What is the doctrinal status of the car-wreck story?

April 17, 2010 | 57 comments
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It’s a story we’ve all heard, and it’s still in wide circulation. For instance, from the current YW manual:

President Spencer W. Kimball told the following true story:

“A few years ago a young couple who lived in northern Utah came to Salt Lake City for their marriage. They did not want to bother with a temple marriage, or perhaps they did not feel worthy. At any rate, they had a civil marriage. After the marriage they got into their automobile and drove north to their home for a wedding reception. On their way home they had an accident, and when the wreckage was cleared, there was a dead man and a dead young woman. They had been married only an hour or two. Their marriage was ended. They thought they loved each other. They wanted to live together forever, but they did not live the commandments that would make that possible. So death came in and closed that career. They may have been good young people; I don’t know. But they will be angels in heaven if they are. They will not be gods and goddesses and priests and priestesses because they did not fulfill the commandments and do the things that were required at their hands.

“Sometimes we have people who say, ‘Oh, someday I will go to the temple. But I am not quite ready yet. And if I die, somebody can do the work for me in the temple.’ And that should be made very clear to all of us. The temples are for the living and for the dead only when the work could not have been done. Do you think that the Lord will be mocked and give to this young couple who ignored him, give them the blessings? The Lord said, ‘For all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.’ (D&C 132:7)” (in Conference Report, Japan Area Conference 1975, pp. 61–62).

Is this analysis — especially the prediction that this couple will be unable to receive a sealing after death — official doctrine? What kind of official guidance (if any) do we have? (And for those who may not be enthusiastic about teaching this story in YW, Jeans at Beginnings New has collected some fantastic resources.)

57 Responses to What is the doctrinal status of the car-wreck story?

  1. Kip on April 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Like anyone could know that.

  2. H. Ross on April 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I don’t know of any reason why they couldn’t be sealed a year later in proxy sealings.

  3. Chris Henrichsen on April 17, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Guilt and shame as religion. Gotta love it.

  4. Gwenydd McCoy on April 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    our temple marriage was 4 days after or civil marriage because we didn’t live in the US, and the temple was quite far away. so, as i understand it, had we died before our temple marriage, we wouldn’t be together forever. no one could have done it for us. what s.kimball is saying doesn’t sound like what is practiced today. i say the story not get taught, as it is not doctrine, or at least, not current practiced doctrine doctrine.

  5. Chris Henrichsen on April 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Maybe it is only doctrine in Northern Utah.

  6. Dan on April 17, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    It’s a troubling analogy of course, because President Kimball does hedge in his description of the couple. He doesn’t actually know the reason this couple did not get a temple sealing. He acknowledges that they may not have been worthy, which, if that is the case, their death would not have permanently ended their union because of the possibility of proxy work. Personally I wouldn’t use this analogy in my class if I were teaching it. I think it is crude and relies too much on instilling fear rather than positive persuasion.

    That all said, our choices should have consequences. And the scriptures speak fairly strongly, warning that inaction now could mean it is everlastingly too late. But in the case of a temple marriage, it is not a sin not getting married in a temple. You don’t lose anything from your current position in life by not getting married in the temple; rather, you miss out on blessings. It’s about losing a positive rather than gaining a negative, which is what you get for an actual sin. The statistics show that temple sealings tend to have fewer divorces, thus it has a benefit in this life. However, attaining that level of worship in this church is not possible for everyone. Condemning the rest for not being able to attain that which they simply cannot (because of whatever circumstance), is not a very good thing to do.

  7. Gwenydd McCoy on April 17, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    #5…he does say northern utah, but it was a japan area conference, so i assume it applies to northern utah, and possibly the whole pacific rim.

  8. Daniel Yanez on April 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Hey guys, I think we´re overlooking what I think is the most important statement in this quote: “The temples are for the living and for the dead only when the work could not have been done.” #4, for example, said that her marriage would have been invalid if they had died in between their civil and temple marriage. According to the quote, I think that’s not the case. For logistic reasons, the temple marriage in their case “could not have been done” before, so I don’t think their case falls in the same category than the northern Utah couple. I think that the cases that fall in that category are those who voluntarily reject “the new and everlasting covenant”, and as we read in D&C 132, we cannot reject this new and everlasting covenant and enter into His presence. The issue here is voluntary rejection to the covenant, not just timing.

