Section 132: Celestial Marriage
It seems likely that the ordinance of eternal or celestial marriage is even more important to our eternal life than we suspect or can even understand at this point in our development. Read the following quote from President Brigham Young:
The whole subject of the marriage relation is not in my reach, nor in any other man’s reach on this earth. It is without beginning of days or end of years: it is a hard matter to reach. We can tell some things with regard to it: it lays the foundation for worlds, for angels, and for the Gods; for intelligent beings to be crowned with glory, immortality and eternal lives. In fact, it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel of Salvation—of the Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity (JD, 2:90).
Celestial or eternal marriage is the ordinance by which couples enter into the “patriarchal order,” that order of priesthood which, when put into effect, will bind ancestry to posterity. In a way we don’t understand fully, this sealing of generations to one another prevents the earth from being utterly wasted at the time of the Savior’s second coming (D&C 2). We do know one simple fact that is pertinent to this principle. It is that in the celestial heaven, the celestial kingdom, there will be only one family. Each and every person there will be bonded to all others by the principle of eternal sealing—man to woman, parents to children, brothers to sisters, and a family to all other families. We will all be only one grand celestial family, and the Father and the Son are members of this family. It is this sealing ordinance and covenant that somehow leads to the ultimate and consummate blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is notable that at this point in our development, we are not given to understand completely the role of this single celestial family in the lives of each of us.
Section 132 is a revelation dealing with celestial marriage. It also contains information and explanations concerning the practice of plural marriage.
Note the date in the heading of section 132. That date is July 12, 1843. This is not the date when the revelation on celestial marriage was first given to Joseph. Note that the heading states that the revelation was recorded, not received, on that particular date. Joseph learned about plural marriage by revelation as early as 1831. He received this revelation in connection with his work on his inspired revision of the King James Bible. He started work on the Bible revision in June 1830 and began with the book of Genesis. When he came to the great patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon—who had more than one wife, he was provoked to ask of the Lord, “Why, Lord, didst thou justify thy servants in having many wives and concubines?” (see verse 1 of this section).
It certainly makes sense that if plural marriage is a part of the Lord’s eternal plan, then that principle should be taught to those of this last dispensation, which we understand to be the dispensation of the fulness of times, that is, that dispensation in which all of the gospel principles will be restored to the earth.
Joseph did inquire of the Lord and received a revelation in 1831. It may have been written down in that year, but today we have no such written record, and Joseph was instructed not to teach it to anyone until the time was right. It was thus kept very quiet. In 1841, after the saints had settled in Nauvoo, Joseph began to teach the principle of plural marriage to a few of his intimate friends and associates among the Church’s leaders. The principle was practiced by Joseph and some others whom he authorized. There was also some unauthorized practicing of the principle. Oliver Cowdery, for example, became a polygamist without Joseph’s approval, and this is one of the central reasons for his excommunication in 1838. We have already learned, in the background material for section 124, of John C. Bennett’s abuses of the principle.
As one might suppose, the doctrine of plural marriage was a difficult pill for the saints to swallow. President John Taylor said, “When this system [polygamy] was first introduced among this people, it was one of the greatest crosses that was ever taken up by any set of men [and women, of course] since the world stood” (JD, 11:221).
One of those for whom the principle was particularly difficult was Emma Smith. Emma and Joseph apparently had serious problems over the principle. He confided some of these problems to his trusted brother Hyrum. Hyrum felt that he could convince Emma of the divine origin of the principle if only Joseph would write down the revelation on the subject and allow Hyrum to take it to Emma. A quote from the Prophet’s scribe, William Clayton picks up the story:
On the morning of the 12th of July, 1843, Joseph and Hyrum Smith came into the office of the upper story of the “Brick-Store,” on the bank of the Mississippi River. They were talking of the subject of plural marriage, [and] Hyrum said to Joseph, “If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace.” Joseph smiled and remarked, “You do not know Emma as well as I do.” Hyrum repeated his opinion, and further remarked, “The doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity, and heavenly origin,” or words to that effect. . . . Joseph and Hyrum then sat down, and Joseph commenced to dictate the revelation on Celestial Marriage, and I wrote it, sentence by sentence, as he dictated. [When he was about to dictate it to William Clayton, Hyrum asked Joseph to use his seerstone, but Joseph declined saying that he had the revelation perfectly memorized.] After the whole was written, Joseph asked me to read it through slowly and carefully, which I did, and he pronounced it correct (Smith and Sjodahl, D&C Commentary, 820-21).
Hyrum took the written revelation and went to Emma. She gave Hyrum what he referred to as a “severe talking to” (HC, 5:32-33). The tradition in the Church is that some time later she either burned it or persuaded Joseph to burn it, and she rejected the principle and Hyrum’s attempt to convince her. Fortunately, a copy of the revelation had been made before destruction of the original. One of the brethren who was particularly interested in obtaining a copy was Bishop Newell K. Whitney, as his daughter was already one of the plural wives of Joseph. Hence, William Clayton had allowed one Joseph Kingsbury to make a copy of the revelation to give to Bishop Whitney. This copy made by Joseph Kingsbury remained with the Church and was taken to Utah by Brigham Young. Until 1852 the principle was kept a secret from the public and even from most of the saints. In that year official announcement was made to the world of the practice of plural marriage in a special conference in August 1852. Elder Orson Pratt read the revelation to the congregation. Emma was opposed to the principle to her death and even denied publicly that her husband was involved in the practice of polygamy, claiming that Brigham Young was responsible for the doctrine. Even today, the Reorganized LDS Church denies that Joseph ever practiced polygamy. Please see the supplemental article “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy.”
