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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Beautifully Misaligned

First, an announcement:

New Instagram Account!

Approximately six months ago, I announced the creation of a Facebook group (here) where we could discuss the concepts mentioned on this blog, as well as the works of a friend of mine, John Pontius. In those six months, almost 1,700 people have subscribed to the group, which steadfastly focuses on one topic and one topic only: developing a deeper, closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today, I’m proud to say that we’ve created an Instagram page, where these concepts can be shared in picture format. With 60% of Instagram users age 18 to 29, I see Instagram as a terrific means to instill in younger demographics a deeper understanding, love and relationship with Jesus. Please follow it today by clicking here, or the permanent Instagram icon on the LDS Perfect Day blog page.

Eternal Triads Gone Wrong

Of all the relationships that exist on the earth, none are more important in the eternities than the ones which connect Jesus Christ with husbands and wives. As a healthy, functioning triad (where Christ is at the top and the husband and wife are at the bottom, and all three are connected), families can be raised and reared in the gospel of Jesus Christ and, ultimately, ascend to lofty, exalted spheres. In fact, the theory is that the closer the wife and husband are to Christ, the smaller the triangle, and hence both grow closer to Christ.
"The Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point in a covenant marriage relationship. Please notice how the Savior is positioned at the apex of this triangle, with a woman at the base of one corner and a man at the base of the other corner. Now consider what happens in the relationship between the man and the woman as they individually and steadily “come unto Christ” and strive to be “perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32). Because of, and through, the Redeemer the man and the woman come closer together." (Elder David A. Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan”, Ensign, 2006).
Unfortunately, not everything on earth works out the way we planned. Our fairy tale endings can take unexpected twists and turns, sometimes tragically, and dash whatever hopes we had for eternal bliss. For example:
  1. A spouse is misaligned with their spouse in terms of interests, values and beliefs. You may prefer a spiritual development podcast, and they may prefer video games.
  2. Both spouses stay in the marriage, but one or both are not in love with another.
  3. One or both spouses are abusive, neglectful or have spiritually harmful habits which conflict with the values expected in a son or daughter of God.
  4. You are divorced or single.
Whatever the reason, one or both parties in the bottom of this triad may feel frustrated, hurt, betrayed as well as helpless and hopeless that, because of their misaligned (or unaligned) spousal status, they, too, will never attain the heavenly happiness they yearn and long for.

But is God content with one or both spouses living in eternal torment? For example, if one spouse is hell bent on being abusive, doing porn or drugs, does that mean you’re stuck with said spouse forever, even though you may have been sealed in a temple for time and eternity?

I don’t think so.

The Holy Spirit of Promise

Temple marriage is initially provisional, waiting for obedience to make it “more sure.” We read in D&C 132:7:
“And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”
Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith stated,
“To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done.
The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive the divine approbation. They ‘are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.’ (D&C 76:53) If they are not just and true and worthy the ratifying seal is withheld.
When any ordinance or contract is sealed by the Spirit, it is approved with a promise of reward, provided unrighteousness does not thereafter break the seal, remove the ratifying approval, and cause loss of the promised blessing" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 55; vol. 2, pp. 94–99).
And Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
“These principles also apply to every other ordinance and performance in the Church. Thus if both parties are ‘just and true,’ if they are worthy, a ratifying seal is placed on their temple marriage; if they are unworthy, they are not justified by the Spirit and the ratification of the Holy Ghost is withheld. Subsequent worthiness will put the seal in force, and unrighteousness will break any seal” (Mormon Doctrine, 361–62).
Note that Elder McConkie said “if both parties are ‘just and true’”. That’s because exaltation is predicated upon individual obedience. President Howard W. Hunter stated,
“… While it is true that worthy couples will obtain exaltation in the celestial kingdom, each man and each woman sealed in an eternal relationship must be individually worthy of that blessing” ("This Church is for All People”, Ensign, June 1989, p. 76).
The Holy Spirit of Promise cannot violate one’s agency. If one party refuses, or is uncomfortable, with the prospect of eternal sealing to another, no one is going to hold a spiritual gun to their head and say, “Sorry! You made your choice so you’re out of luck!” Here’s Pres. Smith again:
“The Lord does not desire that the people should suffer. He is pained when a man does wrong and needs to be punished and fails to receive the crown or reward that is offered to those who are faithful and true. The Lord would have every man receive a crown, every man become exalted, every man become a son, and every woman become a daughter unto him. But this cannot be done, except on principles of righteousness and free agency.
Therefore, every soul has the right to choose for himself that which he will do. This is the gospel of merit. Every man shall receive that which he is entitled to receive. Every soul shall be blessed according to the diligence, willingness, and integrity put forth in the service of the Lord. The man who will not keep his commandments, the Lord will not exalt. The woman who rejects the light and refuses to abide by the doctrines of our Redeemer shall not be exalted. Those who will be exalted shall be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal life in the presence of our Father” (Doctrines of Salvation, p. 246).
And here’s Pres. Brigham Young:
"If a woman is sealed to me and she wants to be divorced, she has a right to and I am under no obligation. Is not that agency all around? We have the privilege of being sealed or released" (Discourse given March 12, 1848, in "Complete Discourses," 1:276).

