The Essential Orson Pratt
Foreword by David J. Whittaker
“Celestial Marriage” —An Excerpt
(from The Seer I [November 1853]: 173-76; 1 [December 1853]: 183-87)
[p.272]…Inasmuch as the saints in Utah consider it moral, virtuous, and scriptural, to practice the plurality system, they should seek by every means to eradicate, not only from their own minds, but from the minds of their children, every erroneous improper prejudice which they have formerly imbibed, by their associations with the nations of modern Christendom· Parents who have daughters should seek to instil into their minds, that it is just as honorable for them to be united in marriage to a good man who is already a husband, as to one that is single: they should be taught to reject the society and proposals for marriage of all wicked men, whether single or not. A father should be impartial to all his children, and cultivate the same love for them all; while each wife should instil into the minds of her own children the necessity of loving the children of each of the others, as brothers and sisters. Each wife should, not only care for the welfare of her husband and her own children, but should also seek the happiness of each of his other wives and children· And likewise, the children of each wife should not only represent, honor, and love their own mother, but also the mothers of all their brothers and sisters. By observing these precepts, peace and tranquility will reign throughout every department of the family, and the spirit of God will flow freely from heart to heart.
Nothing is so much to be desired in families as peace, love, and union: they are essential to happiness here and hereafter. And, in order to promote these desirable objects, we would recommend the observance of the following rules.
Rule 1st.—Let that man who intends to become a husband, seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and learn to govern himself, according to the law of God: for he that cannot govern himself cannot govern others: let him dedicate his property, his talents, his time, and even his life to the service of God, holding all things at His disposal, to do with the same, according as He shall direct through the counsel that He has ordained.
Rule 2nd.—Let him next seek for wisdom to direct him in the choice of his wives. Let him seek for those whose qualifications will render him and themselves happy· Let him look not wholly at the beauty of [p.273]the countenance, or the splendor of the apparel, or the great fortune, or the artful smiles, or the affected modesty of females; for all these, without the genuine virtues, are like the dew-drops which glitter for a moment in the sun, and dazzle the eye, but soon vanish away. But let him look for kind and amiable dispositions; for unaffected modesty; for industrious habits; for sterling virtue; for honesty, integrity, and truthfulness; for cleanliness in persons, in apparel, in cooking, and in every kind of domestic labor; for cheerfulness, patience, and stability of character; and above all, for genuine religion to control and govern their every thought and deed. When he has found those possessing these qualifications let him seek to obtain them lawfully through the counsel of him who holds the keys of the everlasting priesthood, that they may be married to him by the authority of Heaven, and thus be secured to him for time and for all eternity.
Rule 3rd.—When a man has obtained his wives, let him not suppose that they are already perfect in all things; for this cannot be expected in those who are young and inexperienced in the cares and vicissitudes of a married life. They, as weaker vessels, are given to him as the stronger, to nourish, cherish, and protect; to be their head, their patriarch, and their saviour; to teach, instruct, counsel, and perfect them in all things relating to family government, and the welfare and happiness of themselves and their children. Therefore, let him realize the weighty responsibility now placed upon him, as the head of a family; and also let him study diligently the disposition of his wives, that he may know how to instruct them in wisdom for their good.
Rule 4th.—Betray not the confidence of your wives. There are many ideas in an affectionate confiding wife which she would wish to communicate to her husband, and yet she would be very unwilling to have them communicated to others. Keep each of your wives’ secrets from all the others, and from any one else, unless in cases where good will result by doing otherwise.
Rule 5th.—Speak not of the faults of your wives to others; for in so doing, you speak against yourself. If you speak to one of your wives of the imperfections of the others who may be absent, you not only injure them in her estimation, but she will expect that you will speak against her under like circumstances: this is calculated to weaken their confidence in you, and sow division in the family. Tell each one of her faults in private in a spirit of kindness and love, and she will most probably respect you for it, and endeavor to do better for the future; and thus the others will not, because of your reproof, take occasion to speak reproachfully of her. There may be circumstances, when reproof, given in the presence of the others, will produce asalutary influence upon all. Wisdom is profitable to direct, [p.274]and should be sought for earnestly by those who have the responsibility of families.