After Joseph’s death many sisters were sealed to him, but during his lifetime, the polygamy that was practiced was not just “paper polygamy.” Polygamy was practiced secretly from 1841 to 1852, including the period of travel across the plains and the early period in Salt Lake City. Only those who had individual directions from the president of the Church practiced it.
Only an estimated two hundred of the saints knew of the principle and of section 132 until 1852, when the principle was announced to the public as church policy. At that time the revelation was made available for all of those who were interested to read it. It was first published in the Deseret News in August 1852. Orson Pratt included it in the new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876. Section 132 is not the original revelation received by Joseph in 1831, though undoubtedly parts of the 1831 revelation are contained in this important section.
While the practice of polygamy drew severe criticism from ministers of various religious denominations and from others, it was not until 1862 that it was held to be illegal. The first anti-bigamy law was passed by congress in 1862, but preoccupation with the Civil War and its aftermath delayed enforcement for over a decade.
In 1874, a member of the Church was arrested, tried before a jury, found guilty, sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred dollars, and jailed for two years at hard labor. This decision was upheld when appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Brigham Young died in August 1877, and John Taylor was sustained as President of the Church in 1880. During the period of the presidency of John Taylor, 1880 to 1887, there was progressively intense persecution and prosecution of men living polygamy. In 1882 the Edmunds Law broadened the definition of punishable offenses. Not only was polygamy illegal, but men could now be arrested for “unlawful cohabitation.”
By the 1880s it is estimated that about fifteen percent of all church members belonged to plural marriage families. Although there certainly were some abuses which attracted wide spread notoriety, many enjoyed rich spiritual blessings if they were willing to put forth the effort required to successfully live this unique order of marriage.
In 1887 congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act which contained provisions specifying that the Church be disincorporated, the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company dissolved, and all property belonging to the Church, with the exception of buildings used exclusively for religious worship, be confiscated by the Federal Government. Hundreds of men practicing polygamy were heavily fined and imprisoned. This harsh law was also upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in May 1890.
It became obvious that the only way to preserve the Church was to prohibit the practice of polygamy. Under these circumstances, Wilford Woodruff on September 24, 1890, issued his Official Declaration or “Manifesto” prohibiting the practice of polygamy. The Manifesto was approved by the Church in general conference on October 6, 1890.
In December 1891, one year after the Official Declaration, a petition signed by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve was prepared and forwarded to the president of the United States, asking that amnesty be granted to all violators of the federal law which prohibited the practice of plural marriage. The request on the petition was approved by the president.
Notwithstanding the Manifesto (“Official Declaration – 1,” as it is now called), over the years a few misguided members of the Church have secretly associated themselves together for the purpose of perpetuating the practice of plural marriage. They do this in obvious defiance of the pledge made to the United States government that we, as a Church, will no longer practice polygamy. These individuals have been promptly excommunicated from the Church, and the result has been the formation of several “fundamentalist” groups which continue to insist that plural marriage is still an essential doctrine of the Church.
D&C 132 Celestial Marriage
D&C 132:7 All covenants, contracts, [etc.] not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise . . . are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead.
D&C 132:49 The Lord to Joseph Smith: I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—
verse 1 Here is the verse that provides us an explanation of the question in Joseph’s mind that led to his receiving of a revelation on plural marriage some time in 1831.
“concubines” A concubine was “a wife of inferior legal status, such as a war captive or a domestic servant. Her situation might be limited because of her legal standing, but in general her relationship with her husband differed little from that of a regular wife” (Largey, Book of Mormon Reference Companion, 212).
verses 2-33 Revelation on eternal law and its application to celestial marriage.
2 Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.
3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
verse 3 “obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you” The “instructions” which the Lord is about to give to Joseph include: (1) “the law” requiring that all covenants be entered into by proper authority to be valid; (2) the application of the law to the marriage of “a man” and “a wife” (verse 26); and (3) the practice of plural marriage.
4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
verse 4 Keep in mind the distinction between “a” new and everlasting covenant and “the” new and everlasting covenant. “A” new and everlasting covenant spoken of in this verse is the covenant of celestial/plural marriage. “The” new and everlasting covenant is the gospel in its entirety with all its ordinances. The gospel consists of several other specific “new and everlasting covenants” such as baptism, sacrament, and priesthood. This verse seems to refer to the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” As with any covenant, if a person rejects a covenant or enters into a covenant and does not keep it, damnation follows. It does not matter whether it is the covenant of baptism or marriage, it is the same
“if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned” “Damned,” in the Church, has come to mean “stopped” or “limited in one’s spiritual progress.” But it more appropriately implies divine censure and penalty. Those of us who have received the highest ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood have an obligation to live the law or be damned. “For of him unto whom much is given, much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3).
5 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.
verse 5 “all who will have a blessing at my hands” Compare this verse to D&C 130:20-21. See also the commentary for these latter two verses.
6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.
verse 6 Again, “the new and everlasting covenant” refers to the gospel which was, as the verse says, instituted so that man may receive “the fulness of my glory” or all that the Father hath. Another reason why the gospel has been restored is that the Father and Son are somehow glorified when a man is exalted. Thus, the gospel was restored for “the fulness of my [the Lord’s] glory.”