    Also, let’s remember that covenants entered into in this life are not effective until these covenants are 1)performed by someone with the proper authority and keys, and 2) sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise in heaven. The second is particularly sensitive, since this sealing is related to the keeping of the covenant by those who entered into it, and it can be removed if there is lack of faithfulness from the parties involved. I haven’t heard of a particular temple policy of denying proxy sealings to members that have passed away that were married only civilly, and I don’t think it exists since it would deny the opportunity to be vicariously sealed to MANY, MANY faithful latter-day saints that in their time or geographic locations just didn’t have access to temples. The only way a policy like that could be enforced would be in a one-on-one basis, with bishops and stake presidents involved. The issue with that is that the only “Eternal Judge of Quick and Dead” (Moro. 10:34) is the Savior, and bishops and stake presidents are judges in Israel for the living, as far as I understand.

    Therefore, I believe (and this is my interpretation), that there is no procedural nor doctrinal issue as far as sealing LDS couples that have passed away and that in this life had the opportunity to be sealed. I believe that the Lord, being the Judge of the quick and dead, will take care of that. The Holy Spirit of Promise will not seal an ordinance or coventant that covenantees don’t agree with. Furthermore, I don’t think it would seal a vicarious sealing for someone who plainly rejected that same new and everlasting covenant while alive; but I believe the Lord will take care of that.

  9. Kevin Barney on April 17, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Stories using guilt as an edge to try to inspire good and desirable actions generally make for poor theology when examined closely. I don’t believe the consequences SWK so confidently asserts for the dead couple. No. 4 is an excellent test of the thesis; do we really think that a couple who did everything right but were killed en route to the temple has no hope in the hereafter? Try putting it that way to someone without disclosing the SWK lineage of the idea and see how many accept it. Very few would I wager. Our whole theology favors being able to rectify these kinds of unfortunate circumstances in the hereafter. That’s a big part of what makes Mormon theology so attractive.

  10. Gwenydd McCoy on April 17, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    daniel, you’re right, there is a difference, and s.kimball’s wording doesn’t exclude my marriage the rights of eternal marriage. but as kevin in #9 points out, it is an interesting test idea.

    we do know however, of couples getting baptized and then, they get sealed. then they try to spread the gospel to their parents, but their parents don’t accept. 20 years pass, and the parents still reject the church. As soon as the parents die, the couple is planning on the temple ordinances, including sealing. so, i don’t think that this doctrine really applies, because we regularly dismiss it when we are baptized and sealed for deceased relatives we know have rejected the message of the church. this same story could be told of an inactive couple that never went to church, but after their death, their children faithfully perform the temple works.

  11. Jeremy on April 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I’m putting this one in the “I can’t believe this is still in our youth manuals in 2010,” right behind the lingering counsel against interracial dating.

  12. Dave on April 17, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    As to the “doctrinal status” of the story, it has the endorsement of Correlation if it is in the current manual. Another sign that Correlation itself needs a doctrinal overhaul, perhaps, but if by “official doctrine” we mean doctrine endorsed by the institutional Church, this is official doctrine, at least to the extent a story can be considered doctrine.

    Of course, there is no particular mechanism in place to prevent temple work from being done for persons in situations like that described in Pres. Kimball’s story. So whether temple work done for those people is mockery or not will, in the end, be determined by God and his administrative angels, not by Pres. Kimball, Correlation, your seminary or institute teacher, etc.

  13. Gwenydd McCoy on April 17, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    “So whether temple work done for those people is mockery or not will, in the end, be determined by God and his administrative angels, not by Pres. Kimball, Correlation, your seminary or institute teacher, etc.”

    then what is the point of putting a story like this in the lesson book, other than #3’s comment?

  14. Chris Henrichsen on April 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    The story is trying to emphasize the importance of temple marriage. While parables and anecdotes can make for good teaching tools, many of them are cringe worthy. This would be such a case. I wouldn’t read too much into it.

  15. Blain on April 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    13 — The point is to encourage people (in this case, YW) to marry in the temple preferentially over marrying outside it. This is a worthy goal. Pres. Kimball tried very hard to encourage people to make good choices, but I think some of his methods were a bit counterproductive. I would encourage anybody who hasn’t to listen to John Dehlin’s interview with Pres. Kimball’s son on the Mormon Stories Podcast to gain some more insights into his personality.

