Answering Members' and Investigators' Questions
From time to time members of the local assembly will receive enquires from investigators, as well as members, on the doctrine of 'Patriarchal Marriage', which is also known as 'Plural Marriage', 'polygamy', or simply 'the principle' (an LDS term). Inasmuch as this is a delicate subject in Western countries it is important that pastors are equipped to handle questions raised on the subject. This principle is techically illegal in all but Moslem countries though it has been practiced clandestinely in 'Christian' countries at various times. In 2014 predeominantly Christian Kenya made polygamy legal and with increasing numbers of Moslems coming into Europe and America today, the authorities are more and more turning a blind eye to its practice.
Inasmuch as this principle has been openly abused by Anabaptists, Mormons, and others, it is important first of all that the Church distances itself from these people and corrects, wherever appropriate, any misconceptions. Ideally this is a subject that should be avoided because discussion of it tends to generate more smoke than fire and rarely is the outcome conducive to a good spirit. Because the lifestyle is a restricted and therefore not a commonly practiced principle, it is not always understood by those who have little or no exposure to it. What I propose to do here is simply make one or two statements about the doctrine and thus try to meet all the various questions that are likely to be asked.
1. Does the Assembly believe in plural marriage?
Yes, but only for those called into it by Yahweh. The normative form of marriage believed in by the Assembly is monogamy. The Assembly also believes in voluntary celibacy.
2. Does the local Assembly perform plural marriage ceremonies?
No. The local Assembly only has the authority to contract monogamous marriages.
3. Must a person accept the doctrine to be a member of the Assembly?
Yes, he must accept the doctrine as being of Yahweh and biblical but is under no obligation to practice it.
4. Is this doctrine discussed openly in the Assembly?
In countries where there is no tradition of plural marriage, no. Members of the Assembly are strongly discouraged from getting into discussions of this doctrine in public with any but those who are true Bible believers, and then only to defend the Word of Elohim (God). It is never discussed in Assembly meetings save in a biblical context (see NC&C 145:14).
5. Where can this doctrine be discussed?
I think you must use your common sense here, taking local conditions into consideration. It is, unfortunately, a subject which is not only misunderstood but tends to be a source of controversy. For those living the principle, it is a private matter, and this should be respected. Discussing the private lives of others, no matter what it is, constitutes lashon hara or gossip which is contrary to the Gospel of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). As a principle, this Assembly refuses to discuss the private lives of anyone, whether single, monogamous or polygamous. If it is simply the doctrine of plural marriage that is being discussed, then we have to strongly discourage its discussion in public, because it is a topic that can easily get out of hand. My advice is that you follow the clear directives in the Olive Branch on this matter -- which is that it should be discussed no further than has already been revealed in Section 145.
Plural marriage is not a principle that anyone should aspire to (and especially not the men) because it is Yahweh who decides who is to live it, and when. There can be nothing worse for a woman who is not interested in the principle to know that it is something her husband wants. For her, it would be like having Damocles' sword hanging over her head. If the couple are to live the principle, then Yahweh will call them together. If that has not happened, it should be forgotten altogether. I know of the reverse situation too, where a wife has wanted to live it, but the husband not. In the end he was not respected and forced into the principle against his will by his wife. That was a disaster for their family. What is important is that a spouse knows that her husband, or his wife, will be honourable, and wear a seal on his/her heart until/if Yahweh breaks through and removes it to allow the addition of new wives.
For members of the Assembly the matter is made simpler by the fact that only those who have reached a certain level of spiritual maturity (for the present, Apostles and Elders) may enter this principle (and even then not all of these are by any means called -- there are even celibate ones!). Thus a certain level of physical and spiritual maturity is required. (The situation is a little different in, for example, African and Asian countries which have a long tradition and experience of polygamy. My remarks are here chiefly addressed to American and European pastors).
6. Is Plural Marriage a doctrine of salvation?
No, it is not. Salvation is predicated solely upon faith in Christ which in turn results in spontaneous obedience to spiritual principles. Salvation is not predicated on marriage at all, whether plural or monogamous. A man or woman may be saved whether single or married and inherit the highest rewards.
7. Is Plural Marriage required in order to enter a fullness of joy?
That is not known for sure and if it is required, it will not necessarily be in this life. Similarly, marriage in general is required of all those seeking to know the joy of the heavenly Firstborn. Nevertheless there are many who are called to be single in this life who will nevertheless be given the opportunity to live as married people in the next life. There is a time and a season for everyone.