The term “new and everlasting covenant” is, in a way a rather contradictory term. All of the principles of the gospel are old and have been on the earth intermittently since the time of Adam. They have even been on other worlds. They are eternal and everlasting. Why “new” then? They are new in the sense that they are restored in a new dispensation—after a period of darkness.
“he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned” Again, the Lord repeats the idea that if an individual enters into the covenants of “the new and everlasting covenant” and then fails to live up to those covenants, then he will be damned and cannot receive of his fulness which is exaltation.
7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.
verse 7 This verse is an unusually important verse of scripture, although its full meaning may not be apparent with the first reading.
Everything we do in the Church has potential eternal consequences. In the last analysis, probably all of the commandments or the things we are asked to do for the Lord are spiritual rather than simply temporal in their nature (D&C 29:34-35). For example, going to meetings, saying “amen” after prayers, home teaching, taking the sacrament, singing hymns, praying, teaching a class, going to the temple, participating in ordinances—all of these things may produce spiritual benefit or spiritual growth in us, but only if they are participated in with the proper motives and attitudes—for the right reasons. If we do participate with proper motives and for the right reasons, then the action will be ratified, sanctified, or given a stamp of approval by the Lord. Now, the Lord has designated one of the Godhead to actually carry out this ratifying function. This is the Holy Ghost. In this function, the Holy Ghost is spoken of as the “Holy Spirit of promise” or the “sealer.” To be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise is to be made eternally binding. In this capacity, the Spirit searches the heart, and he may ratify an action when an individual is sincere and properly motivated. He may also withhold his ratification if an individual does “the right thing for the wrong reason.” Ultimately, it is his prerogative to seal a man up unto eternal life. This is referred to as being “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.” Thus we learn that the Holy Ghost, in addition to the Second Comforter (Christ), can seal a man up to eternal life or make his “calling and election sure.”
Perfect righteousness is the state where all our righteous actions are in perfect harmony with pure motives—doing all the right things for the right reasons. There may, however, be quite a gap between the outward action, the outward sign, the outward ordinance, and the true inward feeling or motivation. For example, we may partake of the sacrament (the outward ordinance), but we may not receive a remission of our sins and a renewal of our baptism unless the ordinance is ratified by the Holy Spirit of promise. It will not be ratified unless we are truly repentant and partake of the sacrament with the proper spirit and attitude. Other poignant examples might include temple attendance, paying of tithes and other contributions, home teaching and visiting teaching, etc. Each of us is imperfect and may do many of the right things for the wrong reasons. We can fool many people—even ourselves, but “the Comforter knoweth all things” (D&C 42:17). It is not possible to lie to the Holy Ghost and thereby gain an undeserved blessing.
“of him who is anointed” No ordinance can be made eternally binding lest that ordinance is performed under the authority of the one who holds the sealing power. There is only one person at a time who holds the keys of the sealing power—the president of the Church.
“no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection” “Efficacy” means to have the power to produce results. “Virtue” also means having the power to produce results. “Force” means to compel validity. By using these three words together, the Lord declares without reservation that there is no way one can receive the eternal promises unless covenants are made by proper authority and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. There are no private agreements, no back doors, no climbing over side fences, no sneaking in behind someone else. Agreements and obligations can only be completed through the power of the priesthood and the sealing power of the Holy Spirit of promise. No one else, or anything else, has the power to produce the eternal conditions or effects.
verses 8-12 These verses reiterate a well-known concept—that the Lord’s house is a house of order. There is only one way back to heaven or to any level of salvation. It is by the Lord’s command. There are absolutely no exceptions, no corners which may be cut, no deviations Justice will be done, and the exceptions made by the Savior according to the law of mercy are made by strict criteria.
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
12 I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.
verses 13-14 When the dust finally settles, following the resurrection of all mankind, the only things which will remain from this mortal world are our spirits and memories, the spiritual gifts we have been given through our obedience to law, and those relationships we have made with one another, including and especially with those in our families. The institution of the family will certainly endure past the resurrection.
15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
verse 15 In this verse the marriage “in the world” is that marriage involving unbelievers—those married outside the scope of the gospel and the eternal marriage covenant—whose marriages are performed without priesthood authority, These marriages last “until death do you part.” Each one of these marriage contracts is, therefore, at the same time, a divorce decree—which takes effect at the death of either partner. While both partners are alive, however, the Lord does recognize the marriage.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
verse 16 “when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage” Again, this statement applies to those unbelievers who have rejected the gospel and also the eternal marriage covenant. These will never have the opportunity to marry following this earth life.
