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Mormon ordinances/Marriage/Jesus said "neither marry nor given in marriage"
Mormon interpretation of "neither marry nor given in marriage"
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- Question: Does Jesus Christ's statement "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage" contradict the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal marriage?
- Charles W. Penrose (1911): Jesus "was speaking of the class of people to whom the Sadducees referred. Under the law of Moses marriage for eternity was not celebrated...the marriages under consideration were for time only
- Joseph Fielding Smith (1941): While the Church, as well as the world, would recognize that marriage while they are in the world, yet the fact remains that when they are dead the marriage comes to an end
- Joseph Fielding Smith (1951): Jesus "says unto those who are married for time only, and those who do not believe in marriage for eternity"
Question: Does Jesus Christ's statement "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage" contradict the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal marriage?
Jesus Christ was responding to the Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection
The Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection, asked the Savior about a case where one woman successively married seven brothers, each of which died leaving her to the next. They then tried to trip up Jesus by asking him whose wife she will be in the resurrection. Jesus' answer is almost identical in all three scriptural versions.
- Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:29-30)
The Greek Contradicts Critics' Interpretation of the Verse
The underlying Greek of the passage contradicts our critics' interpretation of this passage. Latter-day Saint apologist Kevin L. Barney observed:
At this point Jesus corrects the mistaken understanding of the Sadducees to the effect that the resurrection is simply a continuation of mortal life as we know it. The time for entering into marriages is mortality; the nature of life in the hereafter will change from that which we are accustomed to here and now. The expressions “marry” [gamousin] and “given in marriage” [gamizontai] translate forms of the related Greek verbs gameō and gamizō, which have to do with the act of becoming married. The first verb is used here to refer to men and the second to women. If Matthew had wanted to report that Christ had said in effect “Neither are they now in a married state (because of previously performed weddings),” the Greek in which he wrote would have let him say so unambiguously. He would have used a perfect tense [gegamēkasin] or a participial form [gamēsas] of the verb. He did not, so that cannot be what he meant. Jesus said nothing about the married state of those who are in heaven. By using the present indicative form of the verb, Matthew reports Jesus as saying in effect “In the resurrection, there are no marriages performed.” Jesus goes on to compare those in the resurrection to the angels of God, for unlike mortals they will never die and, according to Jewish tradition, they do not need to eat. The key point is that, contrary to the misconceptions of the Sadducees, life in the resurrection will be different in many ways from life in mortality. (Jesus then goes on to make an additional argument in favor of the resurrection in the following verses.)
The main point of the passage is not to refute the Saducee's faulty beliefs about marriage in the resurrection, but moreso to demonstrate that their non-belief in a resurrection was faulty. Jesus quickly dismissed their question about marriage by saying that marriages are not performed in the resurrection and then launches into a masterful Old Testament case for belief in the resurrection.
Non-Latter-day Saint scholar Ben Witherington offers exegesis which agrees with Latter-day Saint understandings of this verse.
Latter-day Saint apologist and theologian Robert Boylan has great thoughts on this verse in a blogpost responding to Christadelphian critics.
Early Latter-day Saints did not see any difficulty in reconciling it to their views on eternal marriage: Jesus was talking about marriage for time, not eternity
Latter-day Saint scripture discussed it specifically:
- 15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
- 16 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.
- 17 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 forever and ever (DC 132:15-17) (emphasis added)
Joseph did not need to go back and correct the Bible each time he received a new revelation
So if the Doctrine and Covenants clarifies or corrects a teaching the Bible, then why didn't Joseph go back and correct the Bible as well? Because it simply wasn't necessary for him to continuously revise the Bible based upon new revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants, like the Book of Mormon, is considered to be scripture and an equal companion to the Bible. That is, after all, the purpose of receiving new scripture..
When Joseph Smith performed his inspired "translation" of the Bible, he clarified and revised a number of items. This was a continuous process that involved various portions of the Bible - it was not performed from "start to finish." He did not consider it necessary to revise the Bible every single time he received a new revelation.
- The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, CES Course Manual Religion 211-212, 21-8. (Quotes James Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 548 on this question.)
- Tvedtnes, John A., “A Much-Needed Book That Needs Much,” FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997), 33–42. (Explores the possible relevance of the apocryphal book of Tobit to the question as posed by the Sadducees.)
