Image Credit: LDS media Library
I’d like to begin with a quote by President D. Todd Christofferson, given this last April in general conference.
“Above the Great West Door of the renowned Westminster Abbey in London, England, stand the statues of 10 Christian martyrs of the 20th century. Included among them is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brilliant German theologian born in 1906. Bonhoeffer became a vocal critic of the Nazi dictatorship and its treatment of Jews and others. He was imprisoned for his active opposition and finally executed in a concentration camp. Bonhoeffer was a prolific writer, and some of his best-known pieces are letters that sympathetic guards helped him smuggle out of prison, later published as Letters and Papers from Prison.
One of those letters was to his niece before her wedding. It included these significant insights: “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.”
Marriage is the ultimate purpose of our creation
Ezra Taft Benson raught: “Marriage, the home, and family are more than mere social institutions. They are divine, not man-made. God ordained marriage from the very beginning. In the record of that first marriage recorded in Genesis, the Lord makes four significant pronouncements: first, that it is not good for man to be alone; second, that woman was created to be a helpmeet for man; third, that they twain should be one flesh; and fourth, that man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife.
As I was preparing this lesson I came upon a blog post on a Christian site about marriage. The following is an excerpt from that post: “The Lord didn’t just create marriage; he wove it into the very fabric of our existence. We’re all familiar with the first chapters of Genesis. God creates the world and everything in it, then creates Adam and puts him in a place of unimaginable beauty and abundance. Adam is given everything he needs for a long and happy existence. But one day God looks at the Garden of Eden and sees that His creation is perfect in every way but one. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18). So God puts Adam to sleep, removes a rib from his body, and uses it to form Eve.
God creates every other creature from the dust, but Eve is special. I believe this is because Eve is more than just another creation, but instead the completion of a creation already in progress.”
That last sentence, the idea that Eve is the completion of a creation in progress is so beautiful to me. It symbolizes so perfectly the idea of becoming one flesh with our husband and that we are imperfect and unfinished creations without each other. And even after we are married we still work together to learn and grow, a creation in progress.
In the Ensign this month is a great article titled God’s Plan for Families by Mark A. Matthews. In it he he says, “...the crowning event of the Creation was not just when Adam and Eve were created in the image of their heavenly parents but when they were sealed in eternal marriage like their heavenly parents. From the beginning, marriage between a man and a woman was ordained of God and established as the ultimate purpose of our creation.”
The Family is the most important organization in time and in eternity
Ezra Taft Benson taught: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints views the family as the most important organization in time and all eternity. The Church teaches that everything should center in and around the family. It stresses that the preservation of family in time and eternity takes precedence above all other interests.”
From the same Ensign article I mentioned previously, Mark A. Matthews said: “It is true that not everyone has the opportunity to marry in this life, nor is every couple blessed with children in mortality. Latter-Day prophets have assured us that those who are faithful will eventually be given these blessings, either in this life or the next. Nevertheless, just because not everyone achieves the ideal does not mean we should stop holding it up as the standard to seek.”
All of us, even if we aren’t married or don’t yet have children, are still part of a family. We may be daughters and granddaughters, sisters and aunts and we should strengthen the family relationships that we do have.
President Benson once said, “Some people ask me as a Church leader why we place so much emphasis on the home and family when there are such larger problems around us? The answer is, of course, that the larger problems are merely a reflection of individual and family problems….No nation ever rises above its homes. This Church will never rise above its homes.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “Brothers and sisters, the most important cause of our lifetime is our families. If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives and will become, as a people and as a church, an example and a beacon for all peoples of the earth.”
In happy marriages, husbands and wives love and serve God and each other.
Sister Sheri L. Dew taught: “The Lord’s pattern for couples and in large measure men and women serving together in His kingdom was established by our first parents. Together Adam and Eve labored, mourned, were obedient, had children, taught their posterity the gospel, called upon the name of the Lord, “heard the voice of the Lord”, blessed the name of God, and dedicated themselves to God. Repeatedly the scriptures about Adam and Eve refer to the pronoun they.
Neither Adam with his priesthood nor Eve with her motherhood could bring about the Fall alone. Their unique roles were interconnected. They counseled with one another, lifted burdens neither could have lifted alone, and then faced the wilderness, with all of its uncertainty, together. This is the Lord’s pattern for righteous men and women.”
As last weeks discussion of Elder W. Craig Zwick’s talk emphasized, we need to approach all people, but especially our eternal companion, with patience, kindness and intent to understand.
I read an article recently title How I Saved My Marriage by author Richard Paul Evans and his insight into what love really is, is profound. He says: “The question everyone in a committed relationship should ask their significant other is, “What can I do to make your life better?” That is love. Romance novels (and I’ve written a few) are all about desire and happily-ever-after, but happily-ever-after doesn’t come from desire - at least not the kind portrayed in most pulp romances. Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness - sometimes, even, at the expense of our own happiness.”
President Benson taught that “Spiritual growth comes by solving problems together - not by running from them...The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.”
Solving problems together. That is a particularly important line to me. I truly believe that a good relationship with your spouse makes all the difference in the happiness of the children. Children recognize undermining tactics, bickering, and unhappiness between their parents, no matter how subtle. While sometimes a poor example will teach them what not to do, more often than not they will follow that example in their interactions with their siblings and others. We need to remember not to make them “middle men” in our interactions with our spouse or to gripe to them about things that may bother us about our spouse. They don’t deserve that pain or that responsibility. In the same vein it is inappropriate to gripe to others about marital unhappiness. Especially dangerous is confiding marital problems to those of the opposite sex with whom we work or interact as it may lead to emotional or physical affairs. Spouses need to solve problems together and they cannot effectively do this if they are only talking to other people about their problems.
The home is the best place for children to learn the principles and practices of the gospel
President Benson taught that “One great thing the Lord requires of each of us is to provide a home where a happy, positive influence for good exists. In future years the costliness of home, furnishings or the number of bathrooms will not matter much, but what will matter significantly is whether our children felt love and acceptance in the home. It will greatly matter whether there was happiness and laughter, or bickering and contention.”
The proclamation on the family states that, …“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities.
In a recent conference address Tad R. Callister said, “As parents, we are to be the prime gospel teachers and examples for our children - not the bishop, the Sunday School, the Young Women or Young Men, but the parents. As their prime gospel teachers, we can teach them the power and reality of the Atonement - of their identity and divine destiny - and in so doing give them a rock foundation upon which to build.
...We might all ask ourselves: do our children receive our best spiritual, intellectual, and creative efforts, or do they receive our leftover time and talents...In the life to come, I do not know if titles such as bishop or Relief Society president will survive, but I do know that the titles of husband and wife, father and mother, will continue and be revered, worlds without end.”
There are four practices that I find continually emphasized throughout church magazines, conference addresses and devotionals. If we would continually strengthen ourselves and our families we must be active participants in prayer, scripture study, temple attendance and family home evening. These things are mentioned with such frequency that sometimes we forget how vital they are to spiritual fortification.
Sister Linda S. Reeves has taught: “Brother and sisters, how do we protect our children and youth? Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us…. How do we lead our children to deep conversion and to access our Savior’s atonement?...The answer that came was clear: It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening….I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes."
Suggestions for additional study:
They Twain Shall be One by Brent A. Barlow
It is not good for Man or Woman to be alone by Sheri L. Dew
Parents: The Prime Gospel Teachers of Their Children by Tad R. Callister
Why Marriage, Why Family by D. Todd Christofferson