Sunday, December 27, 2009

Covenant Hearts: Marriage and the Joy of Human Love

Big Ideas from Covenant Hearts (Brad's perception)

- Part of the reason we should marry is to experience misery. The instructive value of misery and deep affliction and severe personal challenge endemic to eternal marriage can't be easily substituted for. (Good luck buying that level of punishment on ebay!) It would be akin to seeking to perform an Olympic-quality marathon run (exaltation) without going through Olympic-caliber training (a mortal marriage experience). Where's Rocky without Clubber Lang and Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago and training in Russianarctica? It's hard, and that's a big part of the purpose- no misery => NO JOY. (2 Nephi 2- "having no joy, for they knew no misery...") Marriage is about increasing the pain in the "no pain, no gain" growth model. "Connected inevitably with the whole [marriage and family] process is much of pain- physical, mental, and emotional. There is much of stress and struggle, of fear and worry... there seems to never be enough money... sickness strikes periodically. Accidents happen..." -Gordon B. Hinckley

- Also, it's no coincidence that that very 2 Nephi passage begins with "would have had no children...". Deduction? No children => no misery => no joy. Childbearing is promised to be done in sorrow. Moses 4: "Unto the woman I, the Lord God, said: I will greatly multiply thy sorrow... in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." If the imperfections and behavior of the spouse don't amount to multiplied sorrow, then hopefully the kids will add sufficient bitterness- otherwise an easy marriage means you were gypped. Plus you should share your spouse's trials whether or not other sources such as children provide sufficient opportunity to "taste the bitter" (Moses 6:55).

- Eternal marriage is much more than a contract. It's ideally not quid pro quo; instead, it's a covenant to seek the other's interest at any and all self-sacrifice. There shouldn't be score-keeping: it looks more like reckless abandon to benefit the partner. It's a 110% from each party, rather than a 50/50 like a standard agreement. The parties marry to give, not to receive, so because their object is not personal benefit or happiness, they don't walk away when dissatisfied since their own happiness is not what was bargained for. Unqualified commitment is foreign to a contractual arrangement. Also, unlike most private contracts, the community and children have a significant stake in the outcome of the marriage (not just the two parties to the agreement). This third party interest is evidenced by attendance at weddings- you don't see community and family and friends coming to the signing of a business merger.

- Christ's story is one of giving the Atonement; Adam and Eve's is one of receiving the Atonement. The story of Adam and Eve is incredibly relevant to us (more so even than Christ's in the sense that we need to receive rather than give the Atonement). Their story illustrates how marriage fits into the three act play of our existence (Act I premortal, Act 2 mortal, Act 3 post-mortal).

- Because Adam and Eve received the Atonement, they were able to learn from their experience without being condemned by it.
- Through marriage we learn what it means to be a good shepherd to our spouses like Christ was the Good Shepherd to us and the church. Sorry monks, celibacy is a tainted fruit of the apostasy: you also miss out on the glimpse of what it means to fill the role of parent- like our eternal Parent, Father in heaven. Plus, you're obligated to fight the ineluctable onslaught of wolves (anything that threatens the union), which one concludes is a valuable skill.

- Eternal marriage is the classic love story of a man and a woman, children of diety with a premortal existence, using mortality as a time to learn and grow, and then apotheosis (deification) through marriage: achieving Godhood as the highest possibility of human life. (think Hercules, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) Living happily ever after is not about being comfortable from the Adamic Love Story- it's glancing backward at comfort (the garden) and together facing an uncertain future [with the exceptions of 1) the requirement of hard labor and 2) the presence of thorns: both are quite certain] with desires now oriented toward each other, children, and a mutual future. They ask "what's best for our marriage, our family?" rather than "what's best for me?"

- No-fault divorce, extremist individualism, gay marriage, children's liberation, and a divorce culture are bad news. It's better to keep marriage transaction costs super high- easy in, easy out is bad news for marriage because that idea damages the irreversible reckless abandon that's best to go in and stay in with. Divorce is like a hireling fleeing the sheep - even when your spouse makes the shepherd's life very tough, the shepherd keeps working whereas the hireling cancels the contract and skips town.

- God's married, and Satan is single. Whose example will you follow? God experiences fullness of joy, and Satan is miserable. Part of the reason Satan is miserable is that our nature includes a need to belong. It's the at-one-ment, not the alone-ment. Sure, people are annoying- but when it comes down to it, we'd rather be with them than eternally severed from them. Separation from God, for instance, sucks. We want to be together- and no bond offers that togetherness like eternal marriage.

- Your single life is like a seed: be ready to slay and abandon it. "whosoever will lose his {single} life shall find it {a superior married life}." The seed has to die for the family plant to grow: "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24


  1. I don't know anything about eternal marriage. But for me, within the parameters of a flawed earthly life, marriage isn't an ordeal, it's a shelter. It's the safe place you rely on when you need a minute to breathe, when the rest of the world is too harsh and unforgiving and you need a partner to bolster you up and forgive you and accept you. The pain and difficulty arise from the fact that you have to simultaneously fulfill this role for another person. This sounds strictly transactional and quid pro quo, but I guess the mystery of love is that it hurts you, badly, when you let the other person down. And self-sacrifice in love or marriage isn't a conscious policy of self-abnegation, but a spontaneous outgrowth of the fact that it's better to experience someone else's joy together with them than your own joy alone.

    About high barriers to entry and exit for marriage - first of all, gay marriage doesn't really have anything to do with "easy in, easy out" - it's extending the possibility of marital commitment to a population that previously has lacked it, not at all changing the reversibility or irreversibility of that commitment. Second, whether or not the legal and social costs of breaking a marriage are high or low does not in the least affect someone who views marriage as a spiritual union. The sense of "irreversible reckless abandon" associated with marriage does not come from contingency plans about how money will be divided up if things go bad. It has to do with making someone a tremendous promise and having them trust you in the most unbelievably pure and naive way to follow through on it.


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