Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Adam and Eve and Full Partnership in Marriage

After God had created all the wonders of the Earth, his last creation was a man he called Adam. Because it was not good for man to be alone, God created a woman, Eve, to be, 'an help meet for him' (Moses 3:18):

And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and I took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof; And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said: This I know is 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 mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Moses 3:21-24).

In today's language, we might say that Eve was created to be 'an aid worthy of' or 'equal to' Adam, or more simply, Eve was created to be Adam's wife. This phrase, as well as many others throughout the creation passages especially, indicate the relationship of Adam and Eve was one of two corresponding parts of the same great whole. Eve is called a 'help meet' indicating her equality and similarity to Adam. A rib is used metaphorically to express how Adam and Eve fit together as if of one body. The oneness of man and woman, their cleaving to and caring for each other apart from the physical and spiritual support of parents again shows how men and women correspond to make what President Spencer W. Kimball taught is, 'a complete man, which is husband and wife' (Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 71).

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, modern prophets teach us that it is 'by divine design' that 'both a man and a woman are essential for bringing children into mortality and providing the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children.' A man is not physically complete without a woman, nor is a woman without a man.

Yet the completeness of a husband and wife goes far beyond the physical or procreative powers alone. A man is not spiritually complete without a woman, nor is a woman without a man (see Handbook 2: 1.3.1). The marriage covenants required for exaltation can only be accepted together (D&C 131:1-4). These are not arbitrarily imposed, but rather designed to guide us to become perfect or complete (see Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Through these covenants we become one and the same with our spouse in the eyes of God's law. Procreative acts may be the consummation of the marital covenant, but it is the covenant itself which welds our souls together.

The physical and spiritual unity of a husband and wife can create a depth of feeling beyond what we observe in any other relationship. Adam expressed the closeness he felt with Eve as if she were, "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh'. These feelings come as we leave behind our single lives and establish our marriages as the first priority. This requires cleaving to each other, which means our striving to keep the covenants we have made to God and each other will be more important than any other person or interest.

President Kimball taught that, "Even the children must take their proper but significant place" (Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 72). If we will dedicate the necessary time to building a healthy marriage, study after study has shown that a mother and father working together in love and unity will provide the best possible upbringing for their children. In fact, happily married couples are more productive in many aspects of their lives, not just parenting-- the interdependent whole is significantly more effective than the sum of its parts.

Understanding that a married man and women are two parts of one whole helps us see how seemingly selfish actions only damage ourselves as we indirectly attack our own souls. Unfortunately, too many only realize the depth of their spiritual connection with their spouse when it has been severed. Worse than the pain of losing an arm or a leg, divorce is a dismemberment for which there is no medication or prosthesis. Just as none of us are able to regrow a limb or even a hair of our heads without our Father in Heaven, healing after (or hopefully before) divorce can only come through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Our first parents provided an example of a marriage that was the full partnership God intends every marriage to be. After being driven from the Garden of Eden, not unlike the way many of us eventually move away from the free rent and food of our parents' homes, Adam, 'began to till the earth... and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow... And Eve... did labor with him' (Moses 5:1).

Elder Marion G. Romney referenced this passage when he said, 'The word with... is very significant. It means more than physical labor. It connotates a common purpose, understanding, cooperation and love.' He continued, 'Even when circumstances justify a wife's working away from home to support her family, she should be laboring 'with', not on her own nor in conflict with her husband... In Latter-day Saint families the husband and wife must be one' (Relief Society Magazine, Feb. 1968, pp. 85-86).

Adam and Eve worked together, prayed and worshiped together, sacrificed together, taught their children the gospel together, and mourned over wayward children together (see Moses 5:1, 4, 12, 27). They were united with each other and with God.

 The Family: A Proclamation to the World includes this guidance:

Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

Despite our different roles at times, husbands and wives can enjoy full partnership with their spouse when they take care to work with each other rather than merely working near each other. We must pray together, respect each other, forgive each other and have fun together.

A full partnership means we will always have a friend with whom we can frequently counsel about the decisions and activities of our family. It means having someone by your side as you approach the Lord with your questions. It means having a therapist when you're struggling to learn and grow, a copilot when there's a long drive ahead and someone to laugh with you when you just can't hold it in any longer.

We will experience the greatest happiness in marriage when we are willing to commit all we have and are to the fidelity and success of our marriage covenants. That is, we will experience the greatest happiness in marriage when we are willing to commit all we have and are to the happiness of our spouse.

Adam and Eve, as man and wife, were unified physically and spiritually. They worked together in full partnership, progressed together down the path of life, and were recognized in the eyes of the Lord as one.

As with our first parents, so it may be with us. Each of us may become perfect or complete as we, having already become one with Christ through baptism, join ourselves by covenant to a man or woman with whom we correspond and fit together. Most often we will choose to share a common name as an outward symbol of our inward covenant. Then, working together in full partnership and having our covenants sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, we may find joy in this life and exaltation in the world to come.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Olive Trees and World History

If you've read the Book of Mormon, you've read the Allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5. Referencing the scattering and gathering of Israel, this chapter tells the story of an olive tree whose natural branches are spread throughout the vineyard and then brought back to preserve the life of the tree.

