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For This Cause: Why Marriage Matters

“I then remarked that marriage was an institution of h[e]aven institude [instituted] in the garden of Eden, that it was necessary that it should be Solemnized by the authority of the everlasting priesthood,” (from a Joseph Smith journal entry, Nov. 24, 1835, Kirtland, Ohio)

I was talking to my stake president once about the word “cleave” and he was remarking about how it means both to divide and to join. Note the following definitions:

  1. CLEAVE, verb intransitive, To stick; to adhere; to hold to.
  2. CLEAVE, verb transitiveTo part or divide by force; to split or rive; to open or serve the cohering parts of a body, by cutting or by the application of force;

I volunteered some additional insights, many of which I posted back in 2010 here on oneClimbs. I focused in on the reality of creation through division found in scripture, nature, etc. If you look at the creation account in Genesis, we see the following acts of division occurring in sequential order:

  1. Light from the darkness.
  2. Waters from the waters.
  3. Water from the earth.
  4. Plants from the earth.
  5. Day from night.
  6. Animals from the sea and land.
  7. Woman from man.

Immediately after Eve is ‘divided’ from Adam, she is brought to him by God. Adam then states the following upon meeting Eve:

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)

Adam makes this distinction between man and woman being these two parts of a whole that were divided and then intended to be reunited as one whole again. This clear pattern established at the beginning and carried on throughout history was the vehicle for the Abrahamic covenant and all began with the original formation of man and woman.

Jesus, in his earthly ministry referenced these verses in Genesis and taught:

From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. (Mark 10:6-8)

Note that he is speaking generally about the intended design for men and women. He said they were made that way from the beginning of creation and for that cause they shall cleave together and not be separate any longer, but one flesh. This reconciliation of opposites or reuniting of things that were divided is everywhere in scripture and in the gospel. The word covenant in Hebrew even means “to cut” where we see this idea of cleaving again.

Covenant =  briyth: to cut, ‘from ‘barah’ (1262) (in the sense of cutting (like ‘bara” (1254);

Through the fall, all of us were divided from God so that we would have a chance to exercise free will. Man and woman were divided/created so that they could then cleave together and become one flesh through their own free will and choice.

The Crucible of Choice

While it is true that we have choice, there are a myriad of things in life that we do not choose. All of us have weaknesses and this is by design. Some weaknesses seem to have always been with us since birth while others we might develop along the way. Whatever their origin or reason for existing, God takes ownership of the weaknesses of men by proclaiming unambiguously:

I give unto men weakness… (Ether 12:27)

Some of Jesus’ disciples found a man blind from birth and supposed that this tragedy was someone’s fault (specifically his parents) but Jesus stated:

Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:3)

There was wisdom and intention in that man carrying that trial in his life. Jesus healed the man and now his story has been read by what may be billions of people by now. Nephi spent some time in that dark night of the soul where he mourned over his perceived mortal failings:

O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; (2 Nephi 4:17-19)

He wanted to do the right thing but was weighed down by how much he felt like he fell short. Thankfully, we get to see him work through the process of reconciling his troubles:

…if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? (vs. 26-27)

I love Nephi’s question and often I imagine it with a slight pause after that comma, “why should I yield…because of my flesh?” I’ve read that over and over and I’m sure everyone reads it a little differently and that’s ok. I shorten it a little in my mind, “Why should I…because of my flesh?” Nephi could have excused himself and pointed to his mortal condition and specific challenges, but he doesn’t.

It it easy to picture a temptation as this dark and terrible thing that haunts us, this grotesque gargoyle of a thing. Now look at the following definition of temptation:

Temptation: The act of tempting; enticement to evil by arguments, by flattery, or by the offer of some real or apparent good.

The definition of entice is also worth looking at:

Entice: To incite or instigate, by exciting hope or desire; usually in a bad sense; as, to entice one to evil. Hence, to seduce; to lead astray; to induce to sin, by promises or persuasions.

Temptation and enticement are so effective because they make convincing arguments, they promise good, they excite a false hope that they can’t deliver. By looking to God and pondering correct principles, Nephi is able to see more clearly and gain real confidence by readjusting where he was putting his trust:

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. (vs. 34)

King Benjamin spoke along the same lines and said that the natural man must yield to:

the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a childsubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

Sacrifice: Divide to Create

Sacrifice is related to the idea of creation by division. You see the same principles in the Sabbath day where one day is divided from the rest and because of this division, we create something new. The setting apart of something makes it holy, thus one can make a Sabbath a holy Sabbath.

