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Dear Gramps,

I have question regarding Luke 16:18  “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

Gramps please help me to understand.  Does it means that a single lady cannot marry a divorced guy? Why lot of mormons remarried? Thank you. I appreciate your reply.

Hazel

 

Answer

 

Dear Hazel,

Jesus attempted to restore to the Jews a law higher than that which they had received from Moses. Jesus places this teaching on marriage and divorce quite comfortably in the sermon on the mount.

“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).

You’ll note that this was repeated to the Nephites (3 Nephi 12:31-32). Fortunately, the Pharisees caught wind of this new teaching and prompted Jesus to clarify. This doctrine – divorce only when there’s adultery, else subsequent marriages are adultery – is better understood in light of the ideal. And for that we turn to the archetypal marriage of Adam and Eve.

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

 

“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:3-6).

Birth introduces a new life into the world, with the infant naturally bonded to his or her mother. Marriage introduces a new whole to the world, with the husband and wife bound by covenant more firmly than the blood relations they bore before. And since marriage was introduced in the Garden of Eden, before death entered into the world, it was to be insoluble. Paul takes this a step farther. Marital union is such that infidelity is not just a sin against marriage, but against self:

“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

So the ideal was introduced in Eden, but here we find ourselves in a world where bodies become ill and die, and marriages are sometimes infected with adultery. In such cases, Jesus taught, the faithful spouse may divorce (note that it is not a requirement – the husband and wife may choose to continue to invite the Lord to breathe life into their damaged marriage). In this case, divorce is the formality finalizing legally the “dividing asunder” that was already performed through infidelity. The Hebrew word for divorce (כְּרִיתוּת – kᵉrîythûwth) is based on a similar word (כָּרַת – kârath) meaning “to cut, cut off, cut down, cut off a body part, cut out, eliminate, kill”. As C.S. Lewis describes it,

“[Christian churches] regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment. What they all disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners, to be made whenever people feel they are no longer in love with one another, or when either of them falls in love with someone else” (Mere Christianity, Book 3, chapter 6 “Christian Marriage”).

But even this is not the reality we’re seeing. As you note, Jesus taught that those who marry divorcees commit adultery, and yet the modern Church invites them to activities for singles so they may date, court, and marry. The Pharisees noted something similar.

“They say unto him, [If we aren’t supposed to divide asunder what God hath joined, w]hy did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

 

“He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:7-8).

Jesus once again reaffirms the ideal (“from the beginning”) while acknowledging the shimmed policy that accounted for their weakness (“because of the hardness of your hearts”).

The restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had portions of this higher law revealed and restored in our day. That is, those caught violating the marriage covenant are subject to Church discipline.

“Behold, verily I say unto you, that whatever persons among you, having put away their companions for the cause of fornication, or in other words, if they shall testify before you in all lowliness of heart that this is the case, ye shall not cast them out from among you; But if ye shall find that any persons have left their companions for the sake of adultery, and they themselves are the offenders, and their companions are living, they shall be cast out from among you” (D&C 42:74-75).

What is not explained here is the consequence of marrying someone who has been divorced, either because of infidelity or for falling out of love or any other reason. Elder McConkie commented on the higher law the Savior taught His disciples and how it applies today:

“This strict law governing divorce … [p]resumably … prevailed among [the Nephites] during the near two-hundred year period following [Christ’s] ministry on the American continent. We can suppose it prevailed in the City of Enoch and that it will be the law during the millennium. It may have been in force at various times and among various people but the Church is not bound by it today. At this time divorces are permitted in the Church for a number of reasons other than sex immorality, and divorced persons are permitted to marry again and enjoy all of the blessings of the gospel” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, pages 548-549).

So the short answer to your questions is that a single sister may marry a divorced guy (in the temple even!). And some Mormons remarry after divorce because we have not been held to a higher standard. Nonetheless, the ideal is still taught as it was by Jesus. Modern apostles have given us a pattern for marriage and family in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. These apostles teach that while divorce is sometimes necessary because of the realities of this world, the realities of divorce are much worse than this world often recognizes. In 2007, Elder Oaks reaffirmed Elder McConkie’s comments cited above, spoke of the necessity of divorce (in some cases) coupled with the healing power of the Atonement, and also the need to heal our marriages (in many cases) (Divorce, April 2007 General Conference). Even more recently, President Uchtdorf has encouraged us to revalue and revitalize our marriages (In Praise of Those Who Save, April 2016 General Conference). Marriage and families, he taught, “are the order of heaven. They are an echo of a celestial pattern and an emulation of God’s eternal family.”

 

Gramps

 

 

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