Gay Man Married to a Woman: How Does that Work?

Unlike just about every other Mormon blogger out there, I did not write a post covering the initial story about Josh and Lolly Weed, coming out as a mixed orientation marriage. I'm sure you remember the post I'm talking about. It seemed as though just about everyone I know was sharing it on Facebook, etc...  Some celebrating their 'coming out', others critical of it.

I happened to be in Hawaii at the time, and had committed myself to refrain from the online world, for at least that week. I was definitely connected, but not responding.

You do know the story I'm talking about, right? Josh Weed, a Mormon, who has same-gender attraction, married his best friend Lolly, who knew, and for the past ten years they have been raising their three beautiful daughters in what appeared to most everyone, from the outside looking in, as a normal, active and faithful Mormon family, which they are -- mostly.

It's no surprise that with all the national attention currently being given to Mormonism, and as controversial as same-sex marriage is, in relation to the Mormon faith, mainstream media would jump on this story. 

Last week Nightline ran a segment on the Weed story: Gay, Mormon and Happily Married with Children-- and interviewed Josh and Lolly. (See video below) I particularly loved what Lolly had to say as she tried to explain the kind of love that she and Josh share. Clearly she sees herself as the recipient of the very important choice that Josh made -- to not act on his homosexual tendencies, but instead honor God. When Josh was asked about ever acting on his gay feelings, he explained that to do so, in comparison to what he had now with Lolly and their children, would never be an option for him. To me, it is clear that this faithful couple have an eternal understanding of marriage, and desire all of God's choicest blessings in these regards -- which to me, makes their story so beautiful.

If you haven't read Josh and Lolly's open letter, posted on their personal blog, I would encourage you to do so, HERE. (Warning: It's long) From what I can tell, they were very careful about what they said, and how they said it. Writing about anything gay and Mormon, is like navigating a minefield. You never know when something you say might set someone off - unintentionally. If you use the term 'gay Mormon' you offend many faithful Mormons. Mormons have been counseled to not attach sexual orientation to personal identity.  If you say 'struggle(s) with same-sex attraction' you offend a lot of people who deal with homosexuality, or those who believe being gay is not a choice, who claim that they don't struggle at all -- it's who they are. But mostly the latter response is by those who are actively engaging in homosexual behavior.  Even using the term 'same-sex attraction' is regarded, by some, as a slur toward the LGBT community. Needless to say, it can be a very sensitive issue to approach. (I'm pretty sure I've already blown it -- sigh.)

Anyway, it's pretty evident that Josh and Lolly did their very best to address the many concerns and criticisms that would inevitably come their way, by putting themselves out there. And most importantly, in telling their story, they emphasized that their story is just that, theirs. Josh is quick to explain that his lifestyle choice, as a person with same-gender attraction, and a Mormon, to have a heterosexual marriage, is not intended to judge another Mormon with SSA, insisting that his way is the only right choice. 

To be honest, I'm a bit hesitant myself to blog about their story, because I sincerely don't want to misrepresent their intentions for telling it. However, from my perspective, as a faithful latter-day Saint who desires to see safer spaces created, within the church, to be a faithful Mormon with homosexual tendencies, this is a very positive story in moving that direction.

I feel that it's important for Mormons with same-gender attraction to know that they can safely and freely explore their options to live faithfully, within the Church. A mixed orientation marriage is certainly not for everyone, but as Josh and Lolly tell their story, clearly it can be a positive and viable  choice for some.  In telling his story, Josh is very honest that even though he is in a heterosexual marriage, he is still physically attracted to his same gender. Josh has not denied his sexual tendency, but he has denied acting on it for that which he believes is greater -- his love for God, and Lolly. I think that is very key in the discussion of mixed orientation marriages. This component, in all healthy marriages, is essential to develop as one spiritually matures. In some way or another, every person that makes covenants with God is, in essence, agreeing to give up selfish desires to obtain promised blessings.