- Yarn, Jr., David H., “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Feb. 1986, ____. (Answers the question “Inasmuch as Latter-day Saints believe in marriage for eternity, how do we explain Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 22:29-30?”)
Charles W. Penrose (1911): Jesus "was speaking of the class of people to whom the Sadducees referred. Under the law of Moses marriage for eternity was not celebrated...the marriages under consideration were for time only"
Charles W. Penrose:
"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
Now, generally, when this matter is touched upon by persons who do not view the subject in the same light that we do, they simply quote this one verse: "For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." In reading the scriptures, whether the Old Testament or the New Testament, in order to understand them properly we should not take one isolated text, but read it in conjunction with the context, then we get the meaning of the writer or speaker. The Sadducees came to Jesus, as the Pharisees also did occasionally, tempting Him and trying to get Him into a tangle in His sayings; but they did not succeed; to use a modern popular expression, He generally "came out on top." The Pharisees, on this occasion, were very much elated when they found the Sadducees had been turned down, and they came and congratulated Jesus on His replies. Now, he was speaking of the class of people to whom the Sadducees referred. Under the law of Moses marriage for eternity was not celebrated, except at the exceptional times when the Melchizedek priesthood was given to men on the earth, which we can read about in the D&C, section 132. Therefore, the marriages under consideration were for time only, and those persons to whom Jesus Christ was referring, were, as we read in the 20th chapter of Luke, where the same subject is touched upon, "the children of this world," not the children of the kingdom.
"The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage."
Christ said further: "They are as the angels." What is the condition of the angels? According to the revelation that I have briefly referred to, they are those that are not worthy of that "far more and eternal, and exceeding weight of glory" that comes to those who obey the fulness of the gospel and receive the ordinances of the new and everlasting covenant, who are sealed for time and for all eternity on the earth, and their marriage is sealed in heaven. They, then, who are called "the angels," are "ministering spirits unto the heirs of salvation and exaltation." They are waiters upon those who are worthy of this "more exceeding weight of glory"--the exaltation that "continues the seeds forever and ever, wherein the Father is glorified ;" so that those who only obtain the position of the angels are not in the condition of those who obtain the greater blessing and exaltation. They come forth in the resurrection, according to that revelation to us, "in their saved condition, separately and singly ;" therefore, they are not numbered among the Gods, but among the angels, or those that minister unto and are messengers and servants of "the heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." Now, you take these two chapters, that I refer to, together, and I think the matter will be made very clear to your minds. Jesus did not say, as some people imagine He did, that there is no marriage after the resurrection. You can't find it anywhere. I do not say, this morning, that marriages are solemnized in the resurrection state, but I do say that marriages can be performed on the earth by representatives of those who have passed away; and that these, being sealed by the holy spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, both for time and for all eternity, having the keys thereof, will stand good forever, and those for whom they are performed will receive the full benefits and blessings thereof. I say again that what I have read to you and what there is in other parts of the scripture, concerning this subject, do not convey the idea that there is no such thing as marrying and giving in marriage after the resurrection. All these affairs, of course, are in the hands of Him who knoweth all things. Thank God, there is one great Supreme Judge, and many things that may be done here on the earth, in the flesh, or left undone and neglected, can and will be supplied by the supreme judge of all, when necessity requires, and those who are worthy to enter into this great exaltation will find that a plan is prepared and that God, who is the Great Judge, will put all things right that may have been done wrong here on the earth. Many things may be performed here in ignorance, or with lack of experience, but the Lord will make it all up, in the future, to those who are worthy of obtaining this great exaltation.
Now, I regret that there should be so many persons, eleven hundred persons, connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have not been able or have neglected to obtain the benefits of this sealing ordinance. These grand Temples that have been erected according to a divine pattern revealed from heaven, are for the benefit of this people. I am glad that we have four of them; I hope the time will come, and I have no doubt of it, when many more will be erected in different parts of this glorious land of Joseph, and even in other lands; when necessity requires they will be erected for the performance of ordinances for the living and for the dead, that the great work of the Millennium may go on, and the way be prepared for God to come and dwell among His people, and "wipe away all tears from their eyes." I would exhort my brethren and sisters who have influence among the people, particularly our brethren who are called to preside in the various wards and stakes of Zion, to instruct the Saints on these matters; instruct the fathers and mothers as well as the young people upon the blessings and benefits of obtaining a proper ordinance of marriage, which is not merely till death parts them, but which will extend beyond the grave. This is an ordinance that will enter into the world behind the veil: that will stand good and true before the Lord in the resurrection of the dead, when the man and the woman, separated by death, but who have been sealed by this sacred ordinance, shall come together again and stand at the head of their posterity; and all of their posterity who are worthy will enter into that grand patriarchal order of family government, and, as I have said, of the increase thereof there will be no end.