Rule 6th.—Avoid anger and a fretful peevish disposition in your family. A hasty spirit, accompanied with harsh words, will most generally beget its own likeness, or, at least, it will, eventually, sour the feelings of your wives and children, and greatly weaken their affections for you. You should remember that harsh expressions against one of your wives, used in the hearing of the others, will more deeply wound her feelings, than if she alone heard them. Reproofs that are timely and otherwise good, may lose their good effect by being administered in a wrong spirit, indeed, they will most probably increase the evils which they were intended to remedy. Do not find fault with every trifling error that you may see; for this will discourage your family, and they will begin to think that it is impossible to please you; and, after a while, become indifferent as to whether they please you or not. How unhappy and extremely wretched is that family where nothing pleases—where scolding has become almost as natural as breathing!
Rule 7th.—Use impartiality in your family as far as circumstances will allow; and let your kindness and love abound towards them all. Use your own judgment, as the head of the family, in regard to your duties in relation to them, and be not swayed from that which is right, by your own feelings, nor by the feelings of others.
Rule 8th.—Suffer not your judgment to be biased against any one of your wives, by the accusations of the others, unless you have good grounds to believe that those accusations are just. Decide not hastily upon partial evidence, but weigh well all things, that your mind may not become unjustly prejudiced. When one of your wives complains of the imperfections of the others, and endeavors to set your mind against them, teach her that all have imperfections, and of the necessity of bearing one with another in patience, and of praying one for another.
Rule 9th.—Call your wives and children together frequently, and instruct them in their duties towards God, towards yourself, and towards one another. Pray with them and for them often; and teach them to pray much, that the Holy Spirit may dwell in their midst, without which it is impossible to maintain that union, love, and oneness which are so necessary to happiness and salvation.
Rule 10th.—Remember, that notwithstanding written rules will be of service in teaching you your duties, as the head of a family, yet without the Holy Ghost to teach and instruct you, it is impossible for you to govern a family in righteousness; therefore, seek after the Holy Ghost and he shall teach you all things, and sanctify you and your family, and make you one, that you may be perfected in Him and He in you, and [p.275]eventually be exalted on high to dwell with God, where your joy will be full forever.
Rule 11th.—Let no woman unite herself in marriage with any man, unless she has fully resolved to submit herself wholly to his counsel, and to let him govern as the head. It is far better for her not to be united with him in the sacred bonds of eternal union, than to rebel against the divine order of family government, instituted for a higher salvation; for if she altogether turn therefrom, she will receive a greater condemnation.
Rule 12th.—Never seek to prejudice the mind of your husband against any of his other wives, for the purpose of exalting yourself in his estimation, lest the evil which you unjustly try to bring upon them, fall with double weight upon your own head. Strive to rise in favor and influence with your husband by your own merits, and not by magnifying the faults of others.
Rule 13th.—Seek to be a peacemaker in the family with whom you are associated. If you see the least appearance of division arising, use your utmost efforts to restore union and soothe the feelings of all. Soft and gentle words, spoken in season, will allay contention and strife; while a hasty spirit and harsh language add fuel to the fire already kindled which will rage with increasing violence.
