LC: 59. MARRIAGE RULES
Marriage, according to the Scriptures, is the union of a man and a woman, as husband and wife. Members may freely marry within the Family providing they do so in accordance with the rules listed below. Those who marry enter into a covenant together between themselves and the Lord, committing themselves to love, care, and be responsible for one another and their children, in a Christ-centered union that glorifies God. Those who enter into such a covenant or contract should do so with the commitment that they will remain married and continue to function together as a married couple permanently. Nevertheless, there may be times when it becomes evident that a marital union is no longer glorifying God and is proving detrimental to children of the marriage, or in extraordinary circumstances one of the partners is called by God to a new direction in their work for Him. In such a case, the partners may wish to dissolve the marriage in accordance with the Permanent Marital Separation Rules.
Besides accepting Jesus as their Savior, getting married is probably one of the most important decisions a person will make. Before a couple marries, they should determine in their hearts before the Lord and express one to another that they are committed to one another permanently, unless or until the Lord shall call them to be apart.
The commitment of marriage is a commitment to love and a commitment to the responsibilities of love.--That responsibility to love and care for your partner in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, even if your emotional attachment lessens over the years. Marriage requires God's love, that ever-enduring love that forgives, that overcomes bitterness, familiarity and failure, love that carries us through life's difficulties and keeps on loving.
I still believe in real old-fashioned love and falling in love and wanting to take care of somebody and help somebody and be their mate, be half of them, and have their children! I'm that old-fashioned! (ML #2433:64.)
Marriage is supposed to be for life, except for the most unusual circumstances, truly desperate and/or Scriptural exceptions! Everything humanly possible should be done to keep couples together, both for their sake as well as for the sake of the children and the work of God! (ML #154:78.)
Of course, there are relationship arrangements other than marriage. A man and woman may love one another and decide to room together, with the understanding that it is not a marriage but instead is a temporary union, which is their prerogative.
A. Two voting members wishing to marry must declare their intention to do so, first to the Home officers, and then to the voting members of the Home. Once such a public declaration is made, the couple's engaged to marry begins. The period of engagement is to be not less than 90 days before the marriage.
1. Prior to their engagement, couples should get to know each other well in order to ascertain their compatibility.
2. During their engagement, it is advisable for the couple to live in the same Home, to regularly spend time together in prayer, spiritual fellowship and interaction. The couple may room together, if they choose, for all or part of their engagement period, if they are within the same age group for sexual sharing, as per the Sex and Affection Rules, D. through G.
3. It is recommended that at some time before the marriage the Home prays and hears from the Lord for the engaged couple, and a transcript of the prophecies given to the couple.
4. If the couple decides at any time to end the engagement, they may do so. The Home must be informed that the engagement has ended.
5. Once the period of engagement is completed and the couple decides they want to marry, the Home should hold a simple ceremony to acknowledge that the couple is now married. Couples are of course free to legalize their marriage.
In order to declare their intentions, and to ensure that there are no misunderstandings within the Home, two people who have decided they want to get married should first announce their decision to the Home teamwork and then to all the voting members. This way everyone in the Home is aware that they have become engaged to marry and that they are officially entering an engagement period.
Since there have been a number of questions in regards to the terminology, whether this period should be called "Make It Work" or "going steady," etc., we felt that calling it an "engagement period" would wipe the slate clean from any preconceived notions that the Family has had.
Prior to the actual engagement, couples should get to know each other well, and only make their engagement declaration when they are quite serious about the matter and are pretty sure they want to marry. Engagement is an actual commitment to marry, but it allows a contemplative period of at least three months for the couple to seriously seek the Lord and to determine that it is definitely the Lord's will for them to marry. Of course, at any time after the engagement period begins, if either member concludes that it is not God's will they can call off the engagement.
The period of engagement must last for at least three months, and once the engagement period is over, the couple is free to marry.--This doesn't mean that the couple must get married after the three months expire; they can marry at any time after the engagement period is completed. It's up to them.
