I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

“Why must one who has been married in the temple and divorced civilly be cleared by the First Presidency before he or she is permitted to go back to the temple?”

Elder Henry D. Taylor, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve First let me briefly review the policies of the Church with regard to temple recommends in cases of divorce.

While divorce or annulment proceedings are under way, a person may be issued or retain a temple recommend if a careful and searching interview shows that he or she is innocent of any serious wrongdoing in connection with the divorce or annulment and is otherwise worthy. When the divorce or annulment is final, however, a divorce clearance must be obtained from the First Presidency by the parties involved, if they were sealed to each other in the temple, before they may be permitted to continue temple attendance or receive a recommend. This also applies to individuals who have been divorced from a civil marriage if they have been endowed and previously sealed in the temple.

We see, then, that those who are divorced do not automatically lose their temple recommends finally and forever. Recommends are, however, withheld during the time between the final decree of divorce and the issuance of a divorce clearance by the First Presidency. There are good reasons for this.

Eternal marriage is a holy ordinance that is necessary to a man and a woman’s exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, or in other words, eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.) It is the gateway to salvation. The keys of this salvation are centered in Christ, who is the head of the Church; and in each dispensation when the fulness of the gospel has been present on the earth, he has delegated those keys to the one man, or succession of men, whom he raised up to lead his church. These keys of salvation were restored in this dispensation by the prophet Elijah (see D&C 110:13–16), and only one person, the president of the Church, holds the keys of the administration of sealing ordinances for the salvation of all men today (see D&C 132:7, 45–46).

These ordinances are most sacred, and so also are the surroundings in which they are performed. A prophet in our day has taught: “Our temples are the nearest place to heaven of any place here upon the earth.”

In general terms, and this is something that pertains to all of us, it is the Lord’s plan that no unrepentant sinner enter the temple, for the Lord has declared that he will not abide in temples that have been defiled by any unclean thing. (See D&C 97:15–19.) The President of the Church, President Spencer W. Kimball, is directly responsible to the Lord to see that the sacredness of the temples and the ordinances performed therein are maintained. I can assure you that President Kimball takes that stewardship most seriously.

Now, in terms of the divorced, there are many reasons for divorce. Certainly, many divorces do not result from moral or other serious transgressions. But some do. And even in some of these tragedies we know that many persons who take the serious step of divorce are the innocent victims, as it were, of a partner’s actions. So what is the divorce clearance? The divorce clearance procedure is simply the First Presidency’s way of determining the facts in each instance. This they recognize as their solemn duty. Perhaps, then, these considerations will outweigh any inconvenience brought about by a temporary loss of a temple recommend until the full particulars are known.

It is important for you to know that in the review of divorce clearance applications there is no prejudgment or assumption of unworthiness or guilt whatsoever; the circumstances are simply reviewed by those who have stewardship over the sealing power. Where there is no serious wrongdoing on the part of the applicant, and where he or she is otherwise worthy, clearances are granted.

Where, however, there is evidence of unfaithfulness, transgression, or disregard for the sacred character of the eternal marriage covenant, the repentance of those involved must be ensured before recommends can be issued. A prophet has declared that some transgressors cannot truly repent until they have been subjected to an appropriate Church court. (On a ward level this would be a bishops court. On a stake level this would be a high council court called by the stake president.) If disciplinary action is warranted, the penalties invoked should be in effect over a sufficiently long period of time to prove that repentance is genuine. This pattern, however, is a principle applied to all persons who seek entrance into the house of the Lord, not just to the divorced.

I get the impression from reading 1 Corinthians 7:7–9 that Paul was not married and was against marriage in general. How can his views be reconciled with the revealed truths of eternal marriage?

C. Wilfred Griggs, assistant professor of ancient scripture, Brigham Young University Many people believe that Paul was antagonistic toward marriage because of the passage, “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

“I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.

“But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Cor. 7:7–9.)

But this belief does not account for all the other statements that Paul made concerning marriage. Paul’s teachings, as recorded in letters that were sent to churches and saints in various stages of spiritual progression, reflect the character and experience of a man who understands family relationships and can speak with authority on the subject.

In the first place, Paul himself was likely to have been married because of his Judaic background. In his defense before the Jewish crowd outside the Roman barracks of the Antonian tower, Paul states that he was taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers and was zealous in living that law. (See Acts 22:3.) Again, in his defense before the Pharisees and Sadducees, Paul claims that he is a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. (See Acts 23:6.) To the Galatians, Paul had written that he was more zealous in fulfilling the requirements of his religion than others of his time. (See Gal. 1:14.) The emphasis that the Jews put on marriage as part of their law and tradition would certainly have been used against Paul in view of such statements if he had not been married. 1

Further evidence that Paul was married is found in the likelihood that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. One of the qualifications for becoming a member of that body was that a man must be married and the father of children, 2 which was thought to make him more merciful in dispensing justice in the courts. Paul (Saul) was one of the official witnesses of the stoning of Stephen (see Acts 7:58), an action ordered by the Sanhedrin. He also gave his vote with the Sanhedrin against the Christians prior to his conversion. (See Acts 26:10.) 3 Further evidence of Paul’s position is found in Acts 9:1–2 where Paul went before the high priest and requested letters authorizing his “official” persecution in bringing Christians to trial and imprisonment. In view of these evidences, most non-Mormon scholars do not argue that Paul had never been married, but that he was either divorced or was a widower by the time he wrote to the Corinthian church.

