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Section 133 was originally meant to be an exclamation point at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants. Within it, we find principles surrounding Christ’s Second Coming and how to prepare for it.
Within this section, we find three references to the Bridegroom. Here is one of them.
Doctrine and Covenants 133:19 Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom; go ye, go ye out to meet him.
Many of us recognize the reference of the Bridegroom from the parable of the ten virgins. Five of the virgins were ready to meet the Bridegroom, and five were not. The Bridegroom represents Christ, and some people were prepared for His Second Coming, and some were not.
Though that is the reference most people are aware of, the symbolism that comes along with the word Bridegroom extends so far beyond that. In Old Testament times, there were a lot of traditions that surrounded Jewish weddings that we are probably not as familiar with. Because Christ chooses to use symbolism that is familiar to His people, we can assume that the idea of the Bridegroom held deep meaning for these people. By studying some of these traditions, we can learn even more about His Second Coming and our own preparation for it.
Now a lot of these traditions, especially the ones surrounding women, are a little dated. Thank heaven we know that women aren’t property. However, if we are willing to let go just a little bit, and put ourselves in the perspective of Jews in ancient times, there are principles we can learn.
The first tradition that you may be less familiar with is the idea that marriage was broken into two different ceremonies for the ancient Jews: the betrothal and the actual marriage. The two ceremonies often happened years apart. Let’s talk about each ceremony and the symbolism behind it that helps us better understand what this chapter in Doctrine and Covenants is trying to teach us, namely preparing for the Second Coming.
The first part of getting married in ancient Jewish culture was the betrothal. It was kind of like getting engaged but also kind of not. When you got betrothed, you were essentially married. You literally had to get divorced if you didn’t want to go through the second ceremony. However, despite the fact that you were technically married, you still lived at your mom and dad’s and you were still very young. Marriage was more than two people coming together. It was arranged by parents, and it was a contract between two families.
During this first ceremony, the father of the groom would pay a dowry to the father of the bride. Women were esteemed as property to an extent in those days, and so they were essentially buying her usefulness. Despite women being esteemed as property, the women were supposed to have to agree to the marriage before they became betrothed. On top of the dowry, the bridegroom was also supposed to send gifts to his wife.
Now Section 133 is all about preparing for the Second Coming. What principles can we learn from these Jewish traditions surrounding the Bridegroom that help us to better prepare for Christ to come again?
Now, in the bible, the bride is often symbolic of the church. Because parables often have multiple layers, I would also like to add the layer of us as individuals. Each of us is the bride.
So this is the initial ceremony. Wife is bound to husband and husband is bound to wife in all religious and legal aspects. The only thing missing is cohabitation. This period of betrothal is the period before the Second Coming when we have the opportunity to go back and live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
So what are we seeing with these traditions? Heavenly Father arranged for this betrothal between Christ and His church, or between Christ and each of us as individuals. Heavenly Father had to pay a price, namely His son, to bring each of us into His family. Christ also brought gifts for us as His bride. Some of these gifts include the Holy Ghost, organized church, patriarchal blessings, priesthood, temples, and of course, the atonement. There are a million gifts that Christ has given us. Whether we have chosen to utilize those gifts is another story, but regardless, He sent them.
We have the opportunity to decide whether we want to enter into that betrothal. This can symbolize baptism. I imagine that as a Jewish bride, it may have taken a while to get used to the idea that you were married, especially when you weren’t living directly with your bridegroom. When we get baptized, we do not automatically go and live with Christ. Whether we’re baptized at eight years old or whether we’re converts, it takes some getting used to. The marriage was often arranged and so who knows how well the two people knew each other before becoming betrothed? As life goes on after the betrothal, you continue to get to know your spouse in bits and pieces along the way. You don’t have to know your spouse perfectly by the time the marriage happens.
Another parallel: we are bound to Him even though we do not yet live with Him again. Because we are legally bound by the power of the priesthood that functions both on earth and in heaven, we are entitled to call upon Him. Think of Christ as the most enviable husband available, the ultimate breadwinner. I think of “Fiddler on the Roof,” when the girls are daydreaming about who the matchmaker will set them up with. You can’t get better than Christ. As we are bound to Him, we are under His protection. He stands for us; He keeps us away from the ultimate consequences of our own actions.
This is the situation that you have to work with as we draw closer to the Second Coming. I think of my own marriage to Conner. I am very blessed to have a happy marriage, and it teaches me about my marriage with Christ. I have a teammate. I have someone who can comfort me. I have someone who forgives me and helps me become my best. Because of this special relationship that I have with Christ, I look forward to Him coming again. I look forward to the day that I can live with Him again.
If we choose to turn away and commit “adultery,” the idea of marrying Christ and rejoining Him does not sound so pleasant. It may seem unpleasant because we know we messed up. I cringe to think about what it might feel like to admit to a spouse that you cheated. To put it in scriptural language, I would imagine that I would want to be buried by rocks rather than face them. Another interesting aspect is that it may seem unpleasant because we don’t want to be married to Him. We think that a different marriage will make us happier, but the bottom line is that it simply won’t. That is a fact that each of us have to come to learn on our own, but it is a fact.
The marriage is when the wife goes to live with husband. There is another ceremony and then afterwards, the wife goes home with her husband rather than her parents. During the ceremony, the couple signs an official contract called a ketubah. It is a detailed agreement between the wife and husband about what the marriage is supposed to look like. Though the ketubah has changed a little bit in modern times, it still has the same basic idea. It often outlined the fact that the husband would provide, care, and love the wife. It would speak of the loyalty of the wife. It could lay out what would happen if there was a divorce or death. It was signed in front of two witnesses.
The marriage ceremony can represent the Second Coming itself. Even in the parable of the ten virgins where we represent the virgins rather than the bride, the marriage is still representative of the Second Coming. The Second Coming is when we go home to live with Christ and His family.
Now the ketubah is interesting to me. When I picture the legal agreement occurring between us and Christ, I still imagine the betrothal rather than the marriage. In other words, we “sign” a contract and enter into a covenant by the legal power of the priesthood when we are baptized. We outline how we are going to remain faithful to Him, and He outlines how He will provide for us.
However, the symbolic ketubah occurring at the marriage is also so relevant. This is when we decide whether we’re going to abide by that contract. This is when we sign off on whether we will live in the celestial kingdom. This is when Christ signs off on whether we have been loyal throughout our betrothal and whether He wants us to come live with Him.
Will He return to find us ready to meet Him? Have we adorned ourselves and kept ourselves adorned and ready to be married? Have we put off learning essential skills that will make us a good “wife?” Or did we assume we would have more time? Will we be prepared to go and live with Him?
The signing of the ketubah, the ultimate decision on whether we are going to go and live with Christ again, will be completely determined on how we acted while betrothed. Christ has high standards. He wants His house to remain clean, orderly, and happy. If we have become the kind of bride that will contribute to the feeling of His household, we will be brought home with Him.
Though most people know the date and time of their wedding, we don’t get to know when this one is coming. We don’t know when the marriage ceremony is going to be. Not even the angels get to know when Christ will return for us.
I am grateful for parables and what they can teach us. I’m grateful for the internet and what I can learn about ancient practices that help me better understand what Christ taught. I’m grateful for Christ who is willing to be the ultimate Bridegroom and completely take care of everything if I am simply willing to be loyal and love Him.