During the engagement period, the couple should regularly seek the Lord and read His Word together in order to build a spiritual foundation on which to base their marriage. They should read Letters on the subject of marriage and appropriate portions of other publications such as "Marvellous Marriage" and "How to Love." They should also seek counsel from their Home teamwork as to whether they feel that the potential marriage is of the Lord. They should also ask the Home to pray and hear from the Lord regarding the marriage. Having direct words from the Lord in prophecy is a great blessing, especially to refer to later when the marriage encounters difficult days. At such a time, having prophecies, visions or verses to look back on can provide a spiritual anchor for the marriage.
During the period of engagement it would be advisable for the couple to live in the same Home, though we cannot say they definitely must do so, as there may be some situations where this might not be possible. But regardless of where they live, they should try to regularly spend time together for prayer, reading of the Word, and spiritual interaction. The degree of interaction is up to the couple. Some couples, age permitting, may prefer to room together for their period of engagement; others may choose not to.
If either of those engaged already have children from a previous marriage, they would probably want to inform the children ahead of time about their plans to marry. Such changes can be difficult on children, and sometimes it's only when one of their parents decides to remarry that they fully come to grips with the fact that their parents are permanently separated. When children are involved, a lot of love, patience and explanation are necessary. The couple may decide that it's best not to move in together before they marry if they feel it will be difficult for the children.
If at some time an engaged couple decide that they don't want to marry, the Home should be informed of the decision.
We used to have a rule: you couldn't be betrothed until you had lived and worked together, or even slept together if you wanted to, in the same Home ... until you knew each other real well (ML #792:39).
I think it would be wonderful if all of our folks who are seriously considering getting together would seek the Lord for His confirmation and stamp of approval by having some or all of the members of their Home unite in a time of prayer and hearing from the Lord together. Certainly in such a serious decision it seems like both parties would welcome all the counsel they can get (ML #2931:111,112).
B. Once the engagement begins, the Home officers must inform the area and continental officers of the couple's engagement.
1. If the Home, area or continental officers have reservations about, or object to, the proposed marriage, it is their duty to express their reservations or objections to the couple, either as a couple or individually.
a) Family officers have no authority to forbid a marriage, except in the case of a 16 or 17-year-old when their parent(s) do not reside in the Home.
Although the Home, area and continental officers have no authority to keep a couple from being married, it is certainly within their authority to offer advice and counsel on the matter. This especially holds true if they have reservations about or object to the marriage, in which case they are responsible to express their reservations or objections. But the final decision is, of course, up to the couple themselves.
In the case of a YA marriage, if their parents don't feel it's the best match or have objections, they should voice them to the couple; but since the two people involved are of legal age, the parents have no authority to forbid the marriage.
If there's any decision which ought to be made by the individuals involved, between them and the Lord, it is certainly marriage!... When you two have made your choice and settled it with each other and the Lord, we just want to know about it, that's all!... We may not always like your choice, and we may warn you of any serious complication involved, but you're the ones who have to live together, so it's your marriage! (ML #127:9.)
C. Members who have reached the age of 21 may not marry anyone under the age of 18.
We include this clause because, while it's possible for an 18, 19 or 20-year-old to marry a 16 or 17-year-old, someone who is 21 or older cannot marry someone who is under 18. So a 23-year-old cannot marry a 16 or 17-year-old. If they want to marry, the couple will just have to wait until the younger one reaches 18.
D. Members who have reached the age of 18 who wish to marry someone above the permissible age range for sexual activity as outlined in the Sex and Affection Rules may do so providing they:
1. Enter into a six-month period of engagement.
2. Live in the same Home, but not room together, during the first three months of their engagement.
3. Refrain from sexual activity during the first three months of the engagement that involves the skin-to-skin touching of each other's genitals.
There are times an 18, 19 or 20-year-old may fall in love with someone who is considerably older and may wish to marry them. In most countries, 18-year-olds are of legal age for marrying. In order to leave the door open for such a marriage, this clause has been included.