But let us take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 7 to see if the evidence supports this last conjecture. At the outset, Paul refers to a letter the Corinthians wrote to him: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” Although the King James Version does not make it clear who makes the statement, “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,” the Greek text and the Inspired Version both make this a statement of the Corinthians. We do not know the context of this statement, because we do not have the Corinthian epistle to Paul. The only context we can supply is Paul’s answer and, fortunately, that does give us some clue as to their problem. Paul wishes (see 1 Cor. 7:7) that all men were as he was. But what is that? Could it be that he wishes all men were divorced or that all had lost their companions in death, or does he simply wish that men would be so dedicated to the work of the Lord that they be as though single?

Evidence of the latter possibility can be found later in the chapter. In verses 10 and 11, [1 Cor. 7:10–11] Paul does not tell the married saints to become separated, but if they are separated, he suggests either that they remain that way rather than marry someone else or that they become reconciled. Paul even enjoins against separation in part-member families if the husband and wife are compatible (1 Cor. 7:12–14), because the member may someday be able to help save his spouse (see 1 Cor. 7:16). Some scholars conjecture that Paul was divorced as a result of a “mixed” marriage, but the Corinthians would have thrown this advice right back to him if such had been the case.

One reason Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning these matters is found in verse 29 [1 Cor. 7:29], where he states, “this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that … they that have wives be as though they had none.” He further states (1 Cor. 7:32) that the unmarried saints (and those who are as though unmarried) care for the things of the Lord, but too often a married person puts other things before the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:33). Paul is simply reminding those who have been called to God’s work to put that calling first, even before earthly matters.

In the Inspired Version, Joseph Smith made an important addition to 1 Corinthians 7:29 [1 Cor. 7:29] that supports this interpretation: “But I speak unto you who are called unto the ministry. For this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is but short, that ye shall be sent forth unto the ministry. Even they who have wives, shall be as though they had none; for ye are called and chosen to do the Lord’s work.” Contrary to generally accepted interpretations, Paul is not condemning marriage in this chapter but is evidently replying to a problem regarding missionaries who desire to become married. His advice is that while they are on their missions (and he declared that the time for missionary work is short) they should be concerned with the work of the Lord and not with family or personal matters.

Concerning the importance of marriage for a member of the church and the relationships of family members toward each other and the Lord, Paul exhorts the saints to be followers of himself, especially in the ordinances of the church. (See 1 Cor. 11:1–2.) He teaches that the husband is to honor the Lord as his head and the wife is to honor the husband as her head, and that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)

What sense would these statements make if they came from an unmarried man? In view of all that Paul has said on marriage in 1 Corinthians, it is quite unlikely that the Corinthians would accept his epistle and his arguments if he had been divorced or separated from a wife. The message of 2 Corinthians 7, [2 Cor. 7] however, is that the first epistle was accepted and many Saints repented.

It is evident from the frequency of Paul’s counsel on marriage and family that he placed great importance on the subject. Paul exhorts the women in the Ephesian branch of the church to submit themselves to their own husbands (literally, become subject or obedient to), as they would to the Lord, comparing the husband and the family to Christ and the Church. (See Eph. 5.) But he also charges the husbands to love their wives (see Eph. 5:25) as their Savior loved the church, so that they might sanctify and perfect their families through love. Paraphrasing one of the great commandments—to love one’s neighbor as oneself—Paul says, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” (Eph. 5:28.) A husband is not to rule as a tyrant over his wife but is to preside in love. (See Eph. 5:33.)

Paul’s letter to Philippi deserves special consideration in pursuing this subject. Philippi was the first European city in which Paul preached and was one of the most righteous branches of the church at that time of which we have record: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence. …” (Philip. 2:12.) During Paul’s missionary travels and while in prison at Rome, the Philippian church was the only one to remain in constant communication with him by courier, sending gifts and necessities to their beloved apostle. (See Philip. 4:15–18.) In his letter to this faithful group, Paul addresses some of the sisters: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

“And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women who laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers.” (Philip. 4:2–3; italics added.) Gnésie syzuge, the words translated “true yokefellow,” are here taken as feminine, and Hebrew characters is a noun that means “wife.” Ancient commentators believed that Paul was addressing his wife (e.g., Clement of Alex., Strom. 3:53:1, and Origen, Comm. in Ep. ad. Rom. 1:1), and this is the most sensible translation of the Greek in this context. If he were married at the time, one would expect Paul to leave his wife with a faithful group of saints, where she would least suffer from want and lack of support during his absence. Both her presence in Philippi and the love of the members there for Paul would account for the constant communication with the apostle, and, if this interpretation is true, it is natural that Paul would ask his wife to assist some of the women who had done so much on his behalf.

