My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 49-50. The members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were gathering to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831 when these sections were revealed. Leman Copley had joined the Church of Jesus Christ, but he did not let go of all the teachings of his previous church, the Shakers or United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.
Some of the Shakers’ beliefs were completely opposite to the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ. One such belief was that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ had already taken place and that He had returned in the form of a woman, Ann Lee. The Shakers did not believe that baptism by water was essential, and they rejected marriage, believing that people should live in total celibacy for their entire life. Some of them did not believe in eating meat.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was concerned about the situation. He wanted to have a “more perfect understanding on the subject,” and he inquired of the Lord. His prayer was answered with the revelation that is now Section 49. This revelation was given through Joseph Smith to Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley on May 7, 1831, at Kirtland, Ohio. It refutes some of the basic concepts of the Shaker group. Rigdon, Pratt, and Copley took a copy of the revelation to the Shaker community that was located near Cleveland, Ohio). They read the entire revelation to the group, but the Shakers rejected it. The revelation contained God’s will concerning the Second Coming of Christ as well as counsel on other matters.
5 Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world for the redemption of the world, and have decreed that he that receiveth him shall be saved, and he that receiveth him not shall be damned.
6 And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand.
7 I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes (Doctrine and Covenants 49:5-7).
A few verses later, the revelation answered the questions about baptism, marriage, and eating meats. The revelation refuted all four basic concepts of the Shaker group.
12 Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus….
13 Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ… for the remission of sins….
14 And whoso doeth this shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of the hands of the elders of the church.
15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
17 And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.
18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance (Doctrine and Covenants 49:12-19).
While all these topics are essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ, this essay will be about marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage is fundamental to the plan of Heavenly Father for the eternal happiness of His children. Therefore, Satan is eager to create confusion about it. God ordains marriage between one man and one woman, and this is His pattern for marriage.
The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ enlarges our understanding of this pattern. In teaching the Nephites, Jacob taught, “For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none” (Jacob 2:27). Jacob then gave the reason why this is God’s pattern:
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things (Jacob 28-30).
The Lord’s pattern for marriage is one man and one woman – unless He gives a different commandment to increase the number of children being born. He gave the commandment for plural marriage in the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ, but the Saints were forced by the U.S. government to stop practicing it. The commandment is still in force, but members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not practice plural marriage and have not practiced it since 1890. Any members who practice plural marriage are excommunicated.
One may wonder why the Lord is so adamant about His pattern for marriage. The bottom line is that marriage between a man and a woman is essential Heavenly Father’s plan. He sent His sons and His daughters to this earth to gain physical bodies and experiences needed to develop the capacity to be like Him.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave two reasons why marriage between a man and a woman is essential: “Reason 1: The natures of male and female spirits complete and perfect each other, and therefore men and women are intended to progress together toward exaltation…. Reason 2: By divine design, both a man and a woman are needed to bring children into mortality and to provide the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children.” Elder Bednar expanded on his reasoning as follows:
By divine design, men and women are intended to progress together toward perfection and a fulness of glory. Because of their distinctive temperaments and capacities, males and females each bring to a marriage relationship unique perspectives and experiences. The man and the woman contribute differently but equally to a oneness and a unity that can be achieved in no other way. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other….
A home with a loving and loyal husband and wife is the supreme setting in which children can be reared in love and righteousness and in which the spiritual and physical needs of children can be met. Just as the unique characteristics of both males and females contribute to the completeness of a marriage relationship, so those same characteristics are vital to the rearing, nurturing, and teaching of children (“Marriage Is Essential to his Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006, 83-84).
We are created in the image of God, male and female. If only males or only females were necessary for His plan to function, Heavenly Father would not have created us as male and female. Therefore, both males and females are necessary, and marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God’s plan.