    OP — As others have said, there is no institutional barrier to prevent a sealing ordinance to be performed for this couple today. Even when there is a policy to prevent ordinance work from being done (Holocaust victims, unrelated celebrities, etc.) there is no mechanical barrier to prevent it if people are willing to lie and disregard the policy. As Daniel points out in #9, however, performing the ordinance does not make it a lock that this will result in an eternal marriage, any more than it is when performed for a living couple.

  16. CS Eric on April 17, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    I know a real-life twist to this story. My best friend from my mission and his new wife were in an accident on the way to their reception. He was killed in the accident, but she survived. That was nearly 30 years ago.

    I never really knew her, but I have always wondered what she decided to do. Did she spend the rest of her life as a widow? Did she meet someone else and remarry? If she remarried, what did she do about the first sealing? Would it be fair to her new husband and their family if they were never sealed, or did she get the first one annuled? If she got her first sealing annuled, what about my friend?

  17. Chris Henrichsen on April 17, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    This whole discussion has me thinking of the song “Last Kiss” (preferably the Pearl Jam version) Young love. Car accident. Death. I like the song.

  18. Sally on April 18, 2010 at 12:36 am

    My mom was raised LDS then she and my dad became inactive after they were married. They occasionally took us kids to church and we just went on our own when we were old enough. A year after she died, we did her temple work for her. I wondered as I was doing it if there was any reason to do it. If a person has full opportunity here and doesn’t perform their own work, will they have the chance later, since we are told that this is the day to perform our labors. Don’t know – just glad I don’t have to make the judgements.

  19. Mark D. on April 18, 2010 at 1:35 am

    When hard doctrines like this are taught I always wonder two things:

    (1) How does God benefit by maintaining such a strict rule?
    (2) If God does not benefit, what constrains him from granting the appropriate exceptions? He has all power in heaven and in earth, right? Is there a constituency for eternal damnation?

    At some point it starts to sound like the laws of the Medes and the Persians. Darius, Daniel, and the lion’s den, etc.

  20. DavidH on April 18, 2010 at 1:38 am

    There is a strain of thought that considers unforgiveable sins the following–if one had “full opportunity” to make a right choice on earth (e.g., be baptized, marry a fellow LDS and be sealed in temple) one cannot do so in the life to come. I.e., that such choices have unforgivable consequences. I think it probably derives from Alma 34:35 (which also adds “procrastination” to the list of unforgivable sins).

  21. Mark D. on April 18, 2010 at 2:02 am

    D&C 19:6 pretty much nullified the idea that there are strictly endless punishments, something that should be considered when dealing with any scripture about eternal damnation, especially Book of Mormon scriptures.

  22. UKAnn on April 18, 2010 at 2:04 am

    My daughter has just been called to YW and has to teach this lesson today. She was very uncomfortable with the story and has decided to miss it out. I agree. The outcome I feel is not that cut and dried. The young couple might have had the knowledge of temple marriage, but did they have the light/testimony? If they didn’t have that deep down testimony that temple marriage was the way, then they can’t sin against it.

  23. Cameron Nielsen on April 18, 2010 at 3:59 am

    @ 21 Mark D.

    True, but the scriptures are quite explicit that there is no progression between kingdoms of glory, and that only those who choose to accept the covenants associated with exaltation can have eternal increase.

    I think that Heavenly Father is both stricter and more merciful than we understand, whatever that means.

    Maybe the couple wasn’t accountable enough to merit eternal separation. Maybe they were. Who knows? The general principle is true, and that’s all that apostles and prophets need to teach (a la Elder Oaks). President Kimball is obviously no exception. I find it sad how many people on here seem to throw out statements from dead prophets like it was just some silly remark in a gospel doctrine class.

  24. jeans on April 18, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Great post, Kaimi – shedding some light on this oft-repeated chestnut. I wonder about the real people at the root of the story, assuming that it really did happen and that it’s not a parable. CS Eric’s comment is interesting to me in light of that; what did happen in that family afterwards? And why is the story always told by leaving that part out?

    In other words, what I find really intriguing/disturbing about this story is how it’s narrated & used, regardless of its verifiability or correspondence to actual events. It seems to beg questions about whether it’s “true” or “based on a true story,” questions which immediately get shut down because a prophet used the story in a talk and a correlation committee selected it in the 1970s for a lesson, thus lifting this (odd, confusing, sad) little story to a different level of authority in our LDS culture.

