The court battles around same-sex marriage are plastered all over the news. The prevailing attitude of the world seems to be “just get with the times and accept same-sex marriage.” When churches remain steadfast in their defense of traditional marriage, they are accused of being lacking in compassion, “out-dated” and “out of touch with the modern times.” Amid the political uproar stands traditional marriage in its simple beauty and profound power. You can’t see the power of a strong wind, but you can just see and feel the effects of it. In the same way, you can’t see the strength of the ties that bind a husband and wife together, but you can see and feel the power and influence not only today but throughout generations.

 

Marriage in the Lord’s way was instituted by God for the benefit of His children. When societies try to redefine marriage into something it’s not, they lose the strength and protection that come from respecting and protecting this sacred institution.

 

God’s Standard for Marriage

 

A photo of a couple standing in front of a temple after being married and sealed there.

God’s standard for marriage—the union of one man and one woman—has been part of His plan for His children from the foundation of the world. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake understands this, as does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church). This is the reason they are standing strong in defense of their religious beliefs concerning marriage—beliefs that cannot change according to the whims of the world, because they are the teachings of God. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (together, the governing body) of The Church of Jesus Christ, wrote a letter to local church leaders offering guidance and instruction. It said, in part:

 

As we face this and other issues of our time, we encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27–28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation. [1]

 

This is the reason that the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ can’t “get with the times” and “just accept it.” Traditional marriage and family are too important to set aside and tear apart because it’s the popular thing to do. Granting tax deductions and other benefits to same-sex couples is one thing—but trying to elevate their status to a marriage can only be done at the expense of traditional marriage. Traditional marriage is such a powerful protection and stabilizing force in society that it is worth every effort to protect, preserve and promote it.

 

Marriage is Part of God’s Plan

 

God is our Heavenly Father, the literal Father of our spirits. Our life on earth is part of a greater plan—Our Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. Before we came to earth, our Heavenly Father held a grand council and explained His plan to us and allowed each of His spirit children the opportunity to accept or reject it. Elder L. Tom Perry, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

 

The essence of the plan was that man would have an opportunity of working out his own salvation on earth, with God’s help. A leader was selected to teach us how to follow the plan and to redeem us from sin and death. … Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, became the leader in advocating the plan designed by the Father, and we accepted the plan and its conditions. With that choice we earned the right to come to earth….

There are two purposes for life in mortality. The first is that we might gain experiences that we could not obtain in any other way. The second is to obtain tabernacles of flesh and bones. Both of these purposes are vital to the existence of man. We are now being tried and tested to see if we will do all the things the Lord has commanded us to do. These commandments are the principles and ordinances of the gospel, and they constitute the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every principle and ordinance has a bearing upon the whole purpose of our testing, which is to prepare us to return to our Heavenly Father and become more like Him. [2]

 

But our Heavenly Father did not send us to earth alone—He sent us into families. Thus, marriage—the creation of a new family—is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

 

Knowledge of God’s plan for His children gives Latter-day Saints a unique perspective on marriage and family. We are correctly known as a family-centered church. Our theology begins with heavenly parents, and our highest aspiration is to attain the fulness of eternal exaltation. We know this is possible only in a family relationship. We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life. We look on marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God’s plan and a sacred duty of those given the opportunity to do so. We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity. [3]

 

Marriage is the protective, stabilizing shelter where families are created—especially when the husband and wife include the Lord in their partnership.

 

The Family is Essential to Our Happiness

 

"Marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than any other human relationship." - Russell M. Nelson; A photo of a married couple standing in front of desert mountains.

The family is the fundamental unit of society on earth. But we are also all part of another family—the human family—and we are literal spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. So we were part of a family before we came to earth, and we were born into a family on earth. Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

 

… The family is the basic unit of society, of the economy, of our culture, and of our government. … In the Church, our belief in the overriding importance of families is rooted in restored doctrine. We know of the sanctity of families in both directions of our eternal existence. We know that before this life we lived with our Heavenly Father as part of His family, and we know that family relationships can endure beyond death. [4]

 

Elder Robert D. Hales, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

 

The home is where we are nurtured and where we prepare ourselves for living in mortality. It is also where we prepare ourselves for death and for immortality because of our belief and understanding that there is life after death, not only for the individual but also for the family. … [5]

 

We learn things at home, with our families, that we cannot learn anywhere else. I often tell my children there is a reason that they are siblings and my husband and I are their parents. I am amazed at how their unique gifts and abilities work together for the good of our family—and how much we learn from each other. I try to teach my children to use their talents to bring out the best in each other. It doesn’t always produce the intended results, but we’re still a work in progress—progressing to work together. As Elder Ballard said:

 

… Nothing is more critically connected to happiness—both our own and that of our children—than how well we love and support one another within the family. [4]

 

Satan knows this—and works accordingly. Elder Hales taught:

 

Because of the importance of the family to the eternal plan of happiness, Satan makes a major effort to destroy the sanctity of the family, demean the importance of the role of men and women, encourage moral uncleanliness and violations of the sacred law of chastity, and to discourage parents from placing the bearing and rearing of children as one of their highest priorities. [5]

 

In other words, Satan is attacking the family—in all directions. The Adversary, the father of lies, understands the divine import of holy matrimony, and is pulling out all the stops as he wages war against God and His children. But we can and must stand strong against the wiles of the adversary in protecting and defending the sanctity of marriage and families.