The context of this verse explains the meaning of the confusing New Testament scripture found in Matthew 22:23-33: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30). Interestingly, these verses in Matthew are often cited today as scriptural evidence against the doctrine of eternal marriage. How do we explain Jesus’s statement to the Sadducees of his day? The standard answer given by church members today is that marriage is an ordinance which can only be performed on the earth prior to the resurrection. “Whether that will be the case or not, we have no way of knowing. We should remember, however, that the first resurrection precedes the millennial era, when it is supposed that such matters [eternal marriages] will be attended to. This passage [Matthew 22:30] does not say that there cannot be marriage in the Millennium or at some subsequent time. It simply states that unbelievers, ‘Sadducees,’ be they ancient or modern, cannot be sealed for time and eternity” (Studies in Scripture, Volume Five, The Gospels, Joseph F. McConkie, 390. See also Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond, 98-100). It is clear that it is the unbelievers—those who rejected the gospel and the eternal marriage covenant and are not married by proper priesthood authority—who “when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
“appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants” This phrase has caused some confusion in the Church. It seems to imply one of two possible things: (1) that those unbelievers who reject the gospel and the eternal covenant of marriage will somehow have an opportunity to be a ministering angel “in heaven,” presumably the celestial kingdom. (2) or that those faithful saints who have accepted the gospel, who do not happen to marry during this mortal life, will be excluded from ever enjoying the blessings of an eternal marital relationship. We know that neither is true. In order to gain entrance to the celestial heaven, a man must be worthy of his exaltation whether or not he has married on this earth. And, it will surely be the right of each celestial person to decide whether or not he or she wishes to go on to become creator gods. This is a decision each celestial individual will be able to make freely. Some may choose simply to become ministering angels. This verse cannot imply that individuals who do not marry on earth for a variety of reasons will be automatically excluded from an eternal marital relationship simply because they failed to marry by the proper priesthood authority. Each of us is acquainted with worthy celestial individuals, who would like to have married in this life but it simply did not happen. Surely these will have ample opportunity to be bound in an eternal marital relationship following this earth life. President Lorenzo Snow taught: “There is no latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. In other words, if a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation, and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it. That is sure and positive” (Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 138).
There are doubtless some celestial individuals who will choose, for reasons of their own, to live eternally without a marriage partner. They will deliberately choose not to become gods. This phrase of scripture does apply to them. These will be appointed to serve those celestial “priests and kings” (D&C 76:56) who have chosen eternal marriage. This particular phrase may also refer to those saved to a lesser degree of glory—a lesser heaven—where they will not have an opportunity to have an eternal spouse or eternal progeny. Joseph Smith taught: “Gods have an ascendency over the angels who are ministering servants. In the resurrection, some are raised to be angels, others are raised to become Gods” (TPJS, 312).
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain 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.
verse 17 “these angels did not abide my law” While those who become ministering angels in the celestial realm choose not to be bound in an eternal marital relationship—they “did not abide my law”—the reference here may be more to those who do not inherit celestial glory.
“they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly” They will not have eternal progeny.
“without exaltation” The word exaltation in the Church has come to have two separate meanings. All those who inherit celestial glory may be said to be exalted. In a narrower definition, only those who receive the highest degree within the celestial kingdom may be said to be exalted (see section 131 and its commentary).
18 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.
verse 18 Verse 15 has described one type of marriage—that performed “until death do you part.” This verse describes a second type of marriage, the “counterfeit eternal marriage.” It is marriage performed for time and all eternity by someone who lacks the proper authority. It, of course, will not be binding for eternity.
19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
verse 19 This verse describes a third type of marriage—celestial or eternal marriage performed by proper authority. The verse describes the consummate eternal, spiritual opportunity. It says simply that if a man enters into the covenant of eternal marriage, honors all the covenants of the gospel, and does not commit murder—shed innocent blood—then he will come forth in the first resurrection, inherit all that the Father has and is, and have an eternal continuation of spirit progeny. His calling and election will be made sure—he will be sealed up to eternal life by the Holy Spirit of promise.
One note of caution. This verse has been interpreted by some to mean that if a couple is sealed by proper authority in the temple, then their calling and election is made sure with the only other requirement being that they not commit murder (see also verse 26). This, of course, is illogical and untrue. The Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit of promise, knows the hearts of all people and will seal or ratify eternally only those relationships which are worthy for such ratification. This will occur only if both keep all of their gospel covenants. If one or both members of the partnership fail to live up to their covenants, then the Spirit will withdraw the seal, and the eternal relationship is null and void.
“if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection” Please review the sequence of resurrections in the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:15. Those who are exalted will come forth from the grave in the morning of the first resurrection, meaning the celestial resurrection. The “next resurrection” in this verse seems to refer to celestial resurrection rather than terrestrial or telestial resurrection. Hence, the statement “in the next resurrection” has caused some confusion. There are two possible explanations. First it could be that those who came forth from the grave with Christ in the meridian of time would be classified in this verse as those coming forth in the “first resurrection,” and all others who come forth later in the morning of the first resurrection would be classified as coming forth in the “next resurrection.” Another possibility could be that those who live on the earth during the millennial reign, when a person will die and be resurrected in a twinkling of an eye, are part of “the next resurrection.”
“continuation of the seeds” This phrase means to have a continual increase of spirit children. The reader should make note of other words that refer to the having of eternal progeny in section 132. These include “enlarged,” “they have no end,” “they continue,” “continuation of the lives,” and “eternal lives.” The Lord uses all of these phrases for the continuation of the family unit. Perhaps the celestial ministering angel is involved in an eternal family unit, but he does not participate in perpetuating an eternal family throughout the eternities.
20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
verse 20 “they have no end” “they continue” They have eternal progeny.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.
verse 21 “except ye abide my law” Unless you are sealed in marriage.
22 For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.
verse 22 “strait is the gate” The word “strait,” of course, does not mean “straight”, rather it means “narrow,” “restricted,” “difficult,” “exacting.” See the supplemental article in Learning to Love the Book of Mormon, Strait and Straight in the Book of Mormon.
“continuation of the lives” This phrase refers to having eternal progeny.
23 But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.
24 This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.
verse 24 “eternal lives” This phrase refers to the having of eternal progeny.
