My wedding day was the very best day of my life. I married my best friend Kurt, whom I loved. We were sealed together in the Boise Idaho Temple. Our faces could have cracked with the size of our smiles that day!
In the Bible Dictionary, Adam and Eve are defined as a family. Joined as husband and wife, they were a family. Certainly their relationship set the tone for children that would eventually join them. Their posterity ensured the world would be populated. We do not, as individual couples, have that same responsibility. As children are not guaranteed for any of us, though certainly a blessing, the Church website states 'those who are married should consider their union as their most cherished earthly relationship. A spouse is the only person other than the Lord whom we have been commanded to love with all our heart.' (D&C 42:22)
CONTRACT VS. COVENANT
When I was seven, I watched as my parents' marriage ended in divorce. My brother and I lived with my mom from that point on, though we continued to visit my dad regularly and had a good relationship with him. My mom worked very hard to make sure we had what we needed. At 6ft tall, she was a formidable woman, who carried on strong and capable. She was my role model as I grew, and as I focuses on a long school career and eventual work in medicine, I thought "if she could do it, so could I". Though the idea of marriage sounded nice, if it didn't work out I would move forward as I had watched my mother do. My attitude on marriage at that time was articulated by Elder Hafen as being that of a "contractual marriage" ~ a marriage of convenience that lasts as long as the fun does, but really misses the deep and wonderful bond that comes from what he described instead as a "covenant marriage". A contractual marriage brings a "what can you do for me?" attitude, according to Elder Hafen, while a covenant marriage starts with two people looking to make their spouse's life more comfortable. A covenant marriage begins in the Temple, where a couple pledge themselves to each other and to continue in obedience in following the Lord's commandments. There is a certain sweetness that accompanies a covenant marriage; a sacred trust and cherished friendship.
Temple marriage covenants do not magically bring equality to a partnership. Those covenants commit us to a developmental process of learning and growing together, by practice. (Elder Bruce C. Hafen, Ensign, Aug 2007)
Of course my attitude on marriage is very different now. An introduction to the Gospel in High School by good friends began that change of heart. Kurt and I have enjoyed our 15+ years of marriage. Though we have been spared any serious heartache in our relationship, feeling the influence of our Temple marriage has helped us to dig in at times and keep a more eternal perspective.
SETTING THE TONE AT HOME
Nothing is more important, and nothing is more influential in our home as the example of a husband and wife, who love each other. Home becomes a place where other want to be. As ware now raising our children, we desire an atmosphere at home that leaves no doubt in their minds how mom and dad feel about each other. Couples who strive to keep their covenant marriage a living entity develop a love that becomes less bothered by personality quirks or differing opinions. They reverence each other as they share their most personal details, dreams and intimacies.
In our family, my mother and father-in-law are incredible examples of this principle. It is obvious, after 41 years of marriage, that they still love each other in a way that is renewed regularly. Our oldest daughter, now 14, used to call her Grandma Freeman her '"Woot Woo" Grandma', because Grandpa is always whistling to Grandma, "woot woo!". Their love for each other revolves around service and daily displays of affection. They speak in a considerate tone; they counsel with each other regularly; they do things together.
As Kurt and I dated, I saw this example and came to know better the man I would marry, because of the parents who raised him. I knew a son who had always seen his father treat his mother with respect, would treat his wife the same way. I was right!
PRAYER MAKES A DIFFERENCE
It is imperative that we include the Lord in our marriage. Praying together has an amazing way of removing anger from the room and builds the bond of spiritual strength and security. There have been times when an answered prayer has made such an impression on me, that it's influence has lasted well beyond the issue that was prayed about.
When Kurt proposed -- at 3:30 one morning -- and after only 5 1/2 weeks of dating, I was not completely prepared. An institute teacher we'd had one told the story of his proposal to his wife, and it was his story that introduced the suggestion to me of praying about who we might marry. So when suddenly I found this wonderful boy kneeling in front of me, all I could tell him was "yes, but I need to pray about it." I'm sure that wasn't the romance and fireworks he was hoping for! And then he endured a grueling 19 hours before hearing my answer, which was a firm and elated "yes!"