When we divide ourselves through sacrifice from the things or ideologies of this world, we are recreated, we become something new. To align with God’s patterns, every human soul must lay something on the altar in this life, it may be different for each of us, but in the end, nobody is exempt.

Abraham offered up his son, the rich young man was asked to give away all his riches, Lamoni’s father offered up his entire kingdom and gave away all his sins, the converted Lamanites buried their weapons of war in the earth, Lehi forsook his riches and inheritance, Abinadi gave up his life, and Adam gave up Eden for Eve.

The principle of sacrifice is difficult because that is the nature of it, there is no sacrifice without some sense of loss. Real sacrifice involves offering up something that we value, and I would say that often it is the one thing that we might value the most, or can’t imagine letting go of. The Lectures on Faith teach this about the principle of sacrifice:

“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation;… When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.” (Lecture 6:7)

The union of man and woman requires a life-long sacrifice on the parts of both parties. Against all natural inclinations, passions, desires, and persuasions, men and women lay aside their longing for anyone else and covenant to cleave to one another regardless of the circumstances. It is an unnatural arrangement, and rightly so, because this is a divine order, a mortal demonstration of commitment that transcends nature.

Within this union is the potential for the perpetuation of life, for us to carry on the plan of salvation for future generations. We pass on knowledge, wisdom and an example of the divine pattern to posterity. We have been given the keys of creation and they have been vested in a man and a woman under a sacred covenant.

Adam and Eve were a deliberate prototype for each of us. Note that the Bible has one creation account in Genesis, while the restoration offers us three more:

  1. The Book of Moses
  2. The Book of Abraham
  3. The Endowment

With this added emphasis and focus on Adam and Eve, what is God trying to teach us?

In our finite understanding we envision a perfect world where this would all be easy. Yet, in this fallen world, we all in some way or another “come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even though that is the case, we are still commanded to walk that strait (meaning: close, strict, difficult) and narrow path. When the mists of darkness come and our eyes are blinded and we can hear voices calling to us from many directions, do not forget that there is an iron rod (1 Nephi 11:35) which is the word of God to guide us.

No matter how loud the voices around you may shout, no matter how dark the mists or difficult the straits of the path, no matter how unfit we feel to the task, our grip on the rod, hand over hand, will carry us through. In his vision of the tree of life, Lehi didn’t see people skipping cheerfully up to the tree, this is how he described the scene:

“…he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:30)

It took a great deal of effort to get to that tree. I wonder how many felt like giving up halfway through or just sat on the ground in the mists of darkness and cried while their grip on the rod slackened. I think many of us can relate quite a bit to these people, after all, they are meant to represent us aren’t they?

There was one path to the tree, it was close, strict, and difficult; it was the only way. History and the scriptures warn us of repeating cycles that seem progressive to people at the time when they are actually regressive. Consider these words of Jacob:

O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.

O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him…” (2 Nephi 9:39-41)

The word carnal means:

  1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure.
  2. Being in the natural state; unregenerate.

Sacrifice is not a doctrine of the natural man, he will always put natural appetites above God and he will always be offended by anything that suggests otherwise.

Great and Spacious

When Abinadi preached in front of King Noah’s court, they didn’t like his message. He was saying things that would cause them to have to change their ways and their lifestyles. They had many wives and concubines, were they just supposed to end all of those relationships? That would have been extremely difficult and besides, they didn’t want to. One of the priests challenged Abinadi by asking:

What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth; (Mosiah 12:20-21)

This priest thought that a real messenger of God would be bringing them happy messages and telling them that everything was good and wonderful. Abinadi goes on to explain that his call to repentance is a message of peace, but only to those that repent.

He contrasted “the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection;” (Mosiah 15:22) with those that “have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them;” (Mosiah 15:26)

The world today would have us submit to the flesh rather than to the will of God. The world proclaims that what the flesh ordains is right and that is the end of the discussion. If you challenge the ideologies popularize by the current trends of an ever-changing culture, you get a finger of scorn pointed in your direction. The name “Satan” means “adversary,” “to attack,” and “accuser.” In Revelation 12:10 it says this about Satan:

“Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.”