8. What sort of questions should be asked of investigators regarding this principle before they are baptised?
Everyone baptised must know of its existence and accept it in principle even if they cannot necessarily understand it. Most likely they won't. It is important that these questions be handled by the Pastors (and, as appropriate, by other ministers such as Bishops and local Apostles), and the Pastors alone. Moreover, these Pastors should be experienced. If a Pastor is not experienced, some or all of the baptismal interview should be conducted by someone who is, preferably a Bishop (Metropolitan Pastor) or someone higher.
So the investigator should be asked during the course of his interview, once he has requested baptism, if (a) he knows of the existence of plural marriage in the Chavurat Bekorot, (b) Whether he is willing to defend the doctrine and practice as biblical, (c) Whether he will sustain those who are living it, and (d) Whether he is willing to remain silent about those living it in countries where this is not an accepted tradition or where general knowledge of its practice might provoke persecution and endanger the freedom or lives of those living it. He should be explained the policy clearly beforehand.
9. What should be said if a non-member directly confronts a member with the subject? What should he say?
This is the most difficult part of the question. Questions may be phrased in many different ways. The most common is: 'Do you believe in polygamy?' It is no sin to be vague or evasive so long as it is not too obvious but lying should be avoided at all costs. If a person is in the Ruach (Spirit) there will never be a need to lie for Yahweh will always give the right words to say. In answer to such a question, one might say: 'For certain people, at certain times, yes.' Always quote the Bible. 'Abraham lived this principle yet nowhere does it say that he ever sinned. Indeed, he is called the father of the righteous in the New Testament. Yahweh did not adjudge him an adulterer, nor did He correct him as surely He would have done if he had been in the wrong.'
'Does your fellowship practice polygamy?' someone may ask. An answer might be: 'No, the fellowship does not practice it. We do not preach or teach it. We do not marry people in any other way than monogamy in our local assemblies. We simply accept that it is a holy principle that is to be lived by certain people at certain times when Yahweh ordains it. We do not believe that it will ever be practiced generally in this community until the very last days. We do, however, discretely accept polygamous families into membership under special circumstances.'
'Are there any people practicing plural marriage in your assembly?' This is probably the most direct question you may ever be asked and here great care must be exercised. For there will be people living it who serve in both firstborn communities as well as local assemblies. A direct 'yes' or 'no' answer must never be given. Instead, an answer must be given which employs the best of male principle, directing the question away so that there is no further room for enquiry. Any possibility for debate must be cut off. Most people who ask such questions are just curiosity seekers who mean no good at all and are simply looking for an excuse for a fight. It is best always when confronted with difficult questions to follow the example of Yah'shua (Jesus) by responding with another question that will teach them that their line of enquiry is false or unacceptable. Going around in circles or hedging a question like a politican will earn you no respect at all and does not present a good witness of Christ. Equally, simply saying everything and anything without consideration for the welfare of others is equally irresponsible. If asked such a question, why not instead ask: 'If you were Abraham, and you had your wives Sarah and Hagar with you, and you were living in our country today where plural marriage is not accepted, and if you wished to protect your family, how would you answer your own question?' If the enquirer is wise and will respect your views, he will immediately see the inappropriateness of your question and leave it. If he is insistant, then ask him another question until he understands that he is acting irresponsibly. You might ask: 'What if your wife (or husband) were Jewish and you were living in Nazi Germany and someone asked you if your spouse were Jewish, what would you reply?'
It is here important to be firm without being overtly defensive or argumentative. "A soft answer turneth away wrath," the Bible says, and therefore a minister of the assembly should never get worked up about it. If the enquirer is getting worked up (as is often the case) then one should simply say: 'Judging by the way you are reacting to this subject a discussion would seem to me to be pointless. I see Christians and others contending over doctrine and am persuaded that such discussion or debate is pointless'.
Always avoid contention and steer the conversation away towards some principle which will minister to the person being contentious. Always as ministers we are to make people self-aware so that they may honestly examine their motives.
