As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught about temple marriage from the time we are very small. We sing learn to love the temple and know of its importance in our lives. We sing “I love to see the temple , I’m going there some day…” but few of us know about the pattern for marriage and family life as taught in the temple.
According to Elder Bruce C. Hafen, formerly of the Seventy (1996-2010), “the life of Jesus Christ is the story of giving the Atonement” and “the story of Adam and Eve is the story of receiving the Atonement, amid the sometimes-formidable oppositions of mortality.” The temple teaches about marriage as it teaches the story of Adam and Eve and how they were the first people to receive the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They were the first parents on the earth as well as the first people to know of the joys and heartaches of parenthood.
The ancient American prophet Lehi explained the doctrinal context for understanding the experience of Adam and Eve – and ours as well. He explained that Adam and Eve would have remained in the Garden of Eden forever if they had not transgressed the law of God. “ And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
“Adam fell that men might be [mortal]; and men are, that they might have joy” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:23-25).
After sharing the above scripture, Elder Hafen taught, “So, paradoxically, sin, misery, and children help create the context for learning what joy means – a process made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“Because of the Atonement, we can learn from our experiences without being condemned by them. And receiving the Atonement, as Adam and Eve did, is not just a doctrine about erasing black marks; it is the core doctrine that allows human development. Thus, Christ’s sacrifice didn’t just return them to an Eden of innocence. That would be a story with no plot and no character growth. Rather, they left the garden holding on to each other and moving forward, together, into the world in which we now live.
“The temple primal story is quite consciously the story of a married couple who help one another face continuous mortal opposition. For only in confronting that sometimes-miserable opposition could they learn to comprehend true joy.”
Elder Hafen explained “two implications from the Adam and Eve story about our understanding of marriage”: (1) The Restoration teaches a positive view of the Fall: We know that Adam and Eve chose wisely in the garden because only mortality could provide the experience needed to fulfill God’s plan for them – and for us.” Explaining further, Elder Hafen taught that the relationship between Adam and Eve was neither dependent nor independent of one another but interdependent. “They are `equal partners’ who `help one another’ in everything they do.”
(2) “When Adam and Eve left the garden, the Lord directed them to build an altar and offer animal sacrifices. After many days an angel asked Adam why he offered sacrifices. He answered, `I know not, save the Lord commanded me.’ Then the angel told him, `this thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten’ (Moses 5:6-7).”
“Thus, the animals Adam and Eve sacrificed were symbols that pointed them toward the Father’s future redemptive sacrifice of His Son. The angel then taught them that Christ’s sacrifice and the plan of redemption would give meaning and purpose to all of their opposition – indeed, to all of their mortal experience.”
Elder Hafen compared the altar of Adam and Eve with the altars in the temple and concluded that the temple altars are also “altars of prayer, sacrifice, and covenants.” Sharing an experience he had as president of the St. George Utah Temple, Elder Hafen “was about to seal a young couple. As I invited them to the altar and the groom took his bride by the hand, I realized that they were about to place upon that altar of sacrifice their own broken hearts and contrite spirits – a selfless offering of themselves to each other and to god in emulation of Christ’s sacrifice for them. And for what purpose? So that through a lifetime of sacrificing for each other – that is, trying to live as He did – they might become ever more as He is.
“By living that way every day, they would each come closer to God, which would also bring them closer to each other. Thus, living the covenants of the sealing ordinance would sanctify not only their marriage but also their hearts and their very lives….
“But when we offer in our marriage a broken heart and a contrite spirit in similitude of the Good Shepherd, we promise to give our lives for the sheep of our covenant, a day or even an hour at a time. This process invites us to take selflessly upon ourselves both the afflictions and the joys of our companion and children, emulating in our own limited way how the Savior takes upon Himself our afflictions….
“As we deny ourselves of ungodliness and honestly love God as fully as we are able, Christ’s perfecting grace can complete the process of making us whole….
“I bear witness that the order of marriage God gave to Adam and Eve is worth whatever it takes – to find it, to build it, and to keep it in our lives. I also testify that husbands and wives who try to live like the Good Shepherd will discover, and will give to each other, a more abundant life of authentic joy.”