I’ve been following all of the attempts around the nation to change the definition of marriage. I remember, when I was younger, being quite enthralled at marriage as practiced in the Bible. It was the story of Jacob, who returns to the ancestral homeland in search of a wife. Jacob falls in love with the beautiful Rachel, and promises 7 years of labor to his Uncle Laban, after which Jacob and Rachel are to be married. But on the wedding night, Laban sent Rachel’s older sister Leah to Jacob, since it was not the custom for the younger sister (Rachel) to marry before the older sister, and unwittingly he consummated the marriage with her. On discovering he had been duped, he agreed to work another 7 years, after which he wed Rachel and consummated this second marriage with her. He favored Rachel, and the Lord, seeing that Leah was unloved, made her fruitful and Rachel barren. Leah bore him sons, so the envious Rachel sent her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob in her place, and Jacob had intercourse with her, and she bore him 2 sons, which Rachel considered her own. Then when Leah saw that she had ceased to bear children, she sent her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob as a consort, and she bore him two sons. Then Rachel allowed Leah to sleep with Jacob, and she bore two more sons. Then God remembered Rachel, made her fruitful, and she bore a son.
There are several interesting points in this Biblical story. One is that a marriage is between one man and one woman. The language is quite clear; this is not a marriage of one man and two women, but two separate marriages each between one man and one woman. The other point is also clear; the purpose of marriage is to bear sons; the purpose of marriage is procreation. This is so emphatic in this story; procreation is so fundamental to marriage that the wives send their maidservants to their husband, that they may have intercourse with him and bear him children, which the wives will take as their own.
Which brings us to a redefinition of marriage which occurred in the tradition of the presumed Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney. His faith, that of the Latter Day Saints, practiced polygamy from its inception until 1890. Mitt Romney’s great grandparents practiced polygamy, or plural marriage, and even moved to Mexico to escape anti-polygamy laws. The purpose of marriage is procreation, and the Book of Mormon allowed polygamy in order to “raise up seed unto [God].” The United States government disapproved of polygamy, and banned it. But the Mormons, believing it a matter of religious freedom and protected by the First Amendment, continued to practice polygamy. In 1890, though, renouncing their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and bowing to the government, church President Willford Woodruff terminated the practice by manifesto. Mitt Romney’s grandparents also married in accordance with this new definition of marriage, and lived life monogamously, returning to the United States from Mexico with Mitt Romney’s father George.
Even though some societies, like Mormon society, have survived after redefining marriage, the Bible, as in the Jacob story, is quite clear that marriage is between one man and one woman, and for the purpose of procreation. This should be enough to put a stop to attempts to redefine marriage as between two consenting adults regardless of gender, and should be enough to make us, as a society, double down on our emphasis that marriage’s purpose is procreation.