshed, to enter again upon the realities of life.
Let us contemplate, for a moment, such a being, clothed in the finest robes of linen, pure and white, adorned with precious stones and gold; a countenance radiant with the effulgence of light, intelligence and love; a bosom glowing with all the confidence of conscious innocence dwelling in palaces of precious stones and gold; bathing in the crystal waters of life; promenading or sitting ‘neath the evergreen bowers and trees of Eden; inhaling the healthful breezes, perfumed with odours, wafted from the roses and pinks of paradise, or assembled with the countless myriads of heaven’s nobility, to join in songs of praise and adoration to the Great Parent of every good, to tune the immortal lyre in strains celestial; or move with grace immortal to the soul-inspiring measure of music flowing from a thousand instruments, blending, in harmonious numbers, with celestial voices, in heavenly song, or mingling in graceful circles with joyous thousands, immersed in the same spirit, and moving in unison and harmony of motion, as if one heart, one pulse, one thrill of heavenly melody inspired the whole.
O candidates for celestial glory! Would your joys be full in the countless years of eternity without forming the connexions, the relationship, the kindred ties which concentrate in the domestic circle, and branch forth, and bud and blossom, and bear the fruits of eternal increase?
Would that eternal emotion of charity and benevolence which swells your bosoms be satisfied to enjoy in, “single blessedness,” without an increase of posterity, those exhaustless stores of never-ending riches and enjoyments? Or, would you, like your heavenly Father, prompted by eternal benevolence and charity, wish to fill countless millions of worlds, with your begotten sons and daughters, and to bring them through all the gradations of progressive being, to inherit immortal bodies, and eternal mansions in your several dominions?
If such be your aspirations, remember that this present probation is the world of preparation for joys eternal. This is the place where family organization is first formed for eternity; and where the kindred sympathies, relationships, and affections take root, spring forth, shoot upward, bud, blossom, and bear fruit to ripen and mature in eternal ages.
Here, in the holy temples and sanctuaries of our God, must the everlasting covenants be revealed, ratified, sealed, bound and recorded in the holy records, and guarded and preserved in the archives of God’s kingdom, by those who hold the keys of eternal Apostleship, who have power to bind on earth that which shall be bound in heaven, and to record on earth that which shall be recorded in the archives of heaven, in the Lamb’s book of life.
Here, in the holy sanctuary, must be revealed, ordained and anointed the kings and queens of eternity.
All vows, covenants, contracts, marriages, of unions, not formed by revelation, and sealed for time and all eternity, and recorded in the holy archives of earth and heaven, by the ministration of the holy and eternal Priesthood, will be dissolved by death, and will not be recognised by the eternal authorities, after the parties have entered through the vail into the eternal world.
This is heaven’s eternal law, as revealed to the ancients of all ages, who held the keys of eternal priesthood, after the order of the Son of God; and, as restored with the priesthood of the Saints of this age.
Again, it was a law of the ancient Priesthood, and is again restored, that a man who is faithful in all things, may, by the word of the Lord, through the administration of one holding the keys to bind on earth and heaven, receive and secure to himself, for time and all eternity, MORE THAN ONE WIFE.
Thus did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Patriarchs and Prophets of old.
The principal object contemplated by this law, is the multiplication of the children of good and worthy fathers, who will teach them the truth, and train them in the holy principles of salvation. This is far preferable to sending them into the world in the lineage of an unworthy or ignorant parentage, to be educated in error, folly, ignorance and crime.
The peculiar characteristics of the blessings included in the Everlasting Covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their lineage, was the multiplicity of their seed; and the perpetuity of the royal, priestly and kingly power in their lineage.
To assist in carrying out and fulfilling this covenant, good and virtuous women were given to their faithful Prophets, rulers, and wise and virtuous men; and, as it was said of the four wives of Jacob, “These did build the house of Israel.”
While peculiar blessings and encouragements were given to a good and faithful man, and to his wives and children; while they were honoured of God, and respected by all who knew them; while the father of a hundred children was had in greater honour than the hero of a hundred battles, adultery, fornication, and all unlawful intercourse was strictly prohibited, and even punished by the strictest laws—the penalty of which was death.
A daughter of Israel, who, by prostitution, was rendered unworthy, or unqualified for the duties of a virtuous wife and mother, was considered unfit to live. While the male who would thus trifle with the fountain of life, and contribute to render a female unworthy to answer the end of her creation, was also condemned to death.
Strict laws were also given and diligently taught to both sexes, regulating the intercourse between husband and wife. All intercourse peculiar to the sexes was strictly prohibited at certain seasons which were untimely. Nor were the bonds of wedlock and shield from condemnation, where the parties, by untimely union, excess, or voluntary act, prevented propagation, or injured the life or health of themselves or their offspring.