The Lord told Abraham about this matter when He showed him the stars by the gift and power of God, by which he could discern things something like God does Himself. Abraham beheld the multiplicity of worlds that the Father had created, as the Lord also showed Enoch. The Lord told Abraham that if he could count them, so he could count his seed; that his seed should be as numerous as the sands on the seashore, and as the stars of the heaven, for multitude. You cannot count them. The multiplicity of the posterity of those who enter into this grand order of family government, sealed on earth and sealed in heaven will go on forever, while the stars shine, while the throne of God endures; while the glory of God, which is intelligence, continues to scintillate and be manifested among the myriads and hosts that inhabit the eternal worlds. This opens up a subject too broad and wide for me to enter into fully this morning; but I draw the attention of my brethren and sisters to this grand and solemn ordinance that God has instituted--the everlasting covenant; and those who have the opportunity to enter into it, and do not are under condemnation. A stronger term is used in the revelation--"then are they damned." Why? Because the end of their increase comes at death; their power and dominion at the head of a family ends when the grave yawns to receive their mortal bodies. But those who obey these ordinances, in the spirit and power thereof, arise when the Lord shall call them; they will be "Christ's at His coming," and He will call their sleeping dust to life, and they will be joined together, not only the spirit and the body be reunited, but the happy parents will come together again, as "Adam and Eve will stand at the head of a multitude, quickened and raised from the dead." Teach this to the Saints, and if they will not receive it, then they will have to suffer the consequences. 
Joseph Fielding Smith (1941): "While the Church, as well as the world, would recognize that marriage while they are in the world, yet the fact remains that when they are dead the marriage comes to an end"
Joseph Fielding Smith:
While the Church, as well as the world, would recognize that marriage while they are in the world, yet the fact remains that when they are dead the marriage comes to an end.
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.
I take it that this has reference to those who have been just and honest and have been willing to keep other covenants and commandments the Lord has given them. They are members of the Church, but have not been willing to enter into this great and crowning covenant, if you please, which would exalt them to be the sons and daughters of God. And therefore, as I read further:
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 forever and ever.
Forever and ever! Think of it! It fills my heart with sadness when I see in the paper the name of a daughter or a son of members of this Church, and discover that she or he is going to have a ceremony and be married outside of the Temple of the Lord, because I realize what it means, that they are cutting themselves off from exaltation in the Kingdom of God.Now, again, the Lord continues, in this revelation, to say that if they are married by His word, then they shall pass on to the exaltation, and that exaltation is a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever. In other words, the family organization is intact throughout all eternity and there shall be eternal increase,--and that is the crowning glory, if you please, in the Kingdom of God. 
Joseph Fielding Smith (1951): Jesus "says unto those who are married for time only, and those who do not believe in marriage for eternity"
Joseph Fielding Smith:
I call your attention to the fact that the Lord said that he and his disciples did not belong to this world; the Sadducees did. To continue: "But they which shall be counted worthy to attain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage." ( See Matt. 22: 23-30. ) This is absolutely true.
And the Lord has revealed this same doctrine to the Church in the day in which we live. He says unto those who are married for time only, and those who do not believe in marriage for eternity:
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.
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 forever and ever. (D. & C. 132:16-17.)
So the Lord says those of that class, who may be worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven, shall be like the angels, and they remain separately and singly in eternity. 
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), 328–29
- Robert Boylan, "Response to a Christadelphian Critique of Mormon Theology," Scriptural Mormonism, March 16, 2017, https://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/2017/03/response-to-christadelphian-critique-of.html.
- Conference Report (April 1911), 33-35.
- Conference Report (April 1941), 37-38.
- Conference Report (October 1951), 119.