That prayer that I went home and prayer, after waking my mom to tell her what had happened, was strongly affirmed by a warm, special spirit. This was an acceptable union to the Lord. In moments when I may have lost my perspective, this memory helps guide me back to confronting better the issue at hand.
Prayer made a memorable difference as we contemplated our first big move away from where we grew up. Kurt was offered a job, we were given the opportunity to buy a house, and I would be able to stay at home with our two small girls -- all good things. But was the move the right thing for us to do?
Returning home from a trip to this new place, we attended the Temple where in the prayer circle I heard for the first time (though I've heard it many times since), "bless those who have come with a specific purpose, that they will receive the desire of their hearts." It was that same confirming spirit that consumed us, and we knew that moving was the right thing to do. How the memory of this prayer sustained us as those first months, even years, held times when we wanted to come running back!
There is so much power in praying for our spouse; For their safety, their health, their ability to withstand the things the world throws at them; For success in their righteous endeavors. In a world that can bring so many tough challenges, where our worth can be dashed and our best efforts beaten down, our spouse -- even our Eternal Companion -- can and should be the wonderful soft place for us to fall.
As Kurt and I prepared to be married, we interviewed with the Stake President in order to obtain our marriage recommend. During his interview, I was asked if I knew what the number one cause of divorce was. This question caught me totally off guard because here I was, in love and looking forward to a fairy-tale life. Of course I hadn't thought about divorce, at least not how it applied directly to me. When I stumbled for an answer, he responded with one word: SELFISHNESS.
I have remembered that interview question, and have seen where that wise Stake President was right. When selfishness instead of charity governs out actions, troubles arise, misery sets in and eventually marriages come to an end.
On one of our first trips to the grocery store after we were married, Kurt and I discovered that we might not be completely like-minded in every detail. I was appalled that he would causally put a dozen eggs in the cart without checking to maker sure none were broken, and let him know of my disapproval. Heavy silence ensued.
Not too many isles away from the eggs, Kool-Aid was put into the cart. Here again, we had differing ideas. His children were going to drink Kool-aid; mine were not. Since we'd thought those children were going to be the same people, this was now a problem! We eventually compromised and decided that if the kids wanted Kool-aid, they'd have to get it from dad. Now, I can't tell you the last time we had Kool-aid in the house... It has just become something we grew out of buying. It's a shame we put so much energy into the issue that day at the store!
THE NECESSITY OF UNITY
To be one with our spouse comes by living the gospel and keeping our covenants. The extent to which we become one with Christ is the extent to which we become one with each other.
Elder Eyring states, "the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would part of His Church: "Be one: and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). And at the creation of a man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope, it was a command! "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity."
THE CENTER OF OUR MARRIAGE
The Church website states; 'Couples must center their lives in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As couples help one another keep the covenants they have made, attend church and the temple together, study the scriptures together and kneel together in prayer, God will guide them. Their companionship will sweeten through the years; their love will strengthen. Their appreciation for one another will grow.'
Elder Eyring adds, "Where people have the spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The spirit put the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention. It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife. It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified [marriage] depends on unified souls."
Years ago I saw a diagram drawn on a chalkboard during an institute lesson. It was a simple triangle, with Heavenly Father at the top, and two people's names attached to each other bottom two corners. Those names in my case were mine and Kurt's The lessons was simple: the closer we come to God, by keeping His commandments and through obedience to covenants, the closer we come to each other. Seeking to have and then maintaining a covenant marriage through loving service and faithful commitment to our spouse leads to the happiness and pure joy offered by our Father in heaven.
This I know for sure as I have felt the Spirit's influence in my marriage as we strive together to nourish our most precious relationship here on the earth.