Church-going as Wedding Feast

June 7, 2004 | 2 comments

A brother at church said that we have a marriage model of church. Geography commits us to one particular group of people and we all give lay service within that group even as it changes. One doesn’t keep looking around for fulfillment, one does one’s duty here. He has a point, of course. For one the Bishop is very much the mother, presumed to be omnicompetent, always on duty, always available for sympathy and counseling, and always tolerated with a sort of amused forbearance. The father too.
The brother then inverted the comparison. The Book of Mormon, he said, is a guide to marriage because it speaks so often of the duties of members of the church to each other. He cited Mosiah 18. He could also have cited Moroni 6. His comparison is rich in possibilities, only a few of which I will touch on here. Mosiah 18 is a baptism chapter, but of course baptism and the marriage covenant are both births, baptism spiritually, and marriage in the creation of a new flesh (do Mormons have a position on uncomsummated marriages, I wonder), and Alma’s emphasis in this chapter is on the new duties as church members that baptism creates, so Mosiah 18 is helpful source for understanding the duties of church members to each other and therefore as a model for marriage. Mosiah 18 speaks of ‘being willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light,’ ‘willing to mourn with those that mourn,’ to ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort,’ of ‘having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another,’ of ‘imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.’ The application of these to marriage is both obvious and moving.

Parts of Moroni 6 also apply to marriage without difficulty. It mainly focuses on the spiritual duties that church members have to each other. Moroni records that the people of the church tried to ‘remember and nourish each other by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ.’ And they met ‘together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.’ The application of these to marriage is also beautiful and obvious. I can attest that my own wife’s concern for me this way is one of the sure foundations of our relationship.
Other parts of Moroni 6 give directions to the church if a member errs. That is more uncomfortable for us to compare to a marriage. The sources of discomfort are manifold. Setting ourselves up to judge the errors of our spouse seems particularly to invoke the dangers of the mote and the beam—our judgment distracts us from our own flaws. Because we ourselves are not without sin, our judgment invites retaliatory stones. Because marriage opens our deepest and often dankest selves, our judgment is particularly likely to be flawed. And most of all it seems that the equality of marriage can hardly bear one partner setting himself up to judge the other. All true.
So I merely suggest diffidently, hesitantly, that a spouse who keeps covenants with her beloved must someday cease to tolerate his sins. That now, today, some spouses have gone so far off track that their husbands can’t avoid judging them to be errant. That for these wives and these husbands who must judge, Moroni 6 provides a model: ‘they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them,’ but they required pretty solid evidence before acting—‘three witnesses’—and gave opportunities for repentance and confession and, ‘as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.’ It’s God’s kindness, I think, that we have a way to serve him even in failure.

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2 Responses to Church-going as Wedding Feast

  1. John David Payne on June 7, 2004 at 11:46 pm

    I’m still single, so maybe I have no standing to talk about these thing, but I think no discussion of marriage/church cross-training is complete without referring to Ephesians 5:

    “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

    Wow. Talk about your big shoes to fill…

  2. lyle on June 8, 2004 at 9:34 am

    Adam: What about the teachings of Pres. Hinckley? In this month’s ensign there is a quote re: husbands/wives. Interestingly enough, he suggests that husbands need to be more a,b&c; while wives are to be more x,y&z. Perhaps there is something to gender differences after all?


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