I feel that Nightline did a reasonable job in presenting Josh and Lolly's story. I think they asked fair questions. However, one disturbing aspect, or comment, made in the Nightline segment really bothered me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some would have a hard time believing that such a marriage is possible, but considering the comment came from another member of the Church, it did. Said John Dehlin, who presents himself as an authority on Mormonism, and feels that the Weed narrative is damaging to other members with same-gender attraction:
"Using religion or spirituality as a way to manage your sexual orientation, you know, by being extra righteous, or extra faithful, as a way to sort of suppress those feelings, or control yourself, is the most damaging way to cope or deal with your same-sex attraction.
When I heard that comment, it just floored me. My immediate thoughts went to various teachings of our modern prophets, in applying the power of the Atonement, that Mormons believe can and will eventually enable us to overcome all things -- and presently endure all things. Because this comment was taken from a larger discussion, not shown, most watching Nightline are left to consider that the Weed's approach to managing same-sex attraction is downright damaging, and unfair to others who experience homosexual feelings.

I can't speak for the Weeds' but I can't imagine that sending the message that one's faith in Jesus Christ, has no place is this discussion, and is the desired result of telling their story. The fact that the Weeds' are faithful Mormons, I venture to say, has much to do with their story. I wasn't comfortable with such an interjection into the interview, without any further discussion or explanations given -- from either perspective. Because frankly, who has the right to say where the deciding line is, for those who experience same-sex attraction, that they could potentially have a successful mixed orientation, heterosexual marriage, or not?

To me, Josh and Lolly's story should give us all hope -- hope that through a deeper understanding of God's Plan of Happiness, and a desire to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, that no matter what any of our challenges in this life might be, including homosexual inclinations, that we can choose to follow the Savior, and keep God's commandments.

I could certainly understand such a comment coming from someone/anyone not a Christian. But for another member of the LDS Church to suggest, or infer, that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has no business being applied to healing and/or managing homosexuality, to me, is just plain astounding.

When Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of the Lord, teaches us that we can seek the Savior's help, even with such circumstances, I believe him.
"Everyone has some challenges they have to struggle with. You’ve described a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savior to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question."

From the LDS Newsroom, an excerpt from a very lengthy interview between LDS Public Affairs and Dallin H. Oaks, and Elder Wickman, discussing the LDS Church's position on same-gender attraction:

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is heterosexual marriage ever an option for those with homosexual feelings?

ELDER OAKS: We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: “Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.
President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems.

ELDER WICKMAN: One question that might be asked by somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is, “Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?”
Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season. 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.
ELDER OAKS: Let me just add a thought to that. There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.
You can read the entire interview HERE.

From what I can tell, the Weed's story fits perfectly into this counsel, and possibility. And I'm very happy for both of them. Whatever their personal reasons are for sharing their story, I'm glad that they have. I hope that in the future other members who have same-gender attraction, will feel to share their stories of choosing to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Weed's story is helping many LDS members to better understand the complexities of same-gender attraction, and gives us confidence that no matter the challenges we face in life, that when we choose the gospel of Jesus Christ, happiness follows.

Gay man married to a woman: How does that work? That's how.

Kathryn Skaggs

Nightline Video: Mormon, 'Happily Married' and Gay

Living Faithfully with Same-Gender Attraction:

Gay Mormon Guy

LDS Living: Living with Same-sex Attraction: Our Story Ty and Daniell Mansfield

The So-called Business of the Mormon Church

In response to the current media assault, most likely politically driven, on how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) manage its finances, the LDS Newsroom has posted an excellent article that I feel is important to share.

As members of the LDS Church, we understand certain gospel principles that  govern and apply to even financial matters, that those outside of our faith, or those who choose to be critical of the Church and find it an easy target, either ignore or themselves are clueless.  Bloomberg Businessweek magazine has prepared this cover, (pictured left) for its next big issue, along with an article that attempts to explain the business of the "Mormon Empire" -- as they see it. This is only one ill informed article, among many that are, or will, likely be popping up.

I've made a personal decision to not even try to defend Church business endeavors, or debate with others about them, particularly with those who are critical of the so-called business aspects of Mormonism, as I personally find it counterproductive to what I much prefer to do online -- share what we actually believe. However I do feel that teaching and sharing with others, the basis of our beliefs that guide these decisions, and how the Church on a global scale manages its vast resources in keeping with the gospel of Jesus Christ, is a worthy cause.

