Betrothal and Marriage
My betrothal to Stan took place two weeks after my arrival during the Passover season and consisted of three elaborate ceremonies which occupied the whole day. The first ceremony was a "public" one, and by "public" was meant in the presence of Church members and friends from all over Europe and the world, as polygamous betrothals were never announced to the world in general. In the morning there was a service in Raj which the whole family attended, Church members from England, Norway, Sweden, the USA, Canada, and Germany were present, with friends from other polygamous groups in attendance also, trebling the size of our household by the last day. Previously this had been a purely family and Church affair but since Anna's marriage to Stan, our Order had gained many more friends. Those who had come afar off arrived a few days before and then, after the morning service and lunch, travelled to Sweden for fellowship with other patriarchal families, so that we could be left alone as a family for the remaining two ceremonies.
Since marriage was an allegorical antetype of the Church and of the wedding feast of the Lamb, much was put into its solemnising ceremonies. Attending a New Covernant Christian meeting you would not ordinarily be aware of much in the way of ritual apart from water baptism by immersion. The Lord's Supper was conducted behind closed doors for christmated (confirmed) members as it had been when the Lord instituted it in the Upper Room. Baptism was therefore the only completely public ceremony there was. Other private ordinances included footwashing, chrism (like the confirmation of some Protestant Churches but involving annointing with oil as well), the covenants of the several Priesthood Orders (Deacons, Elders and Apostles), and, of course, marriage, which was the most complex and lengthy of all.
My first two weeks back in Raj consisted of a great deal of instruction, mostly by Stan but also by others of my sister-wives, who severally held various offices. Kryztina, Kasia, Isabel and Suszana were all Eldresses, Sarah-Jane and and Anna were both Deaconesses, and all had duties which they knew well. I had never been baptised and so on my third day back I was baptised in the river Czechówka which was very cold indeed! In a way I was glad, because it was a reminder that there was much of a worldly nature that yet needed purging out of me. My baptism was not into Christ, which I had received as a believer at the hands of the Baptists, but into the covenant that our Order represented. Those who had not previously been believers were therefore baptised both into Christ and into the Covenant, the two being essentially one and the same.
I had a great deal of Bible studying to do and went through a 23 part course in 12 days, a miracle. I was up at 6 a.m. and spent at least four hours a day in private Bible study to finish the course at a time when all I wanted to do was be around Stan and my sister-wives. But Stan insisted, and the others backed him up all the way, so I had little choice. Though reluctant at first, my daily diet of God's Word soon became a pleasure so that by the time I had finished the course, I had gotten into a habit of a minimum of 1 hour's private Bible study per day thereafter, with another hour each evening with the family.
And they were deep. With Stan as teacher, we would dig deep into one chapter in the Bible, turning over every word and phrase with Greek and Hebrew interlinear Bibles close at hand, digging down to the rocky core. After a year I knew my Bible so well and had such confidence in it that my Baptist friends back home would have been envious.
After the Betrothal, I was soon teaching the Scriptures to the kids as well. And that is how it always worked: the moment you had understood something in the Scriptures, you were immediately authorised to teach it in a Church capacity in some way or another.
Everyone was a teacher, a calling I came to treasure highly, remembering how Paul told Timothy of the blessedness and necessity of this spiritual vocation: "...a slave of the Lord must not quarrel: instead, he must be affable toward everyone, skilled in teaching, willing to suffer wrong" (2 Tim.2:24).
It didn't take me long to realise that there was no boundary between "church" and "family", that the two were to all intents and purposes the same. Here I found Christianity alive in a way that I had never experienced in Kansas City. It permeated everything.
One day Stan said to us: "If we are to truly come to know God, which according to Christ is life eternal, then we have got to get into serious training in God's Word. Some of you may remember many years ago that the Olympics were held in Mexico City which presented enormous problems for the athletes who were not used to competing at such high altituides. Accordingly, athletes arrived in Mexixo City to get acclimatised. Because of the lower levels of oxygen in the rarified atmosphere, they had to train carefully and diligently to get their bodies to manufacture more red blood cells. After a fortnight everyone was equipped to compete without collapsing for lack of oxygen.
"It's no different with us. We have got to get acclimatised to God's way of thinking by large daily doses of Scripture study. The world says it is brainwashing, forgetting that the constant bombardment of its own philosophy in the school classroom and in the media is no less so, and probably even more. By literally getting baptised into the Word we are training our minds to think and our hearts to feel as God thinks and feels both consciously and unconsciously.
