Today I “had” to give the 3rd hour talk for 5th Sunday combined Relief Society and Priesthood.
It was trippy because I got a blessing in Salt Lake City about teaching and Temple service, and I laughed (like Sarah!) because I do love the Temple but I am just a patron that goes and bothers them, but I do not know what to teach to anyone… so I was wondering how that was going to play out in my life.
And then I got a text from the Bishopric (since they can’t call me! Doh! They out-smarted me!) asking me to talk this Sunday.
So BAM, just like that, the Lord let know me that the teaching was going to start right away.
Also, I cried and cried. Of course I did. It’s what I do. But I cried not because I was scared – I love my ward, and I would do my best, and so the Lord would make it into something or not, so what else could I do about it? – but I cried because it was a moment of the Lord saying to me, “I trust you. Do this.”
That is enough to humble a person.
And I cried and cried, for because what complete redemption this is, that the Lord would trust me with a tiny task, for because without the atonement I was not worthy of His trust. So this experience was very healing to me, very huge in a personal way of being trusted. It is a miracle of the atonement, I think, and I see how it makes sense that after nine months of missionary discussions a girl would get baptized, and then spend a year repenting and restitution-ing and immersing in Scriptures, and then get endowed, and then be given a turn to act like a grown-up and teaching a tiny something of what you know.
To whom much is given, much will be required.
And the atonement has healed so much, and I am in awe of what the Spirit can do.
It was also interesting that the topic given me was “Marriage”, with some specific items to include (directly and frankly but delicately and appropriately), so that it was another experience of integrating me into one united whole of Emily-ness, as my professional life and experience was able to offer something of use to my awesomesauce ward full of people that are my brand new friends, but that I love with all my heart.
So yes, a week of fasting and praying and two trips to the Temple for editing and learning, and then finally today: the big talk. I hope that it went okay, and several people asked for notes from the talk and some of the references, so I will share it all here in case that is helpful (with added stick figures in honor of Sherry and Lynn):
For a free copy of the Family Proclamation, CLICK HERE.
This is my copy of the Family Proclamation. It looks like this because it took me that long to memorize it.
After the introductory paragraph, the very first line says All human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God. We forget this because we think we already know it. We learn it as preschoolers, but then as we grow up, we forget to apply it. So I like that we are reminded of this first, because it absolutely affects how we interact with our spouses.
Classic example is Moses 5:10&11
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
[Adam wasn’t wrong; Eve just added perspective – exactly the pattern Relief Society can give Priesthood, and wives to husbands, when we are all working in the proper order of things with the attitude of the Spirit and not just “attitude”]
The Family Proclamation goes on to remind us that each has a divine nature and destiny, which reminds us that of us have a divine nature. Each of us born into bodies to experience this life can have the knowledge that previously (premortally) we did something right – we learned enough to get this opportunity. This reminds us that even your spouse, on the very worst day, on the very hardest day, your spouse is still a child of God. This gives us an eternal perspective with which we can see our spouse; it provides a way to find the good. Keep looking. It is in there. There is good in your spouse. Find it.
The next paragraph starts out with In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan…. again, this means, part of every spouse (because we ourselves, are “perfect”, right? only our spouse has problems?), part of every spouse – some part within them, is of God and knows the plan. This gives hope to those who did not marry in the covenant and so now finds themselves with a non-member spouse, and it gives comfort and courage to those who married in the covenant but their spouse is not keeping the covenants. This helps because it reminds us that everyone born on the Earth did, at some time in the past (premortally), know what the plan is – and did accept it at that time! Now, on earth, this side of the veil, they may not remember, but we have what that does lead us to it? (LIGHT OF CHRIST!) So even if they are not of the covenant, they do have the Light of Christ within them, to which you can appeal to based on principles even without using church words.
The next paragraph is about the potential for parenthood between husband and wife. We need to talk very seriously about sexual relations. The Lord has set the bounds for sexual relations, and we make covenants to stay within those bounds.
In my office, I often see the confusion that people think these bounds simply mean not having sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse. But it means so much more than that. It means doing the work – sacred powers of procreation are to be employed – that leads up to sexual relations, so that it is a natural result of attentiveness and communication already established.