Excerpt from LDS Newsroom article: The Church and Its Financial Independence 

"Tithing is an ancient biblical principle, and has been practiced by many churches through the centuries.  Independent studies show, however, that nowhere else in America today is the principle of tithing so widely and faithfully followed as among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The vast majority of the income used to manage the Church comes from tithing, not from businesses or investments.
Tithing has thus proved to be an enormous blessing to the Church and its people, along with simple but sound economic principles such as avoiding debt, living within one’s means, and setting aside funds for a rainy day.
The key to understanding Church finances is to understand that they are a means to an end.  They allow the Church to carry out its religious mission across the world.
Does the Church own for-profit businesses? Yes.  In the Church’s earlier history as it was establishing itself in the remote intermountain west, some of those businesses were necessitated by the simple fact that they didn’t exist elsewhere in the community. Gradually, as private businesses developed and the need for Church-owned businesses diminished, they were sold off, donated to the community or discontinued. Zions Bank and the LDS Hospital system are examples.
Today, the Church’s business assets support the Church’s mission and principles by serving as a rainy day fund. Agricultural holdings now operated as for-profit enterprises can be converted into welfare farms in the event of a global food crisis. Companies such as KSL Television and the Deseret News provide strategically valuable communication tools. 
Tithing funds are used to support five key areas of activity:
  • Providing buildings or places of worship for members around the world.  We have thousands of such buildings and continue to open more, sometimes several in a week.
  • Providing education programs including support for our universities and our seminaries and institute programs.
  • Supporting the Church’s worldwide missionary program.
  • Building and operating nearly 140 temples around the world and the administration of the world’s largest family history program.
  • Supporting the Church’s welfare programs and humanitarian aid, which serve people around the world — both members of the Church as well as those who are not members.
From time to time, some people including journalists try to attach a monetary value to the Church in the same way they would assess the assets of a commercial corporation. Such comparisons simply do not hold up. For instance, a corporation’s branch offices or retail outlets have to be financially justified as a source of profit. But every time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints builds a place of worship, the building becomes a consumer of assets and a financial obligation that has to be met through worldwide member donations. The ongoing maintenance and upkeep, utilities and use of the building can only be achieved as long as faithful members continue to support the Church.
On occasion someone will try to estimate the Church’s income and determine how much of that is used to care for the poor and needy.  Again, they rarely capture the whole picture.  The bedrock principles underlying the Church’s welfare and humanitarian efforts are Christ like service and self-reliance."
You can, and should, read the entire article HERE.
The general membership of the LDS Church are not privy, on a daily basis, to know every aspect of how the Church spends and/or invests its finances. Most members don't even think about it, and frankly, don't worry about it either. Some may choose to see this as ignorance, but I do not.

I joined a church that I believe to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints upon the earth today. Knowing that, and believing that we are led by those inspired of God to lead His Church allows me to trust that decisions made, even financial, are intended to assist in the building up of the kingdom of God. I'm not skeptical of our leaders' financial motives, and trust that they, to the best of their abilities, make sound decisions in these regards. 

I see so much good that the Church does for individuals throughout the world, which requires a lot of money. Knowing the good that Church finances accomplish, causes me to feel grateful to be a member of the Church, and call myself a Mormon. I consider it a blessing to live the commandment to pay tithing, and to understand the eternal principles that accompany doing so. I believe that how we take care of one another is important to our discipleship as Christians. I truly believe that even in the business aspects of how the Church is governed, that a great stewardship is felt among those who make these decisions. In this sense, Mormons, unlike most of the world, do not separate finances from things spiritual.

I really like the bottom-line of the LDS Newsroom article...

"The Church exists to improve the lives of people across the world by bringing them closer to Jesus Christ. The assets of the Church are used in ways to support that mission. Buildings are built for members to come together to worship God and to be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries are sent to invite people to come to Christ. Resources are used to provide food and clothing for the needy and to provide ways for people to lift themselves up and be self-reliant. What is important is not the cost but the outcome. As former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The only true wealth of the Church is in the faith of its people.”

Those who attempt to define the Church as an institution devoted to amassing monetary wealth miss the entire point: the Church’s purpose is to bring people to Christ and to follow His example by lifting the burdens of those who are struggling. The key to understanding the Church is to see it not as a worldwide corporation, but as millions of faithful members in thousands of congregations across the world following Christ and caring for each other and their neighbors."