Rule 14th.—Speak not evil of your husband unto any of the rest of the family for the purpose of prejudicing their minds against him; for if he be informed thereof, it will injure you in his estimation. Neither speak evil of any members of the family; for this will destroy their confidence in you. Avoid all hypocracy; for if you pretend to love your husband and to honor and respect his wives, when present, but speak disrespectful of them when absent, you will be looked upon as a hypocrite, as a tattler, and as a mischief-making woman, and be shunned as being more dangerous than an open enemy. And what is still more detestable, is to tattle out of the family, and endeavor to create enemies against those with whom you are connected. Such persons should not only be considered hypocrites, but traitors, and their conduct should be despised by every lover of righteousness. Remember also, that there are more ways than one to tattle; it is not always the case that those persons who are the boldest in their accusations that are the most dangerous slanderers; but such as hypocritically pretend that they do not wish to injure their friends, and at the same time, very piously insinuate in dark indirect sayings, something that is calculated to leave a very unfavorable prejudice against them. Shun such a spirit as you would the very gates of hell.
Rule 15th.—If you see any of your husband’s wives sick or in trouble, use every effort to relieve them, and to administer kindness and consolations, remembering that you, yourself, under the same circumstances, [p.276]would be thankful for their assistance. Endeavor to share each other’s burdens, according to the health, ability, and strength which God has given you. Do not be afraid that you will do more than your share of the domestic labor, or that you will be more kind to them than they are to you.
Rule 16th.—Let each mother correct her own children, and see that they do not dispute and quarrel with each other, nor with any others; let her not correct the children of the others without liberty so to do, lest it give offence. The husband should see that each mother maintains a wise and proper discipline over her children, especially in their younger years: and it is his duty to see that all of his children are obedient to himself and to their respective mothers. And it is also his duty to see that the children of one wife are not allowed to quarrel and abuse those of the others, neither to be disrespectful or impudent to any branch of his family.
Rule 17th.—It is the duty of parents to instruct their children, according to their capacities in every principle of the gospel, as revealed in the Book of Mormon and in the revelations which God has given, that they may grow up in righteousness, and in the fear of the Lord, and have faith in Him. Suffer no wickedness to have place among them, but teach them the right way, and see that they walk therein. And let the husband and his wives, and all of his children that have come to the years of understanding often bow before the Lord around the family altar, and pray vocally and unitedly for whatever blessings they stand in need of, remembering that where there are union and peace, there will also be faith, and hope, and the love of God, and every good work, and a multiplicity of blessings, imparting health and comfort to the body, and joy and life to the soul.
Rule 18th.—Let each mother commence with her children when young, not only to teach and instruct them, but to chasten and bring them into the most perfect subjection; for then is the time that they are the most easily conquered, and their tender minds are the most susceptible of influences and government. Many mothers from carelessness neglect their children, and only attempt to govern them at long intervals, when they most generally find their efforts of no lasting benefit; for the children having been accustomed to have their own way, do not easily yield; and if peradventure they do yield, it is only for the time being, until the mother relaxes again into carelessness, when they return again to their accustomed habits: and thus by habit they become more and more confirmed in disobedience, waxing worse and worse, until the mother becomes discouraged, and relinquishes all discipline, and complains that she cannot make her children mind. The fault is not so much in the children, as in the carelessness and neglect of the mother [p.277]when the children were young; it is she that must answer, in a great degree, for the evil habits and disobedience of the children. She is more directly responsible than the father; for it cannot be expected that the father can always find time, apart from the laborious duties required of him, to correct and manage his little children who are at home with their mothers. It is frequently the case that the father is called to attend to duties in public life, and may be absent from home much of his time, when the whole duty of family government necessarily rests upon the respective mothers of his children; if they through carelessness, suffer their children to grow up in disobedience and ruin themselves, they must bear the shame and disgrace thereof. Some mothers, though not careless, and though they feel the greatest anxiety for the welfare of their children, yet, through a mistaken notion of love for them, forbear to punish them when they need punishment, or if they undertake to conquer them, their tenderness and pity are so great, that they prevail over the judgment, and the children are left unconquered, and become more determined to resist all future efforts of their mothers until, at length, they conclude that their children have a more stubborn disposition than others, and that it is impossible to subject them in obedience. In this case, as in that of neglect, the fault is the mother’s. The stubbornness of the children, for the most part, is the effect of the mother’s indulgence, arising from her mistaken idea of love. By that which she calls love, she ruins her children.