 

The Importance of Fidelity and Chastity

 

Because families are so important to God’s plan, He gave us guidelines for using the power to create them—sexual intimacy. The powers of procreation are sacred and to be used within the bounds the Lord has set: between a husband and wife, legally and lawfully wedded. Elder Oaks taught:

 

The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children. Its use was mandated in the first commandment, but another important commandment was given to forbid its misuse. The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan.

The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God, but he has commanded that this be confined within the relationship of marriage. … Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women. [6]

 

The Lord’s standard for sexual intimacy is clear: abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity afterward. Elder David A. Bednar, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God’s plan. Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied, or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly. They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed. Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. We are agents blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage as children of God—and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes, or secular philosophies. [7]

 

The greatest happiness comes in obeying the commandments of God. The late President Marion G. Romney—until his death, an Apostle of Jesus Christ—said:

 

I can think of no blessings to be more fervently desired than those promised to the pure and the virtuous. Jesus spoke of specific rewards for different virtues but reserved the greatest, so it seems to me, for the pure in heart, “for they,” said he, “shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). And not only shall they see the Lord, but they shall feel at home in his presence.

Here is … the Savior’s promise: “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45) (“Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, May 1979, 42).

 

Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy. This is the reason He gives us commandments—to teach us how to be happy. We can only be truly and completely happy when we are right in the sight of God.

 

The Eternal Nature of Families

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ, the temple is a place of holiness and literally the house of God. Here members of the Church who are in good standing make formal promises and commitments to God. “It is also the place where the highest sacraments of faith occur—the marriage of couples of the ‘sealing’ of families for eternity.” [8] It is here that we glimpse the eternal nature of families.

 

I witnessed this recently as I attended the marriage ceremony for two young people who grew up in our local congregation (or ward) of The Church of Jesus Christ. My husband and I had both been youth leaders for the bride and groom when they were younger, and they both come from strong families who taught them well. They were married in the holy temple of the Lord. Both the bride and groom had lots of family in the temple—including six of the groom’s eight siblings (the other two were too young to participate). In the temple, this young man and his bride were married, or “sealed” for time and all eternity—meaning the covenant they made will endure beyond the grave. They made covenants (or solemn, sacred promises) with each other and God.  It was a beautiful experience—and perfectly illustrated the power and beauty that emanate from a husband and wife who have followed the path set by the Lord.

 

Mormon Weddings and Receptions

 

Since only members of The Church of Jesus Christ in good standing (who are old enough to make sacred, personal covenants with God) can go to the temple, sometimes not all family members can attend a wedding. Also, the temple ceremony is sacred, and often only close family and friends are invited. For this reason, most couples have receptions afterward. These are often (but not always) held in the church buildings. In the temple, the marriage ceremony is performed. Receptions are events where family and friends celebrate the marriage with the newlyweds.

 

Sometimes if a bride and groom are not able to get married in the temple—but still want the symbolism of a church wedding—they get married in the church. These wedding ceremonies differ from temple sealings. In the temple, a sealer—a man who has the proper priesthood (the power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children) and authority— performs the ceremony. The church ceremony is performed by the bishop (the priesthood leader of the local ward, or congregation). In the temples, couples are sealed for time and all eternity. Marriages performed in churches are valid for this life only—they end at death. A couple can get married in the church and then later, when they are qualified, they can be sealed together in the temple.

 

Guidelines Concerning the Use of Church Buildings for Weddings

 

Given the sacred and vital nature of traditional marriage and the family, it is not surprising that The Church of Jesus Christ has issued such specific guidelines concerning marriages performed in their church buildings as well as in the temples. It is solemn mockery before God to try to change His laws, and churches cannot condone such actions. In a letter to local leaders, The general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ said:

 

Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. …

Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it. The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.

Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there. [1]

 

God’s Laws Are Constant and Unchanging

 

God’s laws concerning marriage will never change—in His Church, marriage has always been and will remain between one man and one woman. Elder Perry, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

 

As I examine the physical order in the Lord’s divine plan, I find no evidence that he has ever found it necessary to make a correction. The earth continues to rotate in the same direction. The angle of its axis is unchanged. The circulation of moisture continues from sea to cloud to earth to river to sea with its same beneficial effect without alteration. I find the same consistency in the divine law he has established for mankind. In the very beginning he declared:

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, …

“And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now 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 his mother, and shall cleave unto is wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18, 21–24.)

The union between husband and wife is sacred to the Lord, something not to be trifled with. [9]

 

The union of a man and a woman in holy matrimony—partnering with God to create a new family—forms another brick in the defensive wall protecting our society. We are protected by the strength of each brick in our wall, each home in our nation. When the bricks are brittle or nonexistent, we lose the protection. This is why we have to stand in defense of traditional marriage—we need the profound, stabilizing power they bring to our nation, our society and our world.

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