"Everything we do here comes out of a biblical background. We think as the ancients do, not as the moderns. We're accused of being "ancient" by the modernists but we are indifferent to their criticisms because we understand them alot better than they understand us. The fact of the matter is that they are too modern to think as clearly as the ancients - they are too modern to be ancient! They think we're old-fashioned, we think they're new-fashioned. But as for us, we are Bible-fashioned, because the Bible is what fashions us.
"The more the Bible permeates your thinking and feeling the closer you will draw to God, and the quicker we will realise our goal to create a miniature millennial society. If we fail to do this, we will just set stumbling blocks up for one another. Those with worldly ideas will teach it not only to their own children but will influence the other children too, as well as the adults. We have to be united or we could waste an entire generation. We have neither the time nor the resources to allow the kind of Sinai catastrophe that confronted Moses to repeat itself amongst us here. You're either in this completely or you will, I'm sorry to say, just drift out of the family. Being a member of this family implies 100% committment to the Gospel program too. Otherwise you will not acclimatise and have to leave for the less rarified air of the cities on the plains."
His point sunk home. He had not achieved his desires with all us sister-wives and one or two were still struggling. The moment they renegged on Bible study they, and we, noticed a change of spirit and a rapid descent into the darkness of worldly thinking and feeling. Stan had to be tough with them at times for their own sakes. We all knew the stakes were high and so all were on the lookout to help and support any wife who began to flagg. I discovered that there was a certain threshhold in this as in other areas of life, that once you had crossed it, the journey became alot easier.
It was, Stan assured us, the same with the athletes in Mexico City. At first training was a nightmare - they were short of oxygen, their bodies rebelled against strenuous exercise, and at times they felt like giving up. I understood this principle better when once we went to Zakopane in the Tatra mountains.
Many wrongly suppose that the initial labour pains are an indicator the future, and want no part of it. But labour pains come to an end - they never pass beyond a certain period of time. And I had the witness of the spiritually more mature of Stan's wife to see that this was so. The spiritually younger ones had an uphill struggle whereas the older ones who had been at this a while seemed at times to effortlessly glide though problems.
At first I wasn't sure whether I would remember all the things that were being jammed into my mind but Stan told me not to worry:
"The important thing is that your subconscious is being trained. God didn't design us to have instant recall of everything we have ever learned. Rather, he has created a mechanism within our mind which enables us to recall selective data when the situation demands it. That was the promise Christ gave when He said the Comforter would bring to the disciples' remembrance all the things He had taught them. He knew they would "forget" but that the Spirit would enable them to remember.
"People are surprised to learn that the New Testament contains over 1,000 new commandments. We can't posibly remember them all. The thing to do is to plant the seed so that our spirit can deal with them for the most part unconsciously. Don't worry. Relax. Let the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) work for you!"
With this reassurance I pursued by studies all the more vigorously until I felt sure that I had mastered the introductory 23-part Bible course. Stan interviewed me and, once he was satisfied that I had understood and accepted all the principles, I was chrismated.
Chrism, which still exists although in a highly modified form in the Eastern Orthodox Church and which I witnessed later when visiting Zamosc, is like the Lutheran confirmation, only much more. Whereas baptism signifies the alpha of our salvation, which we obtain upon belief in, and confession of, Christ as our Lord and Saviour, chrism signifies its omega or completion at the end of life. It is a ceremony rich in symbolism attended only by Church members who themselves have been chrismated. The covenants are much deeper than those of baptism and entitle a person thereafter to partake of the Lord's Supper, which is based on the liturgy of the Didache as used by the Christians of about AD 150 in Syria and Egypt. Chrismated members partake of this Lord's Supper every Friday evening at the beginning of the Sabbath. It came to be the high point of my week.
Once chrismated and having taken my first Communion, I was ready to begin some intense instruction on the ceremonies and covenants of Betrothal, which is regarded as the most sacred marriage covenant. The vows are repeated three times, but each time getting deeper and deeper. The first covenent is a semi-public ceremony, for members of family, Church and their friends who accept polygamy. It calls upon all those present to be witnesses of our life-long committment to be man and wife. The second, which is only for the immediate, intimate family at Raj and Church members, usually takes place the following day, and calls upon all those present to witness an eternal committment. This ceremony involves all the wives who are asked to give their consent and blessing and is very colourful, with all dressed in white and the room full of flowers. Husband and wives dance a sacred dance before the guests and then share in a meal afterwards.
On the third day Stan and his sister-wives enter a third set of covenants alone which are the deepest of them all, covenants which contemplate the mystery of the union of Christ with His Church, and of Yahweh with Israel. These covenants involve the mutual support of the wives, promises to taking care of one another's children, and of seeking to fulfil the Zionic quest. It is a most beautiful ceremony that lasts nearly two hours and is consummated by a family Communion or Lord's Supper.