The restrictions placed on such marriages--namely, the period of engagement being at least six months, living in the same Home during the engagement, and refraining from serious sexual activity for the first three months--will hopefully deter any YA and older adult from getting involved for just sex.
Just the fact that there are some basic restrictions in place for this age group, as for the 16- and 17-year-old marriages (see points following), shows that we consider it to be out of the ordinary and something that would need to be handled slowly and prayerfully.
E. Members ages 16 and 17 may marry those ages 16 through 20, providing they each receive permission from at least one parent.
1. They should receive permission from a parent before beginning the engagement period.
Because 16- and 17-year-olds are still fairly young and are considered minors in some countries, they must receive permission from a parent prior to the onset of their engagement.
I definitely think the parents ought to have some say-so about who their own children marry! They should at least inform their parents that they are getting married.--And it shouldn't be some kind of an after-the-fact letter or something saying that it's already happened, and the parents weren't even given a chance to be notified and informed beforehand, and to approve of it (ML #2589:1,27).
When a teen couple decide that they would like to get married, they could even start "going steady."--In other words, start seriously working together, having their get-out together, Word time together, etc. Back in the early Letters I strongly advocated this, that prospective couples learn to be real friends and coworkers before even considering marriage! I used to recommend that they work very closely together for at least 3-6 months before marrying!--That way they can make sure it's real love, the Lord's will, and good for His work! (ML #2433:109.)
a) If neither parent of a 16 or 17-year-old reside in the same Home with their teen who wishes to marry, the Home's officers have the authority to override the teen's parents' permission for the marriage.
We've included this clause to cover a scenario similar to the following: A 16-year-old teen's parents live in Japan and he, their teen son, has moved to Brazil. He joins a Home and falls in love with a girl in the Home. The girl is 17 and her parents live in that Home. The 16-year-old boy and the 17-year-old girl decide that they want to get married. The parents of the girl think it's fine; however, the Home teamwork feels that the couple is not suited and the marriage is a recipe for disaster. In the meantime, the teen boy writes his parents and states that he's madly in love with this girl and he thinks she's definitely the woman for him, and the parents, without knowing much about the situation, having heard only their son's side of things, write and say, "Okay, you have our permission."
Because the teamwork feels that the marriage may not be a good union, and they have major objections to it, they can override the permission of the absentee parents, because the absentee parents are not there to personally judge the situation. If the teens get married and the marriage has problems, the Home in which they are residing is going to have to be the one to take care of the problems, so the Home teamwork should have a say in the matter.
Now if the situation were a bit different, and at least one of the parents of the 16-year-old boy were living in the Home in Brazil, the marriage could go forward even if the Home teamwork didn't think it was a good idea, because parents of both teens are resident in the Home and both are in agreement to their teens marrying. So the Home teamwork only has the authority to stop the marriage if either of the teens do not have a parent living in the Home. (This authority only applies to senior teens wishing to marry. Once a young person is 18 years of age or older, marriage is entirely their decision, and no one can prohibit them from getting married.)
2. Enter into a six-month engagement.
3. After their six-month engagement period is completed, obtain final permission from their parent(s) to marry.
In order to help two senior teens who may feel they are deeply in love--but who may in reality only be very infatuated with one another--from getting married too quickly, there are additional safeguards.
First, any teens under 18 years of age must have at least one parent's permission to begin an engagement period. Second, the engagement period has been doubled, to six months instead of just three. Hopefully this additional time will give the Lord time to fully show the young couple His will in the matter. And third, the teens must get their parents' final approval at the end of the six months before actually marrying. If the parents withdraw their consent, the marriage cannot go through, so must at least be postponed.
During their engagement, the 16 or 17-year-old couple is allowed to have the same sexual interaction as permitted for all other 16- and 17-year-olds.
Of course, becoming engaged in the first place is contingent on whether the 16 or 17-year-old has at least one of his or her parent's permission. If at least one of the 16 or 17-year-old teen's parents don't agree, then a teen under 18 years of age cannot become engaged to be married.
Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family