  25. jeans on April 18, 2010 at 7:48 am

    also, amen to #11

  26. Jacki on April 18, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Along the lines of this cringe-worthy story, recently I was looking at a message board for mutual and ward activity ideas. One idea was to have the whole ward pretend like they’re getting on a plane to go to Hawaii (and a luau as the activity), then to pretend the plane crashes. Here’s the dramatic and lesson part of the event: Those who haven’t been sealed to their children would be seperated from them into two different rooms, to drive home the point that if you’re not sealed, you’ll be seperated.

    I wonder if this really did happen as an activity- and how many children were deeply scarred as a result!

  27. Sandra Resek on April 18, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Shame on those self proclaimed LDS that doubt the words of our prophets and scriptures. Time will prove the bitter situation of those who openly rejected the Lord’s covenants while living. Pte. Kimball’s prophetic words and counsel will be upheld. And frankly, if I have to choose between the counsel and wisdom of a hundred or a million people over a prophet I will pick the latter without missing a heart beat. So stop questioning the doctrine and get on your knees and pray to align your will and hearts to the Lord’s and to understand and gain a testimony of the truth this story teaches.

  28. Matt Evans on April 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I agree the story is awful and fit for the dust bin, and the kind that will be removed from church manuals within a revision or two.

    Does anyone knowledgeable with President Kimball’s teachings know if he considers this couple to be worse off than if they had never married at all? Does it matter that they died on the way to their reception, rather than on the way to their wedding? Why?

  29. Mark D. on April 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

    23: True, but the scriptures are quite explicit that there is no progression between kingdoms of glory

    Actually, I don’t think they say any such thing. In fact there was a First Presidency letter from the early seventies stating that such a precept was not a doctrine of the Church.

    27: Time will prove the bitter situation of those who openly rejected the Lord’s covenants while living

    What about the people who rejected Noah? D&C 138 was prompted by President Joseph F. Smith’s pondering over a couple of verses in first Peter, about the gospel being preached to the “sometime disobedient” in the spirit world. What about the concluding passage of that section?:

    The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.
    Thus was the vision of the redemption of the dead revealed to me, and I bear record, and I know that this record is true, through the blessing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even so. Amen.

    The dead who repent will be redeemed how? “Through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God”.

  30. Mark D. on April 18, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Matt E: Does anyone knowledgeable with President Kimball’s teachings know if he considers this couple to be worse off than if they had never married at all?

    I don’t know, but it certainly gives some insight into the proposition that a member with no other opportunities is better off dying single than getting married outside the temple.

  31. Chris Henrichsen on April 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Did Sandra just dust her feet in my direction? Sweet. Made my morning. I am now jazzed for my 3 hour block.

  32. Sandra Resek on April 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

    29: Redemption, salvation and exaltation (which is what Pte. Kimball is refering to) have different meanings. Check lds.org.

  33. Chris Henrichsen on April 18, 2010 at 9:41 am

    The Church has a website? Why hasn”t anyone mentioned this before. And all this time, I thought BCC was the official Church site.

  34. Jonathan Green on April 18, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Kaimi, I suspect you are asking the wrong question, as most stories outside of canonized scripture do not have any doctrinal status. Instead, the stories are used to support various doctrines. In this case, the doctrines to be taught are:
    1) Marriage in the temple is very important; and
    2) Only temple marriages will have validity after death.
    I’m sure you can find someone who disagrees with either or both, but I think that the church’s current teachings on both are quite clear.

    Look at how SWK sets up the story: the people involved knew all the doctrines, had ample opportunity to make a correct choice, and chose not to do so. These are, in other words, not people but exempla. If you set up a similar hypothetical for any living authority (“If I sin my whole life, can I just have by work done for me once I’m dead?”), do you think the answer will be any different?

    If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with real people (“My inactive brother died after a life of alcoholism and debauchery; should we have his temple work done”), then I suspect SWK and others would tell you to go ahead.

    So the question is not so much about doctrine, but about the use of negative exempla in teaching.

