When the topic turns to marriage, someone in Gospel Doctrine class inevitably refers with derision to that famous phrase from traditional marriage vows, “’til death do us part.” To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, “I do not think this [phrase] means what you think it means.” Mormons have a nasty habit of caricaturing other religions. Of course, we do not have a monopoly on this practice, but we should be more charitable.
From the tone of comments that I have heard in various Gospel Doctrine classes, I infer that many Mormons think of the phrase “’til death do us part” as evidence of a doctrine of eternal separation. A charitable reading of the phrase, however, suggests that the focus is on a noble intention to remain committed during this earthly life. (Indeed, when you consider the modern alternatives, “’til death do us part” seems quite elevated.) It is also an accurate description of the effect of physical death, at least when one of the marriage partners remains alive. Most significantly, it says nothing about the ultimate destiny of the couple, thus reflecting either uncertainty about the details of the afterlife or a belief that marriage will be replaced with some greater union (e.g., of all of the righteous into God) after death.
We Mormons are right to be thankful for the doctrine of eternal marriage, which eliminates the uncertainty and provides a compelling vision of the role of families in the plan of salvation. Why does our gratitude so often find expression in mockery?