"The key to understanding the Church is to see it not as a worldwide corporation, but as millions of faithful members in thousands of congregations across the world following Christ and caring for each other and their neighbors."

Kathryn Skaggs

Note: If you have a negative or critical comment regarding the handling of Church finances, or its leaders, don't bother. It won't be approved.

Good reading in response to current conversations about Mormonism in the media:

Deseret News:

Criticism follows Businessweek cover on Mormon Church finances - By Joseph Walker

"The new Bloomberg Businessweek magazine cover on LDS Church finances drew broad-based criticism Thursday.

"The Businessweek cover is in such poor taste it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it," said Michael Purdy, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Sadly, the cover is a reflection of the bias and speculative nature of the article itself. It is narrow and incomplete, omitting, for instance, a good deal of information given on how church resources are used.

"The article misses the mark and the cover is obviously meant to be offensive to many, including millions of Latter-day Saints.""

WBMW: Mormon Beliefs about Heaven -- Before and After Life

Not only do Mormons believe in heaven, but we also believe that we lived in heaven before we came to this earth. In fact, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in heaven before and after this life -- and in actuality this life that we're now living, is only a blip in the total scheme of things: Our eternal journey to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, and become like Him -- also referred to as the Plan of Happiness.

The Washington Post: Mormonism and the cult of name-calling - By By D.T. Bell and Ryan Bell of

"There is much debate on whether Joseph Smith—the man who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often known as the Mormon Church—was truly a prophet called of God, but one of his prophecies has undoubtedly come to pass. According to Smith, an angel visited him in the autumn of 1823, telling him that his name “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”"

Patheos: Six Reasons Why Mormons are Beating Baptist (In Church Growth)

" of the top four churches not only shows consistent growth, but growth continues year by year and decade by decade. Mormons, living in the same country and culture that Baptists do, just keep growing their church. Why? I propose six reasons:"

Emma Smith: A Legacy Destined to Inspire!

I've decided to join Heather, over at Women in the Scriptures, to commemorate the birthday of Emma Hale Smith, wife of the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. I've written about Emma a few times over the years that I've been blogging, and today, I'd like to share some excerpts with you, slightly edited.  I have a deep respect for Emma, her life, and in particular her part in the work to establish, alongside of her prophet husband, the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).

First off though I want to highly recommend a visit to Heather's blog, to read an excellent interview that she conducted with Mark Staker, expert on the life of Emma Smith, at the LDS Church History Library. Said Heather about the interview, "I learned so much and was grateful he was willing to answer my "hard" questions about polygamy and the Relief Society." After reading the article, I feel the same. Thank you, Heather, for reaching out to Brother Staker, to add some new and fascinating insights into the life of Emma Smith.

The Organization of the Relief Society

During what is often thought of as some of the happiest days in the growth and development of the newly formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the organization on March 17, 1842, of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Ill.

At the first Relief Society meeting Joseph Smith prophetically declared that, "the Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized". He also taught that, "The Relief Society was organized "under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood". Not many realize the significance of these statements; for the prophet was declaring, in essence, that the women's Relief Society organization of the Church was literally part of the restoration of all things in the latter days.

Meaning, that this was not some nice ladies benevolent auxiliary, of which the women of the Church could now amuse themselves socially. No. Joseph Smith was declaring that the organization of the Relief Society, for the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a vital part of his personal mission, which had to be accomplished during a specific time-period.

The organization of Relief Society was in concurrence to the temple endowment, being fully revealed and put in order. Joseph was engaged during these years in Nauvoo, with his final work and finishing touches - to that which he had been held in reserve for millenia to accomplish.

The Significance of Emma's Role in Restoration of Church

Emma Hale Smith had been given promises through divine revelation, of her elect status amongst women - and this had yet to be fully understood by the Saints. As part of this fulfilment, under the direction of her prophet-husband, Emma was called to serve as the inaugural President of Relief Society, in Nauvoo.

It is my opinion that the significance of the organizing of the women's Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is yet to be fully understood, and recognized, in the proper context of the history of the LDS Church.

