For All Time and Eternity

There is one phrase from the Latter Day Saints that I have kept with me all these years since I was Mormon. Even though this phrase and the manner in which the LDS use it are theologically troubling, I do like the sentiment. When the LDS get married it is a very big deal. This is not the simple, “We thought about it, and since we’ve been together a long time we might as well,” type of decision. The sacrament of marriage for the LDS is one of the highest ceremonies one can in which one can partake in the temple. One must be worthy to go into the temple first (involving interviews with your local bishop and obtaining a “temple recommend”), be able to perform the lower sacraments in the temple of “baptism for the dead,” and also receive one’s personal endowments (referred to as “taking out” your endowments) which one can then later do for the dead as well. At any rate, all of these preliminaries are obtained before one can entertain the notion of getting married or “sealed” in the temple.

The point is, during the ceremony, the last part of the vows during which the officiant would normally say, “Until death do you part,” is replaced with, “For all time and eternity.” While they are getting at something else, I like the attitude toward marriage that results from this. See, the divorce rate among LDS is very minimal. This is because the President, or “prophet,” would need to undo the sealing. Because of this and their theology, LDS have a very serious attitude toward marriage. I think this is something that should be carried over into Catholicism as well. While we do not use these terms in the sacrament of marriage, we do have a serious attitude toward it. If a man and woman are validly married in the Church (or otherwise), a divorce will not undo the sacrament. Getting an annulment will not do it either. In actuality, the annulment states that there never was a sacrament performed in the first place. So in reality, because you were never married, you are free to do so now.

Unfortunately, there is a disease in our society that causes people to have a lacking attitude toward this sacrament. As Christ was asked,

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt 19:3-6). (I was going to undo the formatting of capitals, but I kind of like the authority my computer gave it. =-) )

There seems to be an attitude of “divorce for any reason at all” or “trial marriage” in our society. This is not what the sacrament is about. That is why so many families get torn apart. No one comes out a winner in divorce. Is there a solution? Not always. Sometimes people must make up for the mistake of getting into something that shouldn’t have, or perhaps something that was not taken seriously enough. (I know this is rough; my intention is not to hurt anyone, but rather to inspire thought.) Marriage is a holy sacrament, actually only one of seven that we have. It is ordained and commissioned by God. We need to take heart in this. To go in with the attitude that divorce is an option for when things get rough or don’t go your way is not to give yourself to the other fully. You are always reserved when you have one hand on the ripcord of your divorce parachute.

So how do we fix this problem? It is actually quite simple. First, ponder the seriousness of getting married and all that it means: all the good and the not-so-good that comes with bonding yourself to someone through everything. Second, take the parachute off. Instead of the “until death do us part” or even “until things get to rough” mentality, try the “for all time and eternity” attitude. That one has no escape clause. When you take that option off the table you are forced to do more. You are forced to make sure you are active and taking part and responsibility in making things better, for you and your spouse. Every argument is worth resolving, every feeling is validated, and every day is worth giving yourself wholly to the other. If we are even to attempt to contemplate the love that caused God to give up His only Son for us or the sacrifice that Christ made for us, we need to attempt to give ourselves fully (mind, body, and heart) to the one to whom we committed ourselves when we said, “I do.” I took my parachute off before I got on the plane, so I know that no matter how rough the turbulence gets, I am staying on until we land together, safely at our destination.

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