Mortality is chock-full of new experiences. All of us have mortal bodies to learn to deal with, but on top of the privilege of having a physical body, we get to experience a taste of a relationship that up till now only our Father and Mother in heaven got to enjoy. We get to begin to learn how powerful the matrimonial relationship can be.
The marriage relationship is the strongest and most intimate of any relationship. Nothing else comes close to providing the level of safety, support, strength, and raw power available through a good marriage. This is why Adam and Eve were married while still in the Garden of Eden. They hadn’t even become mortal yet, and the Lord made sure they were working as a couple.
The sweetest feelings of life, the most generous and satisfying impulses of the human heart, find expression in a marriage that stands pure and unsullied above the evil of the world.
We were promised we would be added upon if we kept our first estate. Part of that blessing includes being guaranteed a resurrected body and a degree of glory in the eternities. That brings with it the opportunity to experience, even if it is just for our short time in mortality, the joys and challenges of marriage. But if we keep our second estate, the covenants made available to us in this life, that union most get to taste in mortality can become a permanent union through the eternities.
This is what it means to be added upon eternally, because those who are married in the eternities will have children who will grow up to glorify them forever. This is how our own eternal parents continue to grow in glory. This is the cycle. This is what God’s plan is all about in Moses 1:39.
39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Without children to bring Him glory there would be an end of the chain. Just as He lives to bring us glory, so we will live to bring our children glory, and posterity glorifies their parents.
The nature of human bonds
Was there ever a man who truly loved a woman, or a woman who truly loved a man, who did not pray that their relationship might continue beyond the grave? Has a child ever been buried by parents who did not long for the assurance that their loved one would again be theirs in a world to come? Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant His sons and daughters that most precious attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured. The sacred ordinances of the house of the Lord provide for it.
President Hinckley makes the point that no matter how in love two people are, unless there is appropriate priesthood authority that transcends mortality, any contract, no matter how deeply cherished, ends with death.
This means that for a marriage to be valid in the eternities there must be obedience to the laws and ordinances that both create and sustain the lasting nature of that marriage. If we value our relationship with our spouse, both parties must take seriously the demands of the covenants that will permit our union to extend beyond the veil into the next life.
The nature of the marriage relationship
The earthly views of the roles of men and women, and the value to society of each gender, do not necessarily apply to the eternal relationship God intends us to develop. What we are raised with as appropriate behavior for a woman or a man to exhibit in a relationship has to be altered to match the requirements of the Lord’s expectations.
Every society has a slightly different version of expectation for men and women in their societal roles. The Lord’s expectations are the same for all His children. We must each come to know what the Lord expects of us and cast aside whatever our upbringing has taught us that is counter to leading us to true happiness.
This is the ultimate bending of our will to the Lord’s, in that we must give up our own notions of what marriage is supposed to be like and seek to define our relationship as the Lord defines the marriage relationship. We were created, male and female to complement each other. In an eternal marriage, there is no such thing as one dominating the other.
In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man; neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey.
Neither gender is inherently superior to the other. Both genders are incomplete without the other to complete them. We can live just fine during mortality as a single. We can find joy in our service and growth in the gospel as we study and pray, serve and ponder eternity. But the full expression of who we are won’t emerge until we have a companion of the opposite gender. It is this complementary combination that will allow us to progress to exaltation in the eternities.
One of the most common faults in human relationships is the false assumption that one person is better than or more important than the other in the relationship. The problem is that most of the time the ones suffering from this perception are not even aware that this is how they behave.
Our spouse is our most valuable asset both in time and in eternity. Nothing is more important than preserving that relationship. Money, power, prestige, personal gain, nothing is more important in the eternities than the blessings that flow from having a worthy companion at our side forever.
How different would our family life be in many of our homes if this were realized and was the aim of each husband and wife? How would this change our family dynamics? What would we be doing differently as a family or as a couple if the ultimate aim for each husband and wife was to be worthy of the love and companionship of their spouse in the eternities? Would we be teaching our children any differently if these were the principles we wanted to instill in them before they left home to seek their own companion?
My wife was 45 years old when she married for the first time. Her comment to me about her single years was interesting. She dreaded the periodic talks about marriage and the promise that someday she would experience the blessings of marriage. She said that it is fine to be promised a wonderful Thanksgiving feast in November. But when you are starving in May that promise is difficult to appreciate.
There are those who will not have the opportunity to marry in this life. Yes, the promise is there that they will receive the opportunity, if worthy, to be married for eternity. But it requires more faith on their part to trust in the promises of the Lord, especially when they see others around them enjoying the blessing they so greatly desire, and they can’t have it yet.
In some ways, it is like those who are mentally sound, yet have physical challenges that prevent them from caring for themselves or enjoying basic relationships with others. They have the same promise that all will be made up to them in the hereafter, but for now, they must be patient and wait.
The need for faith is the great leveler in mortality. Very few “have it all” in mortality. Most of us have to wait for one blessing or another to be granted in the next life because we weren’t able to enjoy it in this one. That doesn’t make it any easier. What this should tell us is that we need to show and exercise compassion and patience for each other. We need to watch our tongues and be aware that there are those around us who ache inwardly for blessings that may have come easily to us. We need to be more sensitive and appreciative of their pain. Our turn will come soon enough, since none of us escape mortality without heartbreaking trials.
The marital cure
Every marriage has its difficulties. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, that would require two perfect people, and we have a woeful lack of perfect people around.
The cure for most marital troubles does not lie in divorce. It lies in repentance and forgiveness, in expressions of kindness and concern. It is to be found in the application of the Golden Rule.
Marital discord is rarely one-sided in its origins. There is always a need for more patience, more forgiveness, more charity, and more supportive behavior. The growth that comes through the trials of marriage, as in any relationship, come because of the mismatch of personalities and the lack of obedience and humility to God’s commandments.
I know of a woman who spent years frustrated with her husband because he wouldn’t go to church, take charge in family home evening, or do any of the things she thought he should do. So she stepped up and did it all, and wasn’t shy about letting him know how she felt about his lack of action.
One day she was praying for guidance because the burden of doing everything was becoming more than she could bear. While she was praying a voice came into her mind and simply told her to back off and let him lead. Stop nagging and let it alone.
Whatever it was that she did to follow her prompting worked. He started to pick up the slack and came back to church, bringing his family with him. Eventually, they were sealed in the temple.
The point of this story is that each of us may be trying to do what we feel is right, but only when we seek for the Lord’s guidance and are willing to make whatever changes are necessary can we correct what needs to be corrected in our marriage relationship. Both of them felt they were doing what they needed to do, but only when she sought for direction and followed the direction she received were things healed in their marriage.
We each have different challenges in this life. Marriage is not easy, and there are no quick fixes. But as we seek the Lord’s help in how to love and sustain our spouse, we will find answers along the way, and in that process we will personally grow, grow as a couple, and together we will find greater happiness.
I have learned that the real essence of happiness in marriage lies … in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.