Children between one and two years of age are capable of being made to understand many things; then is the time to begin with them. How often we see children of that age manifest much anger. Frequently by crying through anger, they that are otherwise healthy, injure themselves: it is far better, in such instances, for a mother to correct her child in a gentle manner, though with decision and firmness, until she conquers it, and causes it to cease crying, than to suffer that habit to increase. When the child by gentle punishment has learned this one lesson from its mother, it is much more easily conquered and brought into subjection in other things, until finally, by a little perseverance on the part of the mother, it learns to be obedient to her voice in all things; and obedience becomes confirmed into a permanent habit. Such a child trained by a negligent or overindulgent mother, might have become confirmed in habits of stubbornness and disobedience. It is not so much in the original constitution of children as in their training, that causes such wide differences in their dispositions. It cannot be denied, that there is a difference in the constitution of children even from their birth; but this difference is mostly owing to the proper or improper conduct of parents, as before stated; therefore, even for this difference, parents are more or less responsible. If parents, through their own evil conduct entail [p.278]hereditary dispositions upon their children which are calculated to ruin them, unless properly curtailed and overcome, they should realise, that for that evil they must render an account. If parents have been guilty in entailing upon their offspring unhappy dispositions, let them repent, by using all diligence to save them from the evil consequences which will naturally result by giving way to those dispositions. The greater the derangement, the greater must be the remedy, and the more skilful and thorough should be its application, until that which is sown in evil is overcome and completely subdued. In this way parents may save themselves and their children; but otherwise there is condemnation. Therefore, we repeat again, let mothers begin to discipline their children when young.
Rule 19th.—Do not correct children in anger; an angry parent is not as well prepared to judge of the amount of punishment which should be inflicted upon a child, as one that is more cool and exercised with reflection, reason, and judgment. Let your children, see that you punish them, not to gratify an angry disposition, but to reform them for their good, and it will have a salutary influence; they will not look upon you as a tyrant, swayed to and fro by turbulent and furious passions; but they will regard you as one that seeks their welfare, and that you only chasten them because you love them, and wish them to do well. Be deliberate and calm in your counsels and reproofs, but at the same time use earnestness and decision. Let your children know that your words must be respected and obeyed.
Rule 20th.—Never deceive your children by threatnings or promises. Be careful not to threaten them with a punishment which you have no intention of inflicting; for this will cause them to lose confidence in your word; besides, it will cause them to contract the habit of lying: when they perceive that their parents do not fulfil their threatenings or promises, they will consider that there is no harm in forfeiting their word. Think not that your precepts, concerning truthfulness, will have much weight upon the minds of your children, when they are contradicted by your examples. Be careful to fulfil your word in all things in righteousness, and your children will not only learn to be truthful from your example, but they will fear to disobey your word, knowing that you never fail to punish or reward according to your threatnings and promises. Let your laws, penalties, and rewards be founded upon the principles of justice and mercy, and adapted to the capacities of your children; for this is the way that our heavenly Father governs His children, giving to some a Celestial; to others a Terrestrial; and to others still a Telestial law, with penalties and promises annexed, according to the conditions, circumstances, and capacities of the individuals to be governed. Seek for wisdom and pattern after the heavenly order of government.