Thus if someone is showing what appears to be an unhealthy interest in the subject of plural marriage, get to the root of the problem, by asking such questions as: 'Why are you so interested in this subject?' Or, 'Why does this subject upset you so much?' (though the latter could easily lead down an unproductive road if one is not careful). Point out that Yahweh has never expressed disapproval of plural marriage in the Bible, either in the Old or New Testaments. Stress, if necessary, that plurality is only for those who are strong in the spirit and have a selfless, loving, and sacrificing disposition. Do not use Old Testament examples as models for most examples are poor. The Bible says little of Abraham and tends to focus on the rivalry of Sarah and Hagar. Jacob's family was an example of what plural marriage should not be and it is worth pointing out here that the reason it was a failure was two-fold:
(1) Because Jacob was tricked into marrying someone he did not love (Leah); and
(2) There was not too much spiritual light at that time, and those involved were not of the same disposition as those touched by the grace of Yah'shua (Jesus) (witness the jealosy and competition of the wives over children).
But just as poor monogamous marriages are not a licence to dismiss monogamy, so poor plural marriages from the Old Testament times are no licence to reject plural marriage. Firstborn marriage is not, in any case, modelled on the examples of some of the Patriarchs, but is built on something altogether higher.
It should be stressed from the outset that plural marriage is not for the gratification of the lusts even though it may have been abused as such historically by many (if not most) practitioners. For the man tremendous self-control and patience is required, for he must be strict and loving as well. For most in local assemblies such a lifestyle would be too demanding -- for it requires total consecration to Yahweh and to the Gospel, which is the first requirement of those practicing plural marriage.
The whole thrust of the Firstborn Assembly is the controlling of the passions, the transformation of egotism towards 'Body-love' (a spiritual love for all men and women). Plural marriage's foremost function is to provide a fire in order to root out selfishness and possesiveness. It is the fire in the Church/Messianic Community at a far higher temperature. And most people when they get a vision of what true plural marriage requires in terms of sacrifice are repelled by it not because it is revolting (for it is not -- it is very beautiful) but because it demands too much of them, or they are simply not yet spiritually mature enough to handle it.
Another important key is to be found in one of the modern revelations which says that when the men don't want plurality, and the women do, then those concerned are ready for it (so long as they are prepared in other ways) -- NC&C 145:11.
Q. Is plural marriage a duty?
A. No, it is a calling, and few are called into it. A man (if he is single), or a man and his wife (if he is married) must be directly called into it by Yahweh by personal revelation and in such a way that neither is able to deny the call. That revelation must not come through others but through the individuals in question. Every party involved in plural marriage must give their free consent to another entering a family.
Q. How many families will practice it?
A. That is very hard to say. Patriarchs must be fully endowed before they can enter into it. Though there are always exceptions for the spiritually mature, they must usually be at a minimum thirty years old if they are converts from the world. They must have passed through a long cycle of instruction and covenants that may last several years (if they have come out from the world). If they have been raised outside a Firstborn Community they must therefore go through long, rigorous spiritual training. The training of patriarchs who live plural marriage is very demanding. The fire is hot, far hotter than anything in the local assemblies. Most members in the local assemblies would be destroyed by that fire were they to enter it, so sacred is this principle.
Plural marriage is a type of the Body of Christ reflected in an earthly family. A plural family is extremely difficult to build and requires a willingness on the part of those participating in it to make great sacrifices (men as well as women). It is no less than a total spiritual war whose purpose is to subdue fallen human nature, a struggle for the ascendancy of the spirit over the flesh.
We do not expect many to be living this principle at first. But as world conditions deteriorate and as more gather together into firstborn communities, we expect the principle to increase. The Bible teaches specifically that when the conditions are right it will be the women who initiate it, not the men (Isa.4:1).
Q. Could the same spiritual results be achieved in a monogamous marriage?
A. In principle, yes. And even in celibacy. They key is total, 100% consecration and surrender to Yahweh and to the Messiah (Christ). To succeed in a monogamous marriage -- to get the firstborn fruits -- requires tremendous will-power, sacrifice and dedication, which things are not easy to maintain unless one has really been born again. In monogamous marriage one can find various 'escapes', however -- in plural marriage, you cannot. The husband in a plural marriage must be 'on the ball' 24/7. Though a plural marriage is 'one marriage', in terms of the demands it places on a husband, it could perhaps be compared to many marriages all rolled into one. Most people have problems coping with a monogamous marriage; virtually none are really able to handle a plural one without destroying its spiritual foundation.
Q. Doesn't the woman lose out in a plural marriage?
A. Firstly, if she does, what she loses, her husband loses also. The heart of any successful marriage is the depth of its love. For a man to be superficially loved by several wives is a living hell. To be loved deeply by them, he must be constantly sacrificing. Secondly, the only thing that a woman actually loses in a plural marriage (if it is being lived correctly) is time, and anything associated with time. It is perfectly true that a husband cannot give a plural wife the same sort of attention that a monogamous wife expects since he must divide his time amongst them (though there are ways around this). On the other hand, the whole stress of a true plural marriage is community and the family spends most of its time together as a whole.