Only very, very recently in the timeline of human history do we see some begin to oppose, and even accuse those who stand on a solid foundation of God’s patterns that are clearly illustrated in scripture and have been the foundation of the human race for literally thousands of years. Remember how the great and spacious building of Nephi’s vision was filled with those who were mocking and pointing fingers and that their large building was high in the air with no foundation?

“And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not. These are the words of my father: For as many as heeded them, had fallen away.” (1 Nephi 8:33-34)

Can we see parallels to what is playing out in today’s world? Today, a large and spacious building of social opinion and pressure is being constructed and many are seduced to entering in to mock and criticize. This building rises high in the air, seeking to put itself above God’s wisdom and patterns with no foundation in scripture or doctrine.

Nephi noted that the “great and spacious building was the pride of the world” (1 Nephi 11:36) and it represented “the world and the wisdom thereof” (1 Nephi 11:35) and that it “gathered together to fight against the apostles” (1 Nephi 11:34). In today’s world there are no doubt many challenges, but there have always been. The scriptures illustrate that aligning oneself with God can be excruciatingly hard to the point of feeling impossible. Some people in scripture were enabled to conquer their trials while others were strengthened just sufficiently enough to endure them.

We are all familiar with the faithfulness of Jesus in putting God’s will before his own, even though doing so caused him the greatest pain and suffering anyone has ever had to endure.

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)

The truth is that mortality is a time to climb mountains and walk narrow paths, to prove ourselves, and to sacrifice. It’s no surprise that “Endure to the End” is out of style with the world yet again, and “Come, follow me” has be replaced by “Go, follow yourself.” The prophet Isaiah said:

Who among you fears Jehovah
and heeds the voice of his servant,
who, though he walk in the dark and have no light,
trusts in the name of Jehovah and relies on his God?
But you are lighters of fires, all of you,
who illuminate with mere sparks.
Walk then by the light of your fires
and by the sparks you have kindled.
(Isaiah 50:11, IIT)

Saying “be true to who you really are” makes for a cute Pinterest post but what does that mean? We have better instructions: “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Nephi 12:48)

These are the last days, the trials will be the hardest, the deception will be the craftiest, and the philosophies of men will appear more convincing than the precepts of God. As we near the end, we will find answers in looking back to the beginning.

The world tells you to trust your flesh, the scriptures say that cursed is he that puts his trust in the arm of flesh. We are here to transcend the flesh, to look to divine patterns and consciously choose God’s ways in spite of the flesh and its desires no matter what directions they pull us in. We say these are the last days, and if they are, we ought to be very meticulous in comparing the whole of scripture with the ever-shifting popular opinions and rhetoric of the day.

Consider the words of Samuel the Lamanite in light of what we see today because I think they are a sign that cycles are once again repeating themselves:

…for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. (Helaman 3:26-27)

Final Thoughts

I’m just writing some of my thoughts on the matter here, I am just an observer that has watched things unfold throughout my life. I’ve heard the arguments, studied and pondered many implications, while considering patterns and evidence. My opinions and perspective ultimately don’t matter, I’m just another person in this vast world. Study the scriptures for yourself and be open-minded enough to consider what they say and be brave enough to stand against the mocking and pointing fingers aimed in your direction.

We’re all in this together and it’s important to remember that. Some of us are stronger or weaker in different areas so we need each other. Remember that Christ’s church was compared to a body and a body works best when all of it’s parts are united.

The body shouldn’t be seeking to amputate parts of itself, that’s mutilation. The body parts should not be seeking to amputate themselves from the body, that’s suicide.

“…in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)

“In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam…” (Genesis 5:1-2)

“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” (D&C 42:22)

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” (Genesis 1:28)

“I then remarked that marriage was an institution of h[e]aven institude [instituted] in the garden of Eden, that it was necessary that it should be Solemnized by the authority of the everlasting priesthood,” (from a Joseph Smith journal entry, Nov. 24, 1835, Kirtland, Ohio)

Let’s keep it together and endure, let’s look to the resurrection when flawed bodies will find restoration and perfection. The story of Eden is our story, the pattern was divinely established, it has perpetuated the human race and has given context to eternity. Marriage is not just a privilege to enjoy, it a responsibility to which we are called, and the end to which we were created.

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