Hearken: The Symbolism of The Bride, The Bridegroom and the Marriage
Symbolism is an important part of religion. As Latter-day Saints, we are well familiar that the Bridegroom is the biblical term that symbolises Christ; The Bride is symbolic of His church, (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:14; Jer. 31:32) and the Marriage is symbolic of the Second Coming (D&C 45:56; D&C 63:54). There is no mistake in the use of symbolism, we do not believe that the sacrament bread and water literally turns into the flesh and blood of Christ, and there are repeated reminders of symbolism with countless use of symbols in the temple ceremony. I enjoy the symbolism, it allows me to apply new applications of symbolic biblical teachings.
The problem for me is when the symbolism stops, and becomes literal. Throughout the scriptures, the Bridegroom (the husband), is Christ. It is a constant symbol. But the symbol ends in modern church patriarchal structure. In Mormon ideology, the symbol become literal when applied in our own homes. The reason? Paul told us so. In every other admonition of Christ as the husband and bridegroom, the translation is treated as symbolic, until we hit Ephesians. Huh? Even in the well-researched article by Richard K Hart on the symbolism of the Marriage, Hart states, “There is no question but what a righteous patriarchal order is being described by Paul.”
Well, sorry, Mr. Hart. I do question it. I question this literal translation. A lot. In fact, I don’t buy it. After all, Paul concludes with “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:22–26, 30–32). This means that Paul is speaking of Christ and the church, but Hart is only speaking of literal husbands and wives, in complete absence of Christ. Why is Christ’s place within marriage suddenly absent because those of patriarchal order suddenly decided to only ascribe to literal biblical interpretations?
So- Hart, and those who believe in divine patriarchal order, artfully accept the symbolism of Christ as the Bridegroom throughout the scriptures, until they have an opportunity to assert authority over another, namely, women and/or “the bride”. In addition, the Bride is symbolically and (according to patriarchal ideology) literally the church, which men preside over. And further literal application suggests that the Bride, or the wife, must be presided over by the now literal, husband. This makes for a convenient double literal translation for men who desire to exhort authority over the church and women, then slip back into symbolism when equally convenient to discuss scripture.
In consideration of this, it is fair to suggest that literal translation in this portion of scripture, and the further literal application within the structure of the church– is incorrect. Wrong. Bogus. False. Mistaken. After all, the church is not a perfect organization or structure, nor does it claim to be, so it stands to reason that choosing a singular literal translation is a series of symbolic translations is in error. It is evident that the constant adaptation of church structure and policy is an ongoing witness to the fact of imperfection. And just because this literal interpretation is incorrect does not mean that priesthood is false; it simply means that the symbolism elsewhere in the bible should be equally interperated.
This means to wit, Christ, or the spirit of Christ, (the Bridegroom), presides in a home. When an individual or a couple are righteously in tune to the spirit, they are directed by the spirit of Christ which then is allowed to preside in their home. The same application would be present at church- the spirit presides, not the mortals.
It also means that the Church (the Bride), is to hearken to Christ. Members of the church are husbands and wives, men and women, who in equal fellowship submit to Christ (the Bridegroom, the husband). One spouse does not submit to nor preside over another; both equally submit to Christ.
This also is easily and equally applied in terms of the Pearl of Great Price. This scripture is rife with symbolism; the rib, the fruit, the serpent… yet again, as soon as submission of Eve to her “husband” is concerned, the text is interpreted as literal translation. This again make no sense in context of spiritual progression. After all, we are baptised, confirmed, endowed and then sealed in marriage to each other. Literal discussion of marital submission or hearkening prior to a sealing ceremony can therefore only be symbolic of the church hearkening to Christ, as Christ hearkens to God. This symbolic interpretation makes significantly more sense, if only because one is not required to be married in order to be baptised, confirmed or endowed.
Certainly Mormon doctrine and patriarchal structure is largely based on this singular, literal translation, if only in absence of revelation of symbolism relating to women. Well, let me just throw The Song of Deborah (Bible dictionary, page 720) into the mix: Deborah was a righteous judge and prophetess. Her name symbolically means the bee. After the modern restoration of the priesthood, worldly oppression of women created cultural and political strife, so priesthood keys were not actively bestowed upon women. In recognition of the authority of women, Mormon women voted (sustained) within the early church and the early Relief Society was heavily involved in women’s suffrage. Still lacking priesthood
keys, and in an effort to leave the door open, if only symbolically- for women to receive priesthood keys, Brigham Young originally called the western Mormon settlement Deseret. The Book of Mormon translation of this term means “honey bee.” Deborah. The bee. The prophetess. The state of deseret, or the state of the honey bee, may be symbolic of the state of women with full priesthood privileges.
This makes sense to me. After all, symbolism is an important part of religion.