Romney told a crowd of 30,000 people on Saturday that marriage between “one man and one woman” is an “enduring institution” that should be upheld. This statement was made during the commencement address at Liberty University, an Evangelical Christian university founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Despite theological differences, his audience jumped to their feet and thundered their applause. I, on the other hand, am a little more inclined to thunder bullshit.
Well, maybe not “thunder” bullshit, exactly. That’s not really my style. Probably, if I had been there, I would have just covered my mouth with my hand and pretended to cough out the word. Look, I would have at the very least, remained firmly seated.
It’s the words “enduring institution” that get to me. For one thing, this statement is incredibly well engineered. For the Mormon, marriage is most definitely enduring. As in, it lasts forever. In Mormon theology*, once a man who has lived a righteous life dies, he is allowed to call forth his earthly wife from the grave via her secret name for the purpose of helping him rule his very own planet. Back in the polygamy days, if he had, say, five wives but only really loved one of them, he may choose to leave the other four where they lie by simply not calling out their names that only he has been given (the wives don’t know their own spiritual names). But for the lucky wife, yes…that marriage will last forever. She will be allowed to supply souls to the new earth forever and always as he, the god of said planet, administers as Supreme Being. Their marriage shall indeed be…”enduring”.
Now, is this what Romney meant to convey when he made this statement to an audience filled with Evangelicals? I think not.
My feeling is that he was counting on a different interpretation. For the Evangelical, the phrase “enduring institution” would have conjured up entirely different ideas. The average Evangelical would immediately point to the institution of marriage as being a recipe created by God Himself and that it is this idea that is enduring. In other words, this is the way it was meant to be…and we shouldn’t change it. God intended for marriage to only include one man and one woman. Period.
At least, I think this is the interpretation he was counting on. Most Evangelicals don’t have the idea that they will become gods of their own planets someday. In which case, the statement makes me chuckle. Because here is a man who is a member of the LDS church implying with a straight face to the Evangelical community that marriage between one man and one woman is an institution that has withstood the test of time.
I’m not saying that the modern mainstream LDS church advocates anything deviating from this plan, but it hasn’t been that long since the Mormon clothesline held more than two pairs of freshly washed holy underwear, if you know what I mean.
The more “traditional” Judeo-Christian tradition doesn’t get off so lightly, either. Abraham, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jehoiada…they all had multiple wives. Matthew 25:1 even talks about the kingdom of heaven being “likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom.”
But what about Adam and Eve? Was that not the model for the perfect marriage? Sure…I guess. Insofar as an arranged marriage with no other options is part of that model. Also, did I miss the part where they vowed to be together forever until death did them part, etcetera? Or even the part where they said that they loved each other? Or that they were even, well, married?
Without even addressing the issue of homosexuality and its actual meaning in the Bible here (because, obviously, he was addressing the issue of gay marriage with his assertion), the idea that marriage should be defined as “one man and one woman” based on it being an “enduring institution” or even as “God-ordained” may not be as obvious as many would have us believe. If one takes the record of history as a whole—yes, including the biblical record—it’s just not that solid of an argument.
I mean, technically speaking, all those wives married to Solomon could arguably have been considered to be married to each other, as well.
I’m just saying.
*Mormon theology changes quite frequently and there is some debate this is changing. For example, the Gospel Doctrine book used to read:
“Jesus taught,’In my Father’s house are many mansions’ (John 14:2)…If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father.”
It now it reads:
“If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, to live with our Heavenly Father in eternal families.”