The Gospel of Philip from the Nag Hammadi corpus contains some important passages about a kind of celestial marriage in the “bridal chamber.” It is not uncommon for Latter-day Saints to appeal to this text as evidence for a kind of parallel to Mormon notions of eternal marriage found in ancient Christianity. I hope to show that such a reading of this text is mistaken, and that appeals to the Gospel of Philip to butress Mormon apologetic aims are an example of the problem that much apologetic work faces, that of decontextualizing ancient material to produce systematic misreadings. Rather than an approval of a particular kind of ritual marriage that unites a mortal husband and wife together for eternity, the bridal chamber is best understood as BYU Prof. Gaye Strathern’s dissertation, “The Valentinian Bridal Chamber,” argues, “within the context of an ascetic lifestyle where the body and its passions were renounced in favor of a higher spiritual lifestyle” (i).
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As far as I know, FPR has never had a SSM post, and I think that we are somewhat proud of that fact. Despite this record, I am so confused by the document that the Church put out today, called the Divine Institution of Marriage, that I simply must break the silence about this for the purposes of clarification. This document suggests that as a result of the court decisions in MA and CA (the legislative decisions legalizing marriage and civil unions in other states are not mentioned), “The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.” The text continues: “traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children.” While there are a number of different arguments raised in this document explaining the church’s opposition to SSM, my question has to do with the relationship between SSM and the argument concerning the raising of children. The document explains that “if children and families are to be protected,” one must reject SSM. While I have heard this argument raised before by opponents of SSM, and church statements have alluded to this argument before, this document by far represents the most clear official statement on the subject of the threats to children. The threat to children constitutes the most prominent argument offered in this text.
Continue reading “Children and SSM: An Analysis of “The Divine Institution of Marriage””
Recently, Terryl Givens has celebrated one of the Mormon “heresies” (his term) of “literalism.” He argues that Mormonism has eschewed the modern movement towards metaphorical understandings of religion, insisting upon its “literal” relationship to certain “facts,” such as the First Vision, the materiality of the Book of Mormon, and even literalized heaven by making it material. This literalism, however, is distinct from fundamentalist Christianity which insists on a different kind of biblical literalism and historical accuracy, in which areas Mormons have been more flexible. What I think is important to note here is that literalism is always selective, always partial. Some things are always chosen to be taken literally, and others ignored. The question is never whether or not literalism is the operative paradigm, but what things are taken as literal and why.
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Last night I attended a baptism that was accompanied by much laughter and merry-making, which was at times shushed by many of those in attendance. The LDS practice of “reverence” as a means of producing the conditions for spiritual experience sets boundaries around certain kinds of laughter. In other contexts, “loud” laughter is prohibited. When we fast, we are supposed to abstain from laughter as well as food (D&C 59:15). These particular ways of regulating laughter are not unique to Mormonism.
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Heavenly Mother (HM) has proven to be a very potent and productive figure in the history of Mormonism. She has been put to use for all sorts of theological and political agendas. Even the silence about her functions to promote a certain political agenda. I want to briefly review some reflections on the history of HM, and offer a theory for why I think she will play a more prominent role in Mormon discourse over the next few decades.
Continue reading “The Future of Heavenly Mother”