25 Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law.
verse 25 “leadeth to the deaths” “The deaths” does not mean that some individuals will fail to live forever. Rather, it means “no more seed,” the dissolution of the family unit beyond the grave.
26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.
verse 26 This verse has been a source of considerable confusion. It seems to say that if a man and a woman are sealed together appropriately in the temple, and the Holy Spirit of promise ratifies the sealing, then the couple may subsequently commit all manner of sins, except for murder, and still be guaranteed their exaltation. Could this be true? No, of course not. There is no such thing in the gospel as an absolute guarantee of exaltation, as man always maintains his agency and never sheds the responsibility for his actions and thoughts. Even a man who has had his “calling and election made sure” can still fall. There are three concepts contained in the verse that we often miss with a first reading. These two concepts are: (1) The couple, after they are sealed to one another for eternity, has also been sealed up to eternal life. (2) Following the couple’s being sealed up to eternal life, they commit all manner of sin and blasphemies. (3) They qualify for a celestial resurrection only after they are destroyed in the flesh and are turned over to the buffetings of Satan.
Let us attempt a clarification. There is apparently a certain level of “light” or spiritual progress an individual may reach in this life that imposes an exceedingly solemn obligation upon him or her. The individual who has reached this lofty level of spiritual development has entered into and fulfilled all the covenants of the gospel including celestial marriage, and he has been sealed up to eternal life by the Holy Spirit of promise—he has had his calling and election made sure. Almost invariably, the man who has attained this spiritual plateau will continue on to his exaltation. However, if he should fall, then the consequences are especially grave. “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3). If he were to lose, for example, the Spirit and become an enemy to the Church, coming out in open rebellion against the Church, then he has committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, the unpardonable sin, and will never achieve exaltation. He is guilty of “shedding innocent blood,” the innocent blood of Christ, and assenting unto the Savior’s death. He crucifies the Son of God afresh. There is no redemption possible for this man. He will become forever a son of perdition, consigned forever to outer darkness. If on the other hand, that same individual loses the Spirit and commits serious sin but does not become an enemy of the Church, he is still in very serious trouble, and it is most unlikely that he will ever be exalted. It is possible, however, for him to achieve exaltation through a very difficult and hazardous procedure. By falling from his lofty state, he has rejected and forsaken Christ’s atonement, and therefore, he must pay the penalty himself. This is done by being destroyed in the flesh and being turned over to “the buffetings of Satan” until the second coming of the Savior. This is the basis of the so-called “blood atonement doctrine.” Does this mean that such a person should be put to death by the Church by the shedding of his blood? Certainly that meaning is implied, and perhaps that would be done if a righteous theocracy governed the earth. Today, however, the Church does not have legal authority for such actions, and it is not the doctrine of the Church that such persons should be executed. We simply leave the remote possibility of their exaltation to the Lord. Can you imagine how awful and frightening it must be to be turned over to the “buffetings of Satan?!” The important point to emphasize is that through the process of being destroyed in the flesh and being turned over to Satan, the individual may only be exalted if he successfully and completely repents of his sins and does so under very difficult and trying circumstances. It is most unlikely that he will be successful.
“if a man marry a wife according to my word” The couple has been sealed eternally together by the ordinance of celestial marriage.
“they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” This phrase refers to their being sealed up to eternal life and does not only refer to their being sealed together in marriage. The ultimate manifestation of the Holy Spirit of promise is in connection with having one’s calling and election made sure—that is, receiving “the more sure word of prophecy” testifying that an individual is sealed up to eternal life (D&C 131:5). The Holy Spirit of promise validates this blessing or seals it upon the person. Referring to the Holy Spirit of promise the Lord says, “This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the Celestial Kingdom” (D&C 88:4; cf. Mormon Doctrine, 361-62) (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 2, “Holy Spirit of Promise).
“he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies” This couple has committed significant sin subsequent to their being sealed up to eternal life. As we read this verse, we are initially inclined to interpret this particular phrase as a hypothetical, “what if . . . “ phrase. It is not. It declares that the sealed couple commits serious sins after their calling and election is made sure. It is now easy to see why verse 26 has caused confusion. When one reads the verse it is easy to miss the fact that the couple has been married according to the Lord’s word and been sealed up to eternal life. They then fell from their position of being sealed up to eternal life through their losing of the Spirit and forsaking the choicest earthly blessing the Lord can bestow. They have broken the seal.
“yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation; but they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption” This phrase teaches they theoretically can achieve exaltation, but only if they repent under extremely difficult circumstances. As mentioned, it is unlikely they will be able to withstand the conditions of that repentance. It is a theoretical possibility only. As we first read this phrase, we are initially inclined to think it means they will be exalted regardless of their sin. That is clearly not the case.
Perhaps an additional word of explanation on the doctrine of blood atonement is appropriate. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has provided us a clear explanation:
From the days of Joseph Smith to the present, wicked and evilly-disposed persons have fabricated false and slanderous stories to the effect that the Church, in the early days of this dispensation, engaged in a practice of blood atonement whereunder the blood of apostates and others was shed by the Church as an atonement for their sins. These claims are false and were known by their originators to be false. There is not one historical instance of so-called blood atonement in this dispensation, nor has there been one event or occurrence whatever, of any nature, from which the slightest inference arises that any such practice either existed or was taught.