Often in my office I see two extremes: I see times when a spouse is FORCING sexual relations – which is not only stealing, but even in marriage that is called rape, and it is illegal. I also see times when a spouse REFUSES sexual relations. Now, there are times because of physical or emotional or other issues when it is okay to say no. I am not talking about that. I am talking about those who refuse sexual relations in order to AVOID the emotional obligations. That is also stealing.
We need to be kind and considerate, always giving and always developing into each other. We need to follow the pattern Heavenly Father has set for us: the Lord is always there, always ready, always INVITING us – we should also be inviting and welcoming to our spouse. We need to constantly be wooing the other, and loving them well. We need to still be dating in some way.
The bottom of the first column reminds us again of this teamwork approach to family life. It says Husband AND wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children.
Both husbands and wives are responsible for LOVING and CARING for EACH OTHER and the CHILDREN.
Both spouses need to be nice to each other, love each other, and take care of each other.
Both spouses need to be helping with the children. Husbands, you helped bring them here. They are your responsibility, too.
Both spouses need to be helping with housework. Both of you are the grown-ups that live in that house, and both need to help with the cleaning and maintenance of it.
It doesn’t mean there are not preferences for your family, and the Family Proclamation talks specifically about being flexible and adapting to your family’s individual needs. And each spouse has a specific role and purpose. But under that, no one spouse should be entirely responsible for anything – we need to work together on everything.
Parents exercise unrighteous dominion by giving children overbearing or out of proportion consequences. Parents also fail to fulfill obligations when not giving any consequences. Parents follow the plan of Satan, which was to remove agency, when trying to force children to “obey” by making them do what is wanted through physical force or intimidation or threats or fear, instead of giving them options and letting them experience the natural consequences of their choices.
Then it says, to remind us again, that while we do this, it should be in the LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS.
That means no unrighteous dominion. The husband should be PRESIDING, which is helping each person function to full capacity in their role. It is helping them and supporting them as they become who they need to be. It is not forcing obedience (removes agency, and that is Satan’s plan, not Heavenly Father’s plan), and it is not sitting back and doing nothing while everyone else does all the work. Families are hard work, and we have to work together as we develop them.
The next paragraph talks again about fidelity in marriage – COMPLETE fidelity, it says. This is again about more than just being only married to your one spouse. This is also about things like pornography, which is the only non-doctrine topic that is mentioned in every session of every General Conference.
I see in my office two big things that pornography does that helps me understand why it is such a tool of Satan.
First, it separates the husband and wife – it isolates them from each other.
Secondly, it makes a person like Satan, in that their body no longer functions as it was made to function. This is what Satan wants, for we were gifted with bodies and he was not. He wants us as miserable as he is.
This paragraph then leads into the beautiful words that describe what makes successful families. I love these words so much that I put them above my fireplace. It was funny that the people who helped me with them forgot the word “work” in the list, but my mother says that is okay because all the other words ARE such hard work! The words: faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities (play). Notice how love doesn’t even come until the middle – girls and boys have different views of love, right? So we have lots of work to be able to understand each other and what love means. Notice also that love doesn’t come until AFTER repentance, forgiveness, and respect.
Then it says again, that fathers are to PRESIDE – this means present to function as a preside-er (research on absent father shows problems in teenage years for girls and boys – higher risk for teen pregnancy and drug use). It means to love, and to show appropriate affection and touch.
Ladies, it says mothers are primarily responsible for the NURTURE of children. This means eye contact, one on one time, and hugs. I see often in my office where moms were great with the babies, survived the toddler stage, and enjoyed the childhood stage, but then just stop when their children become teenagers. They don’t know what to do or how to interact with them, talk with them, or touch them. Our teenagers are hungry for this, and need this – the will find it somewhere, and it is better if they find it with you.
This applies to those without children, or grown children, or unmarried as well. I can love the children of my friends, play with the children in my life, find ways to be good and kind to them – this is my responsibility even as a member of our ward. It is how even I can be a “Mother of Israel”.
And then, once more, just in case we missed it all those other times, it says once more that In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. We have to work together. We must. That’s the way the plan is set up.
