Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when marriage receives the proper priority and focus. When proper emphasis is put on marriage, everything else works better.
On September 23, 1995, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a Proclamation to the World about marriage and families. They proclaimed, “… marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
Heavenly Father sent us to earth for us to gain knowledge and experience. He planned our life on earth to include tests and trials in order for us to grow and develop. Marriage is only one area where we are tested, but it is a very essential area. Marriage is not easy, but it was never intended to be easy. Two individuals with many similarities and many differences come together in a relationship where they must become as one person. This achievement happens only if both partners are working towards that goal and over much time.
A friend shared some counsel from her mission president that I consider excellent to pass along. “Marriage is like two rocks being put in a rock polisher and constantly banging up against each other, painfully smoothing both surfaces and turning them into beautiful polished stones.”
Tyler Ward at Relevant Magazine wrote an interesting article entitled “3 Things I Wish I Knew Before We Got Married.” He wrote about how his decision “to officially invite someone who wasn’t me to be in my personal space for the rest of my life” introduced him to his “most significant experiences and most challenging experiences.” He said that he would not trade any of them “for the world” but wished he “had a bit more insight on the front end of our marriage to help me navigate it all.”
Ward shared the three insights that he wishes he had at the beginning of his marriage, insights that would have helped smooth out some of the bumps. His first insight is: “Marriage is not about living happily ever after…. I once read a book that alluded to the idea that marriage is the fire of life – that somehow it’s designed to refine all our dysfunction and spur us into progressive wholeness. In this light, contrary to popular opinion, the goal of marriage is not happiness. And although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.
“When we’re willing to see it this way, then the points of friction in our marriages quickly become gifts that consistently invite us into a more whole and fulfilling experience of life.”
The second insight Ward and his friends simply “happened upon”: “The more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.” Put in other words, “If one makes their husband or wife priority number one, all other areas of life benefit.” Ward decided to test this philosophy: “For 31 days, I intentionally put my wife first over everything else, and then I tracked how it worked. I created a metric for these purposes, to mark our relationship as priority, and then my effectiveness in all other areas of my life on the same scale, including career productivity and general quality of life.
“To my surprise, a month later, I had a chart of data and a handful of ironic experiences to prove that the more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.”
“Marriage can change the world” is Ward’s third insight. He explained that John Medina, author and biologist, is often asked, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father?” Medina always answers, “Go home and love your wife.”
Ward also quoted authors Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam who put it this way: “A healthy marriage creates an infused stability within the family and a haven of security for a child in their development process…. In the end, great marriages produce great parents.”
The conclusion reached by Ward is: “The point is that marriage has a higher goal than to make two people happy or even whole. Yes, the investment we make into our marriage pays dividends for us. But, concluded by Medina and his colleagues, the same investment also has significant implications for our family, our community and eventually our culture.”
I found Ward’s three insights to be fascinating, but I would add one other insight.” I believe that the most happy and successful marriages have a spiritual dimension to them because they include God as a third partner in their partnership. The Proclamation to the World on marriage and family seems to come to the same conclusion.
“All human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress towards perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally….
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives – mothers and fathers – will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. 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. By divine design, fathers are to preside [lead] over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”
“Marriage: If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You SHIELD it and PROTECT it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes SPECIAL because you have made it so, AND IT GROWS more beautiful and precious.” (Author Unknown)
When we understand that marriage is not simply to make us happy but has other important purposes, we will place proper focus on our marriages. By doing so, we can gain great happiness as well as strengthen our families, communities and nation.