I also do not believe that, as yet, either LDS members, be they women or men, in general, have truly realized the majesty of this great restoration-revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and its impact to be, on the growth and moving forward of the Church.

I am far from a Church historian, nor a biblical scholar, however, I have been studying this topic for a while, and have been profoundly moved by what others have credibly written, which continues to go seemingly by the wayside - not understood by most.

Or so I had thought... (I wrote these thoughts initially in 2008)

Julie Beck, former general president of the Relief Society, since then, has addressed this very topic in a landmark talk to the women of the Church. I had begun this article months prior to her talk. It had lain dormant, because so much of what I desired to relate in the article seemed so out-of-date to many people. I am thrilled that Sister Beck has, in a sense, resurrected the truth of the organization of the LDS Women's Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- in our Day!

Sister Beck taught these powerful truths to the women of Relief Society...

"It is impossible to understand why we have an organization for women in the Church without having an understanding of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord, knowing about the calamities that would come to pass in these latter days, spoke to His servant Joseph Smith Jr. “and gave him commandments; . . . "

“That faith . . . might increase in the earth;

“That [His] everlasting covenant might be established;

“That the fulness of [His] gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world.”

Sister Beck continued... "To summarize, the purpose of Relief Society, as established by the Lord, is to organize, teach, and inspire His daughters to prepare them for the blessings of eternal life. I would like to say that again. The purpose of Relief Society, as established by the Lord, is to organize, teach, and inspire His daughters to prepare them for the blessings of eternal life."

Personal Musings about Emma, Plural Marriage, and Relief Society...

I have often wondered if one of the reasons Emma Smith denied the doctrine of plural marriage, and Joseph Smith's practice of it - was because of loyalty to Joseph? Joseph Smith never admitted at any time, publicly, to the practice of it during his own life. Perhaps Emma felt that Joseph would have wanted it that way. Nonetheless, Emma's future actions separated her and the remainder of Joseph Smith's family, from the body of the Church, and the Saints altogether.

After the death of Joseph Smith, Emma was even more adamant against polygamy/plural marriage. She began to almost crusade against the practice -- and even during official meetings of the Relief Society in Nauvoo. Unfortunately, this began to cause divisiveness within the ranks. Ultimately, Brigham Young disbanded the organization of the Relief Society - temporarily.

The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, had its history - and the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after the same pattern - would not be fully organized again, for nearly twenty years. This would take place under still, the Presidency of Brigham Young, with the help of Eliza R. Snow - who had been a participant in the original organization of the Relief Society.

Nevertheless, a pattern had been revealed for the women of the Church. LDS women continued to act in unison in many ways, as the Relief Society had been organized; although not officially.

Joseph Smith Jr. had laid the groundwork, with an understanding of the role of women in the LDS Church. Because of this understanding of the day it was understood that women played a vital role in the perfecting of the saints.

This pattern, of the importance a woman and man as equal before the Lord, and necessary for each other's Salvation, was not to be ignored over these years before the reorganization of the Relief Society as we know it today.

Just as the quorums of the priesthood are to prepare men to make and keep sacred covenants, so too was the organizing of a parallel program, which would bring the women unto Christ, through these very same covenants. When Joseph made his statement regarding the perfection of the restoration regarding the organizing of the Female Relief Society temple covenants were at the very heart of the work of this society.

The capstone ordinance of the Eternal Marriage sealing - is the "work" of sealing families for time and all eternity.

Herein lies the understanding, appreciation and power of the women's Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,  and why the significance of Emma's involvement -- part of her legacy.

New Information May Bring Better Clarity to Emma's Legacy

I found two of the question/answer sections of Heather's interview, with Mark, of particular interest, in light of my above "musings of a few years back. I may now have to re-assess some of my thoughts/understandings regarding both plural marriage and how the 20-year-pause of Relief Society went down, in regard to Emma's involvement. So, go read it.

As we strive to understand Emma's true legacy, not only to the Church, but on a personal level (not sure we can really separate the two) new light continues to come forth, in her favor. I've always pulled for Emma, and felt a great deal of compassion toward her for the faith she displayed as wife of Joseph Smith, and the many sacrifices the choices in her life caused her to endure. Those who knew her best, loved her best. That says a lot. I think.