There are, however, in the sermons of some of the early church leaders some statements about the true doctrine of blood atonement and of its practice in past dispensations, for instance, in the days of Moses. By taking one sentence on one page and another from a succeeding page and even by taking a part of a sentence on one page and a part of another found several pages away—all wholly torn from context— dishonest persons have attempted to make it appear that Brigham Young and others taught things just the opposite of what they really believed and taught.
Raising the curtain of truth on this false and slanderous bluster of enemies of the Church who have thus wilfully chosen to fight the truth with outright lies of the basest sort, the true doctrine of blood atonement is simply this:
- Jesus Christ worked out the infinite and eternal atonement by the shedding of his own blood. He came into the world for the purpose of dying on the cross for the sins of the world. By virtue of that atoning sacrifice immortality came as a free gift to all men, and all who would believe and obey his laws would in addition be cleansed from sin through his blood (Mosiah 3:16-19; 3 Ne. 27:19-21; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 5:9-10).
- But under certain circumstances there are some serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate, and the law of God is that men must then have their own blood shed to atone for their sins. Murder, for instance, is one of these sins; hence we find the Lord commanding capital punishment. Thus, also, if a person has so progressed in righteousness that his calling and election has been made sure, if he has come to that position where he knows “by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood” that he is sealed up unto eternal life (D&C 131:5), then if he [is to gain] forgiveness for certain grievous sins, he must “be destroyed in the flesh,” and “delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God” (D&C 132:19-27).
President Joseph Fielding Smith has written: “Man may commit certain grievous sins—according to his light and knowledge—that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved, he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone—so far as in his power lies—for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail. . . . Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offenses are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf” (Doctrines of Salvation, volume 1, 133-38). This doctrine can only be practiced in its fulness in a day when the civil and ecclesiastical laws are administered in the same hands. It was, for instance, practiced in the days of Moses, but it was not and could not be practiced in this dispensation, except that persons who understood its provisions could and did use their influence to get a form of capital punishment written into the laws of the various states of the union so that the blood of murderers could be shed (Bruce R. McConkie, “Blood Atonement Doctrine,” Mormon Doctrine, 92).
27 The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.
verse 27 “The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” This verse contains an explanation of the unpardonable sin, but again the verse is incomplete! The person in question has not only participated in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, but he has also lived the kind of life that has enabled him to achieve the blessing of being sealed up to eternal life by the Holy Spirit of Promise. In other words he has had his calling and election made sure.
“ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death” This phrase does not really describe a literal murder. Rather this wording refers to the forsaking of Christ by one who has had his calling and election made sure. He has become an enemy of Christ and of his Church.
28 I am the Lord thy God, and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was.
verse 28 “law of my Holy Priesthood” The law of the priesthood is the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the oath and covenant of that priesthood, and all of its attending ordinances and covenants. These constitute the law of the priesthood.
verses 29-33 Those who enter into celestial marriage are promised the “blessings given to Abraham”—that is, their posterity will be as numerous as stars in heavens and the particles of sand on the seashore. Who was it that returned the keys of the “dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” to the earth? For the answer—or at least for a discussion of the possible answers—see the commentary for section 110:12.
29 Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.
verse 29 “Abraham received all things” Eternal marriage and the promise of eternal increase is not a new law given for the first time in this dispensation. Rather, it has been given to each dispensation starting with Adam and Eve. They were married in the Garden of Eden by God himself (HC, 2:320).
“sitteth upon his throne” Abraham has been resurrected with a celestial body and has been exalted.
30 Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins— from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph—which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them.
verse 30 “Abraham received promises concerning his seed” For of the review of the Abrahamic covenant, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 14:8. The Lord is teaching Joseph Smith that all of the tenets of the Abrahamic covenant apply to him.
31 This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself.
verse 31 “This promise is yours also” Here the Lord seems to be directing his instructions directly to Joseph Smith (see verse 30) but we may apply them to the saints in general.
“by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father” Here the Lord refers to the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Some have even suggested that the Lord is referring even to that aspect having to do with plural marriage.
32 Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.
verse 32 “enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved” Is this a direct command for Joseph to practice plural marriage? Perhaps it is only a command for Joseph and the saints to enter into the law of eternal celestial marriage.
33 But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham.
verses 34-48 Revelation concerning the principle of plural marriage.
verses 34-39 In these verses the Lord applies the law to plural marriage and answers the question Joseph Smith asked concerning the early prophets who had plural wives (verse 1). The Lord simply states that he had given them the law of eternal marriage and then commanded them to take more than one wife by that covenant. Because they obeyed this law in righteousness, “they entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones and are not angels but are gods” (verse 37).
It appears that the Lord’s command to Abraham concerning plural marriage is an exception to the law of marriage that a man should have one wife (D&C 49:16; Jacob 2:27-30). A scriptural example of the Lord’s giving a law and then sometimes making an exception to it is found in his command “thou shalt not kill,” and yet the Lord commanded Nephi to kill Laban (1 Nephi 4). Likewise, the Lord commanded Abraham to offer Isaac upon the altar. The Prophet Joseph taught: “God said, ‘thou shalt not kill’; at another time he said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire” (HC, 5:135).
Abraham obeyed all things that the Lord commanded him to do. In referring to Abraham’s righteousness, the prophet Joseph observed: “Abraham was guided in all his family affairs by the Lord; was conversed with by angels and by the Lord; was told where to go, and when to stop; and prospered exceedingly in all that he put his hand unto; it was because he and his family obeyed the counsel of the Lord” (HC, 5:64).
34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.
35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.