It looks like a triangle:
Here is how it works:
If you are both INDIVIDUALLY working to become more like Heavenly Father, you will – naturally – grow closer to each other.
So if this is what we are taught, let’s look at a specific example.
Alma 18 gives the back drop for King Lamoni and his Queen.
We read about how King Lamoni was a really bad guy for a really long time. Genius, absolutely brilliant, but a bad guy. He did terrible things. Ammon shows up to preach the Gospel, and after being a stubborn head like myself, King Lamoni finally GETS IT, and collapses as if he is dead because he is so overcome by the Spirit. In the last verse of chapter 18, we read how the Queen – who was told the King was dead – stayed with his body for two days and two nights, mourning him as was the custom.
This shows us that regardless of the terrible things he had done, she honored him – for the position he held – by paying proper respects according to their culture.
But it also says she “greatly lamented his loss”, which shows a love for the person he was beyond the bad behaviors he was famous for all those years.
Then, in chapter 19…
She refused to give up. She refused to be hopeless. Something in her was determined to survive. Something in her knew how to find LIFE again, and that same something told her that she could find it with the Prophet. What is that in her that wants to know? (LIGHT OF CHRIST)
She demonstrated knowledge. She had already been responsive enough that something in her was stirred up enough to begin understanding. This asking for help, the sending for the prophet, was her act of faith – it was her EXPERIMENTING to see if it was true. This was her taking the first missionary challenge, and trying out in FAITH to see for herself if it was true.
5 Therefore, if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights; and some say that he is not dead, but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh, and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre; but as for myself, to me he doth not stink.
Everyone else said “he stinks”. Love it! All her friends were being rude, all the fancy people were saying he wasn’t good enough, and all the in-laws were pointing out what a mess he was. Everyone around her was kind enough to remind her, probably repeatedly, of all the things that were wrong with him. All the people made sure to list all the things they hated about him, pointed out everything he did wrong, and reminded her of his horrible past. People high enough in ranking to be giving the Queen herself were saying, “Really, get rid of him. Bury him. Cut him loose.”
But she said, “to me, he does not stink.”
She did not let the pressure of others interfere with her relationship with her husband, and she remained loyal to him despite the very dire circumstances.
6 Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—
The prophet knew what was going on. He knew the queen’s act of faith counted as OBEDIENCE because it was in line – in tune – with the will of God.
Because she was acting in faith, and because she was obedient by doing so, the prophet was able to respond to her request and do what she had asked.
8 And he said unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again; therefore bury him not.
Acting in his role, Ammon went to check the scene. There’s yellow tape everywhere, the news crews are filming live, and it’s already been posted on Facebook.
But because the Queen had acted in faith, and in that way had been obedient, the prophet was able to give her specific direction about what was going to happen, and specific instruction about what to do and what not to do.
This gave her comfort and hope, which was a blessing in response to her obedience and faithfulness.
9 And Ammon said unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.
That is faith! Anytime I exercise faith, the immediate blessing is an increased capacity to act in faith!
Even if other blessings come later in the Lord’s timing, the increased capacity for even greater faith is always a blessing that comes immediately in response to faithful obedience.
10 And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.
This is incredible. Her faith is so strong here that she gets a blessing because of having demonstrated it, just like that. And what a powerful blessing, for because “blessed art thou” is a blessing regarding her state of being. She is blessed. Period. It just is.
(WHO ELSE ACTED IN FAITH THAT THE WORDS “BLESSED ART THOU” MAKE US THINK OF?) (MARY)
It is a statement of fact, she is blessed, and a statement of promise as far as what future blessings will come to her because of being in that state – it implies a present progressive connotation.
Note also the parallel poetic device, classic to ancient scripture, TO HER – EXCEEDING FAITH – WOMAN – GREAT FAITH. Beautiful.
11 And it came to pass that she watched over the bed of her husband, from that time even until that time on the morrow which Ammon had appointed that he should rise.
She now has the increased capacity to act in faith, so that she is able to continue to be obedient. She believes in Ammon’s words, and behaves in a way that demonstrates what she believes. He said he would wake up tomorrow, and so she stays by his side until tomorrow.