Staker was given the opportunity to share final thoughts with Heather during their interview. I love his remarks:
"Sometimes when Joseph Smith dictated his history he talked about events in which he was involved as “I” did this, or “I” did that without mentioning the significant role Emma played in these same events. This was a common way of responding in the early nineteenth century. It did not mean that Joseph felt Emma had not contributed to an event—such as Book of Mormon translation—but that Emma was considered an extension of Joseph. Sometimes the identity of women was so subsumed in that of their husband in the nineteenth century that they go unnoticed. The author Mrs. Schuyler van Rensselaer, for example, is really Mariana Griswold van Rensselaer. But her identity was tied into that of her husband as was typical of the period. For Emma this was much more the case. Joseph came to recognize in Nauvoo that even his exaltation was tied to that of his wife. He could not return to live with God again without being sealed to his wife. We naturally focus on Joseph because he was the source of revelation from God, but Emma was so much a part of Joseph that she shared in much of what he accomplished. According to one of his associates, Joseph was told by Moroni that he could not recover the plates unless he married Emma and brought her to the hill with him. After Joseph married Emma he was able to receive the plates at his next visit with her accompanying him along the way. Thankfully she agreed to leave behind family, friends, all her possessions, and any dreams of a life of ease she may have fostered to join Joseph on the journey. We are all blessed because of it."

Beautiful video tribute to Emma Smith, with scenes from the movie -- Emma Smith: My Story

Happy Birthday Dear Emma!

Kathryn Skaggs

Emma Smith: The Elect Lady

"One hundred years have passed since Emma’s children watched her life slip away. In many respects, that century has left a historical vacuum surrounding Emma Smith. Honored as the first president of the Relief Society, remembered for her efforts in compiling the original Latter-day Saint hymnal, and revered as the wife of the Prophet, Emma’s role during the period of the establishment of the Church covered an even wider range of experiences."

"Ever since the Prophet Joseph died as a martyr in Carthage, Illinois, some Latter-day Saints have felt disappointment that Joseph’s wife Emma did not go with the Church in the westward exodus of the Saints in 1846–47.

Emma and Joseph’s descendants grew up separated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet I knew little of these things, for our branch of the family was far removed from our Smith heritage. While growing up on a farm near Ronan, Montana, I knew I had a relative named Joseph Smith, but I don’t recall hearing the word Mormon or seeing a Book of Mormon until I was almost an adult."

Mormon Beliefs About Heaven: Before and After Life

Not only do Mormons believe in heaven, but we also believe that we lived in heaven before we came to this earth. In fact, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in heaven before and after this life -- and in actuality this life that we're now living, is only a blip in the total scheme of things: Our eternal journey to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, and become like Him -- also referred to as the Plan of Happiness.

This week my 10th grandchild was born, a boy. In Mormon theology we believe that this new little person had his beginning in heaven, where he lived as a spirit (no body) with a distinct personality and gender. He was part of the larger family of God, as we all are, as a literal spirit child of our Heavenly Father and Mother. In Latter-day Saint homes, with the birth of every child here in mortality, the event is considered more of a family reunion than a first meeting.

When a newborn smiles we like to think that they're contemplating heaven -- or perhaps seeing angels. When he cries we might say he misses his heavenly home. Among other of these tender spiritual thoughts we are always drawn to to the belief that heaven is a wonderful place, filled with familiar loved ones, and in particular our perfect Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ -- our elder brother.  Mormons believe that in order for us to develop faith in Jesus Christ, at birth a veil of forgetfulness has been place over our minds, so that we don't recall our life before we came here. Learning to listen to the Spirit, to learn and understand the things of God, we believe, is a lifelong endeavor, and part of the test of mortality. 

As in death Mormons believe that at birth the veil between heaven and earth is thin, making spiritual experiences of eternal realities much more acute. As miraculous as birth into this life is considered, death is also a miraculous transition, resulting in another reunion with family and loved ones. However, upon our return to heaven we believe that every person who has ever been born will ultimately stand before that God who gave them life, and will account for the choices that they made, according to the light and truth received while here.