  35. Matt Evans on April 18, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Jonathan, my questions are solely about the doctrine; I don’t mind that he referred to an actual couple to teach a general principle. I want to know the general principle. I don’t see why we should believe the couple in question (whether actual or hypothetical) knows all the doctrines as no one here seems to know whether the couple would be better off had they not married, either. As for President Kimball’s doctrine, which of their choices or acts puts a ceiling on the (hypothetical) couple’s status in the hereafter as angels? Is it because of their 1) turning down the opportunity to be married in the temple (whether they desired marriage or not), 2) their intent to be married outside the temple rather than sealed, or 3) the act of being married outside the temple rather than sealed?

    Do you think they are worse off than if they had never married at all?

  36. Blain on April 18, 2010 at 10:19 am

    19 — Perhaps this isn’t so much for the benefit of God as it is a requirement for receiving the desired blessing. Life is hard, and the choices we make matter. While we have myriad opportunities to repent and progress and grow, our ability to make wrong choices without eternal consequences is finite. It is interesting how many will discount a prophet’s judgment about the outcome of this situation, like he was just making it up out of thin air. Perhaps he had knowledge not available to all of us — this was a question within his stewardship.

    We are not the Church of the Buddy Jesus, and Aslan is not a tame lion. The Holy Ghost is not only the Comforter. We have to do our best. That may not be all that good sometimes, but we still need to do it.

  37. Jonathan Green on April 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Matt, why are you bringing in the question of whether they would be better off if they had never married at all? There’s no reference to it in the story. It’s entirely extraneous to the discussion. The only person who has brought it up is you.

  38. Mark D. on April 18, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Jonathan G, I think you are neglecting the material point of the story, which is “the temples are for the living and for the dead only when the work could not have been done.”

    That is certainly a serious doctrinal question, and by publishing this statement, the Church is endorsing a strict interpretation of D&C 132:17 in favor of this proposition, despite what other passages of scripture may suggest or imply:

    “separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever”

    Unfortunately, after the D&C 19 precedent, it is hard to take any phrase like “endless”, “everlasting”, or “forever and ever” literally any more, because D&C 19 teaches that they mean no such thing.

  39. John C. on April 18, 2010 at 11:01 am

    As I understand it, the terms salvation, exaltation, and redemption (along with election and justification) have not been used with any real consistency in church discourse over the years. The difference between salvation and exaltation (that salvation means getting a degree of glory and that exaltation means eternal life with the Father) is mostly a 20th century distinction (I think, but could well be wrong). Certainly, prophets and apostles have tried to make these terms more rigorously defined, but I am not sure that there is scriptural (or historical) support for that.

    That said, I don’t think we should dismiss the story out of hand. I also don’t think that there is any reason to believe the work was never done for this couple or that they won’t be able to achieve eternal life with the Father. It’s a long afterlife, after all.

  40. jjohnsen on April 18, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Amen to #17.

    The actual post doesn’t make me feel anything other than hope that President Kimball was wrong.

  41. Jack on April 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    “Unfortunately, after the D&C 19 precedent…”

    Don’t you mean “fortunately”?

    The idea of slamming the door shut on folks who are not much better or worse than myself is pretty scary.

  42. E.D. on April 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    As I understand it, the work would be done for this couple and they would have the choice whether to accept it or not.

    Immediately after DH and I were sealed in the temple, my father’s parents were sealed by proxy, then my father and aunts were sealed to their parents by proxy. It was something that had not been done while my grandparents were still living, mostly because my grandparents went through a bitter divorce a few years after they joined the church.

    The ordinance was done, but it was a bit sad because we all knew that my grandparents would never accept being sealed to each other.

  43. Peter LLC on April 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    only when the work could not have been done.

    It seems like a lot is riding on this point and yet it is so ambiguous.

    For example, a couple comprised of unworthy members could not have their work done in the temple, so would there be hope for them in the afterlife? Part member families cannot have their work done in the temple as long as one spouse remains outside the fold, so do they get a second chance? Gentiles and assorted goats immune to the promptings of the spirit could live out their lives in ignorance and yet it seems they would not have squandered their only chance. Are active Mormons who for whatever reason decide not to marry in the temple really the only one for whom hell awaits? But if such a decision constitutes an unpardonable sin, wouldn’t the very thought disqualify one from temple worthiness and hence temple marriage, thus preserving the possibility proxy work?