After all the terrible things he had done, and despite all the horrible things people knew and said about it, she remained true and faithful.
Look how she is blessed for this act of faith, for this diligent obedience that becomes an act of service, a demonstration of devotion:
12 And it came to pass that he arose, according to the words of Ammon; and as he arose, he stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.
When her husband, who was probably not that much fun to live with before, not if he was that much of a mess even publicly, when he awoke, the first thing he did was reach out to his wife.
That’s enough to make a girl cry.
What girl doesn’t want to be appreciated, to be noticed, to be thanked?
Wives sacrifice their very lives – physically and literally – to support husbands and raise children. They do it because it is the right thing, but what healing and strength and softening comes when the husbands do directly and sweetly thank them for their sacrifices!
And look how his transformation, his sanctification by the Spirit moves him to the place where he should be – doing the things priesthood holders should be doing: giving his wife a blessing
What comfort and strength is given, and what tender love is built, when husbands and fathers give their wives and children blessings regularly and often.
This is the miracle of the atonement.
13 For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name. Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit.
14 Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy; and thus they all three had sunk to the earth.
So now the conversion of the King has helped convert the Queen, also.
Because the King has moved into the place where the Lord means him to be, because he has stepped up to the plate, because he repented with his whole being, and because he acted in faith and obedience as he prayed and thanked God, because of this his wife was also overcome with joy.
MEN – You want a happy wife? Fall on your knees and pour out your heart to God in repentance. Thank God for your family, and in this way learn to love them. That is what will make your wife happy.
WOMEN – You want a happy husband who is warm and caring, sweet and attentive? Forgive as this queen did. Forgive regardless of whether he has asked for it, begged for it, or earned it. If this feels hard to you, spend some time in D&C 64.
Everybody needs to be looking for good things, noticing good things, praising progress, and encouraging the smallest of efforts. That would be more productive than condemning failures and making each other feel miserable.
29 And it came to pass that she went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!
These verses are poetic parallels to verses 12 and 13.
They are added here for emphasis, to show how the cycle repeats itself for even deeper conversion, more complete repentance, and more full joy. This upward circular pattern is what lifts them up both physically and spiritually.Look also how this parallels with their neighbors after Aaron has gone there to convert them – look in Alma 23:6 and 7.
They NEVER fell away BECAUSE they became a RIGHTEOUS people! And it defines what made them as a people (family!) righteous.
- They laid down their weapons of rebellion (any marriage weapons need laying down?)
- They did not fight against God.
- They did not fight against each other.
Then if you look down in verse 16 and 18, you see the depth of conversion and what happened as a natural result of it. They were so changed that they were given a new name – feel familiar? That is always the pattern of covenant making – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, (Revelation 2:17).
As a result of becoming this NEW people to the very depths of their being, they became “industrious and friendly”.
WHO WANTS AN INDUSTRIOUS HUSBAND?!
WHO WANTS A FRIENDLY WIFE?!
But how did they do it?
They OPENED A CORRESPONDENCE and the curse of God no more followed them.
They had to start talking to each other!
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “I think that (couples) should be willing, even at this day, and in the present condition of things, to enter the sacred bonds of marriage together and fight their way together to success, meet their obstacles and their difficulties, and cleave together to success, and cooperate in their temporal affairs, so that they shall succeed. Then they will learn to love one another better, and will be more united throughout their lives, and the Lord will bless them more abundantly.”
Satan has many forms of attack, but they all follow the same pattern as from the beginning. He attacks in the same way he has always attacked: by removing agency. In our culture, he is most successful at removing our agency in two ways: by distracting us and by putting us to sleep. He likes us busy so that we do not pay attention, so that we do not notice, so that we do not appreciate. He likes us in front of the television so that we do not see visions. He likes us with loud music so we cannot hear the soft whispers of the Spirit. He likes us lost in videogames so that we are not learning how to communicate with our spouse, how to talk with our children, or how to constantly pray with our Father. He likes us on the computer, so that hours pass by without us noticing. He likes us apathetic and uncaring, for that is the opposite of love, and it is far more damaging and destructive than hate.
