Was Jesus Married?

Related Posts: Who is Jesus?—to a Mormon; Whom do we worship?; Christ, The Nature of; Godhead: God or Gods?; Heavenly Mother

Thanks to the movie The Da Vinci Code the idea of Jesus’ marriage is more popular than ever. But it is also getting some push back from supporters of the traditional view that Jesus lived a celibate life.  For example, Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, wrote in This Rock,

Absence of evidence is not, as we have said, evidence of absence. But neither is it evidence of evidence. The assertion that Jesus was married puts the burden of proof on those making the claim. Those who argue for a married Jesus simply haven’t met that burden. What evidence we have—even when considered apart from the Church’s Tradition—all points in the other direction.[1]

Yes, Jesus’ marriage is not official LDS doctrine

The LDS Church does not officially teach that Jesus was married. Charles W. Penrrose, an LDS Apostle and member of the First Presidency, wrote in 1912,

We do not know anything about Jesus Christ being married. The Church has no authoritative declaration on the subject.[2]

In fact the FairMormon blog says this about the LDS Church’s position on Jesus being married,

Do Mormons believe Jesus Christ was married?…The easy answer is that no, Mormons don’t officially believe that Jesus was married. In fact, there is no official Church doctrine on this issue.

But then?

Even so, it is true this belief is perfectly consistent with Mormon beliefs as a whole. And in contrast to most of our Christian cousins the belief that Jesus was married is held by many, if not a majority, of Mormons.

Today we don’t hear anything from church leaders about Jesus being married. But in the 19th century LDS leaders were very vocal about teaching their belief that Jesus was married. Apostle Orson Pratt wrote in his book The Seer (1853) that

One thing is certain, that there were several holy women that greatly loved Jesus — such as Mary, and Martha her sister, and Mary Magdalene; and Jesus greatly loved them, and associated with them much; and when He arose from the dead, instead of showing Himself to His chosen witnesses, the Apostles, He appeared first to these women, or at least to one of them — namely, Mary Magdalene. Now it would be natural for a husband in the resurrection to appear first to his own dear wives, and afterwards show himself to his other friends. If all the acts of Jesus were written, we no doubt should learn that these beloved women were His wives (p.159).

There are several more examples of 19th century church leaders who say Jesus was married. (A quick internet search will bring them up.)

The situation is like this. If you look at LDS beliefs as a whole they seem to point toward Jesus being married. LDS teachings make it optional. But nevertheless, our beliefs favor it.

Mormon beliefs: Was Jesus married?

But which beliefs point to this?

We see ourselves (and Jesus) as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. During our premortal life Heavenly Father gathered all of us together and proposed a plan. An earth would be created where we would live a mortal life and grow and develop (see The Premortal Life). Marriage is part of this plan. In fact, marriage is required to obtain the highest heaven. The Doctrine and Covenants says this about temple marriage.

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. (D&C 131:1-3;  brackets original)

The scriptures also teach that, “no one can reject this covenant [of marriage] and be permitted to enter into my glory” (D&C 132:4; brackets mine).

Jesus is our elder brother (Who is Jesus, To a Mormon?) who volunteered to be the savior of mankind. But earth life was also part of his progression, and that would logically include marriage. My brother also pointed out that Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, “then wouldn’t he be married to complete that law also.”

I will add that even though the idea that Jesus was married during his mortal life is not required the idea that he must eventually be sealed to a wife for time and all eternity is. After all, we belief that Heavenly Father has a wife (Heavenly Mother). So if Jesus isn’t now married then eventually he must get married.

As a result, for most Mormons the idea that Jesus might have been married is very uncontroversial.

Evidence for Jesus’ marriage

Mark Brumley is right. The passages in the New Testament that might suggest Jesus was married can easily be interpreted in another way. But here are some of the typical arguments for Jesus’ marriage.

  1. In the Gospels Jesus is identified as a Rabbi (Matt. 26:49, Mark 10:51, John 20:16). A Rabbi would be expected to marry.
  2. The marriage in Cana where Jesus turned water to wine might have been Jesus’ own marriage (John 2:1-11). (I have heard several Mormons express this idea.)
  3. The first person Jesus appears to after his resurrection is Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18). She tries to embrace him and calls him “my Lord” which is how a wife would address her husband.
  4. Mary Magdalene was among the women who anointed Jesus’ body after his crucifixion. This duty would have been performed by a wife. The other women might have been relatives (Mark 16:1).
  5. When Martha was serving her guests, her sister Mary (perhaps Magdalene) was sitting at Jesus’ feet. Instead of directly addressing her sister Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (NIV). She spoke to Jesus as if he was Mary’s husband (Luke 10:38-42).

Personally, I believe that Jesus was married. My wife shares this belief. But to get a better understanding of what other Mormons believe about Jesus being married I created a Google poll and sent it to my relatives (all active in Church). I got sixteen responses. The results are as follows:

  • I believe Jesus was Married: 9 responses (56.3%)
  • I believe Jesus might have been married: 6 responses (37.5%)
  • I believe Jesus was probably not married: 1 response (6.2%)
  • I do not believe Jesus was married: 0 responses (0.0%).
Was Jesus married poll.

Was Jesus married poll.

