As we move through our explanation of The Miracle of Forgiveness, we have and will do explore language and ideas that one finds difficult, uncomfortable or unpalatable. This chapter builds on chapter five’s theme of ‘sexual sin’ by exploring masturbation and homosexuality. It would be fair to say that whatever your perspective or belief of these areas, the language that Kimball uses does cause discomfort and would cause offense to some who would naturally be more inclined to support his overall opinion on homosexuality and masturbation. The exploration of this chapter will focus on the very nature of salvation, grace and godhood that we can see through this topic but before we begin, it is important to deal with the nature of language in this chapter. The language and nature of the discourse on this subject has evolved somewhat since 1969 and how society as a whole views this subject has changed radically since then. We must remember this when we read Kimball’s work on the subject. To forget the culture, social norms and context when we read this would be a mistake no matter what one thinks about his work and thoughts. As we move forward with grappling with the underlining LDS theology, we must remember this when reading the language of the chapter and therefore, we shall not be looking at the emotive language in our analysis of chapter six. What we shall be looking at is the nature of salvation in Mormonism as well as some odd biblical interpretations in this chapter.
One of the more striking and odd sections of this chapter is Kimball’s reference to Paul’s theology on marriage. Kimball references 1 Timothy 4: 1,3 and 1 Corinthians 11:11 to support the argument that Paul argues that if you ‘forbid to marry’; you have departed from the faith. We need to explore these verses further.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. (1 Corinthians 11:11)
Kimball’s arguments are problematic however when we consider the following verses from 1 Corinthians.
Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5)
Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarriedand the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)
It is clear from LDS doctrine and theology that marriage is fundamental to salvation and exaltation to the celestial kingdom. Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 7 and 9 then prove problematic for the LDS position. If celestial marriage is vital for entry to the celestial kingdom, can the apostle Paul, who proclaims himself unmarried in 1 Corinthians 7:8, be in the celestial kingdom? A bigger problem in relation to the chapter is how can Kimball use Paul to justify Mormon marriage as necessary to exaltation as ordained by God if Paul himself was not married? Kimball makes it abundantly clear that the LDS position on marriage is that it is only ‘through the eternal union of man and woman can they achieve eternal life’. It is also clear that Paul is not against marriage in the slightest. To argue as such would ignore all the quotations that Kimball uses as seen above. Is Kimball right though to argue that Paul supports this aspect of LDS theology? It is quite clear that Paul does not forbid marriage as we can see in 1 Timothy 4. 1 Corinthians 7 though makes it clear that Paul does not command marriage for everyone. Paul says that for those who ‘cannot control themselves’ should get married and the inference therefore is those who can control themselves should not marry. Paul himself was not married as is clear by the quotation from 1 Corinthians 9. There is a theory that Paul may have been married, as that was a requirement to have been a part of the Sanhedrin. Even if this is true (this is not a theory that I personally subscribe to), this cannot possibly qualify as an eternal marriage as by the writing of 1 Corinthians Paul is clearly calling himself unmarried. So what are we to make of Kimball’s statement in light of this clarification? To come to an understanding is difficult but it is clear that Kimball is trying to merge biblical theology into Mormon theology of celestial marriage and this results in inconsistencies.
The crux of the matter though with regard to chapter six, without meaning to harp on my usual theme within my posts, is that Kimball has elevated a work to the same level of importance as grace and forgiveness in salvation and exaltation. Marriage is a prerequisite for eternal paradise. This means that a single person who has never partaken in any of the activity warned about by Kimball in chapters five and six, therefore not sinning sexually, cannot enter eternal paradise. Not even good works are enough for Kimball when it comes to exaltation, they must be the right good works. Am I arguing against abstinence, monogamy and righteous living? By no means but these works come out of a response to grace rather than achieve salvation in its fullest sense by those means.
There are also some worry elements of what can be termed ‘process theology’ in Kimball’s understanding. Kimball argues that homosexuality cannot produce children biologically and goes against the command to multiply. There is nothing unspectacular or different in this so far but Kimball then goes on to explain that if homosexuality denies the disembodied spirits from coming into this world the ‘opportunity of mortality’ but is necessary on the path of eternal progression. The God of Christianity is one that knows is in control of all things. He has predestined all who are to be born and if you are of the reformed tradition, He has predestined all those who will be saved. The God that Kimball is advocating for here in his theology seems to be dependent on the actions of humans. Ignoring our differences on whether ‘spirit children’ exist and the Mormon theology of the beginnings of mankind, it is striking that Kimball is not advocating that God is in control of whether all the ‘spirit children’ can be born. God, according to this line of argument taken to its logical conclusion, is therefore bound by humanity’s actions and therefore is not omnipotent. If correct, this is a crucial difference between Mormonism and Christianity.
So to conclude, this chapter is definitely a chapter of its time in terms of language and assumptions of consequences of certain sins leading to others. What is truly revealing though is the surprising process theology that Kimball argues for with regards to the spirit children as well as the example of Paul as the need for all to marry celestially despite his unmarried state. This chapter is also another prime example of works, especially certain works, before grace. The chapter is a revealing insight into the differences between the Mormon kingdom of God and how one enters into it and the Christian kingdom of God.