Satan has other tricks up his sleeve as well. He likes us abusing the gift of pain medication so that we are asleep, cranky, and making impulsive decisions in a moment that have forever consequences. He likes us addicted to substances like alcohol and energy drinks and television and technology and jobs, and so that we have an ever increasing dependence on those things which stop us from thinking and from interacting within the bounds the Lord has set. Satan likes us ashamed instead of convicted, so that we do not ask for help. He likes us unhealthy and unwell, so that we cannot think clearly or make good choices. All of these serve the same purpose of removing our agency and thus enslaving us. He wants us as miserable as He is.
He tries to use our differences against us, instead of us uniting to complement each other. All people have their own layers to their own line-upon-lines. One may be more ready to live the Word of Wisdom more specifically, while another may be more ready to keep the Sabbath Day holy with more depth and consistency. You must respect the place your spouse is in, where they are on the ladder, and help them up rather than knocking them off completely. Gently allow them to take their steps of progress instead of punishing them for not being where you are. If you ridicule the lower place on the ladder where your spouse is, that they are not as high as you, you may be surprised to realize that your high place of mocking is in that great and spacious building, while your “lesser” spouse is at least ON the ladder, holding faithfully to the rod even if not yet progressed to the tree.
It is important to discuss and work through mistakes, both little things and more serious matters. Forgiving does not mean ignoring, nor does it mean acceptance of unhealthy or negative behaviors from another. Despite the actions of others, we are never asked to play the victim or enable wrong behavior. Be careful what you are enabling and encouraging. While someone else abusing you is not your fault, there are lines of safety that is your responsibility to draw and to seek help in enforcing. Nothing about the gospel plan is about being “stuck”. Always, the gospel is a plan of action, and always there is an escape – a way to develop new skills, a way to become more like Heavenly Father, a way to do something new to make positive changes.
It is important to remember that you cannot change other people. You can only change yourself. Others have the right to agency, and need the opportunity to exercise their own experience of line upon line. This means when your spouse may very well choose poorly. In those times you are called to forgive without judging. The atonement has the ability to work in the lives of others in miraculous ways. Going to the Temple regularly and often provides protection, provision, and blessings for your family that are both temporal and spiritual. The promises of obedience to Temple attendance is a GATHERING of your family; if you want to unite your family, heal your family, lead your family in the way of Christ, then you must go to the Temple.
It is the making and keeping of Temple covenants that establish and maintain a marriage. Elder Kofford said of difficult trials in marriages: “through it all, three things have been very clear to all of us who stand ahead of you in the line of marriage: we made a commitment to God, we made a commitment to each other, and we will keep those commitments.”
It’s not up for debate. There’s no question about what is required of us.
He continues, “One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty: whenever there is a difficulty between a husband and wife in their marriage relationship that is serious enough to threaten that relationship, one or the other (or both) is not living the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means that one or both of the marriage partners are not keeping the covenants, commitments, and promises they made at the altar of the Temple. If you love God enough and follow His teachings, everything else will work out just fine and you will be blessed to find solutions… A home is not a home in the eye of the gospel, unless there dwell perfect confidence and love between the husband and wife. Home is a place of order, love, union, rest, confidence, and absolute trust… One in which the father is devoted ot the family with which God has blessed him, counting them of first importance, and in which they in turn permit him to live in their hearts. One in which there is confidence, union, love, sacred devotion between father and mother and children and parents. One in which the mother takes every pleasure in their children supported by the father – all being moral, pure, and God-fearing. Parents… should love and respect each other, and treat each other with respectful decorum and kindly regard, all the time. The husband should treat his wife with the utmost courtesy and respect. The husband should never insult her; he should never speak slightly of her, but should always hold her in the highest esteem in the home, in the presence of their children. The wife also should treat her husband with the greatest respect and courtesy…. and she should live and conduct herself at home so the home will be the most joyous, the most blessed place on earth to her husband… Nothing should be permitted to come in between you – father and mother, husband and wife; there never should be a shade of difference of feeling; there never should be a thing permitted to come between you and estrange you one from another; you should not allow it. This is essential to your welfare and happiness and to the union that should exist in your home. We all have our weaknesses and failings… But… is not forgiveness better? Is not love better? Isn’t that better? Isn’t it better not to speak of faults, not to magnify weaknesses by reiterating them? Is it not better to drop them and say nothing about them – bury them and speak only of the good that you know and feel, one for another, and thus bury each others’ faults and not magnify them; isn’t that better?”