A plural family knows that the reason it exists is not for mutual self-gratification but for service to others. Husband and wife can so easily get so absorbed with each other that they forget Yahweh, or ascribe to Him a secondary position. Paul warned that if a man gets married then he must be prepared to have to spend time "pleasing his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:23) when he ought to be pleasing Yahweh. That "pleasing of his wife" is a reference to satifying her egotistical demands (and vice versa, of course). A selfish marriage, where the partners are devoting their time to pleasing each other instead of Yahweh, is not a true marriage in the Messiah (Christ), and will come to an end one day.
Plural marriage is really the best of monogamous marriage and celibacy combined together. All concerned know that they are first of all to please Yahweh. That is the reason why they enter the principle in the first place. They willingly (at least in their minds) sacrifice the 'worldly pleasures' of monogamous marriage to a greater or lesser degree in order to focus on the development of spirituality. Anyone who doesn't want to forfeit these things shouldn't even contemplate the principle.
Q. Isn't jealosy a big problem?
A. Only if it the marriage is not properly centred in Yahweh. The root of jealosy is in the desire to possess. To possess a man's or woman's body, their attention, their time, etc.. But in Christian/Messianic plural marriage the only one who possesses is Yahweh. The New Olive Leaf revelations find their most potent manifestation in plurality. The great lesson that must be learned is that no woman 'possesses' her husband in the sense that he is her exlusive property. That, for self-centred women, is the most heart-rending product of living plurality. A Patriarch, by the same token, does not 'possess' his wives -- they must come to him freely, and he to them. They must come to him only because they see the love of Christ in him and wish to serve the same Christ that he serves.
Jealosy is something that has to be rooted out in fire, and it has to be rooted out very early on. We are not born with jealousy - it's learned and has to be unlearned through repentance. A Patriarch knows that unless he deals with it his marriage is doomed to failure. His responsibility is to take his wives through the fire, much as Yahweh took him through the fire to allow him to practice the principle in the first place. He himself goes through many fires during plural marriage though is not burned by them because he has preceded his wives. He must have a good understanding of the female mind and heart and know how to deal with a woman who is consumed by passion, distress, etc.. His methods are not usually liked by his wives who frequently expect to be "passified" by courtship, romance, etc., etc.. Instead he must stand fast and constantly point toward the spiritual goal, which is full sanctification in Christ.
The first years of plural marriage can be the worst for until one wife has crossed the veil into the firstborn and become a properly sanctified woman -- freed of jealosy and the desire to possess -- the marriage will be an up-hill struggle. A Patriarch knows that unless at least one can cross that veil that his marriage has no permanency in the eternal persepective and so his whole strategy will be towards taking his wives to the veil, to the point of total self-surrender first to Yahweh and His Son Yah'shua (Jesus), and then himself. That is not to say that they become slaves, for in truth they are slaves to their lower passions until they cross that veil. Only after they have crossed that veil do they become free. Only then are they married eternally.
This letter has, I hoped, given the Pastors and Apostles a better perspective of what plural marriage is. It is only a sketch.
A warning: some governments have the power to remove children from those living this principle and send them to foster parents and to deport foreigners living the principle on their soil. The state government of Arizona in the USA exercised these powers on a well known Mormon polygamous community in Short Creek (now called Colorado City) which, luckily for the families, proved to be a fiasco. That particular government has done little to harrass or persecute polygamists since then even though the principle is still technically illegal. There is talk of even changing the law (the Edmunds-Tucker Act) to making polygamous living acceptable. In a way it is absurd that it hasn't been changed for there are already nearly 100,000 people living this way of life in North America, and with over half a million in Europe. It should be obvious that no chances should be taken whatsoever for the protection of those living this principle if there is any danger to them. If these persons are obviously being endangered, then it may, as a last recourse, be necessary to relocate them abroad. Many American polygamists have accordingly relocated to Mexico which, though a Catholic country, has suprisingly given them refuge. I would hope, though, that such will never be required. It won't if the ministers responsible conduct themselves wisely. For this reason these guidelines have been sent.
May Yahweh's Peace and Love in the Holy Name of Yah'shua (Jesus) be yours in abundance,
1st Edition March 1991
2nd Edition January 2003
3rd Edition January 2016