[p.279]Rule 21st.—Do not be so stern and rigid in your family government as to render yourself an object of fear and dread. There are parents who only render themselves conspicuous in the attribute of Justice, while mercy and love are scarcely known in their families. Justice should be tempered with mercy, and love should be the great moving principle, interweaving itself in all your family administrations. When justice alone sits upon the throne, your children approach you with dread, or peradventure hide themselves from your presence, and long for your absence that they may be relieved from their fear; at the sound of your approaching foot-steps they flee as from an enemy, and tremble at your voice, and shrink from the gaze of your countenance, as though they expected some terrible punishment to be inflicted upon them. Be familiar with your children that they may delight themselves in your society, and look upon you as a kind and tender parent whom they delight to obey. Obedience inspired by love, and obedience inspired by fear, are entirely different in their nature; the former will be permanent and enduring, while the latter only waits to have the objects of fear removed, and it vanishes like a dream. Govern children as parents, and not as tyrants; for they will be parents in their turn, and will be very likely to adopt that form of government in which they have been educated. If you have been tyrants, they may be influenced to pattern after your example. If you are fretful and continually scolding, they will be very apt to be scolds too. If you are loving, kind, and merciful, these benign influences will be very certain to infuse themselves into their order of family government; and thus good and evil influences frequently extend themselves down for many generations and ages. How great, then, are the responsibilities of parents to their children! And how fearful the consequences of bad examples! Let love, therefore, predominate and control you, and your children will be sure to discover it, and will love you in return.
Rule 22nd.—Let each mother teach her children to honor and love their father, and to respect his teachings and counsels. How frequently it is the case, when fathers undertake to correct their children, mothers will interfere in the presence of the children: this has a very evil tendency in many respects: first, it destroys the oneness of feeling which should exist between husband and wife; secondly, it weakens the confidence of the children in the father, and emboldens them to disobedience; thirdly, it creates strife and discord; and lastly, it is rebelling against the order of family government, established by divine wisdom. If the mother supposes the father too severe, let her not mention this in the presence of the children, but she can express her feelings to him while alone by themselves, and thus the children will not see any division between them. For husband and wives to be disagreed, and to contend, [p.280]and quarrel, is a great evil; and to do these things in the presence of their children, is a still greater evil. Therefore, if a husband and his wives will quarrel and destroy their own happiness, let them have pity upon their children, and not destroy them by their pernicious examples.
Rule 23rd.—Suffer not children of different mothers to be haughty and abusive to each other; for they are own brothers and sisters the same as the children of the patriarch Jacob; and one has no claim above another, only as his conduct merits it. Should you discover contentions or differences arising, do not justify your own children and condemn the others in their presence; for this will encourage them in their quarrels: even if you consider that your children are not so much in the fault as the others, it is far better to teach them of the evils of strife, than to speak against the others. To speak against them, not only alienates their affections, but has a tendency to offend their mothers, and create unpleasant feelings between you and them. Always speak well of each of your husband’s wives in the presence of your children; for children generally form their judgment concerning others, by the sayings of their parents: they are very apt to respect those whom their parents respect; and hate those whom they hate. If you consider that some of the mothers are too lenient with their children and too negligent in correcting them, do not be offended, but strive, by the wise and prudent management of your own, to set a worthy example before them, that they, by seeing your judicious and wise course, may be led to go and do likewise. Examples will sometimes reform, when precepts fail.
Rule 24th.—Be industrious in your habits: this is important as fulfilling the law of God: it is also important for those who are in low circumstances, that they may acquire food, and raiment, and the necessary comforts of life: it is also important for the rich as well as the poor, that they may be able more abundantly to supply the wants of the needy, and be in circumstances to help the unfortunate and administer to the sick and afflicted; for in this way, it is possible even for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven. A family whose time is occupied in the useful and lawful avocations of life, will find no time to go from house to house, tattling and injuring one another and their neighbors; neither will they be so apt to quarrel among themselves.
