No, he was not but read on…

The Mormon Bonhoeffer

In the 1970s, Latter-day Saint leaders began to quote C.S. Lewis in the semi-annual General Conference talks.

20th-century Martyrs, Westminster Abbey

20th-century Martyrs, Westminster Abbey (Bonhoeffer is on the right; Martin Luther King, Jr. is second from the left)

Earlier this month, Mormon Apostle D. Todd Cristofferson made a rather striking reference to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a discussion of marriage.

Cristofferson quoted at length from a May 19, 1943 sermon that Bonhoeffer wrote while incarcerated in a high-security Gestapo prison:

Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. … So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.

What a beautiful message. One can readily see why Cristofferson appropriated it for his discussion of the significance of marriage for Latter-day Saints. For Mormons, marriage a divine institution, an ordinance connected with with the exaltation of men and women to become kings and queens unto God. Marriage is the crowning ordinance that exalts human beings back into the presence of a Father they had once known prior to their mortality. It binds together the generations.

As one would expect, there are many things in Bonhoeffer’s understanding of marriage that do not accord with Cristofferson’s. Most obviously, for Bonhoeffer, it is marriage until death, probably not eternity. Nor does Bonhoeffer connect marriage with salvation or exaltation.

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