8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Kimball discusses these verses and then adds – in the context of husbands and wives forgiving each other – that “unless a person forgives his brother his trespasses WITH ALL HIS HEART he is unfit to partake of the sacrament”. 1 Cor. 11:29-30
Then he goes on by sharing an example of a letter he wrote to someone who had complained about marriage problems (p. 270):
I do know that two people as seemingly intelligent and apparently mature as you two, could have a gloriously happy life, if both of you would begin to let your concerns run in favor of the other, instead of in favor of your selfish selves.
The escapist never escapes. If two people, selfish and self-centered, and without the spirit of forgiveness, escape from each other, they cannot escape from themselves. The disease is not cured by the separation or the divorce, and it will most assuredly follow along in the wake of future marriages. The CAUSE must be removed.<
Perhaps you have thought that your home was the one home that was frustrated with problems. You should know that most couples have misunderstandings but many solve their problems instead of permitting their problems to crush them. Many wives have shed bitter tears, and many husbands have lain sleepless hours, but thanks be to the Lord that great numbers of these folks have been smart enough to solve their difficulties.
Now, my beloved friends,… the matter is in your hands – you may do as you please, but I warn you that the trouble is deeper than you realize, and not easily resolved by divorce. And I warn you also that, either separated or living together, you will be damaged and cankered and poisoned and dwarfed by bitterness and hatreds and loathings. THE FIRST NEED IS TO MASTER YOURSELVES.
The good news is that these problems can be healed through the power of the atonement, but only by completing the very specific steps of repentance. Repentance enables us to turn back toward God, firmly established in the path He has laid out for us. As we walk this path, a humble and repentant people, we again move upward as we move forward.
President Kimball also said: “The married life must be affectionate and kindly and selfless… Marriage presupposes total allegiance and total fidelity. Each spouse takes the partner with the understanding that he or she gives self totally to the spouse – all the heart, strength, loyalty, honor, and affection with all dignity. Those who claim their love is dead should return home with all their loyalty, fidelity, honor, cleanness, and the love which has become embers will flare up with scintillating flame again. If love wanes or dies, it is often infidelity of thought or act which gave the lethal potion. I plead with all people bound by marriage vows and covenants to make that marriage holy, keep it fresh, express affection meaningfully, and sincerely, and often…”
Look back at the example of King Lamoni and his Queen, and how they lead us through the process of repentance so that we were climbing the upward spiral of a staircase, like at the Temple – famous at Nauvoo and Salt Lake City.
What happens is that patients come to my office with their marriage in crisis, thinking they are “hanging by a thread”. They and their spouse are strangers, so that they now live in TWO lone and dreary worlds:
So maybe for us, since we are members of the Church with the full gospel, it is more like a tightrope instead of hanging by a thread.
Except, we do not have to be afraid, for because we have the atonement. It is the work of the atonement that makes it all possible, that turns our rope into a bridge from here to there.
And, if we have a spouse who is ALSO doing their individual work to develop their individual relationship with Heavenly Father, so that we are also growing close together, then I don’t have to be only on my own tightrope. We have two ropes:
And still then, even on the hardest of days of trying to walk the path together, we are not alone.
We have the examples of heavenly parents. Their support is like two handrails.
Except still, we need planks to walk on. We need something to which we can firmly and boldy plant our feet. We need something strong enough to hold us as we move forward. Always, over and over again, we are repeatedly told to do these basic things both individually and together as families. Elder Kofford of the Seventy said that reading, meditating, and studying the Scriptures on a regular basis is not only about learning new things, but also about “refining your spirit”. This is sanctification, the process that increases our spiritual capacity and transforms us to be more like our Heavenly Father. Yet it is most often these simple things that we neglect – and without them, we have no planks on which to step to move forward.
These are our spiritual habits, both individually and as families:
Sacrament attaches our bridge to the atonement, so that our whole way is made safe.