[1] “Was Jesus Married?,” This Rock, vol. 20, No. 5 (May 2009). <http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/was-jesus-married, accessed 20160410>

[2] “Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered,” Improvement Era, vol. 15, no. 11 (September 1912).

[3] The Seer, October 1853, vol. 1, no. 10, p. 159.

Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930

Related Posts: Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy; Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Summary: I promised another post on divorce and I finally have enough data to write about. So here it is. (This just keeps getting more and more interesting.)

I have analyzed census data from 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930. I restricted the analysis to the white, 15 and older population for the states and territories of the lower 48 states.

In 1880 Utah’s female divorce rate was the third highest in the US, only New Mexico and Nevada are higher. From 1880 to about 1910 Utah’s female divorce rate steadily decreases while the rest of the US tends to increase. From 1910 to 1930 Utah’s female divorce rate rapidly increases, following the national trend. The male divorce rate from 1890 to 1930 follows the national trend.

When looking at the difference in percent male and percent female divorce rates we see that in 1880 Utah had the second highest difference in the US, only Nevada is higher. Utah’s over 15 male to female ratio in 1880 was about 1.1 while Nevada’s was almost 2.5. Utah had a population of 143,964 compared to Nevada’s 62,266. From 1890 and 1900 Utah had the highest difference in male and female divorce rates in the United States. By 1910 Utah’s male and female divorce rate difference was the second only to Colorado. By 1920 Utah had the second highest divorce rate difference, only California was higher. By 1930 the difference in Utah’s male-female divorce rate was equal to the US third quartile.

Because the male and female divorce rates for US states and territories are correlated better than 89% two factor plots provide some additional insight. When the female divorce rate is plotted against the male divorce rate Utah stands out from the national trend for 1880, 1890, and 1900. For 1910 and 1920 it stands out a little. By 1930 Utah is well within national trends.

The only explanation I can see for this is polygamy. It appears that polygamy increased Utah’s female divorce rate noticeably above national trends. And this effect lasted for 20 years after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially stopped polygamy in 1890, maybe longer.

The value of this goes beyond academic interest. It can also relate to the gay marriage debate currently going on in the US Supreme Court. If the state can ban polyamorous unions then why not same sex marriage. From this data we can see quite objectively that polygamy increases the female divorce rate. I’m not going to get into that debate now but you can hear the supreme court arguments here and here. Continue reading

Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy

Related Posts: Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930; Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Summary: I said this post would be interesting. And it is. The LDS Church officially abandoned polygamy in 1890 due to intense government pressure. The 1890 Census Report contains detailed information on divorce that I believe captures evidence of polygamy in Utah. My previous post analyzed the marriage data (Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal).

Firstly, when talking about divorce in 1890 we are dealing with a very small percentage of the population. The median divorce rate for the US was 0.23%. And it turns out that the overall divorce rate in 1890 in Utah is ordinary, right at the third quartile for US states and territories. However, when you look at divorce by age and sex it becomes much more interesting. Above age 34 Utah has the highest or second highest female divorce rate in the US–from 45 on up only Nevada is higher. But this is interesting because Nevada’s total population was 45,761 compared to Utah’s 207,905. Nevada’s male to female ratio was 1.76 and Utah’s was 1.13. Nevada was a much more difficult place for a woman to live and you would expect a higher divorce rate. But Utah?

More can be said. The male divorce rate for Utah qualifies as ordinary (falls between the first and third quartiles) for all age categories. But if you look at the difference between male and female divorce rates by age then Utah really stands out. The national trend is, overall, downward with male divorces eventually exceeding female divorces. The Utah trend is starkly upward, increasing in nearly a straight line from age 15 to 64. Overall, the female divorce rate far exceeds the male divorce rate. Not only does the divergence between the Utah male and female divorce rates increase with age, it also diverges from the national trend. Continue reading

Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Related Posts: Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy; Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930

Summary: I have looked at data for marriage in 1890 Utah found in the US census report, in detail. I spend the last two months (and a good amount of my Christmas break) compiling and analyzing the data. This post will look at marriage. A later post will look at divorce. (See Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy.)

Update: I have looked at the married female to married male ratios of Utah from 1880 to 1930. I have found that for 1880 and 1900 Utah is an outlier. For 1890 it is not. This is likely due to the fact that women in polygamous relationships  were concealing their relationships during 1890, but not so much in 1880 and 1900. See Figure 4 in Polygamy in Utah, 1880 for plots. This is likely due to the antipolygamy crusade that ramped up during the 1880’s. Therefore, the female marriage data in this post is not accurate. However, there is still lots of useful information in this post. (Aug 8, 2015)

The 1890 Census coincides with the LDS Church officially abandoning the practice of polygamy (1890). (See The Manifesto declaring this.) So the Census Record might capture evidence of polygamy, if there is any.

My questions were these. Were more women married in Utah than other states and territories? Where young female marriages occurring in Utah at a much higher rate than the rest of the country? How do male marriages compare? Are there any statistics in which Utah stands out?

Even though Utah allowed girls to marry with parental consent at 12 there is no evidence that under 15 girls were getting married in significant numbers–there were only 2 in Utah. The average for the US (Utah excluded) was 24 and the median was 9. I can’t find any evidence that girls in Utah in any age bracket were marrying at significantly different rates from the other states and territories. Continue reading