At the very center of Mormon teachings, about heaven, are LDS temples that stand as symbols of Heaven, where God's Spirit resides, and eternal families are sealed through priesthood authority, for time and all eternity. Mormons believe that we can be together forever -- meaning the basic family unit that we create during this life, as God has ordained, and those precious relationships, can extend into the next life, and throughout eternity. In holy temples we make covenants to live our lives in keeping with God's laws, ensuring that this possibility becomes a reality.

Mormons believe that the choices we make in this life will greatly affect our happiness not only in this life, but ultimately determine our destiny in the next. We experience this reality in our daily lives, here, as we strive to live lives of service, integrity and keeping our temple covenants. This way of life, with its accompanying adversity, to Mormons, is clearly the path to happiness.

As opposed to many other Christian faiths, Mormons believe that pretty much everyone goes to heaven -- but, as the Apostle Paul taught, just to different degrees of glory. Heavenly Father resides in the highest degree of Glory, the Celestial, and we also believe that this is the only kingdom of glory where there is marriage, and where the family unit exists. Mormons don't believe in hell, as a destination, rather we believe it to be a period of time to recognize personal sin, the need for Jesus Christ, and to repent. Mormons believe that "hell" is a state of being -- and only temporary. Few people will become sons of perdition, and spend the eternities in outer darkness.

The Plan of Happiness is God's way to bring His spirit children to the place that they can become like Him, if they choose it. Mormons believe that God, our Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, are perfected Beings, with Glorified, resurrected bodies of flesh and bone. And we believe that God desires this for each of us, His children.

Mormons believe that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He being the first fruits of the resurrection -- overcoming physical death,  everyone will be resurrected, regardless of their choices in this life, or their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ. This is salvation (lowercase s) -- and is a free gift to all mankind.

Salvation (uppercase S), or Eternal Life, is to qualify for the kind of life that God lives: In the highest degree of Heaven, the Celestial Kingdom and in an Eternal Family. Jesus Christ took upon Himself our sins and weakness, in the Garden of Gethsemane, suffering for our sins, and died for us on the cross --  so that we could be made clean,  if we will accept Him as our Savior and Redeemer, repent of our sins, and follow Him.

For a deeper understanding of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I recommend reading this talk by Bruce R. McConkie, who explains this doctrine very well: The Purifying Power of Gethsemane

In the Pearl of Great Price we learn in Moses 1:39: (Underlining added for emphasis on the two parts of the Atonement -- salvation and Salvation/Eternal Life.)

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

As a member of the LDS Church I am so grateful to have an understanding of the purpose of this life, and a knowledge of where my life originated, and where I will go after this life. This is just a brief overview of what Mormons believe about heaven, before and after this life. I hope you'll take the time to follow the many links that are included in this post, that will give you a much better understanding of these Mormon beliefs.

As I contemplate the seeming beginnings and endings of this life, the Spirit whispers to me that there is so much more. Whether in birth or death, of which I have been witness to both, I have felt the thinning of the veil between heaven and earth, that tells me that we have always existed and that we always will...

Kathryn Skaggs

Learn more what Mormons believe about heaven -- before and after this life: -- 

Our Heavenly Father's Plan

"Before we were born, we lived with God in heaven as spirits. All of our spirit brothers and sisters were there, too—everyone who has lived or will live on earth including Jesus Christ. In this “pre-earth life,” each of us was an individual with a divine nature and destiny. God gave all of us the gift of agency, or the right to choose for ourselves. Because He is the Father of our spirits, we call Him our Heavenly Father."

The Atonement of Jesus Christ - Jeffrey R. Holland

Choose Eternal Life

"Your eternal destiny will not be the result of chance but of choice. It is never too late to begin to choose eternal life!"

Gospel Topic: Eternal Life

The Celestial Kingdom

"The highest of the three degrees or kingdoms of glory in heaven, where one is in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The glory of the celestial kingdom is compared to the glory of the sun in the scriptures." --

What Do Mormons Believe About Eternal Life?

"Heaven is the place where God lives and the future home of those who do God’s will and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The hope of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the purpose of life on this earth is to teach us and prepare us that we, along with our families, might live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ eternally."

Mormon Messages Video: Why Mormons Build Temples