The marriage process in Abraham’s family (covered in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 10) is very different that the common experience in the Church today (at least in North America). Arranged marriages, polygamy, dowries and working for a wife are all discussed in the source chapters in Genesis, while the marriages are still eternal, evidently the same way that marriages in LDS Temples today are eternal.
But while there are clear differences, there are also similarities in how these marriages work. Isaac and Rebekah, as well as Jacob and his wives, work together to make the union productive and to raise their children. The couples toil together, and apparently grow together over decades. This kind of work is described in the following poem.
William Walton Burton was an English convert and missionary who immigrated to Utah in 1852 and married Rachel Fielding in 1856. He started teaching school in 1854, moving to Ogden in 1860, where he became the supervisor of the city schools and served three terms on the city council. In 1886 he moved to Star Valley, Wyoming, where he started the William W. Burton mercantile company and the Burton Creamery, and served in the Stake Presidency. He married twice more polygamously, both times to Rachel’s younger sisters, Ellen (4 years younger than Rachel) and Sarah Ann (14 years younger than Rachel). All told he had 30 children. This poem was a tribute to his first wife.
Our Golden Wedding
by W. W. Burton
- Tell me, Rachel, now I pray,
- Have I been a lover true?
- Fifty years have passed away
- Since I pledged my love to you.
- Started on the bottom rail,
- House nor furniture had we;
- We were on ascending scale,
- For no lower could we be.
- If we moved we had to rise,
- Lower down we could not go;
- Had no larder nor supplies,
- But our hearts were all aglow.
- Utah then was virgin soil,
- Waiting for the spade and plow;
- We were not afraid to toil,
- We have toiled along till now.
- Had no cow to give us milk;
- Had no pigs within the sty,
- Had no dresses made of silk,
- Had short rations, you and I.
- Oft of weeds we made a meal,
- Sometimes beet tops helped the stew;
- Oft a weakness we would feel,
- Waiting till the harvest grew.
- Wrinkles furrow thy fair brow,
- Silver threads among thy hair;
- Thou art not so active now,
- Trials thou hast had thy share.
- Eyes are not so full and bright,
- And thy motion is more slow;
- But I love thee more to-night
- Than in fifty years ago.
- Not but what I loved thee then;
- Thou wert always dear to me;
- Now I pledge my love again,
- Now it’s for eternity.
- We were then in youthful prime,
- Little worldly wealth we had;
- But with faith and love sublime,
- Why should not our hearts be glad?
- Many sons and daughters now,
- All to men and women grown,
- Live to bless our lot below,
- Better than a kingly crown.
- Fifty years I’ve called thee wife;
- Joyous be thy years to come,
- Peace and plenty crown thy life,
- Angels guard us safely home.
- March 28, 1906
Juvenile Instructor, v41 n10
May 1906, p. 310
I like Burton’s take on marriage — its more than simple love and attraction. Marriage is also built on work, building a life together over time. That is exactly what both Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and his wives did. Marriage isn’t just entering into the covenant, it is living it also.