Finally, in Paul’s last epistles, which were written to Timothy and Titus, he places further emphasis on the desirability of marriage. In listing the qualities necessary for a bishop, Paul includes being married (see 1 Tim. 3:2) and being a good leader over his house: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5; cp. Titus 1:5–9). Even those called “deacons” in that day (the Greek literally means “one who serves” or a “helper”) were to be married and have orderly households. (See 1 Tim. 3:10–13.)

The evidence of Paul’s writings leads to the conclusion that he not only tolerated marriage among the saints, but encouraged and exhorted them to marry and bear children. He indicated that marriage is an essential part of the gospel framework, and asserted that one of the signs of apostasy in the last days would be teachings against marriage. (See 1 Tim. 4:1–3.) Certainly Jesus was foremost in importance to Paul, just as he should be in the hearts of men today, and on occasion Paul had to remind men called to the ministry to be fully dedicated to the Lord’s work. Nevertheless, Paul understood and taught that in the presence of the Lord, the man will not be without the woman, neither the woman without the man.

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Mishnah, Aboth 5:21, trans. H. Danby, p. 458. “At five years old (one is fit) for the scripture, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for (the fulfilling of) the commandments, at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the bride-chamber, at twenty for pursuing (a calling), at thirty for authority, at forty for discernment, at fifty for counsel, at sixty to be an elder, at seventy for grey hairs, at eighty for special strength. …” See also David Smith, Life and Letters of St. Paul, p. 30f.

  2.   2.

    Sanhedrin 36:2.

  3.   3.

    Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 59, 64. The Greek of Acts 26:10 is technical terminology, and literally means: “I cast my vote against them,” meaning that Paul voted for condemnation of the saints. Such language has reference to a formal court, and Paul would have to be a member of the Sanhedrin before he could cast his vote in a judicial proceeding.

“I have a particular talent that I am anxious to develop to the fullest. This will require a great deal of time and concentration in the coming years. The trouble is, Church duties also require a lot of time and effort. Is it necessary for me to sacrifice my talent to Church responsibilities and be satisfied with mediocrity?”

Merrill K. Bradshaw, professor of music and composer-in-residence, Brigham Young University Like most important questions, people have been asking this for many years. First, please recognize that in developing your talent you have not set your goals too high to be compatible with the Church. The Church has always encouraged us to develop our talents to the fullest degree. Your problem exists because you have set your sights too low. Let me explain:

A great talent is an awesome responsibility, involving far more than the mere refinement of technical skills—though that demands hours—far more than learning “repertoire” for recital programs. With great talent comes the responsibility to communicate the most profound spiritual matters through your medium in a way that people can understand. Someone has said, “You communicate what you are no matter how you try to communicate something else.” Even though this statement may be a bit overdrawn, it is certainly true that if you do not develop a profound spirituality, it is exceedingly difficult for you to communicate it.

If what I have just said is true, then there is no “sacrifice” of talent involved when you serve in the Church. Your purposes in developing your talent to the highest are served when you fill your Church callings in their highest sense. Conversely, as you become proficient in handling the technical requirements of your art, you also become a more effective tool for building the kingdom and edifying your fellowman.

One of the most productive periods in my own artistic development coincided with the four years I spent as bishop of a student ward. The spiritual impulse of that experience gave my artistic efforts a boost that still, many years later, energizes what I am trying to do. The difference between a Mormon artist and his worldly counterpart is to be found in spirituality, not mediocrity. If he is mediocre he is not an artist. If he is not spiritual, then he cannot be a Mormon artist.

This picture, of course, is the ideal; but it does not reduce the demands on your time. Developing a talent takes time. Developing a talent spiritually takes even more. This higher vision of what an artist is increases the challenge to you. Nevertheless, you will find that as you reconcile your artistic and spiritual development, the Lord will bless you greatly in your art as well as in the other aspects of your life.

Here are seven practical suggestions that I have found useful: (1) Always seek the Spirit in your artistic efforts and heed its promptings. Prayer and fasting can help solve artistic problems, too. (2) When involved in Church activity, always seek vigorously the spiritual objectives of the activity and learn to respond personally to that spirit. (3) Keep close to your spiritual leaders. Bishops and stake presidents have often been helpful to me when my priorities needed reordering. Asking their advice, especially when accepting a new calling, is always helpful. (4) Keep your eternal perspective. It would be a horrible thing on the day of judgment to find you had succeeded in developing your talent but lost your right to enter the celestial kingdom. It is not necessary to sacrifice either talent or spirituality: they will nourish each other if you will only let them. (5) Organize your time. A well-chosen plan can help you keep a wise balance. (6) Remember that you must communicate on many levels. Isolating yourself, especially in your attitudes toward those who do not share your talent, will estrange you from those you need most to edify. Most people have talents you do not share. (7) Give the Church a share of your talent—freely, humbly, thanking God for the gift he has given you. It is a great gift as well as an awesome responsibility, and he will bless you.