Rule 25th.—When your children are from three to five years of age, send them to school, and keep them there year after year until they receive a thorough education in all the rudiments of useful science, and in their manners, and morals. In this manner, they will avoid many evils, arising from indolence, and form habits that will render them beneficial to society in after life. Let mothers educate their daughters in all kinds of domestic labor: teach them to wash and iron, to bake and do all kinds of cooking, to knit and sew, to spin and weave, and to do all other [p.281]things that will qualify them to be good and efficient housewives. Let fathers educate their sons in whatever branch or branches of business, they intend them respectively to follow. Despise that false delicacy which is exhibited by the sons and daughters of the rich, who consider it a dishonor to labor at the common avocations of live. Such notions of high-life, should be frowned out of the territory, as too contemptible to be harbored, for one moment, by a civilized community. Some of these bogus gentlemen and ladies have such grand ideas, concerning gentility, that they would let their poor old father and mother slave themselves to death, to support them in their idleness, or at some useless fanciful employment. The daughter will sit down in the parlour at her painting or music, arrayed in silks and fineries, and let her mother wash and cook until, through fatigue she is ready to fall into her grave: this they call gentility, and the distinctions between the low and the high. But such daughters are not worthy of husbands, and should not be admitted into any respectable society: they are contemptible drones, that would be a curse to any husband who should be so unfortunate as to be connected with such nuisances. Painting, music, and all the fine arts, should be cherished, and cultivated, as accomplishments which serve to adorn and embellish an enlightened civilized people, and render life agreeable and happy; but when these are cultivated, to the exclusion of the more necessary duties and qualifications, it is like adorning swine with costly jewels and pearls to make them appear more respectable: these embellishments, only render such characters a hundred fold more odious and disgustful than they would otherwise appear.
Rule 26th.—Use economy and avoid wastefulness. How discouraging it would be to a husband who has a large family, depending mostly upon his labor for a support, to see his wives and children carelessly, thoughtlessly, and unnecessarily, waste his hard earnings. Let not one wife, for fear that she shall not obtain her share of the income, destroy, give away, and otherwise foolishly dispose of what is given to her, thinking that her husband will furnish her with more. Those who economize and wisely use that which is given to them, should be counted worthy to receive more abundantly than those who pursue a contrary course. Each wife should feel interested in saving and preserving that with which the Lord has entrusted her, and should rejoice, not only in her prosperity, but in the prosperity of all the others: her eyes should not be full of greediness to grasp every thing herself, but she should feel equally interested in the welfare of the whole family. By pursuing this course she will be beloved: by taking a contrary course, she will be considered selfish and little minded.
Rule 27th.—Let husbands, wives, sons, and daughters, continually realize that their relationships do not end with this short life, but will [p.282]continue in eternity without end. Every qualification and disposition therefore, which will render them happy here, should be nourished, cherished, enlarged, and perfected, that their union may be indissoluble, and their happiness secured both for this world and for that which is to come.
Let these rules be observed, and all others that are good and righteous, and peace will be the result: husbands will be patriarchs and saviours; wives will be like fruitful vines, bringing forth precious fruits in their seasons: their sons will be like plants of renown, and their daughters like the polished stones of a palace. Then the saints shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and become a great people and strong, whose goings forth shall be with strength that is everlasting. Arise, O Zion! clothe thyself with light! shine forth with clearness and brilliancy! illuminate the nations and the dark corners of the earth, for their light is gone out—their sun is set—gross darkness covers them! let thy light be seen upon the high places of the earth; let it shine in glorious splendour; for then shall the wicked see, and be confounded, and lay their hands upon their mouths in shame; then shall kings arise and come forth to the light, and rejoice in the greatness of thy glory! Fear not, O Zion, nor let thine hands be slack, for great is the Holy One in the amidst of thee! a cloud shall be over thee by day for a defense, and at night thy dwellings shall be encircled with glory! God is thine everlasting light, and shall be a Tower of strength against thine enemies; at the sound of His voice they shall melt away, and terrors shall seize upon them. In that day thou shalt be beautiful and glorious, and the reproach of the Gentiles shall no more come into thine ears; in that day, shall the sons of them that afflicted thee come bending unto thee and bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and the daughters of them that reproached thee, shall come saying, We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel, only let us be joined in the patriarchal order of marriage with the husbands and patriarchs in Zion to take away our reproach: then shall they highly esteem, far above riches, that which their wicked fathers ridiculed under the name of Polygamy.…