The object of the union of the sexes is the propagation of their species, or procreation; also for mutual affection, and the cultivation of those eternal principles of never-ending charity and benevolence, which are inspired by the Eternal Spirit; also for mutual comfort and assistance in this world of toil and sorrow, and for mutual duties towards their offspring.
Marriage, and its duties, are therefore, not a mere matter of choice, or of convenience, or of pleasure to the parties; but to marry and multiply is a positive command of Almighty God, binding on all persons of both sexes, who are circumstanced and conditioned to fulfil the same. To marry, propagate our species, do our duty to them, and to educate them in the light of truth, are among the chief objects of our existence on the earth. To neglect these duties, is to fail to answer the end of our creation, and is a a very great sin.
While to pervert our natures, and to prostitute ourselves, and our strength to mere pleasures, or to unlawful communion of the sexes, is alike subversive of health, of pure, holy and lasting affection; of moral and social order; and of the laws of God and nature.
If we except murder, there is scarcely a more damning sin on the earth than the prostitution of female virtue or chastity at the shrine of pleasure, or brutal lust; or that promiscuous and lawless intercourse which chills and corrodes the heart, perverts and destroys the pure affections, cankers and destroys, as it were, the well-springs, the fountains, or issues of life.
A man who obeys the ordinances of God, and is without blemish or deformity, who has sound health and mature age, and enjoys liberty and access to the elements of life; is designed to be the head of a woman, a father, and a guide of the weaker sex, and of those of tender age, to mansions of eternal life and salvation.
A woman, under similar circumstances, is designed to be the glory of some man in the Lord; to be led and governed by him, as her head in all things, even as Christ is the head of the man; to honour, obey, love, serve, comfort and help him in all things; to be a happy wife, and if blessed with offspring, a faithful and affectionate mother, devoting her life to the joys, cares and duties of her domestic sphere.
It frequently happens, in the course of human events, that there is, in a community, a majority of females. In such cases, human laws have no right to interfere with the divine eternal laws of nature, or of nature’s God, by suffering females to be prostituted to minister to the wanton pleasures of the lawless, to become the unlawful, dishonoured mistress, the illegitimate mother, or the wretched outcast of shame, disease and crime. Nor yet, on the other hand, have human laws the right to doom a portion of heaven’s fair daughters, to single wretchedness, loneliness and gloom, without the lawful privilege of becoming honoured wives and mothers.
A wise legislation, or the law of God, would punish, with just severity, the crimes of adultery or fornication, and would not suffer the idiot, the confirmed, irreclaimable drunkard, the man of hereditary disease, or of vicious habits, to possess or retain a wife; while, at the same time, it would provide for a good and capable man, to honourably receive and maintain more wives than one. Indeed, it should be the privilege of every virtuous female, who has the requisite capacity and qualifications for matrimony; to demand either of individuals or government, the privilege of becoming an honoured and legal wife and mother; even if it were necessary for her to be married to a man who has several wives; or, as Jesus said in the parable, to take the one talent from the place where it remains neglected or unimproved, and give it to him who has ten talents.
The false and corrupt institutions, and still more corrupt practices of “Christendom” have had a downward tendency in the generations of man for many centuries. Our physical organization, health, vigour, strength of body, intellectual faculties, inclinations, &c., are influenced very much by parentage. Hereditary disease, idiocy, weakness of mind, or of constitution, deformity, tendency to violent and ungovernable passions, vicious appetites and desires, are engendered by parents; and are bequeathed as a heritage from generation to generation. Man becomes a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, a drunkard, a lover of tobacco, opium, or other nauseous or poisonous drugs, by means of the predisposition, and inclinations engendered by parentage.
The people before the flood, and also the Sodomites and Canaanites, had carried these corruptions and degeneracies so far, that God, in mercy, destroyed them, and thus put an end to the procreation of races so degenerate and abominable; while Noah, Abraham, Melchesidech, and others, who were taught in the true laws of procreation, “were perfect in their generation,” and trained their children in the same laws.
The overthrow of those ancient degenerate races is a type of that which now awaits the nations called “Christian,” or in other words, The great whore of all the earth, for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
Where is the nation called “Christian,” that does not uphold or permit prostitution, fornication and adultery with all their debasing, demoralizing, degenerating and corroding effects, with all their tendencies to disease and crime, to operate unchecked, and to leaven and corrode all classes of society?
Where is the “Christian nation” that does not prohibit the law of
God, as given to Abraham and the ancients in relation to marriage?
Where is the “Christian nation” that punishes the crime of adultery and fornication with death, or other heavy penalties?
Where are the institutions which prohibit the marriage of all persons disqualified by nature, or by vicious habits and practices, to answer the ends of an institution so holy and pure?
Where are the institutions which would protect, encourage, and honour the patriarch Jacob, with his four wives and their children?