Betrothal is full marriage without sex and is probably one of the most demanding of the marriage practices at Raj. Husband and wife sleep together partially clothed but may not have intercourse. It requires the greatest of self-control and forces you to make sure your reasons for marriage are first and foremost to serve Christ together and not just for self-gratification For those whose passion has already been aroused, or gets aroused during this time, it is a great struggle indeed, but one which truly blesses.
For one week I had Stan for myself. At night we could cuddle up to one another and lightly kiss, but no more. We always spent a little time in the Bible and in prayer whilst in bed. This week, like no other, taught me of the great inner battle that there could be between spirit and flesh once the flesh had been aroused but could not fulfil its desires. I consider this period of my marriage to have been, in many ways, one of the best spiritual tutors I ever had, even though physically it was at times a torture. It was easier after the first week because I only lay with Stan once a week thereafter. My "betrothal honeymoon" kindled deep passion within me but showed me like no other time in my life just what would be needed to ensure that the spirit was the master of my flesh.
Stan, though I knew he was aroused too, and who could have taken advantage of my weakness - for I would probably have consented to full intercourse inspite of my covenants had he asked in the heat of passion - never stepped across the boundary, exhibiting a self-control which I thought was amazing. It reflected his determination to put Christ first in his marriages and to be the master of his flesh. Learning to bring the body - mind, heart, and passions - into order was, he said, an important exercise. This was not to suppress the natural impulses we had been created with, but to hold them in check like a racehorse on the starting line before the signal was given to go.
As I later discovered after being fully married, betrothal set the pattern for those times when either he, I, or both of us wanted to abstain from sex for a while for the purpose of prayer and meditation, as the apostle Paul had advised. The times of mutually-consented celibacy we were to have during full marriage were a kind of betrothal-mode. As our relationship became deeper and even more Christ-centred I found I was able to control my passions like the switch of an electric light, which was one of the goals of our kind of marriage. Stan's desire was that the flesh, far from being suppressed, should become a servant to us. He recognised the need for sex and considered it a valid expression of love, to be enjoyed thankfully. He believed that it brought harmony and health to the body, and was an essential part of the whole man or woman. At the same time he recognised that there would be a time when we would be without it, at the time between death and the resurrection, and that we should learn to be without it when required. He therefore considered Betrothal to be an excellent time to start the struggle between flesh and spirit when the contrast between the two would be most heightened.
Plural marriage does not, in any case, permit you to fall into many of the potential vices of monogamy where one man and one woman become entirely absorbed in one another. From the day I was betrothed, and before, I was always aware of the fact that I was one of many. By its very nature polygamy forces you to centre your life on the spiritual, which Stan and we wives considered to be one of its most outstanding virtues. Physical love is by its very nature a very possessive thing and was an activity, I discovered, where jealosy lay dormant waiting to be awakened in its ire. But there is an emotional and mental component of jealosy also, and one of the greatest shocks I had - because the discovery so upturned much of what I had believed about spirituality - was that what the bible called the "flesh nature" was not, actually, that which was purely physical. I had assumed, because of Paul's stinging attack on "fleshy ways", that the flesh was nothing more or less than the physical body, a mediaeval concept that was never a part of the Hebrew mind-frame at all.
The Catholics quite early on, under the influence of one of their greatest theologians, Augustine, and author of the classic, City of God, had developed the theory that the physical body was intrinsically bad and that the spirit was good. I learned that he had arrived at this position in part because of the licentious life he had lived before becoming a Catholic. After his conversion, he had simply swung to the opposite pole and assumed that everything and anything sexual was in some way dirty, and that sex was to be avoided if at all possible, except for procreation. Better still, he taught, don't get married at all. He found his justification in the writings of Paul, somehow failing to notice that Paul's call for celibacy was not a general one but sound advice during a church emergency when the saints were being martyred and this was not a good time to start a family.
Under Stan's tutorship, I learned that in the Hebrew mind no such spirit-physical body distinction was ever made. A human being is a whole being, a spirit-flesh "soul", who has within his make up a rather unpleasant carnal nature which is at war with a spiritual one. This carnal nature Paul, perhaps unfortunately, called the "flesh". Stan insisted, along with the Hebrews, that we regard the body as a whole entity and not try to dissect it, an activity, he claimed, which led to schizophrenia and other psychological disorders. He taught, showing from the scriptures, that every aspect of the human being - mind, heart, conscience, and body - had both a carnal and spiritual side. Wrong thoughts and impure feelings, coupled with a defiled conscience, led to sin, as did sex outside the bounds set by God. Thoughts, feelings, and sexual impulses had both good and bad components. The trick was to separate them out, recognise them as coming from a fallen nature, and to ask Christ to crucify them.