36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
verse 38 “save in those things which they received not of me” Solomon was given multiple wives by the Lord through the prophet Nathan, who held the keys of the priesthood, but later in life Solomon chose to marry many “strange women” of different countries that God did not give him. In fact, he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. “And his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:3) from the Lord. For this he was condemned by the Lord (1 Kings 11:9-13).
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.
verse 39 David also was directed by the Lord to take additional wives, and he enjoyed the approbation of the heavens so long as he stayed within the bounds the Lord had set. David, however, had an illicit relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. After she conceived, David plotted to hide the affair by having Uriah killed in battle and then marrying Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). However, God knows all things and understands the hearts of all men. God judged David guilty not only of adultery but also of murder, by which he lost his exaltation. Just where David will be in eternity is not stated, but Joseph Smith gave us this insight to David’s eternal condition: “No murderer hath eternal life. Even David must wait for those times of refreshing, before he can come forth and his sins be blotted out. . . . Now, we read that many bodies of the saints arose at Christ’s resurrection, probably all the saints, but it seems that David did not. Why? Because he had been a murderer” (HC, 4:359). At another time the Prophet taught: “A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell” (HC, 6:253). David will have to pay the price of the broken law before he could be resurrected and enter into a kingdom of God. His righteous wives were taken from him and given to another because he was not worthy of a more exalted glory.
Jacob, in the Book of Mormon, warned his people: “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me saith the Lord” (Jacob 2:24). When both scriptural passages are read together (Jacob 2 and D&C 132), it becomes clear that the Lord was condemning unauthorized plural marriages and not the principle of plural marriage per se.
40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things. Ask what ye will, and it shall be given unto you according to my word.
verse 40 “I . . . the Lord . . . restore all things” The question is often asked: Why did the Lord require the early saints to live plural marriage? We will have to wait for a full answer to this question, but two considerations seem reasonable and in harmony with the scriptures. First, in Jacob 2:30 and D&C 132:63, the Lord declares that plural marriage is for the purpose of raising up seed unto him. From the practice of plural marriage came a large and faithful descendancy that gave strength to the Church. Second, as the Lord declares in this verse, restoring plural marriage is included in the restoration of all things. Joseph Smith declared: “All the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation, therefore all things had under the authority of the priesthood at any former period, shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets” (HC, 4:210-211). This apparently included the practice of plural marriage.
verses 41-44 The Lord’s answer to a question of Joseph’s concerning the committing of adultery.
It is apparent from these verses that Joseph Smith asked the Lord about adultery in connection with plural marriage. Adultery is committed whenever a married person enters a sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage. The Lord informs the saints that adultery in plural marriage would be committed if anyone entered a sexual relationship without being married by one of God’s anointed (verse 41). If the marriage was not contracted by his authority and under the direction of his anointed, it was wrong, and therefore sin was committed. This applies to both the husband (verse 43) and the wife (verse 41). The Lord also teaches in verses 44 that a sinning spouse cannot hold back a righteous spouse from receiving exaltation. At some time during eternity, all righteous individuals will have the sealing powers of marriage exercised in their behalf. In this case, the righteous spouse of a sinning spouse will be sealed to one who is faithful and worthy of the blessings of exaltation (verse 44).
41 And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed.
42 If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery.
43 And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.
44 And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many.
verses 45-50 The Lord teaches about the use of priesthood keys in the sealing of couples. Who restored the keys of the sealing power to the earth? Look in section 110:13-16 for this answer also.
45 For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.
verse 45 “I have conferred upon you the keys and the power of the priesthood” Peter, James, and John restored the powers of the priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Elias and Elijah restored the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham and the keys of the sealing powers of the priesthood (D&C 11). These are the same keys that were granted to Peter (Matthew 16:19). It is through these keys that the power to marry for time and eternity on earth and having it sealed in heaven becomes a reality.
verses 46-48 These verses contain a reiteration of the power of the keys of the sealing power of the priesthood held by the prophet president of the Church in these latter days. Whatsoever is bound or loosed on earth, will be bound or loosed in heaven.
46 And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven.
47 And again, verily I say, whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord; for I, the Lord, am thy God.
48 And again, verily I say unto you, my servant Joseph, that whatsoever you give on earth, and to whomsoever you give any one on earth, by my word and according to my law, it shall be visited with blessings and not cursings, and with my power, saith the Lord, and shall be without condemnation on earth and in heaven.
verses 49-66 Revelation concerning the practice of marriage by Joseph and Emma.
49 For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.
verse 49 “I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father” Joseph’s calling and election is made sure!
50 Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.
verse 50 “I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac” The meaning of this intriguing verse is not entirely clear.
Abraham was commanded by the Lord to do something very difficult, even something that Abraham had formerly thought was a violation of the commandments. Before Abraham could accomplish this sacrifice of his son Isaac, the Lord “made a way for [his] escape,” that is, he stayed Abraham’s hand and reassured him that his willingness to do the hard thing was sufficient. The Lord had witnessed Joseph’s willingness to sacrifice in many different ways and on many occasions. It is difficult, however, to see how the Lord made for Joseph “a way for your escape” unless the Lord is referring to Joseph’s martyrdom which will occur in just less than a year. Also it could be that the Lord had given Joseph some challenging commands that he eventually did not require of him. See the commentary for verse 51.
verses 51-66 These verses contain the Lord’s stern counsel to Emma Smith. She is encouraged to submit to the will of the Lord pertaining to her husband—to yield her heart to the mind of God regarding the matter of plural marriage. Note how the wording indicates that Joseph is already practicing plural marriage.
