Christ’s counsel on divorce

Orson Hyde spelled out the obvious when he taught that Christ was not only married, but that he was living eternal marriage as it was practiced before “the Lord showed [Wilford Woodruff] by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice”. The Savior was married, at the least, to both Mary and Martha, which is precisely the reason those two women would know of the resurrection before even the twelve who had given all to follow him.

And the reason I am noting that plain, but unpopular truth right now is that I finally realized why the sermon on the mount verses on divorce read the way that they do.

Matthew 5:36 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery.

This is going to be horribly unpopular, but it is the plain reading of the verse given the context. Christ was not condemning multiple wives, for he had multiple wives himself, and that was not adultery. But what he does condemn is divorcing one’s wife except in the case of fornication. He says that to do so is to cause her to commit adultery (if she marries another man), and that for a man to marry a woman who has been thus put away is to commit adultery. The verse focuses on the woman taking another husband, rather than on the husband taking another wife, because it is given in the context of polygamous marriage.

To our ears this sounds unkind to women, but given the practices of the Pharisees it is doctrine that protects women, because it is doctrine that protects marriage. The Pharisees wanted to “divorce a woman for every cause”, meaning they could divorce a woman for violating the least thing they thought was right. This allowed them to essentially marry a woman temporarily, and provided a loophole to pass wives around, because they could marry them until they didn’t want them, then divorce them over some trivial matter, then another one of them could take that woman up and do the same thing.

The Pharisees seem to be well off financially, and so the inducement to marry them, especially for a single woman who had no way to provide for herself may have been strong. But some of the Pharisees would cast her off “for any cause” as soon as he saw fit, making the relationship nothing more a real marriage than having a weekend affair solemnized as marriage in Las Vegas on Friday and annulled in the same place on Monday.

But that being said, Christ meant what he said, and he said what he meant and millions upon millions now suffer an immense weight of remorse and guilt over violations of his command: “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery.”


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John Robertson

I am nothing more than a regular member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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