Through symbolism and metaphor we see the fall of ancient Israel, the rise and fall of people like the Nephites and Lamanites, the rise of the gentiles to save the covenants of Israel, the great efforts to gather Israel in the last days, the triumph of the righteous over the wicked, the Millennial reign and the end of the world. There are many more lessons as we observe the relationship of the Lord of the Vineyard (God) with his servants (the prophets), the essential role each of us play in our own time and the tireless efforts of the Lord to save and preserve each of us.

As mentioned in a recent post, one interesting detail of the allegory is the way the Millennium is ushered in. It does not say that there would be a large cleansing of the Earth at Christ's Second Coming, as I have always imagined. Rather it says the natural branches of the house of Israel will be reintroduced. As a reference, remember fruit symbolizes the lives and actions of individuals, roots are the covenants God makes with faithful men and women, and the vineyard is the earth:

And if it be so that these last grafts shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them that they may grow. And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard (v. 64-65).

In other words, evil will be defeated piece by piece, group by group, person by person. It will be 'plucked', rather than 'chainsawed' or 'mowed', to make room for a growing amount of goodness and righteousness. Though Christ's presence will greatly enhance the work of his servants, the work will still need to be done.

Anyone who has been ordained to the priesthood has been called to start that work today. We are asked to strengthen both root and branch and usher in a time when all people of the whole earth will choose to be righteous. If we are faithful, we will one day find ourselves gathered together with the Lord when he will say:

Blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard (v. 75).

I want to be in that meeting. As each of us strives to keep the Lord's commandments and rescue those in our stewardship, beginning with our own families and those we home teach, I hope we will be able to see each other there and rejoice together in the bounty of the final harvest.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

As the Waters Cover the Sea

The scriptures teach that 'the time cometh speedily' when 'the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power and great glory' (1 Nephi 22:24-26). Millions of the faithful anxiously wait for this glorious second coming of the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ. It is certain He will come.

Far less certain, however, is what will happen after He does. Part of this is likely by design, for 'my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord' (Isaiah 55:8). For what it's worth, there are dozens of clues in the scriptures that begin to paint a picture of what life would be like after Christ comes again.

John wrote that the faithful would live with Christ a thousand years after His second coming (Revelation 20:4). Isaiah explained that Christ, 'will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go for the law... And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares' (Isaiah 2:3-4).

The very mention of Zion points our minds to the example of the City of Enoch, which was transfigured for its righteousness. That flourishing city was called 'Zion' because, 'they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them' (Moses 7:18). We often connect the law of consecration with both mentions of Zion, and rightly so, because 'Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom' (D&C 105:5).

As unfathomable as it is, Millennial Zion sounds like a dramatic transformation from much of the world around us. Yet, it is important to remember that none of this will 'just happen'.

Joseph Smith taught, 'When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy' (D&C 130:1-2).

In other words, we're not going to automatically transform into wonderful people just because Christ has come again. We must be striving now to be the kind of people that would exist in Zion. We can take comfort in knowing that the laws of the gospel provide a foundation for eternal growth and progress.

Baptismal covenants allow us to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, becoming unified with him and justified with the law through His grace. Sanctification comes through the Holy Ghost by virtue of the Atonement. Together, these principles allow us to live in the eternal glory of the Millennial reign of Christ.

For Zion, the eternal nature of the gospel means that all things must be done of our own free will. The Lord will never take our agency from us. Consecration becomes much less a 'perfected socialism' in this light, as some describe it, and much more a natural result of people seeking to contribute to the interdependent progress of the whole. Call it 'capitalism with a heart'. Call it the baptized economy. Call it a small government monarchy. Whatever you call it, compulsion will not be a part of it.

Our motivation will instead come from knowledge, 'for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea... Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time' (2 Nephi 30:16-18). So the truth will make us free from the power of Satan and we will choose to be Christ-like because we will understand perfectly what that is, how it looks and how it changes the quality of our lives.

Sadly, this will not last forever. Millennial Zion will suffer the same fate as the Zion of the Americas after the visitation of Christ. After hundreds of years of peace and prosperity following the coming of Christ, some of the ancient American people began to be prideful. As pride entered their hearts, the devil again had power to persuade them to false teachings, vain ambitions and secret combinations. As with the ancient Americans, so will the people of the Millennium choose to abandon the peace and prosperity of an interdependent society in pursuit of selfish gains and pleasures.

The difference is that the end of Millennial Zion will mark the end of the world:

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you that when the thousand years are ended, and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth but for a little season; And the end shall come, and heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away... But behold, verily, I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth-- yea, even all. And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father; Wherefore I will say unto them-- Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

We all know what side we want to stand on when the people of the earth go their separate ways. If we will have the same sociality in the Millennium as we do now, is there anything you or I should change before the Savior comes again? If knowledge of the Lord can bind Satan for a thousand years, can we push Satan's influence out of our lives with faithful scripture study and prayer? If baptismal covenants allow us to abide eternal glory, shouldn't we make absolutely certain that we are keeping those covenants?

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will come again. As we become acquainted with his voice, learn of Him and strive to become unified with him, we will be prepared to meet him and to become an active citizen in Millennial Zion.