Where is the community who would feel themselves honoured in associating with such a family—although, all corrupt practices would be frowned down, and all persons discountenanced, who, under the name of gentility, nobility, or royalty, glory in their conquests and victories over the principles and practices of virtue and innocence?
Echo answers, Where?—unless we look to the far off mountains and distant vales of Deseret, a land peopled by the Latter-day Saints, and governed by the law of God, the keys of the eternal Priesthood, and organized in the New and Everlasting Covenant.
Amid these eternal mountains shall be reared the holy temple of our God, and all nations shall flow unto it, in order to be taught in His ways, and to walk in His paths, for out of Zion has gone forth the law, as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah.[A]
[Footnote A: See the law of God on Marriage, revealed for the government of the Saints. First published at Great Salt City, Deseret, 1852.]
By this law those distant communities live. There the patriarch of a hundred children is had in reverence and honour. His virtuous and honourable wives are considered as mothers in Israel, the daughters of Abraham and Sarah, and worthy to be numbered with the holy women of old. And there the daughters of Israel are not prostituted with impunity. There, the crimes of adultery and fornication are seldom mentioned, or known to exist. There, no virtuous female is doomed by law, or custom, to drag out a useless life in the loneliness of the cloister; the monotonous and sinful pleasures of the Harem; the haunts of vice and crime; or in the lonely and heartrending gloom and solitude of a single life.
There, in the holy chambers of the sanctuary, are revealed and ministered those sacred ordinances, covenants, and sealings, which lay the foundation of kindred sympathies, associations, and family ties, indissoluble and eternal. Ties which are stronger than death, more durable than the ramparts of their snow-clad mountains, and which will never be dissolved—
“While life, or thought, or being lasts;
Or immortality endures.”
The restoration of these pure laws and practices has commenced to improve or regenerate a race. A holy and temperate life; pure morals and manners; faith, hope, charity; cheerfulness, gentleness, integrity; intellectual development, pure truth, and knowledge; and above all, the operations of the Divine Spirit, will produce a race more beautiful in form and features, stronger, and more vigorous in constitution, happier in temperament and disposition, more intellectual, less vicious, and better prepared for long life and good days in their mortal sojourn.
Each succeeding generation, governed by the same principles, will still improve, till male and female may live and multiply for a hundred years upon the earth—-
“And after death in distant spheres,
The union still renew.”
The eternal union of the sexes, in and after the resurrection, is mainly for the purpose of renewing and continuing the work of procreation. In our present or rudimental state, our offspring are in our own image, and partake of our natures, in which are the seeds of death. In like manner, will the offspring of immortal and celestial beings, be in the likeness and partake of the nature of their divine parentage. Hence, such offspring will be pure, holy, incorruptible and eternal. They will in no wise be subject unto death, except by descending to partake of the grosser elements, in which are the inherent properties of dissolution or death.
To descend thus, and to be made subject to sorrow, pain and death, is the only road to the resurrection, and to the higher degrees of immortality and eternal life. It is by contrast that intelligences appreciate and enjoy. How shall the sweet be known without the bitter? How shall joy be appreciated without sorrow? Or, how shall life be valued, or its eternal duration appreciated without a contact with its mortal antagonist—death?
Hence, the highest degrees of eternal felicity are approached by the straight gate, and the narrow path which leads through the dark valley of death, to eternal mansions in the realms of endless life. This path has been trodden by the eternal Father, by His son Jesus Christ,—and by all the sons and daughters of God, who are exalted to a fulness of joys celestial.
As has been before remarked, the union of the sexes, in the eternal world, in the holy covenant of celestial matrimony, is peculiar to the ordinances and ministrations of the Apostleship, or Priesthood after the order of the Son of God, or after the order of Melchisedec. The Aaronic Priesthood, or the institutions peculiar to the law of Moses, seemed to have recognized no such ordinances or eternal covenants, hence, the Jewish ordinances of matrimony come to end by death.
Nor did the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, or others of that nation, conceive of anything more lasting than this life, in the covenants of matrimony. Hence, the Son of God, in answer to the Sadducees, referred to the order of the angels, in the resurrection, instead of the order of the gods.
But, the Apostles, holding the keys of the eternal mysteries of God’s kingdom, to seal both on earth and in heaven, understood and testified, that, “The man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.”
All persons who attain to the resurrection, and to salvation, without these eternal ordinances, or sealing covenants, will remain in a single state, in their saved condition, to all eternity, without the joys of eternal union with the other sex, and consequently without a crown, without a kingdom, without the power to increase.
Hence, they are angels, and are not gods; and are ministering spirits, or servants, in the employ and under the direction of THE ROYAL FAMILY OF HEAVEN—THE PRINCES, KINGS, AND PRIESTS OF ETERNITY.