  44. Peter LLC on April 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    it was a bit sad because we all knew that my grandparents would never accept being sealed to each other

    So on the one hand we have people that ostensibly love each other that die early and are forever separated. And on the other, people who die after a lifetime of making their feelings clear about their former spouses are “sealed” together for eternity. Here’s hoping to that’s not how it will all work out in the end.

  45. Mark D. on April 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Jack: Don’t you mean “fortunately”?

    Different referent, different (mis)fortune. I am speaking of the ambiguity ensuing from a family of related doctrinal terms (eternal, endless, everlasting, etc) having two entirely different meanings, and occasionally three. In and of itself, that is certainly unfortunate.

  46. Iowa_Pilot on April 18, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    So much narrative and speculation over something that someone said because of the supposed authority of the person speaking. If it applies to you and you believe it, maybe you have cause for concern. It doesn’t apply to me, so I’m not too worried. I’m more worried that God will expect me to raise my first wife from the grave even though we can’t stand to be in the same room with each other…now, THAT’S a REAL problem.

    Think about this…I personally know a woman who was sealed in the temple to her husband. Crossing the street to get to the old temple parking lot, her new husband was struck and killed by a car. She never remarried, never had children, and lived her life in constant loneliness, “assured that [her] eternal companion is waiting for [her] to join him.” That was her choice, but the power of “doctrine” stopped her life when her husband died, though all she had was a promise at the time.

    The point is this…there are so many variables in life and “doctrine,” compliance with expectations is really a best-efforts type of proposition, not the obedience-reward matrix that we’re all taught. Only God and Christ can judge, because no one else really knows what’s going on with every individual that ever lived. Think of the parable of the laborers. The guys hired in the last hour got the same penny that the guys who labored all day got. Was the master of the vineyard anti-union? Maybe….but the moral of the parable is that you get what you sign on for, not necessarily according to how well you toe the line in other’s eyes.

  47. Jonovitch on April 19, 2010 at 12:53 am

    The guilt-inducing story aside, this is not doctrine for a very simple reason: it has not been accepted as doctrine by (1) the First Presidency, (2) the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, (3) the Seventies/General Authorities of the Church, *and* (4) the general membership of the Church.

    Unless it passes that test, it is not official doctrine. Of course, in practice, we usually let anything that has been signed off by group 1 and group 2 stand as “official,” even if technically it is not.

    But anything that comes from only one man, regardless how high the priesthood office, it’s still just one man’s opinion. It might be good advice and worth listening to, but it’s not official Church doctrine.

    Jon

  48. Paul on April 19, 2010 at 7:37 am

    My goodness, what a tempest!

    Let’s review the bidding: A prophet of God speaks in a regional conference about temple marriage.

    He cites an example of a couple who presumably could have chosen to marry in the temple but did not.

    He suggests eternal consequences for those choices, including whether a post-death sealing might be valid.

    His message: Marry in the temple.

    The message of the YW lesson: Marry in the temple.

    Could President Kimball have spoken more softly (figuratively)? Of course.

    Is the doctrine (temple marriage is good) correct? Yes!

    Is the doctrine that if we knowingly choose not to prepare now for the eternities we have a problem correct? Yes!

    There are, of course, alternatives for teachers of YW. One is to use the lesson-linked indexes to the New Era and General Conference to allow for more contemporary stories in YW classes.

  49. Jared D on April 19, 2010 at 11:33 am

    This subject leads to a wider question of rationality. If we knew with absolute assuredness that the consequences of our actions would be wholly negative then we would not engage in those actions. Adam and Eve were told that in the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil they would surely die – hence they did not eat. When being deceived (Eve) and believing that they would not surely die but would become as god, Eve took the fruit. We act in accordance to our knowledge and beliefs (faith is included here as belief). If we believe there to be no or little negative consequence we will engage in an action. We cannot sin in ignorance, yet if both you and I are given the same commandment, yet my faith, testimony and belief is stronger than yours, then I am under the greater condemnation. I do not believe that anyone bar Jesus can judge the light within us, hence only jesus can condemn us – therefore things are not so black and white as the story might suggest, though the imagery of absolutes is useful in leading us to do what is right – just like the imagery of eternal damnation. But I’m sure that we will be judged on an individual basis. Also, I believe that wherever we end up after judgement will be where we are happiest, be that celestial, terrestrial or telestial and whether or not we can progress between kingdoms or whatever, whatever, I don’t much care. I get the feeling that we are given just enough information to motivate us to move in the right direction and live good lives, but in reality the other side and end game is something we are pretty much in the dark about (this is constent with Paul being forbidden to talk about heaven and Joseph Smith’s utterances about taking our own lives just to get to the lowest kingdom. Oh and if that means I can have a liberal portion of shame from Sandra, I’ll take that over self-induced guilt and fear.

