When today’s question came across my desk, I just smiled.
I’m just as obsessed with the FLDS Church as the next girl – or at least as the next nerdy theology girl who reads all the books and watches all the documentaries on this particular sect of the LDS church. (If you haven’t yet seen Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, you best get your Netflix on and start some weekend watching. If you’re looking for something to read, Under the Banner of Heaven is still one of my favorites).
The FLDS Church (or Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) is “one of the fundamentalist Mormon denominations that practices polygamy.” According to historians, the movement emerged in the early twentieth century, after many of its members were excommunicated from the LDS Church for actively practicing plural marriage.
Just as the LDS Church deviates from traditional Christianity in its beliefs, the FLDS Church deviates from the LDS Church in a number of different ways, the most obvious being its beliefs about polygamy.
And in the Christian tradition, marriage is between two humans.
This, of course is rooted in Scripture. Although there is not a verse in the Bible that says, “Marriage is between two humans” (let alone solely “between a man and a woman”), Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:31 are often used as the basis for marriage between a man and a woman.
For our purposes, though, let us move beyond heteronormative terms to define marriage between two humans. This, after all, is justice. This is letting love be love. This is adhering to a belief that God’s table is big enough for every human being, regardless of their sexual identity or orientation.
In this way, according to The Reformation Project, “the essence of marriage according to the Bible is covenantal love – not procession, gender hierarchy, or anatomical complementarity. Same-sex couples live out that vision of marriage every day.” (If you haven’t yet read God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, founder and Executive Director of The Reformation Project, move it to the top of your list).
And when we define marriage as one of covenant, marriage is still solely between two human beings.
Take, then, this message of welcome at from the Book of Common Prayer:
The union of two people in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the gift of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
Take also this proper preface, given before taking the Eucharist:
Because in the giving of two people to each other in faithful love you reveal the joy and abundant life you share
with your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
In both of these examples, mutual joy is the goal, the intention, the desire. While joy certainly happens in relationships and friendships outside of marriage, the goal of this sacred covenant is a combined joy that can only be found in and through the other person.
Which brings us full-circle back to the many Netflix specials on the FLDS Church I tend to consume on a regular basis: as an outsider looking in, the concept of mutual joy does not seem to singularly be found in marriage, at least not when the practice of marriage involves multiple women being married to the same man.
Instead, for the women involved, mutual joy seems to be found in their relationships with their sister wives and with their children. Mutual joy seems to be found in adhering to a lifestyle that pleases their prophet and their Heavenly Father. Mutual joy seems to be found in keeping sweet, praying, and obeying the commandments placed before them.
But mutual joy does not seem to be found with their husbands.
While my husband isn’t as obsessed with watching documentaries on the FLDS Church as I am, mutual joy is present in his support of me watching said specials on Netflix and Amazon Prime – just as mutual joy is present for me when I watch him light up at the sight of a college football game.
I could care less about touchdowns and quarterbacks and pigskin, oval-shaped balls, in general, but it is life-giving for me to see him experience joy through a Saturday game or two.
And that, in any marriage covenant, is the goal.
We want and desire and beg for the best for the other person, because in their joy, our joy is made complete.
Ours becomes a mutual joy.
What say you? In this series, we’re answering popular questions readers have on the Christian faith. What questions do you have for me to answer?