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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Scripture Study: D&C 132. How we miss the point of this section.

This post is essentially a second part to this one.

When I study scriptures, I like to frequently stop and ask questions. Sometimes, these are questions about something I've never understood. These help me expand what I know. Sometimes, these are questions about what I think I understand. These help me reconcile what I think I know with new truth God might be willing to show me.

Everyone who has ever read D&C 132 has an opinion about what it says. You could draw a tree describing these people. The first dividing question is do you believe plural marriage is from God. If so, D&C 132 to you may be the center of your spiritual grounding. If not, you have some reason to write off D&C 132. Maybe you are among those who think D&C 132 is either wholly or partially a post-martyrdom creation of Brigham Young. Maybe you think that it describes singular marriage and not plural marriage.

I would love to rattle off my personal opinion about this section, but that would only be a diversion from what matters. I will stay focused here.

Q1. Is D&C 132 truly from God?
A1: Enough of D&C 132 is from God that it is worth studying. In fact, the inspired contents of the section are of vital importance to anyone seeking Christ. The dubious portions are not at all relevant to the actual point of the section (more on that momentarily).

Q2: Is this section about singular marriage or plural marriage?
A2: Neither. The section mentions both singular marriage AND plural marriage. However, that is not at all what the section is about. There are two (possibly three) reasons for the confusion: First, the question(s) asked by Joseph to generate the revelation involved plural marriage. However, God very commonly provides answers that contain a much broader swath of truth than the original question. This is certainly one of those cases. Second, marriage is used as a case study to demonstrate several of the points of the revelation. Third, there are at least some in both camps (singular and plural marriage) who love to stuff this revelation and anything else they can find into their world view to justify what they already believe.

Q3: So what is the point of this section?
A3: The point of this section is to teach the law of the priesthood. The law of the priesthood is actually very simple, so it is hard to imagine why so much misunderstanding surrounds this section.

The law of the priesthood.

Here is my paraphrase of the vital parts of D&C 132:
3-4: If God reveals something to someone, and they don't obey it, they are damned.
5-6: Every blessing has a corresponding law. Those who obey the law, receive the blessing. The new and everlasting covenant is the fulness of the gospel (D&C 66:2), or the highest laws existing in our scope. In other words, it is the set of laws pertaining to the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom. If you don't obtain and live these laws, you are "damned" or limited to some inferior degree of glory.
7-11,13-14: Only the blessings and commandments you have received from God will endure after this life, and during this life the only things that really matter are what God himself asks you to do.
12: The only way to come to the Father and Son is by doing the things they tell you to do.
15-20: For example... Note: this passage is not the point of the section. Marriage is not "the law." It is not the "new and everlasting covenant." It is simply a case study of a typically-understood-to-be-religious-rite to demonstrate what happens when two people are married because of revelation from God vs. not.
21: Rehash of same point in 5-6.
22-25: If you obey God's instructions to you, you will meet him face to face. If you do not meet him face to face, you are not obeying God's instructions to you, you do not know him, and you are not yet to Celestial glory.
28-29: The law of the priesthood is to obtain and obey revelation and commandments from God.
34-35: This is another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time Abraham's taking of Hagar as a wife.
36: Another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time Abraham sacrificing Isaac.
37: Another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time Abraham's taking of concubines.
38-39: Another case study of obtaining and obeying revelation, this time of others taking multiple wives.

That's it. That's the whole point of the section: The law of the priesthood is to obtain and obey revelation and commandments from God. It is sad that this section has received so much attention for good and evil while so few if any have realized the whole point of it.

While it is true that verses 30-33 lay out the law of plural marriage, they are not the point of the section. It is very possible to magnify these verses out of proportion by ultra focusing on living them while ignoring the much more important majority of the section regarding obtaining and obeying your own individual revelation from God.

I know some people who live in plural marriage because they think it is the thing that matters most to God. I know a lot of people who would never live plural marriage because they think God would never want such a thing. I think both types stand to benefit greatly from the message here: If you don't now God, you don't have the new and everlasting covenant. What matters most is obtaining and obeying revelation from God. Keep his commandments in all things. Be true and faithful in all things.

Find him, know him, trust him, and obey him.