  50. J.A.T. on April 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Fascinating quote from SWK, ESPECIALLY considering that SWK was married civally in AZ a year+ prior to being able to make the trip to SLC to be married in the temple to Camilla. In Camilla’s biography, she relates the pain she felt on her temple wedding day as attendants and workers actually made judgemental comments and stared rudely as they couldn’t comprehend the bride’s very obvious pregnancy. (She was in the last trimester with their first child). After that life lesson she advocated for greater compassion and understanding of the unique paths we take in our mortal walk to perfection- and for the importance of heeding revelation- both personally and as a couple.

    I tend to think that Camilla’s understanding of personal and partnered revelation (as opposed to the conventional)is more accurate, but at a higher level. Is it too complicated to teach to the masses and so instead we hear the lower law? I struggle with the ‘milk and meat’ proportions we receive in a correlated- and quickly growing worldwide church.

    Whether we look at he chaste and rightous path the Kimballs followed or the Prodigal Son, it seems that God is just happy when we finally arrive.

  51. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 19, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I can understand how a deep analysis of the words can cause some questions. Were I assigned a lesson that includes them, I would probably address them in this way:

    The 1975 Area Conference in Tokyo, Japan (held in the Budokan, yes a venue for all sorts of concerts, including the band Cheap Trick’s album “recorded live at Budokan”) was when President Kimball announced the construction of a temple in Tokyo, the first one in all of Asia. Up to that time, the Saints had been making great personal sacrifices to travel to the temple in Hawaii (and in one case, to Salt Lake during October 1970 General Conference) to be sealed. He was encouraging the members (who had broken out in applause at the announcement, a very unusual but enthusiastic response) to make sure they appreciated the blessing they would have in having a temple within relatively easy reach, a mere day’s drive or train ride for most Saints in Japan.

    The anecdote would seem to resolve the objections voiced here if President Kimball had said,

    “What is the chance that a couple who chose to not marry in the temple, would end up together in the eternities, when they lived there in Utah where doing so is not a question of the cost of travel, with temples in Salt Lake, Provo, Ogden, Logan, Manti and St. George?

    “Perhaps they jointly decided that they did not love or trust each other enough to make that kind of commitment. If they refused the opportunity in mortal life to be sealed for eternity, why should we think they would want to be sealed for eternity when they are in the Spirit World, when they have no legal or covenantal bond to each other?

    “Maybe one of them desired a temple marriage, but the other did not, and perhaps the one who did not want a temple marriage deceived the other into thinking that they could always do it later. All too many young women find themselves marrying a man in the hope that eventually they will be able to be sealed for eternity in the temple, and all too often they find their hopes are not justified.

    “Do not deceive yourself into thinking that a temple marriage is something you can add on later, that your decision to avoid a temple marriage, when you have the opportunity for it, will have no negative consequences. When you consciously avoid temple marriage, you are consciously devaluing it in your own heart and in the heart of your spouse. But when you sincerely seek an eternal marriage, you will do all you can to have it, even at a sacrifice. If you tell yourself, ‘I want a temple marriage, but not enough to have it now, when it is available to me’, then you don’t want it enough, and death is not going to suddenly change you or your spouse and make you a different person who desires something you really didn’t care about before.

    “Don’t lie to yourself, don’t lie to your sweetheart. Don’t lie to the Lord. Don’t gamble with eternal choices. If you really, sincerely want an eternal marriage, you should seek it now.”

    I for one would argue that these words reflect the concern that was behind President Kimball’s words recorded from the pulpit at that very special regional conference in Japan. I think that concern, about sincerity in marriage and committing oneself to the goal of eternal marriage and not accepting substitutes for it, was the message he was putting forward.