When section 132 was recorded, in July of 1843, it was not intended for distribution to the entire Church. Rather, it was recorded in a specific effort to encourage Emma Smith to accept the doctrine of plural marriage. President Joseph F. Smith indicated that these specific verses to Emma might not have been included in section 132 if the July 12, 1843 revelation had been intended for consumption by the whole Church as binding doctrine:
When the revelation was written in 1843, it was for a special purpose, by the request of the Patriarch Hyrum Smith, and was not then designated to go forth to the church or to the world. It is most probable that had it been then written with a view to its going out as doctrine of the Church, it would have been presented in a somewhat different form. There are personalities contained in a part of it [section 132] which are not relevant to the principle itself, but rather to the circumstances which necessitated its being written at that time. Joseph Smith, on the day it was written, expressly declared that there was a great deal more connected with the doctrine which would be revealed in due time, but this was sufficient for the occasion, and was made to suffice for the time (JD, 20:29).
51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
verse 51 Here is another enigmatic, but most intriguing verse. It obviously contains instructions about things that were known only to God, Joseph, and Emma. Evidently, the Lord was putting Joseph and Emma through an Abraham-type test of faithfulness. And, as it was with Abraham, there was, so to speak, a “ram in the thicket” for them both. Both were spared having to actually perform some challenging commands which are not clarified in the revelation. In the following verses, the Lord makes it clear that he is willing to forgive both Joseph and Emma for failing to do this most difficult thing.
As is well known, Emma Smith later chose not to follow Brigham Young and the Quorum of Twelve in the exodus of the saints to the Great Basin. Further, she encouraged the April 1860 appointment of her son Joseph Smith III as president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Obviously the judgment of Emma must remain with the Son of God. He knows her heart and knows that she stood solidly by her husband as a strong supporter for many years.
52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.
verse 52 This verse makes it clear that Joseph was already practicing the principle of plural marriage at the time of the recording of this revelation.
53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
verse 54 “if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed” What does the word destroyed actually mean in this context? Often we use the word destroyed to mean “killed” or “to suffer death in the flesh.” However, the word is also used in scripture to mean “cast out.” Peter quoted Moses when he said that the Lord would raise up a prophet like unto Moses and every person who will not hear the words of that prophet will be destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:22-23). When this prophecy is discussed in the Book of Mormon, however, the warning is that the people would be cut off or removed from among the people (1 Nephi 22:20). In the Doctrine and Covenants, the term used is “cast out” (see D&C 42:75, for example). Today the word used is excommunication.
55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.
56 And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice.
57 And again, I say, let not my servant Joseph put his property out of his hands, lest an enemy come and destroy him; for Satan seeketh to destroy; for I am the Lord thy God, and he is my servant; and behold, and lo, I am with him, as I was with Abraham, thy father, even unto his exaltation and glory.
verse 57 “let not my servant Joseph put his property out of his hands” It is not clear in the history of the Church what property is referred to here or what the circumstances were that surround this command. Could it be that the Lord is referring to his plural wives? See the phrase “with that that belongeth unto him” in verse 61 and “they belongeth to him” in verse 62.
58 Now, as touching the law of the priesthood, there are many things pertaining thereunto.
verse 58 “the law of the priesthood” See the commentary for verse 28.
59 Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me, and I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him.
verse 59 The Lord makes it clear that Joseph is justified in his practicing of plural marriage.
60 Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God.
verse 60 “Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph” Exactly what is the implication of the verb set or set on in this phrase? There are a few definitions for the word set taken from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary that might be applicable here. They include “to oppose;” “to cause to stop or to obstruct;” and “to reject, as in set aside.”
verses 61-65 These verses reveal the proper course of action between a husband and wife as they entered into the practice of plural marriage. The “law of Sarah” is that when a husband has been commanded to take a second wife, he must consult the first wife, and she must give her consent. If he does not consult the first wife, then he has broken the law of Sarah. If the first wife should chose not to accept the practice of plural marriage after the husband had been commanded to live it and the wife had been taught properly, the husband then was exempt from the law of Sarah, and his wife became the transgressor. The husband could then proceed as commanded by the Lord. This law is named after Sarah, as Abraham and Sarah were the ideal example of the proper course of action when the Lord commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife (verse 65). The husband is not to act alone, but the wife also must be obedient to the law of the Lord. If she refuses consent, they she has broken the law of Sarah. As with any command of God, if a person obeys the command, blessings and promises will be the result. If the person disobeys, cursings and punishments will result.
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
verses 61-63 It is interesting to note these verses inserted into the middle of those verses that sternly counsel Emma regarding her serious misgiving over the practice of polygamy. It seems likely that Emma accepted eternity-only sealing months before she accepted time-and-eternity sealings.
A plausible reason that these verses are inserted here, is that they particularly address directly the aspect of polygamy with which Emma struggled the most.
64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.
verse 64 “if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power” The first wife holds “the keys” to the law of Sarah. She must be consulted and give her consent prior to her husband’s taking another wife. She will only hold these keys if she supports the practice of plural marriage. We will learn in the following verse that if the wife refuses to support the law of plural marriage, then she forfeits her right to the keys, and her husband is exempt from the law of Sarah.
65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife. 66 And now, as pertaining to this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you, hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen.
- Michael J. Preece