The Destiny of the Misaligned

So, we have a choice -- “agency”.

It’s what we do with that agency that determines our eventual eternal fate.

In my opinion, if one is married and sealed in a temple of God, they should do all in their power to uphold the integrity of that marriage. This can be very challenging, because the Devil will exaggerate your mate’s failures and inadequacies, sow suspicion and jealousy, get you to indulge in self-pity, insist that you deserve something better, and hold out the hollow promise that things would be better with someone else. Luckily, God can change hearts and remove all hardness, if we will cast all our burdens upon Him (see here).

Yet God cannot violate one’s agency. Thus, in some cases, courses cannot be corrected. If one of the spouses refuses to try to make the marriage work, and would rather prioritize something else above the importance and sanctity of the marriage, then they have in effect turned their back on the covenants they made with God.

Pres. Smith addressed this scenario (when one yearns for salvation, and their spouse doesn’t):
“If a man and his wife are saved in separate kingdoms, for instance, the celestial and terrestrial, automatically the sealing is broken; it is broken because of the sins of one of the parties. No one can be deprived of exaltation who remains faithful. In other words, an undeserving husband cannot prevent a faithful wife from an exaltation and vice versa. In this case the faithful servant would be given to someone who is faithful” (Doctrines of Salvation, p. 260; emphasis mine).
Thus we see that, for example, if a husband is destined for terrestial glory, and the wife is destined for celestial glory, the wife is not automatically tied to their husband and “going terrestial”. This is because the seal (of righteousness) was broken by the husband. Yet the seal (of righteousness) is still in full force with the wife.

OK, so let’s say hypothetically, both former spouses are headed different eternal directions. What becomes of the righteous one?
“In the revelation that has come thru Joseph Smith, we learn that it is the eternal purpose of God that man and woman should be joined together by the power of God here on earth for time and eternity.
If a man and woman should be joined together who are incompatible to each other, it would be a mercy to them to be separated that they might have a chance to find other spirits that will be congenial to them. We may bind on earth and it will be bound in Heaven, and loose on earth and it will be loosed in Heaven" (President Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference. Dec. 20, 1914; James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:330-331; emphasis mine).

The Destiny of the Unaligned

I don't think God wants anyone to live this mortal life unhappy.

Yet in our society, (oh how do I put it?)...”stuff” happens”. People can be in marital bliss one year, and single the next. They can also remain single throughout adulthood.

So in order to help those who are single feel a little better, people often say one of at least three things:

  1. "You just gotta have faith, deary!" or "Just say your prayers, read your scriptures and keep your temple recommend active, and it'll get better" -- I think all too often, we Mormons adopt a formulaic response to unfortunate situations. "If you do A+B+C, then you'll be happy again!" I wish life were that easy, but for many, it's just not that simple. For some, they're doing all these things and more, and their situations are staying the same, if not worsening.
  2. "Oh well, the Lord will provide/straighten it out." While these are nice expressions, and are technically true, they are also perceived as abstract and, because they lack specificity, they do little to effectively assuage concerns.
  3. "God loves you/knows your heart". These are also perceived as givens. Of course God loves us. Of course God knows our hearts. Because these are facts most of us have known since childhood, they also lack the ability to effectively resolve their worries that they are forever trapped in these situations.

In my opinion, abstract niceties are nice, but they don’t provide the solidity, the sureness, which so many singles search for.

Luckily, the Lord does provide a ram in the thicket.

My best friend in high school went on a mission. Afterwards, he married a nice girl from a foreign country. Over the years, cracks formed in their marriage. Although he tried really hard to save the marriage and stayed true to his temple covenants, the marriage unfortunately ended in divorce. A few years later, he met a woman from a neighboring city. They dated and got married. He told me later, “It took me a while, but I finally found the woman I want to spend eternity with.” Sure enough, I occasionally check out their Facebook profiles and they are still acting like newlyweds. I asked him once if they’re really that happy. His response. “Nope. We’re happier!”

So sometimes, here on earth, we have to wade through the waters of darkness and despair so we can better appreciate the scenic shores of happiness. Others aren’t so fortunate, and must await happiness at a later date.