Prayer is the safety harness that guides each step.
Family Home Evening is the spacer that makes each plank close enough together that even our children can cross.
Tithing “enrolls our names”, and so attaches our rope to our heavenly parents – tithing is the supporting beams of the handrails of our bridge.
The Word of Wisdom keeps our planks clear and clean, so that our path is not slippery.
The Law of Chastity keeps ON the bridge.
Home teaching and visiting teaching are the bolts that connect our planks in place.
But, the most amazing piece is the Temple – the Temple is what LIFTS our bridge up toward Heaven, so that it is not a bridge we are climbing, but a ladder… it is what separates our church from all others. The Temple is what defines us as a covenant people, so that we are not just trying to survive and walk across to the next day… we are are climbing UP, on Jacob’s Ladder.
Yes – Jacob’s Ladder, and as one of my favorite BYU professor Skinner would say, this is how the process of being faithful in those simple, daily spiritual habits becomes the very process by which we keep our covenants. Elder Wondra, of the Seventy, took it even further, talking about how even our very struggles, the deepest pains of our hearts, become the line-upon-lines through which we climb to God. He said, “…we learn to trust in the love of God, even if we might feel God has forsaken us—for when we overcome through faith, these bitter and sorrowful moments in our lives can become like steps on Jacob’s ladder, leading us into the heavenly presence of God.”
The good thing about knowing well the blueprints of the Lord, which means developing those individual spiritual habits and going to the Temple often, is that then we know what our bridge should look like, and how it helps us climb the ladder. When we understand that, we are able to tell what is not right and where a marriage needs correction, instruction, or direction.
But here is what is amazing.
Go back to King Lamoni and his Queen.
That ladder is always curving, always curving as they climb up, for because repentance is continuing, is always necessary. We are constantly called to repentance, so that our upward climb becomes that spiral of a staircase.
Know what else looks just like that?
So the science, the math, the doctrine, the stories, the family, the examples… it all teaches the same principles.
By the atonement it is possible, we are sanctified through the journey, and the purpose is fulfilling our very divine nature and destiny as and for which we were created!
When we are not living the gospel, we are missing handrails and missing planks, and it is dangerous and scary. You should be concerned. You should be frustrated and angry and not wanting to walk across such a rickety bridge or tiptoe across such a slippery rope. Your feelings are legitimate and accurate, holding important information that will work like a warning sign to get your attention.
BUT – your feelings are not facts! They hold information – critical information – but they are not reality. Reality comes not from your feelings, but from the choices you make in response to those feelings. You create your reality by your behaviors and choices. Feelings just hold information about the status and quality of the consequences of those choices.
So yes, if all is not well, you should feel bad.
But don’t get stuck there. Do something about it.
Agency gives you the choices:
You can choose to jump. You can choose to risk walking across as is. You can refuse to move forward and stay stuck. But none of those choices have anything to do with the plan of happiness.
The plan of happiness is the choice to live the Gospel. Living the gospel means that the more you learn about your heavenly parents, the stronger the handrails on your bridge. It means that each day you pray and each day you study your scriptures – both individually and together – you are adding planks to your bridge that you and your family can safely walk across. It means that every trip to the Temple blesses your own family as much as it does bless those who have already died (the Temple is NOT *only* for dead people!), and that as you are blessed, it lifts you up so that you are not just progressing, but progress upward. It means that as you continue the process of repentance, your forward progress is a spiral progress that moves you upward.
I testify that Heavenly Father has given us the promise that if a husband and wife will do the work to grow closer to Him as individuals, they will grow closer to each other in their marriage. I testify that the Lord’s blessings are reserved for those who keep His commandments. I testify that His love is extended to all, and that He gives opportunity for all to become obedient. He loves us and wants us to repent and return to Him. I promise that we will receive His blessings as we are faithful in doing so.
In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.
NOTE: My footnotes did not transfer from the document, so I am sorry they are not attached to specific places, but here is the list of them if there are any you want to look anything up. I have added links where I could to help make it easier – click and enjoy!
25 “Marriage in the Lord’s Way”, part two, LDS Ensign magazine, 1998, by Elder Cree-L Kofford