Protestantism, I discovered, is very double-minded about sex. Whilst repudiating the Catholic doctrine, which is very much derived from gnostic ideas, it still has very Catholic attitudes to it, although on an unconscious level. I began to understand where the animosity towards polygamy came from and how the idea had evolved that Christ had to absolutely be celibate to in some way preserve His Deity since in their mind sex was, ultimately, something that was unclean.
Before leaving the States I had bought a best-selling Protestant manual about sex and marriage by the LaHayes and tried to prepare myself for marriage through their teachings as best I could. It was interesting comparing their teachings with Stan's for I realised that the issues were very complex and yet also very simple. Stan insisted that we must, like God, be able to look in the mirror and say to ourselves, "I am that I am". This was not to imply that we were deity but rather to remind us that God created us as whole human beings or "souls" as Stan called us. We should not suppress our physical urges but rather purify and refine them through walking the Christian life. There were, he firmly believed, pure and virtuous thoughts, feelings and sexual impulses, and that was what we had to strive for. Furthermore, we needed to estabish an hierarchy of authority where the spirit presided over out thoughts, our thoughts over our feelings, and our feelings over our physical impuses, of which the sexual one was one of the most powerful and potentially unruly. And all of this should be subject to Christ and His Word.
Our betrothal lasted three months. There was no fixed time but usually Stan expected anything up to a year. The length of betrothal would be determined by the betrothed wife's spiritual progress. The shortest betrothal had been Isabel's, a mere two days, but this was in the early days before this system had been revealed to Stan. Most of the others had had betrothals of from three to nine months.
Learning to be in Stan's arms in bed without going deeper into union became easier by the second month. He had said that if I felt I could not manage the closeness, that we could simply separate to opposite sides of the bed. Once or twice we did, just holding hands, but at both times I found myself in his arms again when I woke up the next morning!
I once asked Stan whether this method was appropriate for those who had had a sexual relationship with someone else before they had come to the family. There were, he said, exceptions, especially when Suszana had returned to the family. They did not lie in the same bed together after her return home even though they were betrothed. This was at her request which he had granted because of the inner turmoil she had. He recognised that inner healing was first needed before the doors of intimacy were reopened. All but one of the others had been virgins, a rare commodity these days, and so ordinary betrothal had taken place with them.
I was fully married to Stan in July. There are only two full-marriage ceremonies as opposed to three betrothals - one private one for family and Church, and one with just the other sister-wives. Less emphasis was placed on this compared to betrothal because all the essential marriage contracts were considered essentially done. It was now simply a question of consummating what already was. In this respect, Stan likened full marriage to Chrism and betrothal to baptism, chrism and full marriage being the final seal, as it were, of the respective processes. The three months' wait in betrothal was rather like bringing one to the boil and then turning one down to simmer, as Kryztina had once graphically portrayed her view of it to me! That was not the way I would have described it for myself - it was more like warming up, coming up nearly to the boil, and then having the temperature turned right down again to a manageable level. The others all had their different experiences based on their own temprements.
The guests gone, and the children in bed, Stan, myself and the other six repaired to the upper room for our own covenants. This was an important time for all - it was as much their marriage as it was Stan's and mine, for they knew they would become wives to a changed Stan. Accordingly, all their marriage contracts with Stan and each other were dissolved and renewed with me as the seventh sister-wife. I was becoming as much a part of them as they of me. I would be partaking of a Stan who had come to differing degrees and types of unity with them, who had shaped him. It was this Stan, so very different from the Stan that, for instance, Suszana had first married, that I was being wed to. By uniting myself to Stan I was therefore, in a way, becomig mystically united to them as well by gaining access to the kind of unity which comes only through full marriage which women cannot experience anywhere else. It is hard to explain, really, but it is real. I was to have many dear sisterly relations with the wives of other men in the fellowship, but none were to be as deep or special as with those who were my sister-wives. I shall attempt to explain this mystical union more fully as I unfold my story
After the covenants with Stan, I covenanted with each of his six other sister-wives, and they with me, creating a multi-faced bond between them more wonderful than even the bond David and Jonathan shared. How different we all were, yet we were to be mysrtically blended together in Christ to make not just seven sister-wives but a kind of composite wife too, as the Church is the composite bride of Christ. That composite - that mystical bride of Stan - was something very unique and very, very precious. It was our collective identity and the identity of our beloved husband.
This page was first created in 2002
Last updated on 5 March 2009
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