Thus, no righteous person will be denied any blessings which come from God. President Spencer W. Kimball said this most eloquently:
“I am aware of some … who seemingly have not been successful in total fulfillment. Some have been on missions; some have completed their education. And yet they have passed the period of their greatest opportunity for marriage. The time has passed, and while still attractive and desirable and efficient, they find themselves alone. 
To [the large group of young men and women in this category] we say this: You are making a great contribution to the world as you serve your families and the Church. … You must remember that the Lord loves you and the Church loves you. … We have no control over the heartbeats or the affections of men [or women], but pray that you may find fulfillment. And in the meantime, we promise you that insofar as eternity is concerned, no soul will be deprived of rich and high and eternal blessings for anything which that person could not help, that the Lord never fails in his promises, and that every righteous person will receive eventually all to which the person is entitled and which he or she has not forfeited through any fault of his or her own” (“The Importance of Celestial Marriage”, Ensign, Oct. 1979, p. 5).
President Lorenzo Snow:
“There is no Latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. In other words, if a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation, and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it. That is sure and positive” (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p. 138).
President Harold B. Lee:
"You young women advancing in years who have not yet accepted a proposal of marriage, if you make yourselves worthy and ready to go to the House of the Lord and have faith in this sacred principle, even though the privilege of marriage does not come to you now, the Lord will reward you in due time and no blessing will be denied you. You are not under obligation to accept a proposal from some one unworthy of you for fear you will fail of your blessings." ("Youth and the Church" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company), 1955, p. 132)
President Joseph Fielding Smith:
"You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel the gospel is true and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord, and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now, the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed, for no blessing shall be withheld." ("Elijah the Prophet and His Mission" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company), 1957, p. 51)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"I am perfectly aware that there are people who did not have the opportunity [of celestial marriage] but who would have lived the law had the opportunity been afforded. Those individuals will be judged in the providences and mercy of a gracious God according to the intents and desires of their hearts. That is the principle of salvation and exaltation for the dead." ("Celestial Marriage," The New Era, June 1978, p. 17)
President Spencer W. Kimball:
“We appreciate the faithful and devoted single sisters who do not yet enjoy a fulness of family life. The Lord loves you, for you are some of the most noble spirits of our Father in Heaven. If you continue faithful and true, no eternal blessing will one day be denied you.” (“Learn—Then Teach,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 102)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
"Through the merciful plan of our Father in Heaven, persons who desire to do what is right but through no fault of their own are unable to have an eternal marriage in mortal life will have an opportunity to qualify for eternal life in a period following mortality, if they keep the commandments of God and are true to their baptismal and other covenants."  (See Lorenzo Snow, Millennial Star, 31 August 1899, page 547; discussed in Dallin H. Oaks, Pure in Heart (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft), 1988, p. 61–62)
President Ezra Taft Benson:
"I also recognize that not all women in the Church will have an opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality.  But if those of you in this situation are worthy and endure faithfully, you can be assured of all blessings from a kind and loving Heavenly Father--and I emphasize all blessings.  I assure you that if you have to wait even until the next life to be blessed with a choice companion, God will surely compensate you.  Time is numbered only to man. God has your eternal perspective in mind." (“To The Single Sisters of the Church”, Ensign, November 1988, p. 96)
Elder Richard G. Scott:
“If you are single and haven’t identified a solid prospect for celestial marriage, live for it. Pray for it. Expect it in the timetable of the Lord. Do not compromise your standards in any way that would rule out that blessing on this or the other side of the veil. The Lord knows the intent of your heart. His prophets have stated that you will have that blessing as you consistently live to qualify for it” (“Receive the Temple Blessings” Ensign, May 1999, p. 27)
Elder James E. Faust:
"The prophets of the Lord have repeatedly promised that no blessing will be denied to the righteous single sisters of the Church if, through no fault of their own, they have not been married in this life and sealed to a worthy priesthood holder. They will be able to enjoy that blessing forever in the next world. On occasions when you ache for that acceptance and affection which belong to family life on earth, please know that our Father in Heaven is aware of your anguish, and that one day he will bless you beyond your capacity to express"  (“You Are All Heaven Sent,” Ensign, Nov 2002, p. 110).
Elder L. Tom Perry:
“… Everyone in the Church who is on the straight and narrow path, who is striving and struggling and desiring to do what is right, though [he] is far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he’s on the straight and narrow, he’s going to go on to eternal reward in his Father’s kingdom” (The Probationary Test of Mortality, devotional address, Salt Lake Institute of Religion, Jan. 10, 1982, p. 8–9).

Anticipating Ascension

As I interact with many on this blog’s Facebook page, I am awed by those I meet and become friends with who, of no fault of their own, are forced to walk life’s paths while being Beautifully Misaligned or Beautifully Unaligned. Yes, they absolutely cry a lot, are lonely and miss the companionship they rightfully deserve.

Yet these people are my mortal heroes. Not only because they have descended to depths I can’t comprehend, but also because they will one day ascend to heights I can’t comprehend as well.
"Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent: When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt." (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, "Restore My Soul" [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17; also see here).
And even though they have been abandoned to a certain extent, and even though it’s difficult (if not impossible) to adequately understand why they’ve been placed in certain experiences here on earth, they do not abandon God.

Perhaps Elder Neal A. Maxwell gets us close to the actual reason why. As he eloquently opined, the trials you are expected to endure here on earth serve a far weightier purpose for you, as a future god or goddess, future heavenly father or mother, in the eternities:
“God seeks to give us tutoring experiences so that, if we are submissive, we will have our own first-hand experiences to refer to in the eternities to come. We will have authentic, personal knowledge upon which to rely, not merely accurate abstractions. Since experiential knowledge is etched deeply into our souls, it is not so easily forgotten” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine”, p. 98).
Finally, I leave you with this poem…

My life is but a weaving,
Between my God and me.
I do not choose the colors,
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride;
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not 'til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why...
The dark threads are as needful
In the skillful Weaver's hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
("The Weaver," in Book of Poetry, ed. Al Bryant 
[New York: Zondervan Publishing House, 1968])

...and a song.