Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Seven Deadly Heresies, Part Three (Celestial Marriage)

Part three in our seven part series taken from Elder McConkie's famous talk, The Seven Deadly Heresies, covers the doctrine of Celestial Marriage. The Seven Deadly Heresies can be accessed here. Elder McConkie continues:

Heresy three: There are those who say that temple marriage assures us of an eventual exaltation. Some have supposed that couples married in the temple who commit all manner of sin, and who then pay the penalty, will gain their exaltation eventually.

This notion is contrary to the whole system and plan that the Lord has ordained, a system under which we are privileged to work out our salvation with fear and trembling before him. If we believe and obey, if we enter the waters of baptism and make solemn covenants with the Lord to keep his commandments, we thereby get on a strait and narrow path that leads from the gate of repentance and baptism to a reward that is called eternal life. And if we traverse the length of the path going upward and forward and onward, keeping the commandments, loving the Lord, and doing all that we ought to do, eventually we will be inheritors of that reward.

And in exactly and precisely the same sense, celestial marriage is a gate that puts us on a path leading to exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is in that highest realm of glory and dignity and honor hereafter that the family unit continues. Those who inherit a place in the highest heaven receive the reward that is named eternal life. Baptism is a gate; celestial marriage is a gate. When we get on the paths of which I speak, we are then obligated to keep the commandments. My suggestion in this field is that you go to the temple and listen to a ceremony of celestial marriage, paying particular and especial attention to the words, and learn what the promises are that are given. And you will learn that all of the promises given are conditioned upon subsequent compliance with all of the terms and conditions of that order of matrimony.

Unlike some of the previous heresies listed by Elder McConkie, I feel that he is right on with this one. The culture within the church has sometimes propagated, among other things, the idea that once one is sealed in the temple that the have essentially already received their place in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. A closer reading of D&C 132:19 will clear up this point.

"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word (celestial marriage in the temple), which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection..."

In other words, if one is married in the temple and that marriage is sealed by the Holy Ghost and by the proper priesthood holder, then the promise of eternal life is guaranteed. These individuals have there calling and election made sure and have a knowledge in this life that they will attain that highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, even in this life, with the exception of committing the unpardonable sin and shedding innocent blood. That knowledge is described as having the more sure word of prophecy, which according to the Prophet is knowing that one is sealed up unto eternal life (D&C 131:5). See also Mosiah 26:20.

Like baptism, the celestial marriage covenant is conditional upon our faithfulness. When we have done enough to fulfill out part of the covenant, then the Lord is bound to fulfill his, which is to say, "Thou shalt have eternal life" and receive the Second Comforter.


Andrew said...

Hans, I've been reading your blog entries and thought I would chime in on this one.

There are few promises or gifts from the Lord that do not require a constant effort on our part. I'm happy to say that it's been my experience that many (if not most) members seem to have a firm grasp on this concept. To me, this heresy as decribed by Elder McConkie is not much different than those of other faiths who preach that in order to be saved you must simply utter the phrase that Jesus is Lord. It's as if they have ignored all other scripture! How gross an interpretation of the scriptures it is to think that salvation is that easy.

Hans said...

Hi Andrew,

I agree that this seems to be not too much of a problem in the church now and it may from talks such as this and books like Robinson's "Believing Christ" have really reinforced the point. I don't know a member who would respond to the whole "grace" argument without saying, "after all we can do".

I still like Elder Holland's talk to Mission Presidents in 2000 where he goes into detail about why missionary work and life is difficult. I believe that this talk was published later in the Ensign but that parts were edited because he is pretty harsh on cheap grace. Our mission president let us make a copy because it really is a great talk. I'll see if I can find where it's at.

Andrew said...

That's funny, I was thinking of the exact same talk by Elder Holland when I was reading your post. He gave a very similar talk to us in Plovdiv when he came to visit (I don't remember if you were able to attend that meeting).

I think this is the talk you're thinking about:

I vividly remember this part:

"I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price."

Hans said...

Touche, I am glad you found that. I need to dig the tape out and listen to that because the power he uses in that section is great.

Was this the substance of the talk he gave when the dedicated the building in Plovdiv and we were in Haskovo? If I remember correctly, there was a missionary only meetingas well? I think I remember that Elder Holland didn't know that the top part of the pulpit wasn't nailed down and he almost fell over.

Jeremy said...

What a great quote by Holland! I wish more GA's would be more blunt about matters of import.

I must say, that I have always felt that way, though. I remember my Father telling me before my mission that the subsequent 2 years would make me happier than I had ever been before, but also bring me the most pain. He was very right.

I distinctly recall once leaving a part-member family home and almost completely breaking down because of the animosity that the non-member part had against the Church. I am not an emotional guy, and I surprised myself at how distraught I actually felt deep inside.