    I would not put too great a burden on the words as transcribed. At such meetings, many of the specific words uttered are spontaneous, off the cuff. Not only that, but they were being translated at the conclusion of each sentence or major phrase, something that forces you to stop speaking and interrupts the flow of one’s thoughts and the ability to keep what you have said in mind and make clarifications as you speak.

    I would also put President Kimball’s remarks in the context of all of his teachings, oral and written. In his talk, entitled “Tragedy or Destiny” that was included in his book, “Faith Precedes the Miracle”, he pointed to the uncertainties about life that make it inappropriate for us to judge the lives of others too harshly. In line with that essay, I think he would have rejected a claim, for example, that the couple from Northern Utah died in the accident as a punishment from God, precisely because they had chosen to avoid the commitment of a temple marriage.

    I think the focus of his talk in Tokyo that day was not to invite his audience to speculate about the eternal situation of the unfortunate newlyweds, but to contemplate what they, in the large congregation that day, as they pondered receiving the blessing of a temple in their midst, would do with that blessing. Would they appreciate its great value, with all the enthusiasm they had displayed spontaneously to his announcement, or denigrate it as that couple had done? Would they spend their time thinking up excuses to God, and perhaps their spouse, or would they promise God and themselves and each other that they would accept the blessing being offered, and enter the covenant with each other and with God?

    My guess is that the Japanese saints who were there that day were not parsing an argument for why President Kimball’s statement was in error. I think they were each reflecting on the need to make a commitment to extract the full value of having a temple for themselves and their families. And doubtless there were many young adults and newly married couples there that day who have raised their children to appreciate how important eternal marriage is, including one of my former missionary companions, whose children have been married in the temples in Tokyo, and Hawaii, and Idaho Falls.

    Moroni was worried about the critics of his imperfect work in the Book of Mormon. The Lord comforted him by saying that “Fools mock, but they shall mourn, and my grace is sufficient for those who humble themselves before me.” In my own humility in the face of a man who, despite his imperfections, was so much more an inspired person than I am, who had compassion that reached out to all people, of every nation, tongue and kindred, who wore himself out in the service of God and mankind, who lengthened our stride as a church as we tried to keep up with him, I am loathe to point a finger of ridicule at a statement he made spontaenously in front of thousands of people as he suffered jet lag and all of his various ailments, a statement that was motivated by a concern that the people who were just being given a great gift would appreciate it fully.

  52. Bob on April 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    RTS: I don’t think President Kimball ever corrected his statement or said he was in error. I don’t think the Church has ever corrected the statement in 35 years. Since the Church has now printed it in a well reviewed manuel, I can only guess it’s still how they see it to be (?)

  53. It's Not Me on April 20, 2010 at 12:01 am

    RTS: I always appreciate your comments. They are insightful, well-thought-out, and bring a needed perspective to the discussion. Those who mock you for long comments are fools (and they shall mourn).

  54. jks on April 23, 2010 at 12:45 am

    While it may sound harsh, I have to admit that I believe in the idea that if you spend all your time on earth learning the violin, when you get to heaven you are not going to be comfortable in the oboe heaven because you won’t know how to play the oboe.
    Why do we think that someone who didn’t want to live the commandments (or be married in the temple) on earth would suddenly have this desire to be all churchy and go to the temple in heaven? Do we really change that much just cuz we die?
    I don’t think God is all about punishing people and denying them what they want. It is all about us becoming the kind of person we want to become. We will leave earth and we might be released from mortal limitations that were hindering our progression, but we will still be us. We’ve been assured that all the heavens are pretty good so this couple may be really happy where they end up, especially if they don’t have to wear garments or go to church every week or get a babysitter and head off to fall asleep in the temple.

  55. Bob on April 23, 2010 at 8:30 am

    JKS,
    I would hope we change after we die. That’s because things change. I don’t really know fully who I am at the point. In many ways outside events and influences have shaped me. I have always felt I would have been a different person if outside forces had been different.

  56. Kristine on April 23, 2010 at 9:14 am

    There’s no such thing as an oboe heaven. Double reed instruments are part of Satan’s plan–he specifically tempts the most valiant spirits to take up the oboe and the bassoon so that they’ll spend all their time on earth making reeds (and complaining about it) and not be able to accomplish the great missions they were destined for.

    Just sayin’.

  57. Bob on April 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Kristine,
    He meant Hobo heaven as in “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. With jails of tin, guards with wooden legs, and rivers of flowing stew.